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Recordings of Hamea: An Austronesian language of Southern New Caledonia


Language Haméa
Depositor Alexandre François, Claire Moyse-Faurie
Affiliation CNRS
Location New Caledonia
Collection ID 0588
Grant ID LMG0001
Funding Body ELDP
Collection Status Collection online
Landing Page Handle



Summary of the collection

The collection consists of videos collected in 2010 through a program on endangered languages called “Sorosoro”. Claire Moyse spent several weeks in New Caledonia with José Reynès, a filmmaker. In the following years, she transcribed and translated to French most of the videos. This was possible thanks to the help of Délisiane Thiaméa, as well as her elder sister Béatrice and their parents.


Group represented

Haméa is spoken in the high valley of the Kouaoua river, on the east coast of New Caledonia’s Grande Terre, by 300 speakers at most. It used to be spoken in such villages as Méa-Mébara, which is partly reflected in its name (Ha-Méa). Today, the villages where Haméa is still spoken, starting from the top of the valley, are Konoé-Chaoué, Niéré, Wérupimé, Waabe. A few speakers live along the coast in the main town, Kouaoua, and a few others in Kacirikwâ, a small village on the western side of the central chain. Haméa children go to school outside their community, and are in daily contact with other languages: French, the language of education and administration, as well as two more robust Kanak languages, Xârâcùù and Ajië. The great vulnerability of the Haméa language is not only due to its small number of speakers, ro to French colonization; it must also be explained by its linguistic closeness to Ajië, a language taught in the school system, and used in religious Anglican contexts.


Language information

Haméa is an Austronesian language, belonging to the Southern New Caledonian subgroup (Austronesian > Oceanic > New Caledonian > Southern). It is closely related to Tîrî, studied by Grace (1976) and Osumi (1995). It corresponds to the forms given as “”pure Mea”” [M] in Grace’s dictionary.

Haméa (lit. “language of Méa”), name given by the speakers, is known as “Nââ xâyââ” in the neighboring Xârâcùù language.


Grace, George W., 1976. Granc Couli Dictionary. Canberra, Australian National University, Pacific Linguistics C-12.

Osumi, Midori, 1995. Tinrin Grammar. Honolulu, University of Hawaii Press, Oceanic Linguistics Special Publication 25.


Special characteristics

As there were no oral documents available on this language before today, all these recordings are of interest, for the community’s cultural and linguistic legacy, and for use in school.

The phonological system of Haméa is relatively complex. There are 9 oral and 6 nasal vowels, some with allophonic variation; a contrast of length. Haméa has 30 consonants.

Haméa’s basic word order is sVO smS: an optional NP subject is postposed to the verb; it is obligatorily indexed on the verb using a pronominal subject prefix. As in other Kanak languages, the pronominal system contrasts between three numbers (singular, dual, plural), and between inclusive and exclusive for 1st person. The deictic system shows different forms depending on the position of the speaker and the addressee, and on visibility. The ancient numeral system, only remembered by old speakers, combined a base 5 and a base 20; younger speakers have adopted the French decimal system. The numeral classifiers found in most Kanak languages have been lost in Haméa.


Collection contents

The Haméa collection of video recordings concerns:

• traditional vocabulary (body parts and numerals),

• comments on traditional society and activities (building of a traditional house; the notion of respect; games; work in the field),

• historical narratives (history of the clans; the Second World War; description of the nickel extraction environment),

• traditional folktales (the Rat and the Octopus; the Cock from Ema),

• a song on coffee.


Collection history

Claire Moyse-Faurie carried out several months of fieldwork in the Kouaoua region between 2008 and 2013. The collected data are audio and video recordings, most of them transcribed, and translated into French. Audio recordings are also available on the Pangloss website (


Other information

References available on the Haméa language

Moyse-Faurie, Claire, 2012a, Haméa et xârâgurè, langues kanak en danger, UniverSOS. Revista de Lenguas Indígenas y Universos Culturales, València, 2012, n°9, 73-86.

— 2012b, Documentation d’une langue kanak ultra-minoritaire: contextes politique et social, réalisation et difficultés rencontrées, Cahiers de l’observatoire des pratiques linguistiques, n°3, Délégation générale à la langue française et aux langues de France, 141-152.

Nemouare, Yasmina, 2003. Proposition d’écriture et lexique du haméa (Kouaoua). Nouméa, Agence de Développement de la Culture Kanak, Programme 2003 de la collecte des traditions orales de l’aire xârâcùù.

Thiaméa, Délisiane, 2006. Dossier de linguistique L3. Nouméa, Université de la Nouvelle-Calédonie, filière Langues et Cultures océaniennes.


Acknowledgement and citation

Users of the Haméa deposit should acknowledge Claire Moyse-Faurie as the principal investigator and the data collector. Alexandre François was in charge of coordinating the deposit, in the broader framework of LAVAFLOW (Legacy audio video archival in fourteen languages of the world).

The video recordings were made possible through the financial support of CNRS–LaCiTO, along with some funding from the French Ministry of Culture for the Sorosoro program. The ELDP funding was exclusively dedicated to allowing our research assistant Ms Anne Armand to prepare the archive for online display.

To refer to any data from the collection, please cite as follows:

Moyse-Faurie, Claire. 2020. Recordings of Hamea: An Austronesian language of Southern New Caledonia. Endangered Languages Archive. Handle: Accessed on [insert date here].

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