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Polynesian languages:see Malayo-Polynesian languagesMalayo-Polynesian languages
, sometimes also called Austronesian languages
, family of languages estimated at from 300 to 500 tongues and understood by approximately 300 million people in Madagascar; the Malay Peninsula; Indonesia and New Guinea; the Philippines;
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a group of about 30 languages of the Malayo-Polynesian, or Austronesian, family spoken on a number of islands in the Pacific. Although most are spoken within the triangle formed by New Zealand, the Hawaiian Islands, and Easter Island, there are isolated Polynesian languages in Melanesia and Micronesia. Speakers number more than 700,000 persons (1970, estimate); half use a Polynesian language in daily life, whereas the other half use a Polynesian language only in traditional ceremonies and on festive occasions.
From a linguistic point of view the Polynesian languages are closely interrelated and form a sharply defined group. Their genetic affinity with other Malayo-Polynesian languages is not quite clear. The Polynesian languages have a limited phonemic inventory, with five vowels and usually about nine or ten consonants; vowels may be short or long. In most Polynesian languages there are no closed syllables. In grammatical structure they are analytic and stem-isolating. Within the Polynesian group A. Pawley (New Zealand) distinguishes the Tongan subgroup, which includes the Tongan language, and the Polynesian proper subgroup. The latter is divided in turn into the languages of the Samoan subgroup, which includes Samoan and the Polynesian languages of Melanesia, and the East Polynesian languages, which include Maori, Hawaiian, Tahitian, Raroton-gan, and Rapa Nui.
REFERENCESBlinov, A. I. “Iazyki polineziitsev.” In Narody Avstralii i Okeanii. Moscow, 1956.
Biggs, B. “The Languages of Polynesia.” In the collection Current Trends in Linguistics, vol. 8. The Hague-Paris, 1971.
IU. KH. SIRK