Polynesian outlier

Polynesian outliers are a number of culturally Polynesian societies that geographically lie outside the main region of Polynesian influence, known as the Polynesian Triangle; instead, Polynesian outliers are scattered in the two other Pacific subregions: Melanesia and Micronesia. Based on archaeological and linguistic analysis, these islands are considered to have been colonized by seafaring Polynesians, mostly from the area of Tonga, Samoa and Tuvalu.

General definition

The region commonly termed "Polynesia" includes thousands of islands, most of them arranged in a rough triangle bounded by Hawaii, Easter Island, and New Zealand. Outside the Polynesian Triangle, in areas commonly designated Micronesia and Melanesia, lie about two dozen islands, most of them small and widely separated, whose inhabitants speak Polynesian languages. These islands are collectively termed the Polynesian "outliers".

Their residents generally share features found within Triangle Polynesia. Physically, Polynesians tend to have brown complexions and dark, wavy hair, and they are typically large people of muscular build.

The fact that people in all of the Polynesian outliers speak recognizably Polynesian languages implies that their ancestors fairly recently migrated from the Polynesian heartland. Yet there is much social variation. In some places, outlier populations settled in close proximity to Melanesian or Micronesian populations and seem to have been influenced by them. In other locations, outlier populations remained isolated by geography, ecology, or choice and seem more classically Polynesian.[1]


Western Polynesia and Polynesian Outliers - fr
Map of the Polynesian outliers (in red) and the original Polynesian homeland (red zone).

Polynesian outlier cultures are scattered across five countries of the Pacific: in the Federated States of Micronesia, in Papua New Guinea, in the Solomon Islands, in Vanuatu, and in New Caledonia.

The Federated States of Micronesia has two outlier cultures, Kapingamarangi and Nukuoro. Papua New Guinea has three: Nuguria, Nukumanu, and Takuu. The country with the most outlier cultures is the Solomon Islands, with seven (listed from north to south): Ontong Java (Luangiua), Sikaiana (the Stewart Islands), Vaeakau-Taumako (the Duff Islands and Reef Islands), Rennell and Bellona in the southwest, and Anuta and Tikopia in the southeast. Vanuatu has three: Emae, Mele (now known as Ifira-Mele) and Futuna-Aniwa (on Futuna Island and Aniwa Island). Futuna recognizes links with Tonga. New Caledonia has one Polynesian outlier culture on Ouvéa in the Loyalty Islands, where the Fagauvea language is spoken.


The outlier groups in Micronesia, Papua New Guinea, and the northern Solomon Islands speak Ellicean languages (which also includes Tuvaluan), while those further to the south in the Solomons, Vanuatu, and New Caledonia speak Futunic languages (which also includes the language of Wallis and Futuna). These are two of the branches of the Samoic language family, which is sometimes called the Samoan-Outlier language family for this reason. It is a sub-branch of the Nuclear Polynesian languages. In some of these islands, the outlier population may also speak the local Melanesian or Micronesian language.


A 1983 study analyzing the DNA of 2400 people in the Solomon Islands and Vanuatu have found markers which clearly distinguish the Polynesian outlier islands of the group. Of the four Polynesian outliers considered, Anuta was the most genetically distinct, followed by Rennell and Bellona. Tikopia showed more influence from the nearby Melanesian population. All indicate traces of inter-island population movements, and even sources from Europeans, Africans, and Asians, though the latter were at a low level.[2]

Sovereignty issues

Two of the more remote Polynesian outliers have disputed legal sovereignty:


  1. ^ Feinberg, Richard and Richard Scaglion, eds. 2012. Polynesian Outliers: The State of the Art. Ethnology Monographs, No. 21. Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press.
  2. ^ Blake, N.M.; Hawkins, B.R.; Kirk, R.L.; Bhatia, K.; Brown, P.; Garruto, R.M.; Gajdusek, D.C. (December 1983). "A population genetic study of the Banks and Torres Islands (Vanuatu) and of the Santa Cruz Islands and Polynesian Outliers (Solomon Islands)". American Journal of Physical Anthropology. 62 (4): 343–61. doi:10.1002/ajpa.1330620402. PMID 6607679.
  3. ^ The U.S. Territory of Palmyra Island has a similar history.

External links

Aniwa Island

Aniwa is a small island in the southernmost province of Tafea, Vanuatu.As a coral island (a raised coral atoll), it rises a mere 42 m above sea level. In the northwest is Itcharo (Tiaro) lagoon, which is open to the sea. The nearest large island is Tanna, about 24 km to the southwest.


Anuta is a small high island in the southeastern part of the Solomon Islands province of Temotu, one of the smallest permanently inhabited Polynesian islands. It is one of the Polynesian Outlier communities in Melanesia.

Anuta language

The Anuta language (or Anutan, locally te taranga paka-Anuta) is a Polynesian Outlier language from the island of Anuta in the Solomon Islands. It is closely related to the Tikopia language of the neighboring island of Tikopia, and it bears significant cultural influence from the island. The two languages have a high degree of mutual intelligibility, although Anutans can understand Tikopians better than the reverse.Anuta is generally regarded as Nuclear Polynesian language, although it bears considerable Tongic influence.In 1977, Richard Feinberg published a two-volume dictionary and basic grammar of the language.

Emae language

Emae is a Polynesian outlier language of Vanuatu.

Futuna-Aniwa language

Futuna-Aniwa is a language spoken in the Tafea Province of Vanuatu on the outlier islands of Futuna and Aniwa. The language has approximately 1,500 speakers. It is a Polynesian language, part of the Austronesian language family.It is occasionally called West Futunan to distinguish it from East Futunan spoken on the islands of Futuna and Alofi in Wallis and Futuna.

Iaai language

Iaai (Iaai pronunciation: [jaːi]) is a language of Ouvéa Island (New Caledonia). It shares the island of Ouvéa with Fagauvea, a Polynesian outlier language.

Iaai is the sixth-most-spoken language of New Caledonia, with 4078 speakers as of 2009. It is taught in schools in an effort to preserve it.

The main sources of information about the language of Iaai are the various publications by the linguist Françoise Ozanne-Rivierre, from LACITO–CNRS.


Kapingamarangi is an atoll and a municipality in the state of Pohnpei of the Federated States of Micronesia. It is by far the most southerly atoll or island of the country and of the Caroline Islands, 300 km (190 mi) south of the next southerly atoll, Nukuoro, and 740 km (460 mi) southwest of the main island of Pohnpei state; it forms a Polynesian outlier.

The total area of the atoll, including the lagoon, is 74 km2 (29 sq mi). Out of this, 1.1 km2 (0.4 sq mi) is land area, spread over 33 wooded islets on the eastern side of the atoll, three of which host the population of about 500 people. The western reef rim of the atoll is almost submerged at high water.

Mele Island

Mele Island (also known as Hideaway Island) is a Polynesian outlier and islet in Vanuatu.

The island is owned by the local Mele villagers, but is leased to the owners of Hideaway Island Resort. The island is accessed by a boat service from nearby Port Vila and offers accommodation and watersports to visitors. Mele has one of only a few underwater post offices in the world, which is open daily and allows visitors to post letters that are postmarked in a waterproof manner.


Nuguria or the Nuguria Islands, also known as the Abgarris or Fead Islands, are a Polynesian outlier and islands of Papua New Guinea. They are located nearly 150 km from the northern end of Buka island, in the Autonomous Region of Bougainville and consist of two closely spaced atoll formations.

Nukuoro language

The Nukuoro language is a Polynesian outlier language, spoken by about 860 people on the Nukuoro atoll and on Pohnpei in Micronesia.

Polynesian Triangle

The Polynesian Triangle is a region of the Pacific Ocean with three island groups at its corners: Hawaii, Easter Island (Rapa Nui) and New Zealand (Aotearoa). It is often used as a simple way to define Polynesia.

Outside the triangle, there are traces of Polynesian settlement as far north as Necker Island (Mokumanamana), as far east as Salas y Gómez Island (Motu Motiro Hiva), and as far south as Enderby Island (Motu Maha). There was also once Polynesian settlement on Norfolk Island and Kermadec Island (Rangitahua). However, by the time the Europeans first arrived, these islands were all uninhabited.

Today, the most numerous Polynesian peoples are the Māori, Hawaiians, Tongans, Samoans, Niueans and Tahitians. The native languages of this vast triangle are Polynesian languages, which are classified by linguists as part of the Oceanic subgroup of Malayo-Polynesian. They ultimately derive from the proto-Austronesian language spoken in Southeast Asia 5,000 years ago. There are also numerous Polynesian outlier islands outside the triangle in neighboring Melanesia and Micronesia.

Polynesian navigation

Traditional Polynesian navigation was used for thousands of years to make long voyages across thousands of miles of the open Pacific Ocean. Navigators travelled to small inhabited islands using wayfinding techniques and knowledge passed by oral tradition from master to apprentice, often in the form of song. Generally, each island maintained a guild of navigators who had very high status; in times of famine or difficulty, they could trade for aid or evacuate people to neighbouring islands. As of 2014, these traditional navigation methods are still taught in the Polynesian outlier of Taumako Island in the Solomons.

Polynesian navigation used some navigational instruments, which predate and are distinct from the machined metal tools used by European navigators (such as the sextant, first produced in 1730; the sea astrolabe, from around late 15th century; and the marine chronometer, invented in 1761). However, they also relied heavily on close observation of sea sign and a large body of knowledge from oral tradition.Both wayfinding techniques and outrigger canoe construction methods have been kept as guild secrets, but in the modern revival of these skills, they are being recorded and published.

Reef Islands

The Reef Islands are a loose collection of 16 islands in the northwestern part of the Solomon Islands province of Temotu. These islands have historically also been known by the names of Swallow Islands and Matema Islands.

Samoic languages

The Samoic–Outlier languages, also known as Samoic languages, are a purported group of Polynesian languages, encompassing the Polynesian languages of Samoa, Tuvalu, American Samoa, Tokelau, Wallis and Futuna, and Polynesian outlier languages in New Caledonia, the Solomon Islands, Vanuatu, Papua New Guinea, and the Federated States of Micronesia. The name "Samoic-Outlier" recognizes Sāmoan.


Tahua is one of Duff Islands archipelago, located in the Temotu Province of the Solomon Islands is the Pacific Ocean. The estimated terrain elevation above sea level is some 23 metres. The island is inhabited.


Taumako is the largest of the Duff Islands. This 5.7-kilometre-long (3.5-mile) island has steep sides and rises to a height of 400 metres (1,312 feet) above sea level. It is composed of basaltic lavas and pyroclastics like the other islands in the Duffs.

The inhabitants of the Duff Islands are Polynesians, and their language, Vaeakau-Taumako, is a member of the Samoic branch of Polynesian languages.

On the Duff Islands live about 439 people (1999 census). The islands were settled at least as early as 900 BC, by people who made pottery known as Lapita. Archaeological research has shown that this pottery was made using local clay and sand from the island. These Lapita people spread far as wide from the coastal area of Papua New Guinea to the islands of Tonga and Samoa; that is, throughout islands known as both Melanesia and Polynesia. Consequently, the people of Taumako experienced wide-ranging influences, and could be said to have been both Melanesian and Polynesian throughout their long history.

The way of life is traditional by subsistence gardening and fishing. Taumako has no roads, airport, telephones, or electricity. Contact with outsiders comes by battery-powered marine radio and the regular monthly inter-island ship from Honiara.


Tikopia is a high island in the southwestern Pacific Ocean. It is part of the Solomon Islands of Melanesia, but is culturally Polynesian. The first Europeans arrived on 22 April 1606 as part of the Spanish expedition of Pedro Fernandes de Queirós.

Tikopia language

The Tikopia language is a Polynesian Outlier language from the island of Tikopia in the Solomon Islands. It is closely related to the Anuta language of the neighboring island of Anuta. Tikopian is also spoken by the Polynesian minority on Vanikoro, who long ago migrated from Tikopia.

West Uvean language

This article deals with "West Uvean" or "Fagauvea", a language of New Caledonia. For "East Uvean" or "Fakauvea", the language of Wallis Island (Uvea), see Wallisian language.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.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.

Polynesian triangle
Polynesian outliers


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