Kiribati is a Micronesian language spoken in Kiribati, Fiji, Nauru, the Solomon Islands, Tuvalu and Vanuatu by about 70,000 people. The Republic of Kiribati was formerly called the Gilbert Islands and their languge was Gilbertese. The islands were named after Captain Thomas Gilbert, who 'discovered' the main island of the group in 1788. Kiribati [kiribas] is the local version of Gilbert. The original name of the islands was Tungaru.
The Kiribati language first appeared in writing in the mid 19th century. Rev. Hiram Bingham, Jr. of the Protestant mission based in Hawaii arrived in the Gilberts in 1857, devised a way of writing Kiribati using the Latin alphabet and used it to produce a translation of the Bible. Other missionaries devised different spelling systems.
In the mid-1970s the Kiribati Language Board was established to standardise the orthography and grammar of the Kiribati language, to compose and update a dictionary and to work towards development of a Kiribati literature.