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By Julie Barbour

Neverver is an Oceanic language spoken via simply over 500 humans at the excessive island of Malekula in Vanuatu. Drawing on an intensive corpus of box recordings amassed among 2004 and 2008, the research finds a truly attention-grabbing phonological procedure with six prenasalized segments, wealthy platforms of ownership, tense/aspect/mood marking, valence swap, and verb serialization. The grammar is of curiosity to experts in Oceanic and Austronesian linguistics, in addition to to common linguists, specially these attracted to linguistic typology.

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Paviour-Smith (2008: 11) observes of the Aulua community in central Malekula, that “proficiency in writing and knowledge of various genres is distributed unevenly across the population, [and] writing to get things done requires the pooling of literacy (and the associated material) resources”. The same comment is true of Neverver. The literacy skills that are present in the Neverver speech community are practised in Bislama and English, and are confined to religious and commercial matters among adults and to educational matters among children.

Official protection for indigenous languages has meant that the Vanuatu National Cultural Council and the Vanuatu Immigration Service support foreign researchers, particularly those invited by local communities, in the provision of research permits and visas. Attempts are currently underway at a national level to provide more comprehensive support for indigenous languages. In November 2005, the draft Vanuatu National Language Policy was presented for public comment (Vanuatu National Language Council 2005).

Literacy in education Vernacular literacy is beginning to emerge in pre-school education. Both Limap and Lingarakh villages have locally-run kindergartens. These are ostensibly vernacular kindergartens, established in order to introduce children to formal education through the medium of their indigenous language. The establishment of the kindergartens is in line with the Vanuatu government’s ten-year Education Master Plan (Republic of Vanuatu 1999), whereby the kindergartens are to be established and maintained by the local community with little or no government support.

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A Grammar of Neverver by Julie Barbour


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