Tongan language

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lea faka-Tonga
Native toTonga;
significant immigrant community in New Zealand and the United States
Native speakers
  • 96,000 in Tonga cited 1998)[1]
    73,000 elsewhere (no date), primarily in NZ, U.S., and Australia[2]
Official status
Official language in
Language codes
ISO 639-1to
ISO 639-2ton
ISO 639-3ton
This article contains IPA phonetic symbols. Without proper rendering support, you may see question marks, boxes, or other symbols instead of Unicode characters. For an introductory guide on IPA symbols, see Help:IPA.

Tongan (English pronunciation: /ˈtɒŋən/[3][4][5] or /ˈtɒŋɡən/;[4][5][a] lea fakatonga) is an Austronesian language of the Polynesian branch native to the island nation of Tonga. It has around 187,000 speakers.[6] It uses the word order verb–subject–object.

Related languages[edit]

Tongan is one of the multiple languages in the Polynesian branch of the Austronesian languages, along with Hawaiian, Māori, 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 /ʔ/; however, it has been retained in Tongan and a few other languages including Rapa Nui.[b]
  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.[c]

Tongan has heavily influenced the Wallisian language after Tongans colonized the island of ʻUvea in the 15th and 16th centuries.[7]

Polynesian sound correspondences
Phoneme Proto-Polynesian Tongan Niuean Samoan Rapa Nui Tahitian Māori Cook Is. Māori Hawaiian English
/ŋ/ *taŋata tangata tagata 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[d] matuʻa matua matua matuʻa metua matua metua, matua makua parent
/r/ *rua ua ua lua rua rua[e] rua rua ʻelua two
/l/ *tolu tolu tolu tolu toru toru toru toru ʻekolu three



The earliest attempts to transcribe the Tongan language were made by Willem Schouten and Jacob Le Maire of the Dutch East India Company when they first arrived in 1616. They transcribed a limited number of nouns and verbs using phonetic Dutch spelling and added them to a growing list of Polynesian vocabulary. Abel Tasman, also of the Dutch East India Company, attempted to converse with indigenous Tongans using vocabulary from this list when he arrived on Tongatapu on 20 January 1643, although he was poorly understood, likely using words added from different Polynesian languages.[8]


Tongan is presently 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, etc. That 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, which, since his time, 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


  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.

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.[citation needed])

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/.



Labial Alveolar Velar Glottal
Nasal m n ŋ
Plosive p t k ʔ
Continuant f   v s   l h

/l/ may also be heard as an alveolar flap sound [ɺ].


Front Central Back
High i u
Mid e o
Low a


  • 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). 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 .[citation needed] 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 uses only two articles:

By contrast, Tongan has three articles, and possessives also have a three-level definiteness distinction:

  • indefinite, nonspecific: ha. Example: ko ha fale ('a house', 'any house' - the speaker has no specific house in mind, any house will satisfy this description, e.g. 'I want to buy a house')
  • indefinite, specific: (h)e. Example: ko e fale ('a (particular) house' - the speaker has a specific house in mind, but the listener is not expected to know which house, e.g. 'I bought a house')
  • definite, specific: (h)e with the shifted ultimate stress. Example: ko e falé ('the house', - the speaker has a specific house in mind and the listener is expected to know which one from context, e.g. 'I bought the house I told you about').


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 ʻo 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 languages.


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

The Tongan language distinguishes four persons: First person exclusive, first person inclusive, second person and third person. They appear as the four major rows in the tables below. This gives us 12 main groups.

Subjective and objective[edit]

In addition, possessive pronouns are either alienable (reddish) or inalienable (greenish), which Churchward termed subjective and objective. This marks a distinction that has been referred to, in some analyses of other Polynesian languages, as a-possession versus o-possession, respectively,[f] though more Tongan-appropriate version would be ʻe-possession and ho-possession.

Subjective and objective are fitting labels when dealing with verbs: ʻeku taki "my leading" vs. hoku taki "my being led". However, this is less apt when used on nouns. Indeed, in most contexts hoku taki would be interpreted as "my leader", as a noun rather than a verb. What then of nouns that have no real verb interpretation, such as fale "house"?

Churchward himself laid out the distinction thus:[9]

But what about those innumerable cases in which the possessive can hardly be said to correspond either to the subject or to the object of a verb? What, for example, is the rule or the guiding principle, which lies behind the fact that a Tongan says ʻeku paʻanga for ' my money' but hoku fale for 'my house'? It may be stated as follows: the use of ʻeku for 'my' implies that I am active, influential, or formative, &c., towards the thing mentioned, whereas the use of hoku for 'my' implies that the thing mentioned is active, influential, or formative, &c., towards me. Or, provided that we give a sufficiently wide meaning to the word 'impress', we may say, perhaps, that ʻeku is used in reference to things upon which I impress myself, while hoku is used in reference to things which impress themselves upon me.

ʻE possessives are generally used for:

  • Goods, money, tools, utensils, instruments, weapons, vehicles, and other possessions which the subject owns or uses (ʻeku paʻanga, "my money")
  • Animals or birds which the subjects owns or uses (ʻeku fanga puaka, "my pigs")
  • Things which the subject eats, drinks, or smokes (ʻeku meʻakai, "my food")
  • Things which the subject originates, makes, mends, carries, or otherwise deals with (ʻeku kavenga, "my burden")
  • Persons in the subject's employ, under their control, or in their care (ʻeku tamaioʻeiki "my male servant")

Ho possessives are generally used for

  • Things which are a part of the subject or 'unalienable' from the subject, such as body parts (hoku sino, "my body")
  • Persons or things which represent the subject (hoku hingoa, "my name")
  • The subject's relatives, friends, associates, or enemies (hoku hoa, "my companion (spouse)")
  • Things which are provided for the subject or devolve to them or fall to their lot (hoku tofiʻa, "my inheritance")
  • In general, persons or things which surround, support, or control the subject, or on which the subject depends (hoku kolo, "my village/town")

There are plenty of exceptions which do not fall under the guidelines above, for instance, ʻeku tamai, "my father". The number of exceptions is large enough to make the alienable and inalienable distinction appear on the surface to be as arbitrary as the grammatical gender distinction for Romance languages, but by and large the above guidelines hold true.

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 used 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
(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
  • 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 somewhat of a misnomer, at least in the singular. 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 kiate koe: I shall ask you
  • Te ke tali kiate 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 Samoan 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
or not
type singular dual plural
alienable2,5 inalienable2,5 alienable2,5 inalienable2,5 alienable2,5 inalienable2,5
1st person
(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
(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
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


  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 somewhat of 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 ho fale '(it is) your house' (inalienable), ko ho'o tohi, '(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 taki 'his/her leadership'; ko hono taki 'his/her leader'.

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
(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
(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
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


  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 clothing 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


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

In Tongan, "telephone-style" numerals can be used: reading numbers by simply saying their digits one by one.[10][11] 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
# 'full-style' 'telephone-style'
11 hongofulu ma taha taha-taha
24 ungofulu ma fā ua-fā
# 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
# 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.[12] (Cf. Classifier (linguistics).)


Tongan has a very rich oral literature and is primarily a spoken, rather than written, language.

One of the first publications of Tongan texts was in William Mariner's grammar and dictionary of the Tongan language, edited and published in 1817 by John Martin as part of volume 2 of Mariner's Account of the Natives of the Tonga Islands, in the South Pacific Ocean.[13] Orthography has changed since Mariner's time.

An annotated list of dictionaries and vocabularies of the Tongan language is available at the website of the Bibliographical Society of America under the resource heading 'Breon Mitchell": .

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
  • Tonga Maʻa Tonga

Monthly or two-monthly papers, mostly church publications:


The Tongan calendar was based on the phases of the moon and had 13 months. The main purpose of the calendar, for Tongans, was to determine the time for the planting and cultivation of yams, which were Tonga's most important staple food.

Name Compared to Modern Calendar
Lihamuʻa mid-November to early December
Lihamui mid-December to early January
Vaimuʻa mid-January to early February
Vaimui mid-February to early March
Fakaafu Moʻui mid-March to early April
Fakaaafu Mate mid-April to early May
Hilingakelekele mid-May to early June
Hilingameaʻa mid-June to early July
ʻAoʻaokimasisiva mid-July to early August
Fuʻufuʻunekinanga mid-August to early September
ʻUluenga mid-September to early October
Tanumanga early October to late October
ʻOʻoamofanongo late October to early November.


Day Tongan Term
Monday Mōnite
Tuesday Tūsite
Wednesday Pulelulu
Thursday Tuʻapulelulu
Friday Falaite
Saturday Tokonaki
Sunday Sāpate
Month Transliteration
January Sānuali
February Fēpueli
March Maʻasi
April ʻEpeleli
June Sune
July Siulai
August ʻAokosi
September Sēpitema
October ʻOkatopa
November Nōvema
December Tisema


  1. ^ Both pronunciations are used in English, although the former is preferred as it is closer to the Tongan pronunciation. In North America and the United Kingdom, both pronunciations are used, while the preferred pronunciation (i.e the former) is almost always used in Australia, New Zealand and the Pacific Islands.
  2. ^ 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.
  3. ^ 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 Samoan).
  4. ^ Glottal stop is represented as 'q' in reconstructed Proto-Polynesian words.
  5. ^ Archaic: the usual word in today's Tahitian is 'piti'.
  6. ^ 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.


  1. ^ Tongan at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015) (subscription required)
  2. ^ Tongan language at Ethnologue (17th ed., 2013) closed access
  3. ^ "Tongan". Oxford English Dictionary (Online ed.). Oxford University Press. Retrieved 10 February 2022. (Subscription or participating institution membership required.)
  4. ^ a b "Tongan". Lexico. Archived from the original on March 26, 2020. Retrieved 10 February 2022.
  5. ^ a b "Tongan". Dictionary. Retrieved 10 February 2022.
  6. ^ "Tongan". Ethnologue. Retrieved 2017-12-13.
  7. ^ Akihisa Tsukamoto (1994). LIT Verlag Münster (ed.). Forschungen über die Sprachen der Inseln zwischen Tonga und Saamoa (in German). p. 109. ISBN 3825820157.
  8. ^ Thompson, Christina (5 March 2020). Sea People: In Search of the Ancient Navigators of the Pacific. Glasgow, Scotland: William Collins. pp. 57–58. ISBN 978-0-00-833905-0.
  9. ^ Churchward, C.M. (1999). Tongan Grammar. Vava'u Press Limited. p. 81. ISBN 982-213-007-4.
  10. ^ Churchward, Clerk Maxwell (1953). Tongan grammar (Pbk. ed.). Tonga: Vava'u Press. p. 171. ISBN 0-908717-05-9. OCLC 21337535.
  11. ^ "UniLang • Tongan for Beginners". Retrieved 2020-04-08.
  12. ^ Churchward, C.M. (1999). Tongan Grammar. Vava'u Press Limited. pp. 184–189. ISBN 982-213-007-4.
  13. ^ "An account of the natives of the Tonga Islands, in the South Pacific Ocean. With an original grammar and vocabulary of their language". 1817.
  14. ^ Online Tongan edition of Liahona,
  15. ^ "Koe Ta'u Faka-Tonga". (in Tongan). Archived from the original on October 27, 2011.


  • Garellek, Marc and Tabain, Marija (2020). "Tongan". Illustrations of the IPA. Journal of the International Phonetic Association. 50 (3): 406–416. doi:10.1017/S0025100318000397{{cite journal}}: CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link), with supplementary sound recordings.
  • Harry Feldman, Some Notes on Tongan Phonology. 1978. Oceanic Linguistics 17. 133–139.
  • C.Maxwell Churchward, Tongan Grammar. 1999. Tonga: Vavaʼu Press ISBN 982-213-007-4 (previously: 1953. London: Oxford University Press ; 1985. Tonga: Vavaʼu Press ISBN 0-908717-05-9)
  • C.Maxwell Churchward, Tongan Dictionary: Tongan-English and English-Tongan. 1999. Tonga: Vavaʼu Press (previously: 1959. London : Oxford University Press)
  • Edgar Tuʻinukuafe, A Simplified Dictionary of Modern Tongan. 1993. Polynesian Press ISBN 0908597096, ISBN 978-0908597093

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