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Paicî language

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Title: Paicî language  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
Language: English
Subject: Languages of New Caledonia, New Caledonian languages, New Caledonia, Tone (linguistics), Kanak people
Collection: Languages of New Caledonia, New Caledonian Languages
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia

Paicî language

Native to New Caledonia
Region East coast between Poindimié and Ponérihouen and inland valleys
Native speakers
7,300  (2009 census)[1]
Language codes
ISO 639-3 pri
Glottolog paic1239[2]

Paicî is the most widely spoken of the two dozen languages on the main island of New Caledonia. It is spoken in a band across the center of the island, from Poindimié to Ponérihouen.


  • Phonology 1
    • Consonants 1.1
    • Vowels 1.2
    • Tones 1.3
  • Notes 2
  • References 3
  • External links 4


Paicî has a rather simple inventory of consonants, compared to other languages of New Caledonia, but it has an unusually large number of nasal vowels. Paicî syllables are restricted to CV.[3]


  Bilabial Post-
Palatal Velar
plain labial
Nasal m ɲ ŋ
Plosive voiceless p c k
prenasalized ᵐb ᵐbʷ ⁿ̠d̠ ᶮɟ ᵑɡ
Tap ɾ̠
Approximant j w

The palatal stops could be considered affricates because they occur with a heavily fricated release. The lateral and tap do not occur word initially except in a few loan words, and the prefix /ɾɜ/ they.[3]

Because nasal stops are always followed by nasal vowels, whereas prenasalized stops are always followed by oral vowels, it might be argued that nasal and prenasalized stops are allophonic. This would reduce the Paicî consonant inventory to 13.


Paicî has a symmetrical system of 10 oral vowels, all found both long and short without significant difference in quality, and seven nasal vowels, some of which may also be long and short. Because sequences of two short vowels may carry two tones, but long vowels are restricted to carrying a single tone, these do appear to be phonemically long vowels rather than sequences.[3]

Front Central Back
Oral Nasal Oral Nasal Oral Nasal
Close /i/ /ĩ/ /ɨ/ /ɨ̃/ /u/ /ũ/
Close-mid /e/ /ɛ̞̃/ /ɘ/ /ɜ̞̃/ /o/ /ɔ̞̃/
Open-mid /ɛ/ /ɜ/ /ɔ/
Open /a/ /ɐ̃/


Like its neighbour Cèmuhî, Paicî is one of the few Austronesian languages which have developed contrastive tone,[4] involving three registers: high, mid, low. Additionally, there are vowels with no inherent tone, whose tone is determined by their environment. Words commonly have the same tone on all vowels, so tone may belong to the word rather than the syllable.


  1. ^ Paicî at Ethnologue (17th ed., 2013)
  2. ^ Nordhoff, Sebastian; Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2013). "Paici". Glottolog 2.2. Leipzig: Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology. 
  3. ^ a b c Gordon & Maddieson (1996).
  4. ^ Rivierre (1974).


  • Gordon, Ian; Maddieson (Dec 1996). "The phonetics of Paici". UCLA Working Papers in Phonetics 93. 
  • Rivierre, Jean-Claude (1974). "Tons et segments du discours en langue paicî (Nouvelle-Calédonie)".  
  • Rivierre, Jean-Claude. 1983. Dictionnaire paicî - français, suivi d'un lexique français - paicî. Paris : Société d'Etudes linguistiques et anthropologiques de France, 1983. 375p.

External links

  • Alphabet and pronunciation at Omniglot
  • Information on Paicî, with a list of references and a recorded text (website of LACITO-CNRS)
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