significant immigrant community in the United States
|Native speakers||126,000 (1998)|
|Official language in||Tonga|
Tongan // (lea fakatonga) is an Austronesian language of the Polynesian branch spoken in Tonga. It has around 200,000 speakers[not in citation given] and is a national language of Tonga. It is a VSO (verb–subject–object) language.
Tongan is one of the many languages in the Polynesian branch of the Austronesian languages, along with Hawaiian, Maori, Samoan and Tahitian, for example. Together with Niuean, it forms the Tongic subgroup of Polynesian.
Tongan is unusual among Polynesian languages in that it has a so-called definitive accent. Like all Polynesian languages, Tongan has adapted the phonological system of proto-Polynesian.
- Tongan has retained the original proto-Polynesian *h, but has merged it with the original *s as /h/. (The /s/ found in modern Tongan derives from *t before high front vowels). Most Polynesian languages have lost the original proto-Polynesian glottal stop /q/; however, it has been retained in Tongan and a few other languages including Rapa Nui.
- In proto-Polynesian, *r and *l were distinct phonemes, but in most Polynesian languages they have merged, represented orthographically as r in most East Polynesian languages, and as l in most West Polynesian languages. However, the distinction can be reconstructed because Tongan kept the *l but lost the *r.
|Polynesian sound correspondences|
|Phoneme||Proto-Polynesian||Tongan||Niuean||Sāmoan||Rapa Nui||Tahitian||Māori||Cook Is. Māori||Hawaiian||English|
Tongan is written in a subset of the Latin script. In the old, "missionary" alphabet, the order of the letters was modified: the vowels were put first and then followed by the consonants: a, e, i, o, u, f, etc. This was still so as of the Privy Council decision of 1943 on the orthography of the Tongan language. However, C.M. Churchward's grammar and dictionary favoured the standard European alphabetical order, and since his time that one has been in use exclusively:
- written as g but still pronounced as [ŋ] (as in Samoan) before 1943
- unaspirated; written as b before 1943
- sometimes written as j before 1943 (see below)
- the glottal stop. It should be written with the modifier letter turned comma (Unicode 0x02BB) and not with the single quote open or with a mixture of quotes open and quotes close. See also ʻokina.
Note that the above order is strictly followed in proper dictionaries. Therefore ngatu follows nusi, ʻa follows vunga and it also follows z if foreign words occur. Words with long vowels come directly after those with short vowels. Improper wordlists may or may not follow these rules. (For example, the Tonga telephone directory for years now ignores all rules.)
The original j, used for /tʃ/, disappeared in the beginning of the 20th century, merging with /s/. By 1943, j was no longer used. Consequently, many words written with s in Tongan are cognate to those with t in other Polynesian languages. For example, Masisi (a star name) in Tongan is cognate with Matiti in Tokelauan; siale (Gardenia taitensis) in Tongan and tiare in Tahitian. This seems to be a natural development, as /tʃ/ in many Polynesian languages derived from Proto-Polynesian /ti/.
- Each syllable has exactly one vowel. The number of syllables in a word is exactly equal to the number of vowels it has.
- Long vowels, indicated with a toloi (macron), count as one, but may in some circumstances be split up in two short ones, in which case, they are both written. Toloi are supposed to be written where needed, in practice this may be seldom done.
- Each syllable may have no more than one consonant.
- Consonant combinations are not permitted. The ng is not a consonant combination, since it represents a single sound. As such it can never be split, the proper hyphenation of fakatonga (Tongan) therefore is fa-ka-to-nga.
- Each syllable must end in a vowel. All vowels are pronounced, but an i at the end of an utterance is usually unvoiced.
- The fakauʻa is a consonant. It must be followed (and, except at the beginning of a word, preceded) by a vowel. Unlike the glottal stops in many other Polynesian languages texts, the fakauʻa is always written. (Only sometimes before 1943.)
- Stress normally falls on the next to last syllable of a word with two or more syllables; example: móhe (sleep), mohénga (bed). If, however, the last vowel is long, it takes the stress; example: kumā (mouse) (stress on the long ā). The stress also shifts to the last vowel if the next word is an enclitic; example: fále (house), falé ni (this house). Finally the stress can shift to the last syllable, including an enclitic, in case of the definitive accent; example: mohengá ((that) particular bed), fale ní (this particular house). It is also here that a long vowel can be split into two short ones; example: pō (night), poó ni (this night), pō ní (this particular night). Or the opposite: maáma (light), māmá ni (this light), maama ní (this particular light). Of course, there are some exceptions to the above general rules. The stress accent is normally not written, except where it is to indicate the definitive accent or fakamamafa. But here, too, people often neglect to write it, only using it when the proper stress cannot be easily derived from the context.
Although the acute accent has been available on most personal computers from their early days onwards, when Tongan newspapers started to use computers around 1990 to produce their papers, they were unable to find, or failed to enter, the proper keystrokes, and it grew into a habit to put the accent after the vowel instead of on it: not á but a´. But as this distance seemed to be too big, a demand arose for Tongan fonts where the acute accent was shifted to the right, a position halfway in between the two extremes above. Most papers still follow this practice.
English, like most European languages, uses only two articles:
- indefinite a
- definite the
By contrast, Tongan has three articles, and possessives also have a three-level definiteness distinction:
- indefinite ha. Example: ko ha pālangi ('a white person', or any other person from somewhere other than Tonga)
- semi-definite (h)e. Example: ko e pālangi ('the white person' in the sense that the person does not belong to some other race, but still rather 'a white person' if there are several of them)
- definite (h)e with the shifted ultimate stress. Example: ko e pālangí ('the white person', that particular person there and no one else).
There are three registers which consist of
- ordinary words (the normal language)
- honorific words (the language for the chiefs)
- regal words (the language for the king)
There are also further distinctions between
- polite words (used for more formal contexts)
- derogatory words (used for informal contexts, or to indicate humility)
For example, the phrase "Come and eat!" translates to:
- ordinary: haʻu 'o kai (come and eat!); Friends, family members and so forth may say this to each other when invited for dinner.
- honorific: meʻa mai pea ʻilo (come and eat!); The proper used towards chiefs, particularly the nobles, but it may also be used by an employee towards his boss, or in other similar situations. When talking about chiefs, however, it is always used, even if they are not actually present, but in other situations only on formal occasions. A complication to the beginning student of Tongan is that such words very often also have an alternative meaning in the ordinary register: meʻa (thing) and ʻilo (know, find).
- regal: hāʻele mai pea taumafa (come and eat!); Used towards the king or God. The same considerations as for the honorific register apply. Hāʻele is one of the regal words which have become the normal word in other Polynesian.
This gives us 12 main groups. In addition, possessive pronouns are either alienable (reddish) or inalienable (greenish). This marks a distinction that has been referred to, in some analyses of other Polynesian languages, as a-possession versus o-possession, respectively.
The cardinal pronouns are the main personal pronouns which in Tongan can either be preposed (before the verb, light colour) or postposed (after the verb, dark colour). The first are the normal alienable possessive pronouns, the latter the stressed alienable pronouns, which are sometimes uses as reflexive pronouns, or with kia te in front the inalienable possessive forms. (There is no possession involved in the cardinal pronouns and therefore no alienable or inalienable forms).
(I, we, us)
|preposed||u, ou, ku||ma||mau|
(one, we, us)
- all the preposed pronouns of one syllable only (ku, u, ma, te, ta, ke, mo, ne, na) are enclitics which never can take the stress, but put it on the vowel in front of them. Example: ʻoku naú versus ʻokú na (not: ʻoku ná).
- first person singular, I uses u after kuo, te, ne, and also ka (becomes kau), pea, mo and ʻo; but uses ou after ʻoku; and uses ku after naʻa.
- first person inclusive (I and you) is of course somewhat a misnomer. The meanings of te and kita can often rendered as one, that is the modesty I.
Examples of use.
- Naʻa ku fehuʻi: I asked
- Naʻe fehuʻi (ʻe) au: I(!) asked (stressed)
- ʻOku ou fehuʻi au: I ask myself
- Te u fehuʻi kia te koe: I shall ask you
- Te ke tali kia te au: You will answer me
- Kapau te te fehuʻi: If one would ask
- Tau ō ki he hulohula?: Are we (all) going to the ball?
- Sinitalela, mau ō ki he hulohula: Cinderella, we go to the ball (... said the evil stepmother, and she went with two of her daughters, but not Cinderella)
Another archaic aspect of Tongan is the retention of preposed pronouns. They are used much less frequently in Sāmoan and have completely disappeared in East Polynesian languages, where the pronouns are cognate with the Tongan postposed form minus ki-. (We love you: ʻOku ʻofa kimautolu kia te kimoutolu; Māori: e aroha nei mātou i a koutou).
The possessives for every person and number (1st person plural, 3rd person dual, etc.) can be further divided into normal or ordinary (light colour), emotional (medium colour) and emphatic (bright colour) forms. The latter is rarely used, but the two former are common and further subdivided in definite (saturated colour) and indefinite (greyish colour) forms.
(his, her, its, their)
- the ordinary definite possessives starting with he (in italics) drop this prefix after any word except ʻi, ki, mei, ʻe. Example: ko ʻeku tohi, my book; ʻi heʻeku tohi, in my book.
- all ordinary alienable possessive forms contain a fakauʻa, the inalienable forms do not.
- the emphatic forms are not often used, but if they are, they take the definitive accent from the following words (see below)
- first person inclusive (me and you) is of course somewhat a misnomer. The meanings of heʻete, hoto, etc. can often rendered as one's, that is the modesty me.
- the choice between an alienable or inalienable possessive is determined by the word or phrase it refers to. For example: ko hoʻo tohi '(it is) your house' (inalienable), ko ho fale, '(it is) your book' (alienable). *Ko ho tohi, ko hoʻo fale* are wrong. Some words can take either, but with a difference in meaning: ko ʻene kahoa 'his/her garland' (which he/she is stringing for someone else); ko hono kahoa 'his/her garland' (which he/she is wearing, probably given by someone else).
Examples of use.
- ko haʻaku/haku kahoa: my garland, -> any garland from/for me
- ko ʻeku/hoku kahoa: my garland, it is my garland
- ko ʻeku/hoku kahoá: my garland -> that particular one and no other
- ko heʻete/hoto kahoa: one's garland -> mine in fact, but that is not important
- ko siʻaku kahoa: my cherished garland, -> any cherished garland from/for me
- ko siʻeku/siʻoku kahoa: my cherished garland, it is my cherished garland
- ko haʻakú/hoʻokú kahoa: garland (mine)-> that particular garland is mine(!) and not someone else's at all
- ko homa kahoa: our garlands, -> you and I are wearing them, but not the person we are talking to
- ko hota kahoa: our garlands, -> you and I are wearing them, and I am talking to you
(his, her, its, their)
- the first syllable in all singular pronominal adjectives (in italics) is reduplicated and can be dropped for somewhat less emphasis
- the pronominal adjectives put a stronger emphasis on the possessor than the possessive pronouns do
- the use of the adverbial possessives is rare
Examples of use:
- ko hono valá: it is his/her/its clothing/dress
- ko e vala ʻona: it is his/her/its (!) clothing/dress
- ko e vala ʻoʻona: it is his/her/its (!!!) clothing/dress
- ko hono valá ʻona: it is his/her/its own clothing/dress
- ko hono vala ʻoná: it is his/her/its own clothing/dress; same as previous
- ko hono vala ʻoʻoná: it is his/her/its very own clothing/dress
- ʻoku ʻoʻona ʻa e valá ni: this cloting is his/hers/its
- ʻoku moʻona ʻa e valá: the clothing is for him/her/it
- ʻoange ia moʻono valá: give it (to him/her/it) as his/hers/its clothing
For 'simple' two-digit multiples of ten both the 'full-style' and 'telephone-style' numbers are in equally common use, while for other two-digit numbers the 'telephone-style' numbers are almost exclusively in use:
ʻOku fiha ia? (how much (does it cost)?) Paʻanga ʻe ua-nima-noa (T$ 2.50)
In addition there are special, traditional counting systems for fish, coconuts, yams, etc.
||This section needs additional citations for verification. (January 2010)|
There are several weekly and monthly magazines in Tongan, but there are no daily newspapers.
Weekly newspapers, some of them twice per week:
- Ko e Kalonikali ʻo Tonga
- Ko e Keleʻa
- Taimi ʻo Tonga
- Ko e Tauʻatāina
Monthly or two-monthly papers, mostly church publications:
- Taumuʻa lelei (Catholic Church)
- Tohi fanongonongo (Free Wesleyan)
- Liahona (The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints)
- 'Ofa ki Tonga (Tokaikolo)
The Tongan calendar was based on the phases of the moon and had 13 months. The main purpose of the calendar to Tongans was to determine the time for the planting and cultivation of yams which was Tonga's most important staple food.
|Name||Compared to Modern Calendar|
|Lihamu'a||mid-November to early December|
|Lihamui||mid-December to early January|
|Vaimu'a||mid-January to early February|
|Vaimui||mid-February to early March|
|Fakaafu Mo'ui||mid-March to early April|
|Fakaaafu Mate||mid-April to early May|
|Hilingakelekele||mid-May to early June|
|Hilingamea'a||mid-June to early July|
|'Ao'aokimasisiva||mid-July to early August|
|Fu'ufu'unekinanga||mid-August to early September|
|'Uluenga||mid-September to early October|
|Tanumanga||early October to late October|
|'O'oamofanongo||late October to early November.|
- Laurie Bauer, 2007, The Linguistics Student’s Handbook, Edinburgh
- "Kingdom of Tonga country brief". Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. Retrieved 2010-09-24.
- The glottal stop in most other Polynesian languages are the reflexes of other consonants of proto-Polynesian; for example, the glottal stop of Samoan and Hawaiian is a reflex of the original *k; the glottal stop of Cook Islands Māori represents a merger of the original *f and *s. Tongan does not show changes such as the *t to /k/ and *ŋ to /n/ of Hawaiian; nor has Tongan shifted *f to /h/. Although Tongan, Samoan and other Western Polynesian languages are not affected by a change in Central Eastern Polynesian languages (such as New Zealand Māori) involving the dissimilation of /faf/ to /wah/, Tongan has vowel changes (as seen in monumanu from original manumanu) which are not a feature of other languages.
- This loss may be quite recent. The word "lua", meaning "two", is still found in some placenames and archaic texts. "Marama" (light) thus became "maama", and the two successive "a"s are still pronounced separately, not yet contracted to "māma". On the other hand "toro" (sugarcane) already has become "tō" (still "tolo" in Sāmoan).
- Glottal stop is represented as 'q' in reconstructed Proto-Polynesian words.
- Archaic: the usual word in today's Tahitian is 'piti'.
- These a and o refer to the characteristic vowel used in those pronouns. In Tongan, however, this distinction is much less clear, and rather a characteristic for the indefinite and definite forms respectively. Use of the a & o terms therefore is not favoured.
- Online Tongan edition of Liahona, lds.org
- C.M. Churchward, Tongan grammar. ISBN 0-908717-05-9
- C.M. Churchward, Tongan dictionary
|Tongan language edition of Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia|
- Planet Tonga
- Ethnologue on Tongan
- Omniglot on Tongan
- Basic online Tongan–English and English–Tongan dictionary