Tongan language

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This article is about the Polynesian language of the kingdom of Tonga. For unrelated languages with similar names, see Tonga language.
Tongan
lea faka-Tonga
Native to Tonga;
significant immigrant community in the United States
Native speakers
unknown (undated figure of 140,000)[1]
Official status
Official language in
 Tonga
Language codes
ISO 639-1 to
ISO 639-2 ton
ISO 639-3 ton
Glottolog tong1325[2]
This article contains IPA phonetic symbols. Without proper rendering support, you may see question marks, boxes, or other symbols instead of Unicode characters.

Tongan /ˈtɒŋən/[3] (lea fakatonga) is an Austronesian language of the Polynesian branch spoken in Tonga. It has around 200,000 speakers[4][not in citation given] and is a national language of Tonga. It is a VSO (verb–subject–object) language.

Related languages[edit]

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. As with all Polynesian languages, Tongan has adapted the phonological system of proto-Polynesian.

  1. 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.[5]
  2. 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.[6]


Polynesian sound correspondences
Phoneme Proto-Polynesian Tongan Niuean Sāmoan Rapa Nui Tahitian Māori Cook Is. Māori Hawaiian English
/ŋ/ *taŋata tangata tangata tagata tangata taʻata tangata tangata kanaka person
/s/ *sina hina hina sina hina hinahina hina ʻina hina grey-haired
/h/ *kanahe kanahe kanahe ʻanae ʻanae kanae kanae ʻanae mullet (fish)
/ti/ *tiale siale tiale tiale tiare tiare tīare tiare kiele gardenia
/k/ *waka vaka vaka vaʻa vaka vaʻa waka vaka waʻa canoe
/f/ *fafine fefine fifine fafine vahine vahine wahine vaʻine wahine woman
/ʔ/ *matuqa[7] matuʻa matua matua matuʻa metua matua metua, matua makua parent
/r/ *rua ua ua lua rua rua[8] rua rua lua two
/l/ *tolu tolu tolu tolu toru toru toru toru kolu three

Tongan alphabet[edit]

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:

Tongan alphabet
Letter a e f h i k l m n ng o p s t u v ʻ (fakauʻa)
Pronunciation /a/ /e/ /f/ /h/ /i/ /k/ /l/ /m/ /n/ /ŋ/1 /o/ /p/2 /s/3 /t/ /u/ /v/ /ʔ/4

Notes:

  1. written as g but still pronounced as [ŋ] (as in Samoan) before 1943
  2. unaspirated; written as b before 1943
  3. sometimes written as j before 1943 (see below)
  4. 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/.

Syllabification[edit]

  • 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 . 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.

Articles[edit]

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).

Registers[edit]

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: ʻele mai pea taumafa (come and eat!); Used towards the king or God. The same considerations as for the honorific register apply. ʻele is one of the regal words which have become the normal word in other Polynesian.

Pronouns[edit]

The Tongan language distinguishes 3 numbers: singular, dual, and plural. They appear as the 3 major columns in the tables below.

The Tongan language distinguishes 4 persons: First person exclusive, first person inclusive, second person and third person. They appear as the 4 major rows in the tables below.

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.[9]

Cardinal pronouns[edit]

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).

Cardinal pronouns
Position Singular Dual Plural
1st person exclusive
(I, we, us)
preposed u, ou, ku ma mau
postposed au kimaua kimautolu
inclusive
(one, we, us)
preposed te ta tau
postposed kita kitaua kitautolu
2nd person preposed ke mo mou
postposed koe kimoua kimoutolu
3rd person preposed ne na nau
postposed ia kinaua kinautolu

Remember:

  • 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.[citation needed] 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).

Possessive pronouns[edit]

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.

Possessive
pronouns
definite
or not
type singular dual plural
alienable2,5 inalienable2,5 alienable2,5 inalienable2,5 alienable2,5 inalienable2,5
1st person
(exclusive)
(my, our)
definite ordinary heʻeku1 hoku heʻema1 homa heʻemau1 homau
indefinite haʻaku haku haʻama hama haʻamau hamau
definite emotional siʻeku siʻoku siʻema siʻoma siʻemau siʻomau
indefinite siʻaku siʻaku siʻama siʻama siʻamau siʻamau
emphatic3 haʻaku hoʻoku haʻamaua hoʻomaua haʻamautolu hoʻomautolu
1st person
(inclusive)4
(my, our)
definite ordinary heʻete1 hoto heʻeta1 hota heʻetau1 hotau
indefinite haʻate hato haʻata hata haʻatau hatau
definite emotional siʻete siʻoto siʻeta siʻota siʻetau siʻotau
indefinite siʻate siʻato siʻata siʻata siʻatau siʻatau
emphatic3 haʻata hoʻota haʻataua hoʻotaua haʻatautolu hoʻotautolu
2nd person
(your)
definite ordinary hoʻo ho hoʻomo homo hoʻomou homou
indefinite haʻo hao haʻamo hamo haʻamou hamou
definite emotional siʻo siʻo siʻomo siʻomo siʻomou siʻomou
indefinite siʻao siʻao siʻamo siʻamo siʻamou siʻamou
emphatic3 haʻau hoʻou haʻamoua hoʻomoua haʻamoutolu hoʻomoutolu
3rd person
(his, her, its, their)
definite ordinary heʻene1 hono heʻena1 hona heʻenau1 honau
indefinite haʻane hano haʻana hana haʻanau hanau
definite emotional siʻene siʻono siʻena siʻona siʻenau siʻonau
indefinite siʻane siʻano siʻana siʻana siʻanau siʻanau
emphatic3 haʻana hoʻona haʻanaua hoʻonaua haʻanautolu hoʻonautolu

Notes:

  1. 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.
  2. all ordinary alienable possessive forms contain a fakauʻa, the inalienable forms do not.
  3. the emphatic forms are not often used, but if they are, they take the definitive accent from the following words (see below)
  4. 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.
  5. 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 or 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 or for me)
  • ko siʻeku/siʻoku kahoa: my cherished garland (it is my cherished garland)
  • ko haʻakú/hoʻokú kahoa: garland (emphatically mine) – that particular garland is mine and not someone else's
  • ko homa kahoa: our garlands (exclusive: you and I are wearing them, but not the person we are talking to)
  • ko hota kahoa: our garlands (inclusive: you and I are wearing them, and I am talking to you)

Other pronouns[edit]

These are the remainders: the pronominal adjectives (mine), indirect object pronouns or pronominal adverbs (for me) and the adverbial possessives (as me).

other
pronouns
type singular1 dual plural
alienable inalienable alienable inalienable alienable inalienable
1st person
(exclusive)
(my, our)
pronominal adjective ʻaʻaku ʻoʻoku ʻamaua ʻomaua ʻamautolu ʻomautolu
pronominal adverb maʻaku moʻoku maʻamaua moʻomaua maʻamautolu moʻomautolu
adverbial possessive maʻaku moʻoku maʻama moʻoma maʻamau moʻomau
1st person
(inclusive)
(my, our)
pronominal adjective ʻaʻata ʻoʻota ʻataua ʻotaua ʻatautolu ʻotautolu
pronominal adverb maʻata moʻota maʻataua moʻotaua maʻatautolu moʻotautolu
adverbial possessive maʻate moʻoto maʻata moʻota maʻatau moʻotau
2nd person
(your)
pronominal adjective ʻaʻau ʻoʻou ʻamoua ʻomoua ʻamoutolu ʻomoutolu
pronominal adverb maʻau moʻou maʻamoua moʻomoua maʻamoutolu moʻomoutolu
adverbial possessive maʻo moʻo maʻamo moʻomo maʻamou moʻomou
3rd person
(his, her, its, their)
pronominal adjective ʻaʻana ʻoʻona ʻanaua ʻonaua ʻanautolu ʻonautolu
pronominal adverb maʻana moʻona maʻanaua moʻonaua maʻanautolu moʻonautolu
adverbial possessive maʻane moʻono maʻana moʻona maʻanau moʻonau

Notes:

  1. 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

Counting[edit]

0-9
0 noa
1 taha 2 ua 3 tolu
4 5 nima 6 ono
7 fitu 8 valu 9 hiva

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:

10-90 'tens'
# 'full-style' 'telephone-style'
10 hongofulu taha-noa
20 ungofulu/uofulu ua-noa
30 tolungofulu tolu-noa
...
11-99
# 'full-style' 'telephone-style'
11 hongofulu ma taha taha-taha
24 ungofulu ma fā ua-fā
...
exceptions
# Tongan
22 uo-ua
55 nime-nima
99 hive-hiva
100-999 'simple'
# Tongan
100 teau
101 teau taha
110 teau hongofulu
120 teau-ua-noa
200 uongeau
300 tolungeau
...
100-999 'complex'
# Tongan
111 taha-taha-taha
222 uo-uo-ua
482 fā-valu-ua
...
1000-
# Tongan
1000 taha-afe
2000 ua-afe
...
10000 mano
100000 kilu
1000000 miliona
...

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.[citation needed]

Literature[edit]

Tongan is primarily a spoken, rather than written, language. The Bible and the Book of Mormon were translated into Tongan and few other books were written in it.[citation needed]

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
  • Talaki
  • Ko e Tauʻatāina

Monthly or two-monthly papers, mostly church publications:

Calendar[edit]

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.

[11]

Day Tongan Term
Monday Mōnite
Tuesday Tūsite
Wednesday Pulelulu
Thursday Tu'apulelulu
Friday Falaite
Saturday Tokonaki
Sunday Sāpate
Month Transliteration
January Sanuali
February Fepueli
March Ma'asi
April 'Epeleli
May
June Siune
July Siulai
August 'Aokosi
September Sepitema
October 'Okatopa
November Nōvema
December Tīsema

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Tongan at Ethnologue (17th ed., 2013)
  2. ^ Nordhoff, Sebastian; Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2013). "Tonga (Tonga Islands)". Glottolog 2.2. Leipzig: Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology. 
  3. ^ Laurie Bauer, 2007, The Linguistics Student’s Handbook, Edinburgh
  4. ^ "Kingdom of Tonga country brief". Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. Retrieved 2010-09-24. 
  5. ^ 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 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.
  6. ^ 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).
  7. ^ Glottal stop is represented as 'q' in reconstructed Proto-Polynesian words.
  8. ^ Archaic: the usual word in today's Tahitian is 'piti'.
  9. ^ 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.
  10. ^ Online Tongan edition of Liahona, lds.org
  11. ^ [1][dead link]

References[edit]

External links[edit]