West Uvean
Native toNew Caledonia
Native speakers
2,200 (2009 census)[1]
Language codes
ISO 639-3uve
Lang Status 80-VU.svg
West Uvean is classified as Vulnerable by the UNESCO Atlas of the World's Languages in Danger

West Uvean (also Uvean or Faga Ouvéa; Fagauvea in the vernacular) is a Polynesian outlier language spoken on the island of Ouvéa, in the Loyalty island group of New Caledonia, and in the capital of Nouméa. It has long been in contact with Iaai, the Southern Oceanic language also spoken on the same island. Consequently, four vowels have been added, and the syllable structure has become complex, allowing for final consonants.[2]: 534 

West Uvea is the only Polynesian language to use a quinary numeral system. It is probably the original decimal Polynesian people influenced by the nearby Iaai people who used a quinary numeral system, and changed from a decimal system to a quinary one. There are two sets of numerals from 11 to 20, the second way was the archaic form. The word 'tupu' means 'sum', 'teanua' in 'tahi a teanua' means 'human body', 'nea' in 'tahi enea' means 'man'. Nowadays, the West Uvea or Faga Uvea people use French or Iaai numeral systems more frequently.


The speakers designate their language by the name Fagauvea, which is also the name used in French. The name West Uvean sometimes used in English is meant to distinguish the language from the related East Uvean or Wallisian, spoken on Wallis Island (ʻUvea).


Labial Dental Alveolar Retroflex Palatal Velar Glottal
Plosive voiceless p t ʈ c k
voiced b d ɖ ɟ ɡ
Fricative voiceless f θ s ʃ h
voiced v
Nasal voiced m n ɲ ŋ
Rhotic (ɾ)
Approximant voiced w l

/ɾ/ is only heard in intervocalic position.[3]

Front Central Back
High i y u
Mid e œ ə o
Low æ a


  1. ^ West Uvean at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015) (subscription required)
  2. ^ Button, Tom; Tryon, Darell T. (1994). Language contact and change in the Austronesian world. Mouton de Gruyter.
  3. ^ a b Ozanne-Rivierre, Françoise (1994). Iaai loanwords and phonemic changes in Fagauvea. Language Contact and Change in the Austronesian World: Mouton De Gruyter. pp. 523–550.