West Uvean
Native toNew Caledonia
Native speakers
2,200 (2009 census)[1]
Language codes
ISO 639-3uve
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.

West Uvean has been studied by linguists Françoise Ozanne-Rivierre and Claire Moyse-Faurie.


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).


West Uvean has long been in contact with Iaai, the Southern Oceanic language also spoken on the same island. This contact has resulted in four vowels being added to the phonemic system of West Uvean; and to a complexification of the syllable structure, allowing for final consonants.[2]: 534 

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.[2]

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


Numeral system

West Uvean is the only Polynesian language to use a quinary numeral system. While Polynesian languages historically have a decimal system, West Uvean evolved to a quinary system, under influence of its Iaai neighbour.

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', and nea in tahi enea means 'man'.[clarification needed] Nowadays, the West Uvea or Faga Uvea people use French or Iaai numeral systems more frequently.


  1. ^ West Uvean at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015) (subscription required)
  2. ^ a b c Ozanne-Rivierre, Françoise (1994). "Iaai loanwords and phonemic changes in Fagauvea". In Tom Dutton; Darrell T. Tryon (eds.). Language Contact and Change in the Austronesian World. Mouton De Gruyter. pp. 523–550. doi:10.1515/9783110883091.523. ISBN 978-3-11-012786-7.