Lengo language

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Native toSolomon Islands
Native speakers
14,000 (1999)[1]
Language codes
ISO 639-3lgr

Lengo is a Southeast Solomonic language of Guadalcanal.



Lengo has 6 vowels.[2]

Front Back
Close i u
Close-Mid e o
Open-Mid ɛ
Open ɑ

Vowel sequences occur commonly for all combinations of these vowels, with the exception of /uo/. The front open-mid vowel /ɛ/ never occurs in sequence.


Lengo has 15 consonants.[3]

Labial Coronal Velar
Nasal m n ŋ
ᵐb ⁿd ᵑɡ
p t k
Spirant v ð ɣ
Sibilant s
Trill r
Lateral l

Voiced stops are prenasalized. Two instances of regional variation in these phonemes have been observed. These are /v/ becoming /β/, and /ð/ becoming /z/.


Pronominal systems[edit]

Lengo has five sets of pronominal forms. These are emphatic, subject reference, object, direct possessor, and indirect possessor. These distinguish maximally between four persons (first person inclusive and exclusive, second, and third person), and four numbers (singular, plural, dual, and paucal). There is no grammatical gender distinction, but there is an animacy distinction in the object paradigm. Two further uses of these pronominal forms occur - a reflexive pronoun, and a set of interrogative pronouns.[4]

The dual and paucal forms are derived from the plural forms by the addition of ko- and tu- respectively. The dual forms are used only to indicate 'two and only two', whilst the plural and paucal forms mean 'two or more' and 'three or more' respectively. First person exclusive excludes the addresse(s).

Emphatic pronouns[edit]

The emphatic pronoun in Lengo is optional, and can occur in combination with obligatory pronouns that may occur with subject or object function. It can also appear without other pronouns. It is used to emphasize the semantic role of a noun in a clause.[5]

[5] 1st Inclusive 1st Exclusive 2nd 3rd
Singular inau ighoe igeia
Plural ighita ighami ighami igeira
Dual i-ko-ghita i-ko-ghami i-ko-ghamu i-ko-ira
Paucal i-tu-ghita i-tu-ghami i-tu-ghamu i-tu-ira


(1) ara gito-a t-i m-ara lavi dea-a na kei-gu inau
3PL steal-o:3SG RL-LOC CONJ-3PL take go-o:3SG ART basket-PS:1SG EP:1SG
"They stole it and they took it away my basket - mine."[6]

(2) ara-ko gara iti-a na thinaghe i-ko-ira m-u ghe tapa inau
3PL-DU pull up-o:3SG ART canoe DU.EP:3PL CONJ-1SG continue run EP:1SG
"they two pulled up the canoe and I continued to run."[7]

Subject reference pronouns[edit]

The subject reference pronoun appears as the first element in a verb phrase. It is obligatory in any main clause, but can be excepted in subordinate clauses. It is optional in imperative sentences.[8]

[9] 1st Inclusive 1st Exclusive 2nd 3rd
Singular u o e
Plural a ami amu ara
Dual a-ko ami-ko amu-ko ara-ko
Paucal a-tu ami-tu amu-tu ara-tu


(3) i-ko-ghami a P. ami-ko dea i nughu.
DU:EP:1EX.PL ART P. 1EX.PL-DU go LOC river
"We two, P. and I, we two went to the river."[9]

Object pronouns[edit]

The object form in Lengo is identified using a set of pronominal suffixes, which index the object arguments on the verb. In instances where a verb takes both a direct and indirect object, only the indirect object is marked. The third person plural object form is marked for animate or inanimate objects.[10]

[10] 1st Inclusive 1st Exclusive 2nd 3rd
Singular -u -gho -a
Plural -ghita -ghami -ghamu -ra (animate), -i (inanimate)
Dual -ko-ghita -ko-ghami -ko-ghamu -ko-ira
Paucal -tu-ghita -tu-ghami -tu-ghamu -tu-ira


(4) ara pitu-u
3PL wait-o:1SG
"They await me."[10]

Direct possessor pronouns[edit]

The direct possessor form is used for inalienably possessed nouns. It is a suffix on the possessed noun that indicates the possessor. In the case of the dual and paucal forms, number is indicated as a prefix on the noun, and the plural form of the possessive suffix is used.[11]

[12] 1st Inclusive 1st Exclusive 2nd 3rd
Singular -gu -mu -a, -na
Plural -da -mami -mu -dira
Dual ko- -da ko- -mami ko- -miu ko- -dira
Paucal tu- -da tu- -mami tu- -miu tu- -dira

The third person singular direct possessor appears in two forms, with '-a' being more prevalent than '-na'.[12]


(5) na vae-gu
ART house-PS:1SG
"My house."[11]

(6) A ko-dae-mami e belo
ART DU-child-PL:1EX.PL 3SG ring.bell
"our two's child is ringing the bell."[13]

Indirect possessor pronouns[edit]

The indirect possessor form is used for alienably possessed nouns. It occurs as a free morpheme preceding the possessed noun. There are two categories distinguished - 'oral consumable' and 'general'. The oral consumable category includes items that are able to be eaten, drunk, or consumed via the mouth, such as tobacco.[11]

[11] General Oral consumable
1st Inclusive 1st Exclusive 2nd 3rd 1st Inclusive 1st Exclusive 2nd 3rd
Singular ni-gu-a ni-mo-a ne gha-gu-a gha-mo-a ghe
Plural no-da ni-mami ni-miu no-dira gha-da gha-mami gha-miu gha-dira
Dual ko-no-da ko-ni-mami ko-ni-miu ko-no-dira ko-gha-da ko-gha-mami ko-gha-miu ko-gha-dira
Paucal tu-no-da tu-ni-mami tu-ni-miu tu-no-dira tu-gha-da tu-gha-mami tu-gha-miu tu-gha-dira

Oral consumable form:

(7) gha-mu-a na vudi lepa
oral.CLF-PS:2SG-O:3SG ART banana ripe
"[Here is a] ripe banana for you to eat."[14]

General form:

(8) ne na be O.
PS:3SG ART pig O
"O's pig."[15]

Reflexive pronouns[edit]

A reflexive pronoun is composed when a direct possessor suffix is added to the stem 'tibo'. This results in a valency decrease of the verb.[14]


(9) u toka tibo-gu.
"I cut myself."[16]

(10) u toka na ghai
1SG cut ART tree
"I cut the tree."

Interrogative and relative pronouns[edit]

Lengo has two pronouns that have interrogative or relative uses. 'thi' is used if the reference is human, and 'tha' if the reference is non-human.[16]

Relative use:

(11) na tinoni ketha a thi ga deni ba k-e mai lau-a pile-a na vanga de
ART person different ART REL there DEM FUT IRR-3SG come take-o:3SG little.bit-o:3SG ART food DEM
"a different person who is over there will come take a bit of this food."[16]

Interrogative use:

(12) na tha t-o goni-a?
"What are you doing?"[17]


There are several ways to indicate negation in Lengo.

There is the discontinuous morpheme mo 'NEG', which surrounds the verb being negated. There are three modals which can appear in the serial verb construction and are negative (teigha), prohibitive (tabu) or non-volitive (kou). Lastly, there is the auxiliary boro 'impossible FUT', which is sometimes glossed as 'NEG' and can negate the verb.

The mo ... mo 'NEG ... NEG' structure can also be combined with teigha 'NEG' to create a double negative, which carries the meaning of a strong affirmative.[18]

Discontinuous morpheme mo ... mo[edit]

The grammatical negator, the mo ... mo 'NEG ... NEG' structure, is the only instance of a 'discontinuous' morpheme in Lengo. The morpheme mo appears both before and after the verb being negated.[18] The basic structure of this construction is mo V mo, as seen in (13) and (14):

(13) Mo ole mo.
NEG walk NEG
'Don't walk.'[19]
(14) Mo thaghata leo mo.
NEG bad inside NEG
'Don't worry.'[19]

A variant of this construction is mo ... moa, as seen in (15).

(15) ko mo lubathia moa pe dea
2SG NEG let.3SG NEG or.3SG go
'Don't let it out (release it) or it will run away.'[20]

Note that although all examples presented by Unger show mo ... mo 'NEG ... NEG' used for a negative imperative, it should not be assumed that this construction is exclusive to a particular sentence structure. More examples are needed for a satisfactory conclusion.

Regardless, mo ... mo is an uncommon negator in Lengo. Much more frequently used is the modal teigha 'NEG'.


Lengo has a 'serial verb construction'. The various types of serial verb construction identified are directional, sequential, causative, manner, ambient, comitative, dative, instrumental and modal.[21] The basic structure of a modal serial verb construction is as follows:

V + na V(-O)[21]

The first verb is the modal verb, and the second verb follows an article (always na). This second verb is treated somewhat like an infinitive.[22] Lengo has five modal verbs; of these, three are used to create negative constructions. These three are:[23]

Modal Meaning
teigha negative
tabu prohibitive
kou non-volitive

Negative teigha[edit]

Of all the ways to express negation in Lengo, the modal teigha 'NEG' is the most versatile and often used.[24] It can be used to negate verbs in statements, like in (16):

(16) ami-ko teigha na ta~tavu thai-a na kei
1EX.PL-DU NEG ART RDP~find 'arrive.at'-o:3SG ART basket
'we couldn't find the basket'[24]

In (17) and (18), teigha appears at the very beginning of the serial verb construction, and the realis locative t-i appears between the negator and the article na. The entire serial verb construction is negated by teigha.

(17) Ba k-u teigha t-i na mono varongo i vanua.
FUT IRR-1SG NEG RL-LOC ART stay quiet LOC village
'I really won't be sitting around in the village.'[25]
(18) E teigha t-i na mono varongo!
3SG NEG RL-LOC ART stay quiet
'He simply cannot be still!'[24]

Sometimes the construction teigha na undergoes elision and is shortened to tena, like in (19):

(19) "gami tena agri ighami," gi gea ena
g-ami teigha na agri ighami g-i gea ena
'"we don't agree," they said'[24]

It is important to note that this shortened form tena 'NEG' should not be confused with tena 'LOC'. Refer to example (20), which shows both homophones in use: the first being the locative and the second (bolded) being the combined modal and article.

(20) tangomana tugua tena bona deni. E. tena tuaghai. Geia po. Taigu.
tangomana tugu-a tena bona deni e teigha na tuaghai geia po taigu
possible story-o:3SG LOC time DEM 3SG NEG ART long EP:3SG LIM thank.you
'That just the story I am able to tell at this time. It's not long. That's it. Thank you.'[26]

Teigha is flexible and can be used to create negative polar questions and answer polar questions, as in examples (21), (22) and (23).

Example (21) is a negative polar question which can be answered with either eo 'yes' or teigha 'no'. Answering with eo would mean 'yes, I have not seen your basket', whereas answering with teigha would mean 'no, I have seen it'.[27]

In example (22), teigha is used to answer a polar question in the negative. In (23), teigha is modified by an adverbial, vata 'continue'.

(21) o teigha na bere na kei-gu?
2SG NEG ART see ART basket-PS:1SG
'you haven't seen my basket?'[27]
(22) O bo dea i leghai? Teigha.
2SG IMPF go LOC garden NEG
'Are you going to the garden?' 'No.'[28]
(23) A P. t-e mai? Teigha vata.
ART P RL-3SG come NEG continue
'Has P. come?' 'Not yet.'[29]

In (24), o teigha 'or NEG' is added to the end of the sentence to create an alternative question.

(24) Ba k-o dea o teigha?
'Are you going or not?'[28]

A content question can also be answered with teigha, as in (25).

(25) E ngitha na igha t-o lavi? Teigha.
3SG how.many ART fish RL-2SG take NEG
'How many fish did you catch?' 'None.'[28]

Prohibitive tabu[edit]

The word tabu 'prohibitive (with consequences); forbidden' is another common way of forming a negative. It is often used by parents who are correcting their children.[29] As with teigha 'no/none', a clause could consist of the single word Tabu! 'Don't!'[30] The basic structure is the same as with other modals: the first verb is the modal, and it is followed by the article na and the second verb.

In (26), the consequence of disobeying is explicitly addressed. In (27), the article na is omitted, and the consequence of 'or else ...' is implied.

(26) Tabu na lavi-a na ghau: b-e ghado-gho
NEG ART grab-o:3SG ART knife APPR-3SG pierce-o:2SG
'Don't grab the knife: no good it cuts you!'[29]
(27) Tabu le~leu!
NEG RDP~fight
'Don't fight!'[31]

Non-volitive kou[edit]

The third and last negative modal is kou 'unwilling', which is used to indicate non-volition. It appears in the same place as teigha and tabu, but carries a more specific meaning.

In example (28), if the more general teigha 'NEG' had been used instead of kou, it would simply mean that the fish do not eat the bait. However, in (28), the fish not only do not eat the bait, but they will not.[31]

Example (29) has the words laka 'also' and t-i 'RL-LOC' in between the negator and the article na.

(28) Kou na vanga na igha.
NEG ART eat ART fish
'The fish are unwilling to eat [the bait].'[31]
(29) Ma na tha laka e kou laka t-i na lighu-ni-a ghini-a igha deni m-e ghe laka po t-i tena maone.
CONJ ART REL also 3SG NEG also RL-LOC ART pass-TR-o:3SG INST-o:3SG fish DEM CONJ-3SG continue also LIM RL-LOC LOC sand
'And what's more, he [the fish] was unwilling to be passed by him [the turtle] so this fish also just continued onto the sand.'[31]

Auxiliary boro[edit]

In Lengo, tense auxiliaries appear before the subject reference pronoun and verb. There are two tense auxiliaries: bo 'FUT' and boro 'impossible FUT'. While boro is perhaps not a straightforward example of negation, it nevertheless does carry a meaning of 'negation for a reason'. If tabu is specifically prohibitive and kou is specifically non-volitive, then boro can be presented as a negator denoting impossibility. Furthermore, it is sometimes glossed as NEG, as in (30):

(30) Boro k-e ghe dea tena group sakai, boro tena group ruka, ba k-e masi ba oli ba tena nimiu na thara tibo-miu t-i ighamu na K.
NEG IRR-3SG continue go LOC group one NEG LOC group two FUT IRR-3SG must FUT return FUT LOC PS:2PL ART feast.row REFL-PS:2PL RL-LOC EP:2PL ART K
'It cannot go to group one, it cannot go to group two; it must return to your feast row—yourselves [group] K.'[32]

Example (31) shows boro glossed as 'impossible'. However, it still has the effect of negating the verb.

(31) pukua na thara deni boro k-a tovothi thudu
because ART feast DEM impossible IRR-1IN.PL separate sit
'because at this feast it will be impossible for us to sit separate'[33]

Double negative construction[edit]

The modal teigha 'NEG can be combined with the mo ... mo 'NEG ... NEG' structure to create a double negative, which carries the meaning of a strong affirmative, as in (32). However, this construction (meaning 'must') is rarely used. Instead, the Pijin form masi 'must', a borrowing from English, is much more common.[19]

Example (33) shows the same sentence as (32), but without either of the negation structures. This example is a simple imperative.

(32) k-o mo ghe teigha mo na mai
IRR-2SG NEG continue NEG NEG ART come
'you must come' (lit., 'you must not not continue to come')[19]
(33) k-o ghe mai
IRR-2SG continue come
'you, continue coming'[34]


The following is a list of all the abbreviations used in this article.

1 first person
2 second person
3 third person
APPR apprehensive
ART article
CLF classifier
CONJ conjunction
DEM demonstrative
DU dual
EP emphatic pronoun
EX exclusive
FUT future
IMPF imperfective
INST instrumental
INT interrogative
IRR irrealis
LIM limiter
LOC locative
o/O object
PFCT perfective
PL plural
PS possessor pronoun / person
RDP reduplication
RL realis
REFL reflexive
REL relative pronoun
SG singular
TR transitivitiser


  1. ^ Lengo at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015)
  2. ^ Unger 2008, p. 5.
  3. ^ Unger 2008, p. 4.
  4. ^ Unger 2008, pp. 27-29.
  5. ^ a b Unger 2008, p. 29.
  6. ^ Unger 2008, p. 32.
  7. ^ Unger 2008, p. 30.
  8. ^ Unger 2008, p. 34.
  9. ^ a b Unger 2008, p. 37.
  10. ^ a b c Unger 2008, p. 39.
  11. ^ a b c d Unger 2008, p. 42.
  12. ^ a b Unger 2008, p. 41.
  13. ^ Unger 2008, p. 49.
  14. ^ a b Unger 2008, p. 44.
  15. ^ Unger 2008, p. 43.
  16. ^ a b c Unger 2008, p. 45.
  17. ^ Unger 2008, p. 46.
  18. ^ a b Unger 2008, p. 137.
  19. ^ a b c d Unger 2008, p. 138.
  20. ^ Unger 2008, p. 201.
  21. ^ a b Unger 2008, p. 141.
  22. ^ Unger 2008, p. 159.
  23. ^ Unger 2008, p. 158.
  24. ^ a b c d Unger 2008, p. 161.
  25. ^ Unger 2008, p. 151.
  26. ^ Unger 2008, p. 230.
  27. ^ a b Unger 2008, p. 189.
  28. ^ a b c Unger 2008, p. 162.
  29. ^ a b c Unger 2008, p. 163.
  30. ^ Unger 2008, p. 76.
  31. ^ a b c d Unger 2008, p. 164.
  32. ^ Unger 2008, p. 135.
  33. ^ Unger 2008, p. 111.
  34. ^ Unger 2008, p. 139.


Unger, Paul (2008). Aspects of Lengo grammar (Thesis). Trinity Western University.

External links[edit]