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A Comprehensive Comparison of Lexemes in the Major Languages of Tanna, Vanuatu

Author  Nehrbass, Kenneth

Tanna Island in Vanuatu has five major languages and perhaps as many as two dozen dialects. However, only a few grammar sketches and dictionaries have been published on the languages of Tanna. In this document, more than 1,700 of the commonly used lexemes in all of the five major languages as well as a dialect spoken on Tanna are presented in one volume. Rather than eliciting the data from wordlists based on the lingua franca, the lexemes have been gleaned from full-length dictionaries compiled by three linguists who have worked for a combined experience of 34 years on Tanna Island. A comparative analysis based on this lexical data has made it possible to determine degrees of similarity between all of the island’s languages. The dissimilarity in lexemes across languages has also been revealing, as it has shown idiosyncrasies of each of the languages. The comparative analysis at times has helped determine whether a particular lexeme is polysemous (i.e., having a range of related meanings) or whether the different meanings are homophones (i.e., different lexemes that are identical in form). It has also helped in establishing patterns of phonological changes and intra-island migration paths. Finally, while the languages of Tanna vary slightly in terms of their phonologies, this study has established a phonemic, island-wide orthography based on the lexical data.

  View A Comprehensive Comparison of Lexemes in the Major Languages of Tanna, Vanuatu 1491 KB, 266 pages
Published  2012
Languages  Kwamera [tnk]
Lenakel [tnl]
Tanna, North [tnn]
Tanna, Southwest [nwi]
Whitesands [tnp]
Country  Vanuatu
Subjects  Comparative and historical studies
Keywords  cognates; consonant correspondence; vowel correspondence; homonyms; polysemous lexemes