Volow language

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Aplow, Valuwa
Native toVanuatu
RegionMota Lava island, Banks Islands
Language codes
ISO 639-3
Volow is classified as Critically Endangered by the UNESCO Atlas of the World's Languages in Danger

Volow (formerly known as Valuwa or Valuga) is an Oceanic language variety that used to be spoken in the area of Aplow, in the eastern part of the island of Motalava, Vanuatu.[2]


The name Volow is originally a placename: it corresponds to the area known as Aplow, but in the local language Volow rather than in Mwotlap. This form, pronounced [βʊlʊw], is derived from Proto-Torres-Banks *βaluwa.

In neighboring Mwotlap, the same area is called Aplow [aplʊw] (with locative prefix a-), and in Mota, it is called Valuwa [βaluwa]. Both of these are nowadays used as alternative names for the area.


Volow has receded historically in favour of the now dominant language Mwotlap.[1] It is now only remembered by a single passive speaker, who lives in the village of Aplow — the new name of what was previously known as Volow.

The similarity of Volow with Mwotlap is such that the two communalects may be considered dialects of a single language.


Volow phonemically contrasts 16 consonants and 7 vowels.[3]


Labiovelar Bilabial Alveolar Dorsal Glottal
Nasal ŋ͡mʷ ⟨m̄⟩ m ⟨m⟩ n ⟨n⟩ ŋ ⟨n̄⟩
Stop voiceless t ⟨t⟩
prenasalized ɡ͡bʷ ⟨q̄⟩ ᵐb ⟨b⟩ ⁿd ⟨d⟩ ᵑɡ ⟨ḡ⟩
Fricative β[a] ⟨v⟩ s ⟨s⟩ ɣ ⟨g⟩ h ⟨h⟩
Approximant w ⟨w⟩ l ⟨l⟩ j ⟨y⟩
  1. ^ [p] exists as the allophone of /β/ word-finally.

This consonant inventory includes a typologically rare consonant: a rounded, prenasalised voiced labial-velar plosive [ᵑᵐɡ͡bʷ]:[4] e.g. [n.lɛᵑᵐɡ͡bʷɛβɪn] “woman”[5] (spelled n-leevēn in the local orthography).

Historically, Volow is the only daughter language to have preserved the voicing of the proto-phonemes *ᵑg > /ᵑɡ/ and *ᵐbʷ > /ᵑᵐɡ͡bʷ/, which is reconstructed for its ancestor Proto-Torres-Banks. Most of its neighbours (including Mwotlap) devoiced these to /k/ and /k​͡pʷ/ respectively.


The seven vowels of Volow are all short monophthongs:[6]

Front Back
Close i ⟨i⟩ u ⟨u⟩
Near-close ɪ ⟨ē⟩ ʊ ⟨ō⟩
Open-mid ɛ ⟨e⟩ ɔ ⟨o⟩
Open a ⟨a⟩

External links[edit]



  • François, Alexandre (2005a), "Unraveling the history of the vowels of seventeen northern Vanuatu languages", Oceanic Linguistics, 44 (2): 443–504, doi:10.1353/ol.2005.0034, S2CID 131668754