Hi, everybody! Meet Vurës and Vera.

Posted: October 28, 2009 in atheism, languages, linguistics, sociolinguistics
Tags: , , , , ,

Vurës and Vera are two languages spoken in some parts of an island called Venua Lava.

(You’ve most likely never heard about it. So:

Vanua Lava (13.80° S 167.47° E) is one of the Banks Islands in Torba Province, Vanuatu. It is located about 120 km north-northeast of Espiritu Santo. There are about 1700 inhabitants today.The island measures about 25 km north-to-south and 20 km east-to-west.

Better*, now?)

The total population of people who can  speak Vera is approximately 200-300.

There are as many as 1000 Vurës speakers.

The  communities that speak Vera and Vurës live  within an hour’s walk from each other. Intermarriage is not uncommon, and so many Vera speakers also know Vurës.

Both languages are endangered, because there are so very few speakers, and because most people in Vanuatu speak Bislama, a creole language based mostly on English**.

You can read about those and other endangered languages here at Dokumentation Bedrohter Sprachen (DoBeS). No worries, it’s all in English***! Some articles even have pretty pictures!

Hurry up, though. You probably won’t hear about those languages ever**** again :)

* The other thing Vanuatu is famous from, apart from having on average one language/2000 citizens, is cargo cults: the John Frum cargo cult, and Prince Philip cargo cult. Cargo cults are, in my opinion, the saddest and most heart-breaking illustration of what religion really is about.

** Lexically.

*** Am I the only person who thinks this is just a little bit ironic? Heh.

**** This may change if yours truly gets a graaant! I’m not planing anything, just thinking out loud, though.

  1. I’m forever fascinated by the tiny minority languages of the world. It’s really too bad that most people (and by people, I mean ignorant Americans) don’t know how many languages are really out there, and what kinds of information they possess that can and will be lost when those languages die. I’d bet good money that the average American thinks there are only 100 languages in the world, or maybe even less.

    • Oh, c’mon! It’s not ignorant USians, it’s ignorant people. I mean, sure, USians like to beat themselves up about being ignorant all the time, but the fact remains: in Europe, we only play it cool because of Eurovision. We only show our true (ignorant) colours once a year, during the Eurovision finals, and those faces like dancing half-naked centurion-boys quite a lot.
      So. So there!

  2. pillowscrapbook says:

    what type do these languages belong to?(i’m sure i ask the wrong question and i’ll get a different answer that i hope for, but linguistic vocabulary eludes me ^^!) oh and why did these two catch you attention? i’m sure there are other dying languages out there, because a lot of things are dying out these days :(

  3. “Both languages belong to the Northeast Vanuatu-Banks Islands branch of the North Central Vanuatu subgroup, Oceanic, Austronesian.” :D

    Basically, I went with those two ’cause their names sounded a lot like human names, and I thought it would make a nice title for my blog entry.
    No, seriously, this is the way I normally think.
    (I also buy shampoos because the bottles are pink and shiny)

    What I really wanted to write about is a language of a people living in Southern Thailand and Malaysia. They’re called /Sagai/ <– this is how you pronounce it, anyway, because I sure as hell couldn't found anything about them anywhere. The thing is, I know a person from the team that went there to collect linguistic data! She's sort of totally awesome, and had a lot of interesting stuff to say about, well, fieldwork in general, and about working with people whose language you don't understand at all :D
    /Sagai/ normally live in the rainforest, and don't even form permanent settlements, and their language seems to be completely different from Thai, so even when they want to go to the nearest village, they can't really communicate. There seems to exist a strong prejudice against mixed /Sagai/-Thai marriages, and the /Sagai/ appear to be ethnically distinct from the Thais with, among other things, much darker skin and so on.
    But, unfortunately, the /Sagai/ project is not yet finished, so there's no data on the website I linked. YET! I'm waiting, 'cause the woman from the team whom I know said she got really lucky, and got to be something of a celebrity for a while there (hee), and some of the chieftains actually requested that she comes over so that they can explain the words to her! Awesome. She even got to take some really really cool pictures.
    Man, I'm just soooo envious. I'd really agree not to have showers for weeks if I could get to do stuff like that. Damn.

  4. pillowscrapbook says:

    and yes i failed to ask the right question ^^! i meant …. word formation, word order, sentence building kind of stuff like Chinese is a position language, some such details ;) is there any chance you will join the /Sagai/ project?

    • Haha, no prob! It’s a word order language, with the order being SVO. Untypically for the Oceanic languages, the object is not marked in the verb/verb phrase.

      No chance, unfortunatelly :). I have no idea about that sort of languages, and anyway, this project seems almost finished anyway. If they ever have something involving Semitic languages thoug… Well, it would be nice!

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