Documentation of Matanvat (Nese): A highly endangered Northern Vanuatu language

Documentation of Matanvat (Nese): A highly endangered Northern Vanuatu language

Language: Matanvat (Nese)
Depositor: Lana Takau
Location: Vanuatu
Deposit Id: 0130
Grant id: SG0109
Funding body: ELDP
Level: Deposit

Summary of deposit

The Matanvat (Nese) language is an under-documented Oceanic language spoken in the north eastern coast of Malakula in central Vanuatu. Pressure from Bislama along with other social factors are contributing to the language's rapid decline. The language, therefore, needs urgent documentation.

This collection consists of documentation and description of its grammar. It includes recordings, transcriptions, translations and annotated audio and video materials. It is hoped that these materials will benefit the local community and contribute to scientific research.

Group represented

Matanvat (Nese)-speakers in north-east Vanuatu. Local informants claim that there are fewer than 20 Nese speakers left, the majority of which live in the Matanvat area in Malekula.

Various factors have contributed, and are still contributing, to the language's rapid decline. Pre-independence tribal wars resulted in other language communities seeking refuge in the Matanvat area and, consequently, 95% of the Matanvat popuation are not Matanvat natives. This has encouraged the widespread use of Bislama. Intermarriages and rural urban drift has further aggravated the language situation. Informants report that the community is making every effort to encourage continued use of the language including having the language used as the language of instruction at pre-school level. Inspite of these efforts, it has been reported that this is only restricted to the classroom setting, as pre-school students tend to use Bislama in the playground and in all other domains. Community members are, therefore, very concerned about the increasing disuse of the language and have shown much enthusiasm and support for this documentation project.

Language information
Nese is a diminishing Austronesian language spoken in northwest Malakula, Vanuatu. It is currently spoken by only one extended family in the village of Matanvat SDA (Crowley 2006).

Deposit contents
The contents of this collection include audio, pictures and videos. The genres range from custom stories, songs, procedural texts, elicitations, conversations and short narratives.

Deposit history

The researcher/depositor has personal ties with Matanvat community members, who gave permission and expressed great enthusiasm about the documentation of their language. The chief of the Matanvat area wrote a letter giving his consent for the project and requested that the community fully cooperate with the researcher during the fieldwork phase of the project.

It was during consultations with the Matanvat natives in Port Vila that community members expressed their wish for their language to be documented. In relation to community involvement, the project has ensured that there is broad community participation.

While the degree of endangerment and community support may render the project worthwhile, the current linguistic scenario in Malekula also makes this project a significant contribution to scientific research. Languages in north Malekula have received very little linguistic attention compared to those in the southern and central-eastern parts of the island. The Dirax language is the only north malekula language which has been documented and described, and, therefore, this project will shed more light on the typological nature of north Malekula languages.

Acknowledgement and citation

To refer to any data from the corpus, please cite the corpus in this way:

Takau, Lana. 2012. Documentation of Matanvat (Nese): A highly endangered Northern Vanuatu language. London: SOAS, Endangered Languages Archive. URL: Accessed on [insert date here].


Collection online
Resources online and curated


Lana Takau
Affiliation: University of Newcastle

Deposit Statistics

Data from 2019 April 25 to 2019 April 25
Deposit hits:1
Downloaded files
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Showing 1 - 10 of 108 Items

Wan brata I kiaman long bigfala brata blong hem - Aklyn is telling a story out of some pictures

Recorded on: 2012-07-05

Louis Ross is telling a story out of some pictures he was given which involves action words

Recorded on: 2012-07-25

Another christian song practised by the choir which was also to be featured in the above DVD commemorating the 100 years existence of the SDA mission in Vanuatu

Recorded on: 2012-04-26

Margret is describing parts of a house

Recorded on: 2012-06-19

Annie Hymak is being elicited for adverbs

Recorded on: 2012-08-08

Fanny is describing what they did with the clothes which were given to them by the American soldiers

Recorded on: 2012-06-19

Fanny is describing what life was like during World War Two

Recorded on: 2012-06-19

Robert Jovi is saying a few words which contain apicolabials.

Recorded on: 2012-06-11

Elicitation of food items with Annie Hymak. File elanhy01007b - This file may not be belong to this bundle but has been included as the filename matches up. The depositor has been asked to clarify whether this has been bundled correctly.

Recorded on: 2012-08-22

Custom song about Matanvat area

Recorded on: 2012-12-21