Oceanic Languages
Melanesia, Micronesia, Polynesia
Linguistic classification Austronesian
Proto-language Proto-Oceanic
Glottolog ocea1241[1]
The branches of Oceanic
The black ovals at the northwestern limit of Micronesia are the Sunda-Sulawesi languages called Palauan and Chamorro. The black circles in with the green are offshore Papuan languages.

The approximately 450 Oceanic languages are a well-established family of Austronesian languages. The area occupied by speakers of these languages includes Polynesia, as well as much of Melanesia and Micronesia.

Though covering a vast area, Oceanic languages are spoken by only two million people. The largest individual Oceanic languages are Eastern Fijian with over 600,000 speakers, and Samoan with an estimated 400,000 speakers. The Kiribati (Gilbertese), Tongan, Tahitian, M?ori, Western Fijian and Kuanua (Tolai) languages each have over 100,000 speakers.

The common ancestor which is reconstructed for this group of languages is called Proto-Oceanic (abbr. POc).


The Oceanic languages were first shown to be a language family by Sidney Herbert Ray in 1896 and, besides Malayo-Polynesian, they are the only established large branch of Austronesian languages. Grammatically, they have been strongly influenced by the Papuan languages of northern New Guinea, but they retain a remarkably large amount of Austronesian vocabulary.[2]

Lynch, Ross, & Crowley (2002)

According to Lynch, Ross, & Crowley (2002), Oceanic languages often form linkages with each other. Linkages are formed when languages emerged historically from an earlier dialect continuum. The linguistic innovations shared by adjacent languages define a chain of intersecting subgroups (a linkage), for which no distinct proto-language can be reconstructed.[3]

Lynch, Ross, & Crowley (2002) propose three primary groups of Oceanic languages:

The "residues" (as they are called by Lynch, Ross, & Crowley), which do not fit into the three groups above, but are still classified as Oceanic are:

Ross & Næss (2007) removed Utupua-Vanikoro, from Central-Eastern Oceanic, to a new primary branch of Oceanic:[4]

Word order

Word order in Oceanic languages is highly diverse, and is distributed in the following geographic regions (Lynch, Ross, & Crowley 2002:49).

See also


  1. ^ Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2017). "Oceanic". Glottolog 3.0. Jena, Germany: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History. 
  2. ^ Mark Donohue and Tim Denham, 2010. Farming and Language in Island Southeast Asia: Reframing Austronesian History. Current Anthropology, 51(2):223-256.
  3. ^ The Wave model is more appropriate than the Tree model for representing such linkages: see François, Alexandre (2014), "Trees, Waves and Linkages: Models of Language Diversification" (PDF), in Bowern, Claire; Evans, Bethwyn, The Routledge Handbook of Historical Linguistics, London: Routledge, pp. 161-189, ISBN 978-0-41552-789-7 .
  4. ^ Ross, Malcolm and Åshild Næss (2007). "An Oceanic Origin for Äiwoo, the Language of the Reef Islands?". Oceanic Linguistics. 46: 456-498. doi:10.1353/ol.2008.0003. 


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