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Polynesian languages

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Polynesian languages
Ethnicity:Polynesian people
Polynesia, with outliers in Melanesia and Micronesia
Linguistic classification:Austronesian

The Polynesian languages are a group of languages spoken in Oceania. They all belong in the Malayo-Polynesian branch of the Austronesian languages. They are mostly spoken in Polynesia, but some are spoken in nearby Melanesia and Micronesia.

There are around 30-40 Polynesian languages, with Samoan having the most speakers.[1] Other well-known Polynesian languages include Māori, Tongan, Hawaiian and Tahitian.


The Polynesian languages formed when Austronesians in New Caledonia (the Lapita culture) started moving to other parts of Oceania.[2] Navigation of Oceania continued until 1300AD, with the discovery of New Zealand (Aotearoa) by the Māori people.[3]

Today, there are over 2 million Polynesians, although speakers of Polynesian languages number far less due to historical reasons such as disease and colonialism.[4]

Immigrant populations

Language Number of speakers in Australia[5] Number of speakers in New Zealand
Cook Islands Māori 5,119 7,725
Māori 11,746 50,000 fluent
149,000 with some knowledge
Niuean 253 5,400
Samoan 44,875 86,403
Tokelauan 956 1,144 (mainland), 1,400 (Tokelau)
Tongan 17,694 31,839

Sound changes

Throughout the Polynesian languages, many sound changes occur. They mainly exist in consonants. For example, Samoan "f" corresponds to Hawaiian "h".

Hawaiian hale - Samoan fale (house)

Hawaiian aloha - Samoan talofa (hello)

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