Nukuoro is a Polynesian Outlier language spoken on Nukuoro Atoll, an outlying island of Pohnpei State, Federated States of Micronesia. By recent estimates, there are about 1,200 speakers of Nukuoro worldwide, with Nukuoro communities on Nukuoro Atoll, Pohnpei, Guam, and various places in the United States (Drummond & Rudolph 2021). While Nukuoro is the primary language of use on Nukuoro Atoll, diaspora communities are facing increased influence from regionally dominant languages like Pohnpeian and English. Many Nukuoro community members under 30 feel more comfortable speaking other languages, or do not identify as Nukuoro speakers at all. As rising sea levels threaten the sustainability of life on the atoll, diaspora communities will continue to grow, putting greater pressure of majority languages on the Nukuoro-speaking community. This Living Dictionary was created in part to support maintenance of the Nukuoro language outside of Nukuoro Atoll.
The home island of the Nukuoro community, Nukuoro Atoll, is a low-lying coral atoll with a circular lagoon and more than 40 individual islets that sit on top of the reef. The largest of these islets is Nukuoro islet, which is the center of population and the location of the historic settlement on the island. The atoll is quite remote, with no airstrip, and journeys between Nukuoro and Pohnpei are typically made by passenger boat, with a stop at Sapwuahfik on the way to Nukuoro and continuing on to Kapingamarangi.
Much of the spatial and directional vocabulary of Nukuoro is informed by the shape of the atoll itself. For instance, direction when traveling on the atoll is determined by which islet terminus you are traveling toward; traveling counter-clockwise toward the northern terminus of the atoll is traveling gi ngaiho, and traveling clockwise toward the southern terminus is gi ngaage. Additionally, one can describe traveling toward the lagoon as traveling gi dai 'to the water', and traveling toward the ocean (away from the lagoon) as traveling gi dua 'to the back'.
For additional information and documentation of the Nukuoro language, visit nukuoro.org.