Structure dataset 23: Bislama

This language is described more fully in survey chapter 23.

Bislama is the national language and lingua franca in Vanuatu. Most of the nation’s c. 260,000 residents can use the language and increasing numbers of people speak it as their home language (either as L1 or co-L1 with a vernacular). This is particularly common in the main towns, but families using Bislama amongst themselves are found in many smaller villages too. It is not formally used as a medium of education but is widely used in public life and government. There are some suggestions that different regional dialects of Bislama are stabilising in the country: the data represented in APiCS (default lect) is largely based on fieldwork recording spontaneous speech among friends in the northern region (Sanma Province) in the mid-1990s, supplemented with printed materials in the newspapers (mainly the now defunct Vanuatu Hebdomadaire Weekly) and some national radio broadcasts in 1998 and isolated examples from print or native speaker intuitions collected between 1998-2010.

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No. Feature Value Details Source
No. Feature Value Details Source


Pulmonic Consonants
Place → Labial Coronal Dorsal Laryngeal
↓ Manner Bilabial Labio­dental Linguo­labial Dental Alveolar Palato-
Retroflex Alveolo-
Palatal Velar Uvular Pharyngeal
/ Epiglottal
Nasal m n ŋ
Stop p b t d k g
Sibilant affricate t͡ʃ
Non-sibilant affricate
Sibilant fricative s z ʃ
Non-sibilant fricative f v h
Approximant l j
Flap or tap ɾ
Trill r
Lateral affricate
Lateral fricative
Lateral approximant
Lateral flap


Front Near-front Central Near-back Back Close Near-close Close-mid Mid Open-mid Near-open Open ihigh front unrounded vowel ɨhigh central unrounded vowel uhigh back rounded vowel ɪlowered high front unrounded vowel ʊlowered high back rounded vowel ehigher mid front unrounded vowel ohigher mid back rounded vowel ɛlower mid front unrounded vowel ɑlow back unrounded vowel

Special segments

Other segments
 w  voiced labial-velar glide


       Exists (as a major allophone)
       Exists only as a minor allophone
       Exists only in loanwords
No. Feature Value Details Source