- Sowa language
fam8=North and Central
East Vanuatu languages
Sowa was the original language of south-central Pentecost island in
Vanuatu. In recent times it has been displaced by Abma, a neighbouring language, and there are now no native speakers of Sowa left, although a few people still know the language.
Sowa belongs to the
East Vanuatu languages, a branch of the Austronesian languagesfamily. It is closely related to Seke, another south Pentecost language.
Sowa was originally spoken on both western and eastern sides of Pentecost. Melsisi River formed the language's northern boundary, and its range extended southwards as far as the village of Levisendam. Most of the place names in this area are Sowa in origin.
In the village of Lesubelakan (Lesubwe), above Melsisi, a unique variety of Sowa was spoken that differed noticeably from that spoken in other areas.
Following the depopulation of Pentecost that occurred after the introduction of European diseases, men from Sowa-speaking areas were forced to marry women from other parts of Pentecost. These women were Abma speakers, and their children were brought up speaking Abma rather than Sowa. As a result, by the 1960s, Abma had totally displaced Sowa as the local language.
No comprehensive study of Sowa has been carried out, but a few local people have made small-scale efforts to record and preserve the language in an attempt to ensure that it is not forgotten. Some even dream of reviving Sowa. However, their efforts are not wholeheartedly supported by the entire community, and are hampered by a lack of resources.
* Tabi Vahka, Isaiah. 2006. "Tamzon Nan Dutmekan Lon Dolod Ne Sowa".
* [http://www.andrewgray.com/pacific/sowa.htm Andrew Gray's notes on Sowa language]
* [http://www.ethnologue.com/show_language.asp?code=sww Ethnologue page]
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