Language Contexts

Language Contexts: Malua (Malekula Island, Vanuatu)

  • Julie Barbour
  • Kanauhea Wessels
  • Joe McCarter


The Malua language is one of more than 30 endangered Oceanic languages spoken on Malekula Island in Vanuatu. Malua is locally understood to have two varieties, one spoken in Malua Bay and the other in Espiegles Bay. Little was known about Malua until linguistic research was initiated with the communities in 2012. In this paper, ethnographic observations, linguistic field notes, and language attitude interviews are reported to build up a picture of the Malua language in context. The two Malua communities converted to Seventh Day Adventism some decades ago, and today blend traditional and modern ways of living. While relying on forest resources for shelter and fuel, and growing most of their own food, the Malua people also participate in market gardening and cash-cropping, and make use of modern building materials, textiles, and store-bought foods. Interviewees outlined positive attitudes towards the language, an appreciation of its intrinsic value, and a desire to see the language and associated traditional knowledge included in formal education. However, the language is under threat due to the increasing use of Bislama (Melanesian Pidgin). Bislama is now the dominant language of some homes, and it has recently been introduced as the medium of instruction for the...

Keywords: Malua, Malekula Island, Vanuatu, Bislama, Melanesian Pidgin

How to Cite:

Barbour, J., Wessels, K. & McCarter, J., (2018) “Language Contexts: Malua (Malekula Island, Vanuatu)”, Language Documentation and Description 15, 151-178. doi:

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Published on
31 Jul 2018
Peer Reviewed