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. 100 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.
This PhD project aims to describe the language alongside with sociolinguistic and diachronic factors. Using high-end cameras, microphones and other recording equipment, I will try to document a representative part of the language, transcribe and translate it, and analyse it for itself as well as in its sociolinguistic context. The project hopes to shed more 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 will be organised in a publicly accessible archive as a corpus and text collection (text and audio), and in thematic dictionaries.
I have applied for an IGS grant with the Endangered Languages Documentation Programme and hope to go to the field for the second time in the summer of 2017.