Kokota language

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Region Santa Isabel Island
Native speakers
530 (1999)[1]
Language codes
ISO 639-3 kkk
Glottolog koko1269[2]
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Kokota is an Austronesian language spoken by perhaps as many as 1,200 people in three villages on Santa Isabel in the Solomon Islands. The villages of Goveo and Sisiga lie on the north coast, while Hurepelo lies on the south coast. People in all three villages use the language daily, but may eventually switch to neighboring Cheke Holo to the west, a language spoken by many more people who have recently settled between Goveo and Sisiga (Palmer 2009:1–2).



The vowel inventory of Kokota is remarkably uninteresting - reflecting the Oceanic five-vowel system - but the actual sound of each may vary according to the phonetic environment. Despite a lack of phonemic length distinction in Kokota, one does find long vowels; however, this is due to a sequence of two identical vowels, rather than one long vowel – this distinction is demonstrated by the optional insertion of an epenthetic glottal stop between the two vowels ((Palmer 1999:20).

Front Central Back
High i /i/ u /u/
Mid e /e/ o /o/
Low a /a/

Kokota doesn’t contain any phonemic diphthongs; however they do occur in normal speech. Only certain vowel sequences are eligible for diphthonisation. Sequences may only diphthongise if the second vowel present is higher than the first. Front-back and back-front movements are not eligible to become diphthongs. This leaves six diphthongs able to occur (Palmer 1999:21–22): /ae/, /ai/, /ao/, /au/, /ei/ and /ou/. Diphthongisation is also not restricted by morpheme boundaries. Thus, any sequence of eligible vowels may diphthongise.


Kokota orthography is heavily influenced by that of Cheke Holo. For instance, glottal stops are not phonemic in Kokota but are often written with an apostrophe (as in Cheke Holo) when they occur in certain nondistinctive environments, such as to mark morpheme boundaries between neighboring vowels. Similarly, Cheke Holo distinguishes j and z but Kokota does not. Nevertheless, Kokota speakers tend to use either letter to write phonemic /z/. The macron is used to write the voiced velar plosive /ɡ/ and the velar nasal /ŋ/.

Most consonants distinguish voiceless and voiced versions (left and right respectively in each cell in the table). Kokota presents a rather uncommon set of consonant phonemes in that each and every phoneme exists in a pair with its voiced or voiceless opposite. There are 22 consonant phonemes in total – 11 place and manner pairs of voiced and voiceless (Palmer 1999:12).

Bilabial Coronal Velar Glottal
Stops p /p/   b /b/ t /t/   d /d/ k /k/   ḡ /g/ (’)
Fricatives f /f/   v /v/ s /s/   z (j) /z/     g /ɣ/ h /h/
Nasals mh /m̥/   m /m/ nh /n̥/   n /n/ n̄h /ŋ̥/   n̄ /ŋ/
Lateral lh /l̥/   l /l/
Rhotic rh /ɾ̥/   r /ɾ/



There exist four sets of pronominal forms: preverbal subject indexed auxiliaries, post verbal object indexing, possessor indexing and independent pronouns (Palmer 1999:65). Complying with typical Oceanic features, Kokota distinguishes between four person categories: first person inclusive, first person exclusive, second person, and third person. The preverbal subject indexing auxiliaries do not differentiate between singular and plural, whereas possessor and postverbal object indexing do – except in first person inclusive, where no singular is possible (Palmer 1999:65).

Non-Independent: Subject pronouns[edit]

The preverbal subject-indexing pronouns do not distinguish number (Palmer 1999:65).

Person Singular=Plural
1st person inclusive da
1st person exclusive a
2nd person o
3rd person e

Non-Independent: Object pronouns[edit]

The object-indexing pronouns are postverbal clitics (Palmer 1999:65).

Person Singular Plural
1st person inclusive =gita
1st person exclusive =(n)au =ḡai
2nd person =(n)igo =ḡau
3rd person =(n)i ~ Ø (null) =di ~ ri

Non-Independent: Possessor pronouns[edit]

The possessor-indexing pronouns are suffixed to nouns (Palmer 1999:65).

Person Singular Plural
1st person inclusive -da
1st person exclusive -ḡu -mai
2nd person -(m)u -mi
3rd person -na -di

Independent: Focal pronouns[edit]

The independent pronouns, however, go one step further and differentiate between singular, dual, trial and plural numbers (Palmer 1999:65).

Person Singular Plural Dual Trial
1st person inclusive gita (+NUM) gita-palu gita-tilo ~ gita+NUM
1st person exclusive ara gai (+NUM) gai-palu gai-tilo ~ gai+NUM
2nd person ago gau (+NUM) gau-palu gau-tilo ~ gau+NUM
3rd person manei / nai maneri ~ rei+NUM rei-palu rei-tilo ~ rei+NUM

Possessive Constructions[edit]

Similarly to many Oceanic languages, Kokota makes the distinction between alienable possession and inalienable possession.


Inalienable possession consists of possessor indexing enclitics attaching to the nominal core of the possessed noun phrase as follows (Palmer 1999:121)):

Singular Plural
1st person inclusive - -da
1st person exclusive -ḡu -mai
2nd person -mu -mi
3rd person -na -di


Alienable possession is formed with a possessive base that is indexed to the possessor. This entire unit precedes the possessed noun phrase. Alienable possession is further broken down into two categories, consumable, whose base is ge-, and non-consumable, whose base is no- (Palmer 1999:121).

Singular Plural
1st person inclusive ge-da
1st person exclusive ge-ḡu ge-mai
2nd person ge-u ge-mi
3rd person ge-na ge-di
Singular Plural
1st person inclusive no-da
1st person exclusive no-ḡu no-mai
2nd person no-u no-mi
3rd person no-na no-di


  1. ^ Kokota at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015)
  2. ^ Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin; Bank, Sebastian, eds. (2016). "Kokota". Glottolog 2.7. Jena: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History.