Vurës language

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Native toVanuatu
RegionVanua Lava
Native speakers
2,000 (2016)[1]
Language codes
ISO 639-3msn (shared with Mwesen)
Vurës is not endangered according to the classification system of the UNESCO Atlas of the World's Languages in Danger
A Vurës speaker, recorded in Vanuatu.

Vurës (Vureas, Vures) is an Oceanic language spoken in the southern area of Vanua Lava Island, in the Banks Islands of northern Vanuatu, by about 2000 speakers.[2]

Vurës was described by linguist Catriona Malau, in the form of a grammar[2] and a dictionary.[3]


The name Vurës [βyˈrœs] is named after the bay located in southwestern Vanua Lava in the language itself. In Mota, the bay is referred to as Vureas [βureas]. Cognates in other Torres-Banks languages include Mwotlap Vuyes [βuˈjɛs] and Mwesen Vures [βuˈrɛs]. These come from a reconstructed Proto-Torres–Banks form *βureas(i,u), with an unknown final high vowel.


Vurës shows enough similarities with the neighbouring language Mwesen that the two have sometimes been considered dialects of a single language, sometimes called Mosina (after the name of Mwesen village in the language Mota). And indeed, a 2018 glottometric study has calculated that Vurës and Mwesen share 85% of their historical innovations, revealing a long history of shared development between these two lects.[4]

However, studies have shown that Mwesen and Vurës have various dissimilarities, e.g. in their vowel systems,[5] in their noun articles,[6] in their pronoun paradigms[7][8] — enough to be considered clearly distinct.



Labial Dental Alveolar Velar Glottal
Plosive voiceless k͡pʷ ⟨q⟩ ⟨t⟩ k ⟨k⟩ (ʔ)
prenasal ᵐb ⟨b⟩ ⁿd̪ ⟨d⟩
Nasal ŋ͡mʷ ⟨m̄⟩ m ⟨m⟩ n ⟨n⟩ ŋ ⟨n̄⟩
Fricative β ⟨v⟩ s ⟨s⟩ ɣ ⟨g⟩
Liquid rhotic r ⟨r⟩
lateral l ⟨l⟩
Semivowel w ⟨w⟩
  • /r/ is also heard as a tap [ɾ] in free variation.
  • A glottal stop /ʔ/ only rarely occurs in some words.
  • /β/ is heard as [] before a voiceless stop.
  • /k͡pʷ/ is heard as [k͡p] when preceding another consonant.
  • Stop sounds /t̪ k/ are aspirated [t̪ʰ kʰ] before vowels.[9]


Vurës has 9 phonemic vowels. These are all short monophthongs /i e ɛ a œ ø y ɔ o/:[10][11]

Vurës vowels
Front Back
plain round
Close i ⟨i⟩ y ⟨u⟩ (ʊ) ⟨u⟩
Close-mid e ⟨ē⟩ ø ⟨ö⟩ o ⟨ō⟩
Open-mid ɛ ⟨e⟩ œ ⟨ë⟩ ɔ ⟨o⟩
Open a ⟨a⟩
  • [ʊ] is only a marginal sound that occurs in a small amount of words, mostly borrowings.[9]
  • The vowel inventory also includes a diphthong [i​͡a] ⟨ia⟩.[12]




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