Oceania

Article

November 30, 2021

Oceania is a region of the world which is not a continent in the strict sense. However, this region being often assimilated to a continent by geographers, it can be considered as the least extensive of the continents emerged from the Earth. Located in the Pacific Ocean, it covers 8,525,989 km2 and has more than 50 million inhabitants (2020), distributed among sixteen independent states and fifteen territories. It encompasses all the lands located between Asia and America, as well as part of the Malay Archipelago. It is divided into four regions: Australasia, Micronesia, Melanesia and Polynesia, although this distinction is criticized. Australia comprises most of its land area and population, and while the rest of Oceania is a collection of 25,000 islands, Australia's mainland is sometimes considered a landmass on its own. New Zealand and New Guinea are the other two main islands in Oceania. The territories making up the rest of the continent are independent island archipelagos (Fiji, Solomon Islands, Samoa, Tonga, etc.) or territories attached to former colonial powers, such as France (French Polynesia, New Caledonia, Wallis and Futuna ) or the United States (Hawaii, Guam, Northern Mariana Islands, American Samoa). The continent of Oceania has been populated for millennia by different ethnic groups, including the Australian Aborigines and Papuans. Besides English and French, the dominant languages ​​in Oceania since colonization, the two main language groups spoken are the Papuan languages ​​and the Austronesian languages. Eight of the ten largest cities in Oceania are in Australia, including Sydney and Melbourne, which alone account for nearly a quarter of the continent's population. Five other cities have more than one million inhabitants: Brisbane, Perth, Auckland, Adelaide and Honolulu.

Origin of the name

The French neologism “Oceania” comes from the word ocean. In 1804, the French geographer of Danish origin Conrad Malte-Brun (1775-1826) proposed the name of "Oceanic" for Australasia and Polynesia by Charles de Brosses, in his treatise on Mathematical, Physical and Political Geography published with Edme Mentelle. Malte-Brun resumed and reaffirmed the name “Oceanic lands” in 1810 and 1812. The very name of Oceania was invented by the cartographer Adrien-Hubert Brué for the map he published in 1814, and whose full title is: “Oceania, or fifth part of the world, comprising the archipelago of Asia, Australasia and Polynesia (or the continent of New Holland and the islands of the Great Ocean)”. At the beginning of the 19th century, Australia, described as an island-continent, was integrated as a mainland into the vast group of islands in the Pacific grouped together under the term Oceania. This is a paradox because “continent” comes from the Latin continere (“to hold together”) and designates “a very large mass of land surrounded by oceans” or “a vast expanse of land in one piece”. The European geographers who divided the world into five parts (Europe - Asia - Africa - America - Oceania, Antarctica being considered as a continent only since the middle of the 19th century, this division appearing today to be marred by European-centrism [why ?]) clearly distinguished between the two terms "continents" and "parts of the world", but the second term has become obsolete, so that the almost exclusive use of the word "continent" has made the name of 'Oceania. Geographers are now confusing Oceania as part of the world and as a continent, and have also introduced, through geologists, the term Australian continent. The feminine gender matches the gender of the other parts (Europe, A

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