Native toVanuatu
RegionEfate, Ifira Island
Native speakers
3,500 (2001)[1]
Language codes
ISO 639-3mxe

Mele-Fila (Ifira-Mele) is a Polynesian language spoken in Mele and Ifira on the island of Efate in Vanuatu. In spite of their differences, Mele and Fila are two dialects of the same language and are mutually intelligible. French and English are also fairly common among the residents of Efate.[2]

Mele-Fila is an everyday language for residents of Mele village and Fila Island. Mele village, with a population of 1,000, is located roughly 7 km north-west of Port Vila, the nation’s capital. Fila Island, with a population of 400, is located about 1.5km west of Vila.[2]


Based on archaeological evidence, it is understood that peoples speaking Austronesian languages originated on the island of Taiwan about 6000 years ago. Some of their descendants formed the Lapita civilisation, who sailed to Remote Oceania, including Vanuatu, roughly 3,200 years ago.[3]

The population of Mele-Fila belongs to the Polynesian outliers, who historically came from Central Polynesia (Tonga, Samoa) during the last two millennia.


Mele-Fila consonants[4]: 948 
Bilabial Alveolar Alveolo-
Velar Glottal
Nasal m n ŋ
Plosive p t t͡ɕ k
Fricative voiceless f s
voiced v
Trill r
Approximant l h

This language is unusual among Polynesian languages for its phoneme /tɕ/. In the Fila dialect, /p/ and /m/ are not distinct from their labialized counterparts.[4]: 948 

Mele-Fila vowels[4]: 949 
Front Central Back
High i u
Mid e o
Low a

Mele vowels are similar to other Polynesian vowels as there are /i e a o u/ long and short. More than half of the words used in the language hail from Proto Polynesian language.[2] Stressed initial vowels were kept, while unstressed initial vowels were removed.

"Ex: English: then, Mele: gafuru, PPN: angafulu"
"Ex: English: yesterday, Mele: nanafi, PPN: ananafi" [2]

Articles and verbal particles with unstressed long vowels often have their unstressed vowel shortened:[2]

Ex: ruú ́́are - “The two houses”
Ex: ru pókasi - “the two pigs”

Consonant clusters (strings of consonants without a vowel) exist, but can only be formed from these three combinations:[4]: 949 

  1. a sonorant and an obstruent
  2. a fricative and a stop,
  3. an obstruent and a nasal.

Word stress usually falls on the second-to-last syllable. Mele-Fila words usually contain at least three vowels.[4]: 948  Similar to many Polynesian languages, this requires counting long vowels as two vowels.[2]

Mele-Fila has borrowed significantly from the Efate languages of Vanuatu.[4]: 948  It also borrowed from English and French via Bislama, one of Vanuatu's national languages and creole language.[4]: 948  This has caused its syllable structure to allow (C)VC consonants as well as (C)V.[4]: 949  Consonants can be geminated(vocally lengthened), which indicates that a noun is plural.[4]: 949 


Mele-Fila has a Subject – Verb – Object sentence order.[2]

Verbal particles

Below is a list of "verbal particles":[2]


  1. ^ Mele-Fila at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015) (subscription required)
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h Clark, Ross (1975). Mele Notes.
  3. ^ Bedford, Stuart; Spriggs, Matthew. 2008. Northern Vanuatu as a Pacific Crossroads: The Archaeology of Discovery, Interaction, and the Emergence of the "Ethnographic Present". Asian Perspectives 47 (1), 95-120.
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h i Tryon, Darrell T. (1 June 2011). Comparative Austronesian Dictionary: An Introduction to Austronesian Studies. Walter de Gruyter. ISBN 3110884011.