The languages of Vanikoro: Three lexicons and one grammarReport as inadecuate

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1 LACITO - LACITO - Langues et civilisations à tradition orale - UMR 7107

Abstract : The comparison of the three languages of the island of Vanikoro (Teanu, Lovono and Tanema) reveals the intricacies of the island-s local history. The strong isomorphism found between the structures of these languages betrays their remote common ancestry, as much as it points to a history of intense language contact which the three tribes, nolens volens, have lived through over the centuries. On the other hand, the actual word forms found in their vocabularies and morphology have tended to follow a powerful tendency towards diversification, in accordance with the speakers- tacit perceptions that the three communities, often caught in conflict and territorial hostilities, should sound and feel to be distinct social groups. Overall, the paradox observed among the three modern languages of Vanikoro – dissimilar forms, similar structures – results from the interplay between these two contradictory forces: a socially driven push to increase language differences vs a functionally grounded tendency to minimise them.

Mots-clés : lexicon grammar isomorphism language contact

Author: Alexandre François -



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