Tahuatan is classified as a dialect of the Marquesan language. It is spoken by around 2,100 people – mainly fishermen – who inhabit three islands of the South Marquesas: Tahuta, Hiva Oa and Fatu Hiva (French Polynesia). Nowadays, Tahuatan, as well as other dialects of the Marquesan language, is only spoken at home. Since the media revolution of the 1980s, indigenous stories and legends have no longer been transmitted by the older to the younger generations who prefer western entertainment of TV and video. Marquesan children are also constantly exposed to French – the official language of the Marquesas – and are gradually shifting to this language. All this means that traditional aspects of the Marquesan culture are slowly being lost.

Varying numeral systems are just one example of how different the perception of the surrounding world can be across languages. Explore the linguistic diversity of the world with the Book of Knowledge (Chapter 2)!


Indigenous traditional practices also include food preparation. The video shows how to make the traditional Marquesan banana pudding.

To view more resources and information about the Marquesan language, visit the website of the DoBeS Marquesan Documentation Project.


Photo: Members of the Tahuatan speech community documenting their language. © Gabriele Cablitz