Vamale/Mwaeke is a South Oceanic, North New Caledonian language spoken in the South Pacific territory of New Caledonia (de facto French). Its speakers were scattered due to colonial oppression (1917), and are now geographically removed from their linguistic cousins by a mountain range. It is highly endangered (ca. 180 speakers, many elderly) and undescribed except for fragments. Its contact with Cèmuhî, Pije, and French may have had an impact on parts of its morphosyntax and phonology, more than on other languages of the Voh-Koné cluster.


New Caledonia
New Caledonia

This PhD project described the language with a grammar (under review, Language Science Press) and a dictionary. Using high-end cameras, microphones and other recording equipment, I documented a significant part of Vamale culture, representing the second biggest collection after Rivierre's Paicî corpus on Pangloss. The project shed light not only on Vamale itself, but also on the impact of colonisation on languages, and the inner structure of the North New Caledonian language family.

The collected data is organised in a publicly accessible archive as a corpus and text collection (text and audio), and in thematic dictionaries.

Some of the data may be used by local cultural organisations, the ALK and the ADCK to elaborate school materials and other small publications on Vamale.

I received an IGS grant with the Endangered Languages Documentation Programme.

Thenganepaik, commune of Touh
Thenganepaik, commune of Touh © Jean Rohleder

PostDoc project

After Vamale, two other New Caledonian languages are the focus of a new project: Centre-Northern Paicî (ca. 5000 speakers) and Eastern-Northern Nemi (ca. 300). Financed in part by the ISW, with two years to follow at the LACITO-CNRS funded by the SNF, the project will describe the two languages' morphosyntax with sketch grammars, and will dress a typology of subject-marking in Northern New Caledonian languages. Fieldwork for this takes place in 2023,2024, and 2025.

ORCID page