Polynesian languages

Last updated
Polynesian
Geographic
distribution
Polynesia
Linguistic classification Austronesian
Proto-language Proto-Polynesian
Subdivisions
Glottolog poly1242 [1]
Fijian-Polynesian.svg
The Central Pacific languages
Olive is Polynesian (not shown: Rapa Nui)

The Polynesian languages form a language family spoken in geographical Polynesia and on a patchwork of outliers from south central Micronesia to small islands off the northeast of the larger islands of the southeast Solomon Islands and sprinkled through Vanuatu. Linguistic taxonomists classify them as a subgroup of the much larger and more varied Austronesian family, belonging to the Oceanic branch of that family. [2]

Language family group of languages related through descent from a common ancestor

A language family is a group of languages related through descent from a common ancestral language or parental language, called the proto-language of that family. The term "family" reflects the tree model of language origination in historical linguistics, which makes use of a metaphor comparing languages to people in a biological family tree, or in a subsequent modification, to species in a phylogenetic tree of evolutionary taxonomy. Linguists therefore describe the daughter languages within a language family as being genetically related.

Polynesia Subregion of Oceania

Polynesia is a subregion of Oceania, made up of more than 1,000 islands scattered over the central and southern Pacific Ocean. The indigenous people who inhabit the islands of Polynesia are termed Polynesians, and share many similar traits including language family, culture, and beliefs. Historically, they had a strong tradition of sailing and using stars to navigate at night. The largest country in Polynesia is New Zealand.

Polynesian outlier island group

Polynesian outliers are a number of culturally Polynesian societies that geographically lie outside the main region of Polynesian influence, known as the Polynesian Triangle; instead, Polynesian outliers are scattered in the two other Pacific subregions: Melanesia and Micronesia. Based on archaeological and linguistic analysis, these islands are considered to have been colonized by seafaring Polynesians, mostly from the area of Tonga, Samoa and Tuvalu.

Contents

There are approximately forty Polynesian languages. The most prominent of these are Tahitian, Samoan, Tongan, Māori and Hawaiian. As humans first settled the Polynesian islands relatively recently and because internal linguistic diversification only began around 2,000 years ago, the Polynesian languages retain strong commonalities. There are still many cognate words across the different islands, for example: tapu, ariki , motu, kava , and tapa as well as Hawaiki , the mythical homeland for some of the cultures.

Tahitian is a Polynesian language, spoken mainly on the Society Islands in French Polynesia. It belongs to the Eastern Polynesian group.

Samoan is the language of the Samoan Islands, comprising Samoa and the United States territory of American Samoa. It is an official language – alongside English – in both jurisdictions.

Tongan is an Austronesian language of the Polynesian branch spoken in Tonga. It has around 180,000 speakers and is a national language of Tonga. It is a VSO (verb–subject–object) language.

All Polynesian languages show strong similarity, particularly in vocabulary. The vowels are often stable in the descendant languages, nearly always a, e, i, o and u. Consonant changes tend to be quite regular. The legendary homeland of many Polynesian peoples, reconstructed as *sawaiki, appears as Hawaiki among the Māori of New Zealand with s replaced by h; but 'Avaiki in the Cook Islands with s replaced by the glottal stop, and w by v; as Hawai'i, the name of the largest island in the Hawaiian Islands, with s replaced by h, and k by the glottal stop; as Savai'i, the largest island in Samoa, with w replaced by v, and k by the glottal stop; and as Havai'i in the Society Islands with s replaced by h, w replaced by v, and k by the glottal stop. [3]

Sound change includes any processes of language change that affect pronunciation or sound system structures. Sound change can consist of the replacement of one speech sound by another, the complete loss of the affected sound, or even the introduction of a new sound in a place where there had been none. Sound changes can be environmentally conditioned, meaning that the change only occurs in a defined sound environment, whereas in other environments the same speech sound is not affected by the change. The term "sound change" refers to diachronic changes—that is, irreversible changes in a language's sound system over time; "alternation", on the other hand, refers to changes that happen synchronically and which do not change the language's underlying system. However, since "sound change" can refer to the historical introduction of an alternation —the label is inherently imprecise and often must be clarified as referring to phonemic change or restructuring.

New Zealand Country in Oceania

New Zealand is a sovereign island country in the southwestern Pacific Ocean. The country geographically comprises two main landmasses—the North Island, and the South Island —and around 600 smaller islands. New Zealand is situated some 2,000 kilometres (1,200 mi) east of Australia across the Tasman Sea and roughly 1,000 kilometres (600 mi) south of the Pacific island areas of New Caledonia, Fiji, and Tonga. Because of its remoteness, it was one of the last lands to be settled by humans. During its long period of isolation, New Zealand developed a distinct biodiversity of animal, fungal, and plant life. The country's varied topography and its sharp mountain peaks, such as the Southern Alps, owe much to the tectonic uplift of land and volcanic eruptions. New Zealand's capital city is Wellington, while its most populous city is Auckland.

Cook Islands Island country in the South Pacific Ocean

The Cook Islands is a self-governing island country in the South Pacific Ocean in free association with New Zealand. It comprises 15 islands whose total land area is 240 square kilometres (92.7 sq mi). The Cook Islands' Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) covers 1,800,000 square kilometres (690,000 sq mi) of ocean.

Languages

Polynesian languages fall into two branches, Tongic and Nuclear Polynesian. Tongan and Niuean constitute the Tongic branch; all of the rest are part of the Nuclear Polynesian branch. [4]

Niuean 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 Hawaiʻian. Together, Tongan and Niuean form the Tongic subgroup of the Polynesian languages. Niuean also has a number of influences from Samoan and Eastern Polynesian languages.

Niuafoʻou, or Niuafoʻouan, is the language spoken on Tonga's northernmost island, Niuafoʻou.

History of classification

The contemporary classification of the Polynesian languages began with certain observations by Andrew Pawley in 1966 based on shared innovations in phonology, vocabulary and grammar showing that the East Polynesian languages were more closely related to Samoan than they were to Tongan, calling Tongan and its nearby relative Niuean "Tongic" and Samoan and all other Polynesian languages of the study "Nuclear Polynesian". [6]

Previously, there had been only lexicostatistical studies [7] [8] that squarely suggested a "West Polynesian" group composed of at least Tongan and Samoan and that an "East Polynesian" group was equally distant from both Tongan and Samoan. Lexicostatistics is a controversial tool that can identify points in languages from which linguistic relations can be inferred[ clarify ]. Since Pawley's 1966 publication, inferring the ancient relationships of the Polynesian languages has proceeded by the more diagnostic findings of studies employing the comparative method [ clarify ] and the proofs of shared innovations.

Pawley published another study in 1967. [9] It began the process of extracting relationships from Polynesian languages on small islands in Melanesia, the "Polynesian Outliers", whose languages Pawley was able to trace to East Futuna in the case of those farther south and perhaps to Samoa itself in the case of those more to the north.

Except for some minor differentiation of the East Polynesian tree, further study paused for almost twenty years until Wilson [10] published a study of Polynesian pronominal systems in 1985 suggesting that there was a special relationship between the East Polynesian languages and all other Nuclear Polynesian but for Futunic, and calling that extra-Futunic group the "Ellicean languages". Furthermore, East Polynesian was found to more likely have emerged from extra-Samoan Ellicean than out of Samoa itself, an astonishing suggestion given the long assumption of a Samoan homeland for the origins of East Polynesian. Wilson named this new group "Ellicean" after the pre-independence name of Tuvalu and presented fine-grained evidence for subgroups within that overarching category.

Marck, [11] in 2000, was able to offer some support for some aspects of Wilson's suggestion through comparisons of shared sporadic (irregular, unexpected) sound changes, e. g., Proto-Polynesian and Proto-Nuclear-Polynesian *mafu 'to heal' becoming Proto-Ellicean *mafo. This was made possible by the massive Polynesian language comparative lexicon ("Pollex" – with reconstructions) of Biggs and Clark. [12]

Despite the relative low number of Polynesian languages, and the relative abundance of data already available on many of them, the comparative method was often reduced to comparisons of vocabulary, shared sporadic sound changes and, as Wilson had done in 1985, comparison of pronominal systems, which is perhaps the second most commonly described aspect of "minor" languages often available for comparison after the lexicostatistical lists. Wilson has a forthcoming work [13] providing further evidence of fine grained subgroups within Ellicean and a consideration of other recent work [14] on the matter of Ellicean internal relations. Wilson's new work brings the matter to the approximate limits of current data available, incorporating much data unknown to most other researchers.

Returning to lexicostatistics, it must be emphasised that the method does not make the best possible use of its short word lists of 100 or 200 words. Dyen's [15] massive lexicostatistical study of Austronesian, for instance, showed a great deal of (lexicostatistical) diversity in the Austronesian languages of Western Melanesia. This was sometimes on par with the lexicostatistical distance of Taiwan Austronesian languages from other Austronesian including Taiwan Austronesian languages from each other (Taiwan now definitively known to be the homeland of the language family itself). But the low lexicostatistical agreement of many Western Melanesian Oceanic languages with other Oceanic Austronesian can be easily dismissed as of little subgrouping interest because those languages are nevertheless full of diagnostic innovations of Oceanic Austronesian in their sound systems and vocabulary, including many Oceanic lexical innovations found in the 100 and 200 lexicostatistical word lists (and the deadly conclusive evidence of the shared phonological innovations of those low-scoring groups with all other Oceanic Austronesian). The Western Oceanic Melanesian "diversity" of lexicostatistical studies was never of any interest in terms of attributing any special time depth or subgrouping significance to it. They are just languages with accelerated loss of vocabulary, sometimes, in the Western[ clarification needed ] Oceanic case, because they involve certain more ancient peoples of the region shifting to Oceanic speech after Oceanic-speaking peoples arrived. [16]

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; Niuean; Samoan; Sikaiana; Takuu; Rapanui language; Tahitian; Cook Islands Māori (Rarotongan); Māori; North Marquesan; South Marquesan; Hawaiian and Mangarevan.

TonganNiueanSamoanSikaianaTakuuRapanuiTahitianRarotonganMāoriNorth MarquesanSouth MarquesanHawaiianMangarevan
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/maːtuʔa//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 is ʻawa.

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 many speakers to English, and only in the last twenty years[ when? ] have they resurged in popularity.[ citation needed ]

Personal pronouns

In general, Polynesian languages have three numbers for pronouns and possessives: singular, dual 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 (threesome) or paucal (a few), and that an original plural has disappeared. [17] 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 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. The a-possessives (as they contain that letter in most cases), also known as subjective possessives, refer to possessions that must be acquired by one's own action (alienable possession). The o-possessives or objective possessives refer to possessions that are fixed to someone, unchangeable, and do not necessitate any action on one's part but upon which actions can still be performed by others (inalienable possession). Some words can take either form, often with a difference in meaning. One example is the Samoan 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, but the Book of Joshua was written by someone else about Joshua. The distinction between one's birth village and one's current residence village can be made similarly.

Numerals in Polynesian languages

[18]

English OneTwoThreeFourFiveSixSevenEightNineTen
Niuean tahauatolufalimaonofituvaluhivahogofolu
Tongan tahauatolufanimaonofituvaluhivahongofulu
Samoan tasiluatolufalimaonofituvaluivasefulu
Tuvaluan tasiluatolufalimaonofituvaluivaagafulu
Nanumeatahiluatolulimaonofituvaluivatoa
Tokelauan tahiluatolufalimaonofituvaluivahefulu
Wallisian tahiluatolunimaonofituvaluhivahogofulu
Pukapuka tayiluatoluwalimaonowituvaluivalaugaulu
Rennellese tahiŋguatoŋguŋgimaonohitubaŋguibakatoa
Pileni tasiruatorulimaonofituvaluivakʰaro
Tikopia tasiruatorufarimaonofituvarusivafuaŋafuru
Anuta tairuatorupaanimaonopituvaruivapuangapuru
West Uvea tahiƚuatoƚufalimatahia-tupuluaona-tuputoluona-tupufaona-tupulimaona-tupu
Emae tasiruatorufarimaonofituβarusiβaŋafuru
Mele tasiruatorufarimaonofituβarusiβasiŋafuru
Futuna-Aniwa tasiruatorufarimaonofituvaroivatagafuru
Sikaiana tahiluatolulimaonohituvalosivosehui
Ontong Java kahiluakolulimaoŋohikuvalusivosehui
Takuu tasiluatorufarimaonofituvarusivosinafuru
Kapingamarangi dahiluadoluhaalimaonohiduwaluhiwamada
Nukuoro dahika-luaka-doluka-haaka-limaka-onoka-hiduka-valuka-sivaka-hulu
Rapa Nui tahiruatoruharimaonohituvaʼuivaʼahuru
Tahitian tahipititorumahapaeōnohituvaʼuivahōeʼahuru
Penrhyn tahiluatolulimaonohituvaluivatahi-ngahulu
Rarotongan taʼiruatoruārimaonoʼituvaruivangaʼuru
Tuamotuan tahiruatorurimaonohituvaruivarongoʼuru
Maori tahiruatoruwhārimaonowhituwaruiwatekau
Moriori tehiterutorutewhaterimateonotewhitutewaruteiwameangauru
Mangareva tahiruatoruharimaonohituvaruivarogouru
Marquesan e tahie úae toúe fae ímae onoe fitue vaúe ivaónohuú
Hawaiian ‘e-kahi‘e-lua‘e-kolu‘e-hā‘e-lima‘e-ono‘e-hiku‘e-walu‘e-iwa‘umi

Orthography

Written Polynesian languages use orthography based on Latin script. Most Polynesian languages have five vowel qualities, corresponding roughly to those written i, e, a, o, u in classical Latin. However, orthographic conventions for phonemes that are not easily encoded in standard Latin script had to develop over time. Influenced by the traditions 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 in many languages. Despite efforts at reform by local academies, the general conservative resistance to orthographic change has led to varying results in Polynesian languages, and several writing variants co-exist. The most common method, however, uses a macron to indicate a long vowel, while a vowel without that diacritical mark is short, for example, ā versus a. Sometimes, a long vowel is written double, e.g. Maaori.

The glottal stop (not present in all Polynesian languages, but, where present, one of the most common consonants) is indicated by an apostrophe, for example, 'a versus a. This is somewhat of an anomaly as the apostrophe is most often used to represent letters that have been omitted, while the glottal stop is rather a consonant that is not represented by a traditional Latin letter. Hawaiʻian uses the ʻokina, also called by several other names, a unicameral consonant letter used within the Latin script to mark the phonemic glottal stop. It is also used in many other Polynesian languages, each of which has its own name for the character. (See ʻokina.) Apart from the ʻokina or the somewhat similar Tahitian ʻeta, a common method is to change 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.

See also

Notes

  1. Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2017). "Polynesian". Glottolog 3.0 . Jena, Germany: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History.
  2. In terms of numbers of languages, the 38 members of the Polynesian branch represent 7 percent of the 522 Oceanic languages, and 3 percent of the Austronesian family (source: Glottolog ).
  3. Hiroa, Te Rangi (1964). Vikings of the Sunrise. New Zealand: Whitcombe and Tombs Ltd. p. 69. ISBN   0-313-24522-3 . Retrieved 21 August 2010.
  4. Lynch, John; Malcolm Ross; Terry Crowley (2002). The Oceanic languages. Richmond, Surrey: Curzon. ISBN   978-0-7007-1128-4. OCLC   48929366.
  5. Marck, Jeff (2000), Topics in Polynesian languages and culture history. Canberra: Pacific Linguistics
  6. Pawley, Andrew, 1966, Polynesian languages: a subgrouping based upon shared innovations in morphology. Journal of the Polynesian Society 75(1):39–64. JSTOR   20704348.
  7. Elbert, Samuel H., 1953, Internal relationships of Polynesian languages and dialects. Southwestern Journal of Anthropology 9(2):147–173. doi : 10.1086/soutjanth.9.2.3628573. JSTOR   3628573.
  8. Emory, Kenneth P., 1963, East Polynesian relationships: settlement pattern and time involved as indicated by vocabulary agreements. Journal of the Polynesian Society 72(2):78–100. JSTOR   20704084.
  9. Pawley, Andrew, 1967, The relationships of Polynesian Outlier languages. Journal of the Polynesian Society 76(3):259–296. JSTOR   20704480.
  10. Wilson, William H., 1985, Evidence for an Outlier source for the Proto-Eastern-Polynesian pronominal system. Oceanic Linguistics 24(1/2):85-133. doi : 10.2307/3623064. JSTOR   3623064.
  11. Marck, Jeff (2000), Topics in Polynesian languages and culture history. Canberra: Pacific Linguistics.
  12. Biggs, Bruce (1990, 1991, 1992, 1993, 1994) and Bruce Biggs and Ross Clark (1996), Pollex: Comparative Polynesian Lexicon (computer data base). Auckland: Department of Anthropology, University of Auckland.
  13. Wilson, William H., 2012, Whence the East Polynesians? Further linguistic evidence for a Northern Outlier Source. Oceanic Linguistics 51(2):289–359. JSTOR   23321860.
  14. E.g., Kirch, Patrick Vinton and Roger Green (2001) Hawaiki, Ancestral Polynesia: An Essay in Historical Anthropology. Cambridge University Press. Cambridge.
    Pawley, Andrew (2009) Polynesian paradoxes: subgroups, wave models and the dialect geography of Proto Polynesian. Unpublished paper delivered at the 11th International Conference on Austronesian Linguistics. Aussois, France.
  15. Dyen, Isidore, 1965. A Lexicostatistical classification of the Austronesian languages. International Journal of American Linguistics (Memoir 19).
  16. Ross, Malcolm, 2008. The integrity of the Austronesian language family: from Taiwan to Oceania, in Alicia Sanchez-Mazas, Roger Blench, Malcolm D. Ross, Ilia Peiros and Marie Lin (ed.), Past Human Migrations in East Asia: Matching archaeology, linguistics and genetics, Routledge, Taylor & Francis Group, Great Britain, pp. 161–181.
  17. Indeed Fijian, a language closely related to Polynesian, has singular, dual, paucal, and plural; and even there we may see the paucal replacing the plural in generations to come, as the paucal currently can be used for a group from 3 up to as many as 10, usually with some family, workgroup or other association.
  18. Source: The Numbers List http://www.zompist.com/numbers.shtml

Further reading

Related Research Articles

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ʻOkina Letter of the Latin alphabet

The ʻokina, also called by several other names, is a unicameral consonant letter used within the Latin script to mark the phonemic glottal stop, as it is used in many Polynesian languages.

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Proto-Polynesian is the hypothetical proto-language from which all the modern Polynesian languages descend. It is a daughter language of the Proto-Austronesian language. Historical linguists have reconstructed the language using the comparative method, in much the same manner as with Proto-Indo-European and Proto-Uralic. This same method has also been used to support the archaeological and ethnographic evidence which indicates that the ancestral homeland of the people who spoke Proto-Polynesian was in the vicinity of Tonga, Samoa, and nearby islands.

Tuamotuan, Paʻumotu or Paumotu is a Polynesian language spoken by 4,000 people in the Tuamotu archipelago, with an additional 2,000 speakers in Tahiti.

Futunan or Futunian is the Polynesian language spoken on Futuna. The term East-Futunan is also used to distinguish it from the related West Futunan (Futuna-Aniwan) spoken on the outlier islands of Futuna and Aniwa in Vanuatu.

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Austral is an endangered Polynesian language that is spoken by approximately 8,000 people (1987). It is spoken only on the Austral Islands and the Society Islands of French Polynesia. The language is also referred to as Tubuai-Rurutu, Tubuai, Rurutu-Tupuai, or Tupuai. In structure, it is similarly compared to Tahitian.

Bible translations into Oceanic languages have a relatively closely related and recent history.

Nuguria fead (Nukuria) was a Polynesian language, spoken by approximately 550 people on Nuguria in the eastern islands of Papua New Guinea. The language was taught in primary schools in Nuguria and was used for daily communications between adults and children. Nuguria is one of the eighteen small islands to the east of Papua New Guinea, which are known as the Polynesian Outliers. The Nukuria language has been concluded to be closely related to other nearby languages such as Nukumanu, Takuu, Nukuoro, and Luangiua. Research on the Nuguria Atoll and the language itself is scarce; past research demonstrated that this language was at risk of potential endangerment. The language was only then classified as at risk of endangerment because it was still used between generations and was passed on to the children. However, recent research indicates that Nukuria is now most likely an extinct language.

References