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Mwotlap language

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Title: Mwotlap language  
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Subject: Languages of Vanuatu, East Vanuatu languages, Kwamera language, Port Vato language, Southwest Tanna language
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia

Mwotlap language

Native to Vanuatu
Region Mota Lava island, Banks Islands
Native speakers
2100 (2012)[1]
Language codes
ISO 639-3 mlv
Glottolog motl1237[2]

Mwotlap (pronounced ; formerly known as Motlav) is an Oceanic language spoken by about 2,100 people in Vanuatu. The majority of speakers are found on the island of Motalava in the Banks Islands,[3] with smaller communities in the islands of Ra (or Aya) and Vanua Lava,[4] as well as migrant groups in the two main cities of the country, Santo and Port Vila.

Mwotlap was first described in 2001, by the linguist Alexandre François.

Volow, which used to be spoken on the same island, may be considered a dialect or a separate language.


  • Phonology 1
  • Notes 2
  • References 3
  • External links 4


Mwotlap has 7 phonemic vowels, which are all short monophthongs:[5]

  Front Back
Close i u
Near-close ɪ ʊ
Open-mid ɛ ɔ
Open a


  1. ^ François (2012):88).
  2. ^ Nordhoff, Sebastian; Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2013). "Motlav".  
  3. ^ List of Banks islands languages; map of the 17 north Vanuatu languages.
  4. ^ François (2012):97).
  5. ^ François (2005a:445); François (2005b:116).


  • François, Alexandre (2000), "Vowel shifting and cloning in Motlav: historical explanation vs formal description", in Klamer, Marian, Proceedings of AFLA 7 (The Seventh Meeting of Austronesian Formal Linguistics Association), Amsterdam: Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, pp. 49–68 
  • François, Alexandre (2001), Contraintes de structures et liberté dans l'organisation du discours. Une description du mwotlap, langue océanienne du Vanuatu. PhD dissertation, Université Paris-IV Sorbonne. 1078 pp.
  • François, Alexandre (2003a), La sémantique du prédicat en mwotlap (Vanuatu), Collection Linguistique de la Société de Linguistique de Paris, Leuven-Paris: Peeters,  
  • François, Alexandre (2003b), "Of men, hills and winds: Space directionals in Mwotlap", Oceanic Linguistics 42 (2): 407–437,  
  • François, Alexandre (2004), "Chains of freedom: Constraints and creativity in the macro-verb strategies of Mwotlap", in Bril, Isabelle; Ozanne-Rivierre, Françoise, Complex predicates in Oceanic languages: Studies in the dynamics of binding and boundness, Empirical Approaches to Language Typology, Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter, pp. 107–143 
  • François, Alexandre (2005a), "Unraveling the history of the vowels of seventeen northern Vanuatu languages", Oceanic Linguistics 44 (2): 443–504,  
  • François, Alexandre (2005b), "A typological overview of Mwotlap, an Oceanic language of Vanuatu", Linguistic Typology 9 (1): 115–146,  
  • François, Alexandre (2006), "Serial verb constructions in Mwotlap", in Dixon, R.M.W.; Aikhenvald, Alexandra, Serial Verb Constructions: A cross-linguistic typology, Explorations in Linguistic Typology, Oxford: Oxford University Press, pp. 223–238 
  • François, Alexandre (2007), "Noun articles in Torres and Banks languages: Conservation and innovation", in Siegel, Jeff; Lynch, John; Eades, Diana, Language Description, History and Development: Linguistic indulgence in memory of Terry Crowley, Creole Language Library 30, Amsterdam: Benjamins, pp. 313–326 
  • François, Alexandre (2009), "Verbal aspect and personal pronouns: The history of aorist markers in north Vanuatu", in Pawley, Andrew; Adelaar, Alexander, Austronesian historical linguistics and culture history: A festschrift for Bob Blust 601, Canberra: Pacific Linguistics, pp. 179–195 
  • François, Alexandre (2011b), "Social ecology and language history in the northern Vanuatu linkage: A tale of divergence and convergence", Journal of Historical Linguistics 1 (2): 175–246,  .
  • François, Alexandre (2012), "The dynamics of linguistic diversity: Egalitarian multilingualism and power imbalance among northern Vanuatu languages", International Journal of the Sociology of Language 214: 85–110,  

External links

  • (French) Alexandre François's site, including introduction to Mwotlap and Motalava culture, photos, maps, songs, myths and stories
  • Two stories in Mwotlap: “The three wives of the Gecko” and “The Fairy from the Other World” (with English and French translations).
  • Mwotlap–English–French dictionaryAccess to the
  • Access to audio recordings in Mwotlap (from the Pangloss Collection, LACITOCNRS).
  • Ta Melanesiane GenyonNal A Liturgy for Melanesia in Mwotlap (1970)
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