|Native to||French Polynesia|
|3,000 (2007 census)|
L2 speakers: 2,000 (no date)
Austral (Reo Tuha'a pae) is an endangered Polynesian language that is spoken by approximately 8,000 people (1987). It is spoken only on the Austral Islands and the Society Islands of French Polynesia. The language is also referred to as Tubuai-Rurutu, Tubuai, Rurutu-Tupuai, or Tupuai. In structure, it is similarly compared to Tahitian.
Those who originally spoke Austral were the Tubuaians, the people of Tubuai. Because there is no recorded history of its earlier discovery (before European colonization), there is no precise time or date of the initial inhabitance of Tubuai. However, some say that the indigenous people started to occupy the island around the year 1000. The reason that is, is because during this time was a major increase of habitation in the Polynesian islands.
Centuries later, around 1777, James Cook "discovered" the island. Subsequently, Europeans made their way to this Polynesian isle to settle. Although the Tubuaians created their own society and culture, the Europeans objective was to convert the islanders into their beliefs. In results, the European influence had a negative effect on the Austral culture and population. It had caused the island to decrease from a population of 3000 to 300 over a course of years because of the emergence of new diseases and the introduction to alcohol.
Some traditional practices, beliefs, and languages had been lost or had been struggling to revive. The languages of the Austral area still lack official recognition, as of 2015.
Austral is sorted into the Austronesian family, which contains a majority of the Pacific languages. This family is divided into 15 subcategories, starting with Austronesian and ending with Tahitic. Specifically, it is broken down into Austronesian, Central-Eastern Malayo-Polynesian, Eastern Malayo-Polynesian, Oceanic, Central-Eastern Oceanic, Remote Oceanic, Central Pacific, East Fijian-Polynesian, Polynesian, Nuclear, East, Central, and Tahitic.
The Austral language is classified as "threatened" in the Catalogue of Endangered Languages. With less than 6% of the French Polynesian population speaking Austral, its Ethnologue status is also deemed to be "shifting". This means that the language is staying only within one generation and not being taught to their descendants. Another cause of the Austral language dissipation is because those who speak Austral are now speaking Tahitian. This alteration took place because Tahitian is better known and is spoken by more people in their region, while Austral is being seen as futile as only a low percentage of people speak it.
There are four dialects in the Austral language: Ra'ivavae, Rimatara, Rurutu, and Tubuai (also known as Tupuai). Each of these are spoken in their corresponding islands: Raivavae, Rimatara, and Rurutu, except for the Tubuai dialect: it is extinct, replaced by Tahitian.
The phonology of the dialects of the Austral language varies significantly. The Rurutu and Ra'ivavae dialects, for example, have only eight consonant phonemes, making it relatively difficult to understand even for speakers of Tahitian, another Polynesian language. The Ra'ivavae dialect is also unusual in that its rhotic consonant has evolved into a voiced velar stop consonant, similar to the hard "g" sound in English.
All dialects have the same five vowels (a, e, i, o, u, with geminated variants) similar to practically all Polynesian languages.