The Rotuman language is spoken by residents of the island of Rotuma, which lies 465 kilometers northwest of Viti Levu, Fiji, by Rotumans who live on Fiji's main islands, as well as by Rotumans who reside overseas. There are approximately 9,000 speakers in all.
Rotuman is not closely related to any other language. It is classified as a member of the Central-Eastern Oceanic subgroup, along with Fijian and the Polynesian languages, within the Austronesian language family. Rotuman has some unique features. The most notable is the fact that all lexical words have two forms, called "complete" and "incomplete" or "long" and "short", which are used in certain syntactico-semantic contexts. The incomplete is derived from the complete by one of four processes: metathesis, umlauting, vowel deletion, and diphthongization.
These processes all serve to shorten a word by one mora, and, in most cases, cause the word to end in a consonant, a feature which is unusual for an Oceanic language. These processes also produce several vowels in addition to the usual five of other Oceanic languages.
Most of the significant work on the Rotuman language was done by
Maxwell Churchward in the 1930's. This is the first comprehensive study of the language to be done in 60 years.