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Languages > Chuukese

Language Information

Chuukese (also called Trukese) is a Trukic language of the Austronesian language family spoken primarily on the islands of Chuuk in the Caroline Islands in Micronesia. There are some speakers on Pohnpei and Guam as well. Estimates place the number of speakers at about 45,000 including second-language speakers. The language of Chuuk belongs to the enormous Malayo-Polynesian family, one of the major branches of the Austronesian Language phylum. The other major branches are only found on Taiwan, whereas the Malayo-Polynesian branches consist of languages that are distributed all through the Pacific Islands, Indonesia, the Philippines, Malaysia, and Madagascar. The geographic location of the ancestral language of the Austronesian phylum appears to have been Fujian province in southeastern China. This may also have been the region from which the language ancestral to the Malayo-Polynesian branch subsequently spread, as well. Possibly more distantly related languages may include those in the Tai-Kadai language phylum and, perhaps even those in the Austroasiatic phylum. Chuukese falls within the Nuclear Micronesian subdivision of the Oceanic Division of the Austronesian language phylum. This subdivision consists of Kiribati, Marshallese, Kosraen, Nauruan, and the Pohnpeic and Chuukic Language groups. The Pohnpeic group consists of dialects spoken on Pohnpie, Mwoakiloa, Pingelap, and Sapwuahfik. Languages in the Chuukic group are closely related and extend over most of the Caroline Islands, from the Mortlock Islands southeast of Chuuk to the atolls in the vicinity of Yap and Palau in the west. Languages (or dialects) in this group are Mortlockese, Chuukese, Puluwatese, Saipan Carolinian, Satawalese, Woleaian, Ulithian, Sonsorolese, and the now-extinct language spoken until late in the last century in the little atoll of Mapia. Linguistic affiliations suggest that the ancestors of the speakers of Nuclear Micronesian Languages settled somewhere in the eastern part of Micronesia between three and four thousand years ago. The oldest archaeological site found so far comes from Bikini Atoll in the Marshall Islands, radiocarbon dated to 1960-1665 BC. People gradually spread out from there, southward into the Gilbert Islands and westward through the Central Caroline Islands. Once the islands were settled, there continued to be population movements within them. These movements were undertaken almost entirely by the atoll dwellers, who maintained and further developed seafaring lore, such lore not having been kept up by inhabitants of the high islands. Modern Chuukese shows evidence of borrowing from other languages closely related to it, the kind of thing we would expect if there had been significant internal movements of people in the Caroline Islands since the time they were first settled. There have always been links to places further away. Central Carolinians have left evidence of their presence in the islands of the Northern Melanesia to the south. They have traded for at least several centuries with Guam to the north. They have even had occasional contact with Philippine Islands, a contact that some time in past introduced loom weaving to the Caroline Islands. Although Chuuk’s people were not, themselves, active overseas voyagers, their location in the vast chain of atolls included them in its trading network. Chuukese has the unusual feature of permitting word-initial geminate (double) consonants. The common ancestor of Western Micronesian languages is believed to have had this feature, but most of its modern descendants have lost it.

Chuukese is spoken/used in the following countries:
Indonesia, Madagascar, Malaysia, Philippines.

Copyright © Kenneth Katzner, The Languages of the World, Published by Routledge.