Merelava, Merlav
Native toVanuatu
RegionMerelava, Gaua
Native speakers
ca. 1,100 (2012)[1]
Language codes
ISO 639-3mrm
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Mwerlap is an Oceanic language spoken in the south of the Banks Islands in Vanuatu.

Its 1,100 speakers live mostly in Merelava and Merig, but a fair proportion have also settled the east coast of Gaua island.[2] Besides, a number of Mwerlap speakers live in the two cities of Vanuatu, Port Vila and Luganville.


The language is named after Merelava.


Mwerlap has 12 phonemic vowels. These include 9 monophthongs /i ɪ ɛ ʉ ɵ ɞ ʊ ɔ a/ and 3 diphthongs /ɛ͡a ɔ͡ɞ ʊ͡ɵ/.[3]

Mwerlap vowels
Front Central
Back Diphthongs
Close i ⟨i⟩ ʉ ⟨u⟩
Near-close ɪ ⟨ē⟩ ɵ ⟨ö⟩ ʊ ⟨ō⟩ ʊ͡ɵ ⟨ōö⟩
Open-mid ɛ ⟨e⟩ ɞ ⟨ë⟩ ɔ ⟨o⟩ ɔ͡ɞ ⟨oë⟩
Open a ⟨a⟩ ɛ͡a ⟨ea⟩


The system of personal pronouns in Mwerlap contrasts clusivity, and distinguishes three numbers (singular, dual, plural).[4]

Spatial reference in Mwerlap is based on a system of geocentric (absolute) directionals, which is in part typical of Oceanic languages, and yet innovative.[5]


  1. ^ François (2012: 88).
  2. ^ François (2012: 97).
  3. ^ François (2005: 445, 460).
  4. ^ François (2016).
  5. ^ François (2015:) 173-175).