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Tongan (Lea faka-Tonga)

Tongan is a Western Polynesian language most closely related to Niuean and Samoan. There are around 100,000 speakers in the Kingdom of Tonga. The literacy rate for
those aged five years and older in the usually resident population was 98.2% in 2011. Of those who are literate, 86% were literate in both Tongan and English or other languages, while 11% were literate in Tongan only.

Long-standing migration links with New Zealand have resulted in a significant Tongan population in New Zealand (60,336 people identified themselves as being of Tongan ethnicity in the 2013 New Zealand Census). Around 50% of them speak the language fluently.

Tongan was first written by missionaries in the early 19th century using a number of different spelling systems. The current system was promulgated by the Privy Council of Tonga in 1943.

Tongan uses three accents or diacritic marks: the macron, the glottal stop, and the definitive accent or fakamamafa, which is used on the end of words according to context. Accents are used systematically in written Tongan, so any Tongan text requires detailed and particularly careful proofreading.

A comparison of some common words gives some idea of the differences and similarities between New Zealand Maori, Tongan and Samoan:

Samoan English

 

New Zealand Maori Tongan
whakahaere puleai pilea manage
whakamrama fakamatala faaiamatala explain
anake pi naaio only
hoki pea foai also
momotu motu momotu sever, break
wheti fetuaiu feti star
pai lelei lelei good
mahi ngue galue work
mea meaia mea thing
whina tokoni fesoasoani help
manako manako manaaio want, like

 

Sample Tongan text from the Universal Declaration of Human Rights:

Kupu 27 (1): aiku aii ai aia e totonu tauai atina aia e tokotaha kotoa pe ke ne kau atu ki he tai???onga moai ui fakafonua tukufakaholo aia e komiuniti pea ke ne laukau aii he ngue fakameaai a mo fakasanisani pea ke ne ai inasi aii he ngaahi fakalakalaka fakasaienisi mo hono ngaahi ola lelei.

Article 27 (1): Everyone has the right freely to participate in the cultural life of the community, to enjoy the arts and to share in scientific advancement and its benefits.

 

Samoan (Gagana faaia Samoa)

Samoan is a Western Polynesian language spoken by about 450,000 people worldwide. It is the official language of the Samoan islands, which lie roughly halfway between New Zealand and Hawaii and are made up of the Independent State of Samoa (O le Malo Tutoaitasi o Samoa) and the United States territory of American Samoa. There are also speakers of Samoan in Fiji, Tonga, Hawaii, New Zealand, Australia and the USA. Samoan is closely related to other languages of Polynesia, particularly Tokelauan, Tuvaluan, Tongan and Niuean.

The 2010 US Census shows more than 180,000 Samoans residing in the United States. With a flourishing Samoan ethnic population of around 145,000 concentrated mainly in Auckland, Samoan is the third most commonly spoken language in New Zealand after English and Maori. According to the 2013 New Zealand Census, there are over 85,000 speakers of Samoan in New Zealand.

The Samoan alphabet consists of 14 letters, with another three letters (h, k, r) used in loan words. The language is notable for the phonological differences between formal and informal speech as well as a ceremonial form used in Samoan oratory. There is much debate about when and where to insert the glottal stop and macron accent in printed Samoan text.

Here is an example of Samoan from the Tusi Paia (The Bible), with a sprinkling of diacritics: Ua oo i le taeao, ona o atu lea o Ionatana o i laua ma le tama itiiti, i le vao i le itulA? na la tuuina ma Tavita. Ua ia fai atu i lana auauna, MomoEi??e atu, ina saili u ou te fana atu.

Compare this piece of fully accented Samoan text: A aio le tosifaaia-sopo foaii ia, aiua aio se faaiatufugaga taaiatele lea o lo aiua i le taaialaga lenei, aiua taaiaia aio le fotaiga o tusifafau.

The letter aigai in Samoan is pronouncedai aingai as in airingerai.

The letter aiaai is pronounced as aikai in colloquial speech.

A comparison of some common words gives some idea of the differences and similarities between New Zealand Maori, Samoan and Tongan:

New Zealand Maori Samoan Tongan English
whakahaere pailea puleaii manage
whakamarama faaiamatala fakamatala explain
anake naaio pai only
hoki foaii pea also
momotu momotu motu sever, break
whetai fetai fetuaiu star
pai lelei lelei good
mahi galue ngaue work
mea mea meaia thing
awhina fesoasoani tokoni help
manako manaaio manako want, like

 

Sample Samoan text from the Universal Declaration of Human Rights:

Mataupu 27 (1): O tagata taitoatasi uma ua i ai le aia tatau e auai faatasi i soifuaga faale-aganuu o le vaega o tagata, ma fiafia faatasi i faiva eseese ma fefaasoaai i faiga faasaienisi ma ona faamanuiaga.

Article 27 (1): Everyone has the right freely to participate in the cultural life of the community, to enjoy the arts and to share in scientific advancement and its benefits.

 

Tokelauan (Te Gagana Tokelau)

Tokelauan is a Western Polynesian language closely related to Samoan, with about 1,400 speakers in Tokelau, a territory of New Zealand to the north of Samoa and east of Tuvalu consisting of three coral atolls: Atafu, Fakaofo and Nukunonu. In Tokelau, both Tokelau and English are taught in school.

There are also about 7,000 people of Tokelauan descent living in New Zealand, some 40% of whom speak Tokelauan, with many of the younger generation being more fluent in English than in Tokelauan.

By the Tokelau Act of 1948, sovereignty over Tokelau was transferred to New Zealand. When the British Nationality and New Zealand Citizenship Act 1948 came into effect on 1 January 1949, Tokelauans who were British subjects gained New Zealand citizenship aii a status which they still hold.

According to the US Central Intelligence Agency, Tokelau has the smallest economy by GDP of any country in the world. Many Tokelauans live in New Zealand and support their families in Tokelau through remittances.

In Tokelauan the macron accent lengthens a vowel, but is only used occasionally.

A comparison of some common words gives some idea of the differences and similarities between Samoan and Tokelauan:

Tokelauan Samoan English
pule pailea manage
fakamatala faaiamatala explain
nako naaio only
foki foaii also
momotu momotu sever, break
fetai fetai star
lelei lelei good
galue galue work
mea mea thing
fehoahoani fesoasoani help
manako manaaio want, like
taitahi se a, one
iaitahi ni some

 

A collection of the legislation of Tokelau was published in both Tokelau and English in 2005. Here is a sample of the text:

E fakalagolago ki te tulafono fakatonutonu tenei, e heai he tino e tatau ke fai he pihinihi i Tokelau e ve he tino teutupe pe he tino e foki fakakaitalafu e ia ni tupe pe he tino fai inihiua vagana kua iei he fakaaloakia e fakatatau ki te faiga e te tino tena o te pihinihi tena he maliega kua tuku mai e te Fono a te Malo Fakaauau.

Subject to these Rules, no person shall carry on business in Tokelau as a bank or a moneylender or an insurer unless there is in force in respect of the carrying on by that person of that business an approval granted by the council for the Ongoing Government.

 

Cook Islands Maori (Maori Kaiki aiairani)

Cook Islands Maori is an Eastern Polynesian language most closely related to New Zealand Maori, Tahitian, Hawaiian and the language of Easter Island. There are several mutually intelligible dialects of Cook Islands Maori, in particular Rarotongan, and the dialects of the other islands such as Aitutaki and Mangaia. Cook Islands Maori became an official language of the Cook Islands in 2003.

The population of the Cook Islands is just over 13,000. There are over 60,000 Cook Islanders living in New Zealand (2013 Census) but only about 5% of this population is estimated to speak the language fluently.
There is ongoing debate about the standardisation of the writing system. Although the usage of the macron, and the glottal stop is recommended, most speakers do not use these two diacritics in everyday writing.

While there are many words that are similar in Cook Islands Maori and New Zealand Maori:

New Zealand Maori Cook Islands Maori English
whakahaere aiakaaiaere manage
whakamarama aiakamArama explain
anake anake only
hoki aioki return; also
momotu momotu sever, break

there are also very significant differences in even the most common words:

New Zealand Maori Cook Islands Maori English
pai meitaki good
mahi aiangaaianga work
mea aiapinga thing
awhina tauturu help
hiahia aiinangaro want, need

 

Sample text from the Universal Declaration of Human Rights:

Atikara 27 (1): E tikaanga to tetai uatu tangata kia piri tamanamanata kore ia ki roto i te au peu oraanga o tetai iti tangata, kia mataora i te au peu karape e kia piri ki te au kite marama ou e te au meitaki o te reira.

Article 27 (1): Everyone has the right freely to participate in the cultural life of the community, to enjoy the arts and to share in scientific advancement and its benefits.

Tahitian (Reo Maaiohi or Reo Tahiti)

Tahitian is an Eastern Polynesian language closely related to other languages of French Polynesia (Marquesan, Tuamotuan, Mangarevan), as well as to Cook Islands Maori, New Zealand Maori and Hawaiian.

During the 19th century, English and later French contributed many borrowed words to Tahitian in the course of intercultural commercial and social exchanges. Tahitian competes with French, which is the official language of French Polynesia, but is taught from primary level through to University.

The Tahitian alphabet has 14 letters, and uses both the glottal stop or ai???eta and the macron tarava, to mark long vowels. The glottal stop is often written as a straight apostrophe, but can also appear as a aicurlyai apostrophe, as used in several other Polynesian languages to mark the glottal stop (pronounced like the Cockney aibutterai). Since the straight apostrophe (Unicode U+0027) is the default form displayed on the apostrophe key on the normal French AZERTY keyboard, it has become normal for the straight apostrophe to be used for glottal stops.

A comparison of some common words gives an idea of the similarities and differences between New Zealand Maori,

New Zealand Maori Tahitian Cook Islands Maori English
whakamarama haaiamaramarama aiakamarama explain
anake anaaie anake only
hoki aiatoaia aioki also
whati fati aiati sever, break
whetai fetiaia aiaitai star
pai maitaaii meitaki good
mahi aiohipa aiangaaianga work
mea mea aiapinga thing
awhina tauturu tauturu help
hiahia hinaaiaro aiinangaro want, like
wiki hepetoma aiepetoma week

 

The 2013 New Zealand Census showed 1,407 people identifying with the Tahitian ethnic group in New Zealand.
Sample Tahitian text from the Universal Declaration of Human Rights:

aiirava piti-aiahuru-ma-hitu (1): E tiaiamanaraaia to te taaiata atoaiia i te faaiia atu, ma te tiaiama, i roto i te faaianahoraaia-aiihi-tupu a te vaaiamataaieinaaia, i te faaiafaufaaia atu i te mau tataaiuraaia-ai?una, e i te aiamui atoaia atu i te faaiaritoraaia o te paiaiihi e i te mau rahuraaia-ora e roaaia mai.

Article 27 (1): Everyone has the right freely to participate in the cultural life of the community, to enjoy the arts and to share in scientific advancement and its benefits.

 

Niuean (Ko e vagahau Niuai)

Niuean is a Western Polynesian language most closely related to Tongan. The population of Niue is around 1,600 (2014). Most Niueans living there speak Niuean and English.

Niue is a self-governing nation in free association with New Zealand, and Niueans are automatically New Zealand citizens.

There are around 23,000 people living in New Zealand who identify as Niuean (2013 New Zealand Census). Of these, 80% were born in New Zealand and about 25% speak the Niue language. It is one of the most endangered Pasifika languages in New Zealand.

There is a Niue Language Commission in Alofi, Niue Island. Two dictionaries of Niuean have been published: Niue Dictionary by J.M. McEwen (Wellington, 1970) and Tohi Vagahau Niue/Niue Language Dictionary edited by Wolfgang B. Sperlich (1997).

The Niue alphabet has sixteen letters altogether: a, e, f, g, h, i, k, l, m, n, o, p, s, t, u, v. As with Samoan, the letter aigai is sounded aingai, as in aitagataai. Printed texts in vagahau Niue tend to not use macrons.

Sample Niuean text:
Kua puipui mo e fakamatalahi e tau vagahau mo e tau koloa he ha lautolu aga fakamotu.

The languages and symbols of their own and other cultures are promoted and protected.

 

Fijian (Na Vosa Vakaviti)

Fijian is an Austronesian language of the Malayo-Polynesian family spoken by about 650,000 people, mainly in Fiji. The standard language of the indigenous Fijian people is Bauan. It was the language of the paramount chief of Bau, who, together with other Fijian chiefs, ceded Fiji to Great Britain in 1874. It is understood nationwide, being used in all official Fijian documents, broadcast media, and taught in all Fijian schools. According to the 1997 constitution, Fijian is an official language of Fiji, along with English and Hindustani.

Of the 14,000 people identifying as ethnic Fijian in New Zealand, the number of speakers of Fijian is estimated to be less than 30%.

The spelling system of Fijian uses the Latin alphabet. The following letters are used: A B C D E F G I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W Y

The pronunciation of the following letters is especially worth noting:

  • b as aimbaii in member
  • d as aindaii in Monday
  • q as aingaii in finger
  • g as aingaii? in singer
  • c as aithaii in father

The macron signifies a lengthened vowel, but is only used occasionally in written texts.
Sample Fijian text from the Universal Declaration of Human Rights:

Tikina e 27 (1): E dodonu ni tamata kece me vakaitavi kevaka e vinakata ena itovo ni bula ni nona vanua, me marautaka na droini, ivakatagi kei na veika vaka oya, me vakaitavi tale ga ena sasaga vakasaenisi, me vakila tale ga na kena yaga.

Article 27 (1): Everyone has the right freely to participate in the cultural life of the community, to enjoy the arts and to share in scientific advancement and its benefits.

 

Tuvaluan (Te aigana Taivalu)

Tuvaluan is a Western Polynesian language closely related to Samoan and Tokelauan,Ai?? and spoken by about ten thousand people in the independent nation of Tuvalu, formerly the Ellice Islands. Tuvalu consists of nine small islands in the south-central Pacific. There are small groups of Tuvaluan migrants in New Zealand, Australia, Fiji, Kiribati, the Marshall Islands, Nauru and the USA. According to the 2013 New Zealand census, approximately 3,500 Tuvaluans live in New Zealand. The proportion of those who speak Tuvaluan is estimated at almost 80%.

Each island has its own dialect but all Tuvaluan dialects are mutually intelligible. Tuvaluan first appeared in writing during the 1860s when Samoan pastors arrived to convert the islanders to Christianity. The language has been influenced by Samoan, Gilbertese, Fijian and English (motoka, komipiuta, letia). On the island of Nui the Kiribati (Gilbertese) language is used.

The orthography is not fully standardised as yet. All five vowels can be short or long . There are eleven consonants, distinguished by the fact that they can be in lengthened form, a feature they share with some of the Polynesian Outlier languages in Melanesia.

This is usually the result of a reduplicated syllable, and an apostrophe is used to mark the unstressed vowel between two identical consonants: ‘tonu (totonu), ‘gana (gagana). As in Samoan, the letter aigai in Tuvaluan is pronounced aingai.

A Tuvaluan Dictionary (Tuvaluan-English, English-Tuvaluan) by Geoffrey W. Jackson was published in Suva in 2001.

 

Kiribati (Taetae ni Kiribati)

Kiribati (pronounced kiribas) is a Micronesian language spoken in Kiribati, Fiji, Nauru, the Solomon Islands, Tuvalu and Vanuatu by about 70,000 people. Kiribati was formerly called the Gilbert Islands, named after Captain Thomas Gilbert, who “discovered” the main island of the group in 1788. The original name of the islands was Tungaru.

The Republic of Kiribati comprises 33 atolls and one island dispersed over 3.5 million square kilometres. The permanent population is just over 100,000 (2011), half of whom live on Tarawa Atoll.

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. English is also an official language, but is not normally used outside the capital, Tarawa.

In 2013 the Kiribati ethnic group in New Zealand numbered 2,115. English is the most widely spoken language among this group (88.8%) and Kiribati the second most common language, spoken by 58.3% (2013 New Zealand Census).

Kiribati alphabet: A E I O U M N B K R T W

Kiribati is apparently the only language besides English to use the capital aiiai for the first-person pronoun.

How are you?
Thank you

Sample of Kiribati text:

Te marooroo bon te moa ni bai???ai ni maiuia kaaini Kiribati. Ngkana ti nooria ao a boni maiaiti taeka ake a konaa ni kabaiarabaiaraa kaanga aron te taetae baia e kangaa. Ngkana ti taraiia aomata n te maianeaba ao ti konaa n ataia baia naake a rangi n atatai n aron te taetae ao naake a atongaki baia taan rabakau n otooto a konaa n anganaki aia tabo ae kaanga a na rine riki iai ibuakoia aomata.

Conversation is of great importance in the life of Kiribati people. If we look, we can find many words which describe their ways of speaking. When we see the people in the maneaba, we realise that those who are skilled in speaking, and those who are said to be skillful composers, are given positions of honour.

(From Peace Corps Language Handbook Series: Kiribati Language Lesson)