Melanesian Languages

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Melanesian Languages


one of the traditional groups in the Austronesian, or Malayo-Polynesian, language family, comprising the Austronesian languages (excluding Polynesian) of Melanesia and New Guinea. Some scholars include a large number of Micronesian languages within the Melanesian group. The region in which Melanesian languages are spoken is characterized by exceptional linguistic diversity. Fijian, the largest language group, is spoken by approximately 250,000 persons (1970, estimate); the other languages are spoken by small groups of people. The Mota (New Hebrides) and Motu (southeastern New Guinea) languages have become relatively widespread as languages of communication between ethnic groups.

The Melanesian languages are analytic; syntactic relations are often expressed by pronominal morphemes similar to those of subject and object conjugation. A formal distinction is made between alienable and inalienable possession, for example, in the Mota language: rango-mwa “your leg” and no-mwa wose “your oar.” In the mid-20th century many scholars do not classify the Melanesian languages according to genealogical features. Some Melanesian languages, including Fijian, Rotuman, and many languages of the Solomon and New Hebrides islands, are similar in vocabulary and probably in origin to the Polynesian languages; together these languages belong to the eastern Oceanic group.


Puchkov, P. I. Formirovanie naseleniia Melanezii. Moscow, 1968.
Ray, S. H. A Comparative Study of the Melanesian Island Languages. Cambridge, 1926.
Capell, A. A Linguistic Survey of the South- Western Pacific, new ed. Noumea, 1962.
Capell, A. “Oceanic Linguistics Today.” Current Anthropology, 1962, no. 4.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
References in periodicals archive ?
Likewise, the discovery of some familiar terms in the cacophony of Melanesian languages provided steppingstones to further understanding.
As headmaster of MM's Central School, which in 1867 had moved to Norfolk Island, he carried on with his linguistic and ethnographic work, consulting the by now large number of Mota students on their customs and their language--which he, after meticulous comparative linguistic studies (1885), found to have more Polynesian words than any other Melanesian language (Codrington 1896: vii).
The large number of the Melanesian languages, about 1300, shows how unique are the cultures of the humans who first colonized this large tropical area (ca.
Codrington produced The Melanesian Languages with sketches of about three dozen languages; and in 1926, Sidney H.
The Melanesian Languages. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Patteson gained a reputation as a prodigious linguist and shared some of his early work on Melanesian languages with Friedrich Max Muller, the noted Oxford Sanskrit scholar and linguist.
Codrington's researches culminated in The Melanesian Languages, published in 1885.
1885 The Melanesian Languages, Clarendon Press, Oxford.
Codrington was the first to systematically document Melanesian counting systems in The Melanesian Languages (1885).
The Melanesian Languages, Oxford: The Clarendon Press.
Katupha 1983:68 for Makhuwa) as well as of the Melanesian languages (cf.
A similar theme is repeated in Sohmer's study of the Melanesian Mission, most of whose members recognised that because Melanesian languages were as complex as 'civilised' ones, its speakers could not just be dismissed as 'savages'.