Oceanic languages, aboriginal languages spoken in the region known as Oceania. If Oceania is restricted to the Melanesian, Micronesian, and Polynesian islands, the indigenous tongues spoken on these islands belong for the most part to the Malayo-Polynesian family of languages (see Malayo-Polynesian languages). Papuan languages are spoken on the island of New Guinea, which is sometimes considered a part of Melanesia. The Papuan languages are native to the people of New Guinea. They are not, so far as is known, related to the Malayo-Polynesian linguistic family or, for that matter, to any other family of languages. More research is needed to discover how the various Papuan tongues are related to one another and also how many of them there are. Currently, their number is estimated at about 150 languages. When the area of Oceania is extended to include Australia and Malaysia, indigenous languages of the Australian group spoken in Australia (see Australian languages) may be added to the Malayo-Polynesian stock (predominating in Malaysia as well as in Melanesia, Micronesia, and Polynesia) as tongues of this region.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.
See more Encyclopedia articles on: Language and Linguistics