The exceptional linguistic density of Vanuatu

Alex Francois, Sebastien Lacrampe, M Franjieh, Stefan Schnell

    Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


    The Republic of Vanuatu, a small archipelago of island Melanesia, is home to 138 distinct Oceanic languages, for which we provide here a new list and map. This updated figure, obtained by combining earlier sources and more recent information from experts, makes Vanuatu the country with the highest language density in the world, whether compared to its land surface, or to its population. This modern density is not due to genealogical diversity, but reflects three millennia of in situ diversification from a single ancestor, Proto Oceanic. This historical process took the form of multiple linguistic innovations that spread across the dialect continuum in entangled patterns, bringing about the mosaic we know today. Vanuatu’s linguistic diversity is now increasingly threatened by the spread of the national language, Bislama. The various chapters in this volume describe and discuss some of the cultural and linguistic features that make Vanuatu such a diverse archipelago.
    Original languageEnglish
    Title of host publicationThe languages of Vanuatu: Unity and diversity
    Editors A Francois, S Lacrampe, M Franjieh, S Schnell
    Place of PublicationCanberra
    PublisherAsia-Pacific Linguistics
    ISBN (Print)9781922185235
    Publication statusPublished - 2015


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