We tend to think of Oceania as being homogenous—a simple island culture made up of people of common descent, but this really isn’t the case. As one travels from country to country in Oceania, the culture changes drastically, and so does the language spoken there. Let’s take a look at some instances where this happens, as well as what caused these changes to occur in the first place!
The Marvelous culture of Oceania is incredibly diverse, with influences from all over the world. The continent is home to many different religions, monuments, and museums that showcase the creative spirit of its people. One example of this creativity can be seen in New Zealand’s vibrant art scene. It has museums like Te Papa Museum which showcases a variety of artwork from around the world and monuments like Puketapu Treaty Grounds where important agreements were made.
The influence of religion is also visible throughout New Zealand. There are several religions that are practiced throughout New Zealand including Catholicism, Anglicanism, Mormonism, Hinduism and Islam. Perhaps one of most prominent pieces of religious art is a giant golden statue in Auckland, Our Lady Of The Angels. It has been called one of the best-known landmarks in Auckland and stands at 25 meters tall from its pedestal to its pinnacle with outstretched wings.
Polynesian languages as an example
The Polynesian languages are a subgroup of the Austronesian languages, which are spoken by a number of different ethnic groups living in Southeast Asia and East Asia. There are approximately 1,200 Polynesian languages, making it the second-largest language family in the world. A few examples of these languages include Hawaiian, Tahitian, Maori, Cook Islands Māori, Samoan and Tongan.
The Polynesian languages are noted for their similarities and differences. Despite sharing a common origin, they often differ in grammar and vocabulary, making them difficult to learn. For example, although many Polynesian languages retain evidence of unique grammatical features from their shared ancestry, some have lost these features through time or due to contact with other languages.
Polynesian languages are also noted for being spoken by small communities. This makes them vulnerable to extinction. It is estimated that only 10 percent of the world’s Polynesian languages remain currently spoken. These endangered languages include Rennellese, Ulithian and Nukuoro.
The pidgin English that is widely spoken throughout the islands of Melanesia is a direct result of the region’s colonial history. Pidgin English developed as a way for Europeans and Melanesians to communicate with each other, and it is still used today as a lingua franca. The language has been influenced by both English and various African languages, and it is estimated that there are over 200 different dialects of pidgin English spoken in Melanesia.
There are two regional versions of pidgin English, Tok Pisin and Hiri Motu. Tok Pisin is spoken throughout Papua New Guinea, where it developed from European languages like English and German. Hiri Motu is an Australian adaptation which was heavily influenced by Australian Aboriginal languages.
Because pidgin English has a limited vocabulary, it can be challenging to communicate complex thoughts and ideas. To make up for these shortcomings, speakers use intonation and body language to convey meaning. As is common throughout Melanesia, laughter is also used to lighten potentially uncomfortable situations. This is especially true when communicating with authority figures or strangers; as laughter lowers one’s guard and makes social interaction easier, it helps break down cultural barriers.
The Austronesian languages spoken in Micronesia are generally classified into three subgroups: Western Austronesian, Central Austronesian, and Eastern Austronesian. There are also several pidgins and creoles based on these languages. The most commonly spoken Western Austronesian languages are Filipino and Indonesian, while the Central Austronesian languages include Malagasy, Maori, and Hawaiian. The primary Eastern Austronesian language is Polynesian. In addition to these three major groups, there are numerous other regional variations of the same basic family.
Despite the fact that a large percentage of each region’s population is aware of one or more of its regional variants, this knowledge may not be shared among all members of that region, because it is only necessary for communications within its boundaries. The three major groups can be found throughout all the islands of Micronesia but tend to predominate on specific islands or island groups. For example, speakers from Guam predominantly speak Chamorro but some residents may also speak English or Spanish due to recent immigration patterns as well as immigrants arriving during American military occupation.
Though the cultures of Oceania are largely similar, there are a few outliers. For example, the people of Vanuatu have a unique form of communication called land diving. This involves jumping from tall towers with only vines tied around the ankles to break the fall. The activity is said to be a symbol of strength and courage. Furthermore, it is often used as a rite of passage for boys entering manhood and adults coming into their power.
Land diving is not commonplace in the least, but that doesn’t change the fact that its origins are unclear. Cultural similarities suggest it existed in Vanuatu before European contact, as well as; it should be noted that records go back only as far as 1825. Likewise, though land diving’s commonality among males suggests that gender-specificity is a tradition indigenous to Vanuatu culture, there have been recent cases of women participating and people living outside traditional villages partaking.
Countries and Indigenous Peoples
The history of Australia goes back to before civilization began anywhere else. New Zealand’s population is made up of about 15 percent Mori, and English is widely spoken. There are many languages spoken in Papua New Guinea, most of which are indigenous.
The Solomon Islands are home to a number of different cultures, including Melanesian, Polynesian, and Micronesian.
On Vanuatu, there are many islands and over 100 different languages are spoken. Melanesians are Vanuatu’s residents. English is also spoken there. French is the national language of French Polynesia, where it has been introduced by the European colonizers. Samoan and Tongan are some of the other common languages that can be found here. In Hawaii, Hawaiian Pidgin or Creole sometimes called Pidgin as well as English can be heard as well as some dialects from China. Maori people reside on the island nation too.