Polynesian languages

Polynesian languages

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The Polynesian languages are a language family
Language family
A language family is a group of languages related through descent from a common ancestor, called the proto-language of that family. The term 'family' comes from the tree model of language origination in historical linguistics, which makes use of a metaphor comparing languages to people in a...

 spoken in the region known as Polynesia
Polynesia
Polynesia is a subregion of Oceania, made up of over 1,000 islands scattered over the central and southern Pacific Ocean. The indigenous people who inhabit the islands of Polynesia are termed Polynesians and they share many similar traits including language, culture and beliefs...

. They are classified as part of the Austronesian family
Austronesian languages
The Austronesian languages are a language family widely dispersed throughout the islands of Southeast Asia and the Pacific, with a few members spoken on continental Asia that are spoken by about 386 million people. It is on par with Indo-European, Niger-Congo, Afroasiatic and Uralic as one of the...

, belonging to the Oceanic branch of that family. They fall into two branches: Tongic
Tongic languages
The family of Tongic languages is a small group of the Polynesian languages. It consists of at least two languages, Tongan and Niuean, and possibly a third, Niuafoʻouan.-External links:*...

 and Nuclear Polynesian
Nuclear Polynesian languages
Nuclear Polynesian refers to those languages comprising the Samoic and the Eastern Polynesian branches of the Polynesian group of Austronesian languages....

. Polynesians share many cultural traits including language.

Today there are many cognate
Cognate
In linguistics, cognates are words that have a common etymological origin. This learned term derives from the Latin cognatus . Cognates within the same language are called doublets. Strictly speaking, loanwords from another language are usually not meant by the term, e.g...

 words across the different islands e.g. tapu
Tapu
Tapu, tabu or kapu is a Polynesian traditional concept denoting something holy or sacred, with "spiritual restriction" or "implied prohibition"; it involves rules and prohibitions...

, ali'i
Ali'i
Alii is a word in the Polynesian language denoting chiefly status in ancient Hawaii and the Samoa Islands. A similar word with the same concept is found in other Polynesian societies. In the Cook Islands, an ariki is a high chief and the House of Ariki is a parliamentary house...

, motu
Motu
Motu may refer to:*Motu language, a language of Papua New Guinea*Motu proprio, a type of Papal document*MOTU, also known as "Mark of the Unicorn", a maker of professional audio hardware and software...

, kava
Kava
Kava or kava-kava is a crop of the western Pacific....

 (Kava culture
Kava culture
Kava cultures are the religious and cultural traditions of western Oceania which consume kava. There are similarities in the use of kava between the different cultures, but each one also has its own traditions.-Hawaii:...

), and tapa
Tapa cloth
Tapa cloth is a bark cloth made in the islands of the Pacific Ocean, primarily in Tonga, Samoa and Fiji, but as far afield as Niue, Cook Islands, Futuna, Solomon Islands, Java, New Zealand, Vanuatu, Papua New Guinea and Hawaii...

 as well as Hawaiki
Hawaiki
In Māori mythology, Hawaiki is the homeland of the Māori, the original home of the Māori, before they travelled across the sea to New Zealand...

, the mythical homeland for some of the cultures.

There are approximately forty Polynesian languages. The most prominent of these are Tahitian
Tahitian language
Tahitian is an indigenous language spoken mainly in the Society Islands in French Polynesia. It is an Eastern Polynesian language closely related to the other indigenous languages spoken in French Polynesia: Marquesan, Tuamotuan, Mangarevan, and Austral Islands languages...

, Samoan
Samoan language
Samoan Samoan Samoan (Gagana Sāmoa, is the language of the Samoan Islands, comprising the independent country of Samoa and the United States territory of American Samoa. It is an official language—alongside English—in both jurisdictions. Samoan, a Polynesian language, is the first language for most...

, Tongan
Tongan language
Tongan is an Austronesian language spoken in Tonga. It has around 200,000 speakers and is a national language of Tonga. It is a VSO language.-Related languages:...

, Māori
Maori language
Māori or te reo Māori , commonly te reo , is the language of the indigenous population of New Zealand, the Māori. It has the status of an official language in New Zealand...

 and Hawaiian
Hawaiian language
The Hawaiian language is a Polynesian language that takes its name from Hawaii, the largest island in the tropical North Pacific archipelago where it developed. Hawaiian, along with English, is an official language of the state of Hawaii...

. Because the Polynesian islands were settled relatively recently and because internal linguistic diversification only began around 2,000 years ago, their languages retain strong commonalities. There are two broad subgroups: Tongan
Tongan language
Tongan is an Austronesian language spoken in Tonga. It has around 200,000 speakers and is a national language of Tonga. It is a VSO language.-Related languages:...

 and Niuean
Niuean
Niuean may refer to:* Something of, from, or related to Niue, an island nation located in the South Pacific Ocean** A person from Niue, or of Niuean descent. For information about the Niuean people, see Demographics of Niue and Culture of Niue. For specific persons, see List of Niueans.** The...

 constitute the Tongic division and all others are considered part of the Nuclear Polynesian division.

Components


The traditional classification (see the diagram at right) divides Polynesian into two groups: Tongic and Nuclear Polynesian; and Nuclear Polynesian again into two: Samoic-Outlier and Eastern Polynesian. However, while the Eastern Polynesian languages
Eastern Polynesian languages
The dozen Eastern Polynesian languages are found on Pacific Islands from Hawaii in the north, to New Zealand in the southwest, to Easter Island in the southeast...

 form a valid group, Samoic Outlier—consisting of the Samoic, Ellicean, and Futunic languages
Futunic languages
-External links:*...

—is not justified by shared innovations in the languages. Classifying the languages according to sporadic sound changes in the various languages, Marck (2000) broke up the Futunic group, and placed those languages outside the Samoic and Eastern Polynesian languages. A 2008 analysis of the Austronesian Basic Vocabulary Database also supported Eastern Polynesian but not the other groups, including Tongic and Nuclear Polynesian. Considering only groupings supported to 90% probability, the languages are:
  • Tongic
    • Tongan
      Tongan language
      Tongan is an Austronesian language spoken in Tonga. It has around 200,000 speakers and is a national language of Tonga. It is a VSO language.-Related languages:...

    • Niuean
      Niuean language
      The Niuean language or Niue language is a Polynesian language, belonging to the Malayo-Polynesian subgroup of the Austronesian languages. It is most closely related to Tongan and slightly more distantly to other Polynesian languages such as Māori, Sāmoan, and Hawaiian...

  • Anuta
    Anuta language
    The Anuta language is a Polynesian Outlier language from the island of Anuta in the Solomon Islands. It is closely related to the Tikopia language of the neighboring island of Tikopia....

  • Rennell-Bellona
    Rennell-Bellona language
    Rennell-Bellona, or Rennellese, is a Polynesian language spoken in the Rennell and Bellona Province of the Solomon Islands. A dictionary has been published in the language. It is a Polynesian outlier language.-Sources:...

    • Fakauvea
      Fakauvea
      Wallisian or Uvean is the Polynesian language spoken on Wallis Island . The language is also known as East Uvean to distinguish it from the related West Uvean spoken on the outlier island of Ouvéa...

      , Wallisian, or East Uvean (Wallis Island
      Wallis Island
      Wallis is an island in the Pacific Ocean belonging to the French overseas collectivity of Wallis and Futuna....

      , Wallis and Futuna
      Wallis and Futuna
      Wallis and Futuna, officially the Territory of the Wallis and Futuna Islands , is a Polynesian French island territory in the South Pacific between Tuvalu to the northwest, Rotuma of Fiji to the west, the main part of Fiji to the southwest, Tonga to the southeast,...

      )
    • Fakafutuna or (East) Futunan (Futuna Island, Wallis and Futuna
      Futuna Island, Wallis and Futuna
      Futuna is an island in the Pacific Ocean belonging to the French overseas collectivity of Wallis and Futuna. It is one of the Hoorn Islands or Îles Horne, nearby Alofi being the other...

      )
  • Ellicean–Eastern
    • Tikopia
      Tikopia language
      The Tikopia language is a Polynesian Outlier language from the island of Tikopia in the Solomon Islands. It is closely related to the Anuta language of the neighboring island of Anuta. Tikopian is also spoken by the Polynesian minority on Vanikoro, who long ago migrated from Tikopia.-External...

    • Ellicean
      Ellicean languages
      The Ellicean or Ellicean–Outlier languages are a group languages spoken in Polynesian outliers in Micronesia, Papua New Guinea, and the northern Solomon Islands, as well as the languages of Tuvalu...

       (9 languages)
    • Tuvalu–Eastern
      • Tuvaluan
        Tuvaluan language
        Tuvaluan is a Polynesian language of or closely related to the Ellicean group spoken in Tuvalu. It is more or less distantly related to all other Polynesian languages, such as Hawaiian, Maori, Tahitian, Samoan, and Tongan, and most closely related to the languages spoken on the Polynesian Outliers...

      • Eastern Polynesian
        Eastern Polynesian languages
        The dozen Eastern Polynesian languages are found on Pacific Islands from Hawaii in the north, to New Zealand in the southwest, to Easter Island in the southeast...

         (12 languages)
  • Samoan
    • Samoan
      Samoan language
      Samoan Samoan Samoan (Gagana Sāmoa, is the language of the Samoan Islands, comprising the independent country of Samoa and the United States territory of American Samoa. It is an official language—alongside English—in both jurisdictions. Samoan, a Polynesian language, is the first language for most...

    • Tokelauan
      Tokelauan language
      Tokelauan is a Polynesian language closely related to Tuvaluan.-Speakers:It is spoken by about 1,500 people on the atolls of Tokelau, and by the few inhabitants of Swains Island in neighbouring American Samoa. It is a member of the Samoic family of Polynesian languages. It is, alongside English,...

  • Emaic
    • Fagauvea
      Fagauvea
      West Uvean is a Polynesian outlier language spoken on the island of Ouvéa, in the Loyalty island group of New Caledonia...

       (Faga-Ouvéa) or West Uvean (Ouvéa
      Ouvéa
      Ouvéa is a commune in the Loyalty Islands Province of New Caledonia, an overseas territory of France in the Pacific Ocean. The settlement of Fayaoué , on Ouvéa Island, is the administrative centre of the commune of Ouvéa. -Geography:...

      , New Caledonia
      New Caledonia
      New Caledonia is a special collectivity of France located in the southwest Pacific Ocean, east of Australia and about from Metropolitan France. The archipelago, part of the Melanesia subregion, includes the main island of Grande Terre, the Loyalty Islands, the Belep archipelago, the Isle of...

      )
    • Emae
  • Ifira-Mele
  • Pileni
    Pileni language
    Vaeakau-Taumako is a Polynesian language spoken in some of the Reef Islands as well as in the Taumako Islands in the Temotu province of the Solomon Islands....

     (and Taumako; on the Reef Islands
    Reef Islands
    The Reef Islands are a loose collection of 16 islands in the northwestern part of the Solomon Islands province of Temotu. These islands have historically also been known by the names of Swallow Islands and Matema Islands....

     in the Solomons)
  • Futuna-Aniwan
    Futuna-Aniwan
    Futuna-Aniwa is the Polynesian language spoken on the outlier islands of Futuna and Aniwa in Vanuatu. It is also occasionally called West-Futunan to distinguish it from East-Futunan spoken on Futuna and Alofi in Wallis and Futuna....

     or West Futunan (Futuna Island, Vanuatu
    Futuna Island, Vanuatu
    Futuna is an island in the Tafea province of Vanuatu. It is the easternmost island in the country. It was formed by the uplift of an underwater volcano, which last erupted in the Pleistocene, at least 11,000 years ago. It reaches a height of 666 m. It is sometimes called West Futuna to distinguish...

    )


In addition, data weakly supported the Futunic languages
Futunic languages
-External links:*...

 as a group. Not included in the database were Niuafoʻouan
Niuafo'ou language
Niuafoouan is the language spoken on Tonga's northernmost island, Niuafoou.Niuafoouan has traditionally been classified as closest to Uvean and Tokelauan, in an East Uvean–Niuafo'ou branch. Others suggest that it is closest to its neighbor, Tongan, as one of the Tongic languages...

 and Pukapuka, both of uncertain classification.

Internal correspondences


Partly because Polynesian languages split from one another comparatively recently, many words in these languages remain similar to corresponding words in others. The table below demonstrates this with the words for 'sky', 'north wind', 'woman', 'house' and 'parent' in a representative selection of languages: Tongan
Tongan language
Tongan is an Austronesian language spoken in Tonga. It has around 200,000 speakers and is a national language of Tonga. It is a VSO language.-Related languages:...

; Niuean
Niuean
Niuean may refer to:* Something of, from, or related to Niue, an island nation located in the South Pacific Ocean** A person from Niue, or of Niuean descent. For information about the Niuean people, see Demographics of Niue and Culture of Niue. For specific persons, see List of Niueans.** The...

; Samoan
Samoan language
Samoan Samoan Samoan (Gagana Sāmoa, is the language of the Samoan Islands, comprising the independent country of Samoa and the United States territory of American Samoa. It is an official language—alongside English—in both jurisdictions. Samoan, a Polynesian language, is the first language for most...

; Sikaiana; Takuu
Takuu
Tauu, pronounced , known also as Takuu Mortlock or Marqueen Islands, is a small, isolated atoll off the east coast of Bougainville in Papua New Guinea.-Geography:...

; Rapanui
Rapanui
The Rapa Nui or Rapanui are the native Polynesian inhabitants of Easter Island, or Rapa Nui, in the Pacific Ocean. The easternmost Polynesian culture, the Rapa Nui people make up 60% of Easter Island's population, with some living also in mainland Chile...

; Tahitian
Tahitian language
Tahitian is an indigenous language spoken mainly in the Society Islands in French Polynesia. It is an Eastern Polynesian language closely related to the other indigenous languages spoken in French Polynesia: Marquesan, Tuamotuan, Mangarevan, and Austral Islands languages...

; Cook Islands Māori
Cook Islands Maori
The Cook Islands Māori language, also called Māori Kūki 'Āirani or Rarotongan, is the official language of the Cook Islands. Most Cook Islanders also call it Te reo Ipukarea, literally "the language of the Ancestral Homeland"....

 (Rarotongan); Māori
Maori language
Māori or te reo Māori , commonly te reo , is the language of the indigenous population of New Zealand, the Māori. It has the status of an official language in New Zealand...

; North Marquesan; South Marquesan; Hawaiian
Hawaiian language
The Hawaiian language is a Polynesian language that takes its name from Hawaii, the largest island in the tropical North Pacific archipelago where it developed. Hawaiian, along with English, is an official language of the state of Hawaii...

 and Mangarevan.
Tongan Niuean Samoan Sikaiana Takuu Rapanui Tahitian Rarotongan Māori North Marquesan South Marquesan Hawaiian Mangarevan
sky /laŋi/ /laŋi/ /laŋi/ /lani/ /ɾani/ /ɾaŋi/ /ɾaʔi/ /ɾaŋi/ /ɾaŋi/ /ʔaki/ /ʔani/ /lani/ /ɾaŋi/
north wind /tokelau/ /tokelau/ /toʔelau/ /tokelau/ /tokoɾau/ /tokeɾau/ /toʔeɾau/ /tokeɾau/ /tokeɾau/ /tokoʔau/ /tokoʔau/ /koʔolau/ /tokeɾau/
woman /fefine/ /fifine/ /fafine/ /hahine/ /ffine/ /vahine/ /vaʔine/ /wahine/ /vehine/ /vehine/ /wahine/ /veine/
house /fale/ /fale/ /fale/ /hale/ /faɾe/ /haɾe/ /faɾe/ /ʔaɾe/ /ɸaɾe/ /haʔe/ /haʔe/ /hale/ /faɾe/
parent /motuʔa/ /motua/ /matua/ /maatua/ /matuʔa/ /metua/ /metua/ /matua/ /motua/ /motua/ /makua/ /matua/


Certain regular correspondences can be noted between different Polynesian languages. For example, the Māori sounds /k/, /ɾ/, /t/, and /ŋ/ correspond to /ʔ/, /l/, /k/, and /n/ in Hawaiian. Accordingly, "man" is tangata in Māori and kanaka in Hawaiian, and Māori roa "long" corresponds to Hawaiian loa. The famous Hawaiian greeting aloha corresponds to Māori aroha, "love, tender emotion." Similarly, the Hawaiian word for kava
Kava
Kava or kava-kava is a crop of the western Pacific....

 is ‘awa.

Similarities in basic vocabulary may allow speakers from different island groups to achieve a surprising degree of understanding of each other's speech. When a particular language shows unexpectedly large divergence in vocabulary, this may be the result of a name-avoidance taboo situation – see examples in Tahitian, where this has happened often.

Many Polynesian languages have been greatly affected by European colonization. Both Māori and Hawaiian, for example, have lost much ground to English
English language
English is a West Germanic language that arose in the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms of England and spread into what was to become south-east Scotland under the influence of the Anglian medieval kingdom of Northumbria...

, and have only recently made progress towards restoration.

Personal pronouns


In general, Polynesian languages have three numbers
Grammatical number
In linguistics, grammatical number is a grammatical category of nouns, pronouns, and adjective and verb agreement that expresses count distinctions ....

 for pronouns and possessives: singular, dual
Dual (grammatical number)
Dual is a grammatical number that some languages use in addition to singular and plural. When a noun or pronoun appears in dual form, it is interpreted as referring to precisely two of the entities identified by the noun or pronoun...

 and plural. For example in Māori: ia (he/she), rāua (they two), rātou (they 3 or more). The words rua (2) and toru (3) are still discernible in endings of the dual and plural pronouns, giving the impression that the plural was originally a trial, and that an original plural has disappeared.
Polynesian languages have four distinctions in pronouns and possessives: first exclusive, first inclusive, second and third. For example in Māori, the plural pronouns are: mātou (we, exc), tātou (we, inc), koutou (you), rātou (they). The difference between exclusive and inclusive
Clusivity
In linguistics, clusivity is a distinction between inclusive and exclusive first-person pronouns and verbal morphology, also called inclusive "we" and exclusive "we"...

 is the treatment of the person addressed. Mātou refers to the speaker and others but not the person or persons spoken to (i.e., "I and some others, but not you"), while tātou refers to the speaker, the person or persons spoken to, and everyone else (i.e., "You and I and others").

a and o possession


Many Polynesian languages distinguish two possessives
Possessive pronoun
A possessive pronoun is a part of speech that substitutes for a noun phrase that begins with a possessive determiner . For example, in the sentence These glasses are mine, not yours, the words mine and yours are possessive pronouns and stand for my glasses and your glasses, respectively...

. The a-possessives (as they contain that letter in most cases), also known as subjective possessives, refer to possessions which must be acquired by one's own action (alienable possession). The o-possessives or objective possessives refer to possessions which are fixed to you, unchangeable, and do not necessitate any action on your part (but upon which actions can still be performed by others) (inalienable possession
Inalienable possession
In linguistics, inalienable possession refers to the linguistic properties of certain nouns or nominal morphemes based on the fact that they are always possessed. The semantic underpinning is that entities like body parts and relatives do not exist apart from a possessor. For example, a hand...

). Some words can take either form, often with a difference in meaning. One example is the Samoan
Samoan language
Samoan Samoan Samoan (Gagana Sāmoa, is the language of the Samoan Islands, comprising the independent country of Samoa and the United States territory of American Samoa. It is an official language—alongside English—in both jurisdictions. Samoan, a Polynesian language, is the first language for most...

 word susu which takes the o-possessive in lona susu (her breast) and the a-possessive in lana susu (her breastmilk). Compare also the particles used in the names of two of the books of the Māori Bible: Te Pukapuka a Heremaia (The Book of Jeremiah) with Te Pukapuka o Hōhua (The Book of Joshua); the former belongs to Jeremiah in the sense that he was the author, while the Book of Joshua was written by someone else about Joshua.

Orthography


Most Polynesian alphabets have five vowels (a,e,i,o,u) corresponding roughly in pronunciation to classical Latin
Latin
Latin is an Italic language originally spoken in Latium and Ancient Rome. It, along with most European languages, is a descendant of the ancient Proto-Indo-European language. Although it is considered a dead language, a number of scholars and members of the Christian clergy speak it fluently, and...

.
In the tradition of orthographies of languages they were familiar with the missionaries who first developed orthographies for unwritten Polynesian languages did not explicitly mark phonemic vowel length or the glottal stop. By the time that linguists trained in more modern methods made their way to the Pacific, at least for the major languages, the Bible was already printed according to the orthographic system developed by the missionaries, and the people had learned to read and write without marking vowel length or the glottal stop.
This situation persists up to now in many languages. Despite efforts of local academies at reform the general conservative resistance to orthographic change has led to varying results in the different languages and several writing systems co-exist. The most common method, however, is the one where a macron
Macron
A macron, from the Greek , meaning "long", is a diacritic placed above a vowel . It was originally used to mark a long or heavy syllable in Greco-Roman metrics, but now marks a long vowel...

 is used to indicate a long vowel, while a vowel without that accent is short. For example: ā versus a. The glottal stop (not present in all Polynesian languages, but where present it is one of the most common consonants) is indicated by an apostrophe
Apostrophe
The apostrophe is a punctuation mark, and sometimes a diacritic mark, in languages that use the Latin alphabet or certain other alphabets...

. For example: 'a versus a. This is somewhat of an anomaly as the apostrophe is most often used to represent letters which have been omitted, while the glottal stop is rather a consonant
Consonant
In articulatory phonetics, a consonant is a speech sound that is articulated with complete or partial closure of the vocal tract. Examples are , pronounced with the lips; , pronounced with the front of the tongue; , pronounced with the back of the tongue; , pronounced in the throat; and ,...

which is not written. The problem can somewhat be alleviated by changing the simple apostrophe for a curly one, taking a normal apostrophe for the elision and the inverted comma for the glottal stop. The latter method has come into common use in Polynesian languages.

External links