Northwest Solomonic


Roviana is one of the most widely spoken and best described languages of the Northwest Solomonic subgroup of Oceanic. It is the largest language in the New Georgia subgroup of Northwest Solomonic.

It is spoken around the Roviana lagoon on the island of New Georgia and several of its smaller offshore islands in the Solomon Islands. According to Ethnologue there were 9,871 native speakers of Roviana in 1999, making it one of the largest languages in the Solomon Islands, and in the Northwest Solomonic group of languages. Ethnologue also identifies about 16,000 second language speakers in 1987, mostly over 30. Until recently Roviana was widely used as a trade language in the western Solomon Islands, and for that reason was adopted as the mission lingua franca for the region. However, these functions are now being replaced by Solomons Pijin. While first-language speaker numbers seem healthy, Roviana's place as a widely spoken second language seems to be fading.


Roviana is described in an old but very extensive dictionary, viewable and machine searchable here.

Waterhouse, J.H.L. (1928) A Roviana and English dictionary. Sydney: Epworth. (Revised and enlarged 1949 by L.M. Jones).

(Thanks to Claire Turner for scanning the dictionary.)


No reference grammar of Roviana exists. However, the grammar of the language is discussed in several grammatical studies.

Waterhouse's dictionary contains 'A grammar of the Roviana language.' (pp227-254)

Other published grammatical studies include:

Corston, Simon H. (1996) Ergativity in Roviana, Solomon Islands. Canberra: Pacific Linguistics.

Corston-Oliver, Simon H. (2002) 'Roviana.' In John Lynch, Malcolm Ross & Terry Crowley (eds.) The Oceanic languages. London: Curzon. [A lengthy sketch grammar of the language.]

Ray, Sidney H. (1926) A comparative study of the Melanesian island languages. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. [Briefly describes a few key features of the grammar of Roviana.]

Ross, Malcolm D. (1988) Proto Oceanic and the Austronesian languages of western Melanesia. Canberra: Pacific Linguistics. [pp240-247 discusses clause structure in Roviana.]

Todd, Evelyn  M. (1978) 'Roviana syntax.' In Stephen A. Wurm & Lois Carrington (eds.) Second International Conference on Austronesian Linguistics: Proceedings fasicle 2. Eastern Austronesian. Canberra: Pacific Linguistics. pp1035-1042.

Todd, Evelyn  M. (2000) 'Roviana clauses.' In Bill Palmer & Paul Geraghty (eds.) SICOL. Proceedings of the Second International Conference on Oceanic Linguistics: vol.2. Historical and descriptive studies. Canberra: Pacific Linguistics. pp137-154.