Nauru - Orientation

Identification. Nauru is an independent republic, an associate member of the British Commonwealth, and a member of the South Pacific Commission and the South Pacific Forum. The indigenous term for the island is Nauru, but early European visitors gave it the name of "Pleasant Island," which was used briefly.

Location. The single raised coral island of Nauru is located in the center of the Pacific basin, at 0°25′ S, 166°56′ E. It has a narrow fringing reef that drops off very steeply to the ocean floor. A fertile belt some 150-300 meters wide above the shoreline encircles the island. On the inland side a coral cliff rises to a height up to 300 meters above sea level; this central plateau once bore the richest deposit of phosphate rock in the Pacific, but this deposit is almost mined out, leaving stark coral pinnacles.

Demography. At the last census in 1983 the Nauruan population was 4,964, with another 2,134 residents from Kiribati and Tuvalu and 263 Europeans, almost all employed by the Nauru Phosphate Commission. Since the previous census in 1977 the proportion of Nauruans has increased from 57 percent to 62 percent. Nauruans have a positive-growth population policy partly because of a series of declines in the past, including reduction to 589 persons during World War II.

Linguistic Affiliation. Nauruan is classified as an isolate within the Micronesian Family of Austronesian languages. It contains many Kiribati words, but it has deviant features that do not fit easily with neighboring Micronesian or Polynesian languages. Most Nauruans also speak English.

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