Lengo language

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Native to Solomon Islands
Region Guadalcanal
Native speakers
14,000 (1999)[1]
Language codes
ISO 639-3 lgr
Glottolog leng1259[2]

Lengo is a Southeast Solomonic language of Guadalcanal.



Lengo has 6 vowels (Unger, 2008:5).

Front Near-Back 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 (Unger, 2008:4).

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 (Unger, 2008:27-29).

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 (Unger, 2008:29).

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

(Unger, 2008:29)


(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."
(Unger, 2008:32)

(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."
(Unger, 2008:30)

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 (Unger, 2008:34).

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

(Unger, 2008:37)


(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."
(Unger, 2008:37)

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 (Unger, 2008:39).

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

(Unger, 2008:39)


(4) ara pitu-u
3PL wait-o:1SG
"They await me."
(Unger, 2008:39)

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 (Unger, 2008:42).

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

(Unger, 2008:41)

The third person singular direct possessor appears in two forms, with '-a' being more prevalent than '-na' (Unger, 2008:41).


(5) na vae-gu
ART house-PS:1SG
"My house."
(Unger, 2008:42)

(6) A ko-dae-mami e belo
ART DU-child-PL:1EX.PL 3SG ring.bell
"our two's child is ringing the bell."
(Unger, 2008:49)

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 (Unger, 2008:42).

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

(Unger, 2008:42)

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."
(Unger, 2008:44)

General form:

(8) ne na be O.
PS:3SG ART pig O
"O's pig."
(Unger, 2008:43)

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 (Unger, 2008:44).


(9) u toka tibo-gu.
"I cut myself."
(Unger, 2008:45)

(9) 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 (Unger, 2008:45).

Relative use:

(8) 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."
(Unger, 2008:45)

Interrogative use:

(9) na tha t-o goni-a?
"What are you doing?"
(Unger, 2008:46)

External links[edit]


  1. ^ Lengo at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015)
  2. ^ Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2017). "Lengo". Glottolog 3.0. Jena, Germany: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History. 

Unger, Paul (2008). Aspects of Lengo Grammar, Canada Institute of Linguistics at Trinity Western University.