Raga (also known as Hano) is the language of northern Pentecost island in Vanuatu. Raga belongs to the East Vanuatu languages, a branch of the Austronesian languages family. In old sources the language is sometimes referred to by the names of villages in which it is spoken, such as Bwatvenua (Qatvenua), Lamalanga, Vunmarama and Loltong.
With an estimated 6,500 native speakers (in the year 2000), Raga is the second most widely spoken of Pentecost's five native languages (after Apma), and the seventh largest vernacular in Vanuatu as a whole. There are significant communities of Raga speakers on Maewo island and in Port Vila and Luganville as a result of emigration from Pentecost.
The Raga spoken by most people today is heavily mixed with Bislama, Vanuatu's national language. The Turaga indigenous movement, based at Lavatmanggemu in north-eastern Pentecost, have attempted to purge the language of foreign influences by coining or rediscovering native words for introduced concepts such as "torch battery" (vat bongbongi, literally "night stones") and "hour" (ngguha, literally "movement"). Members of the Turaga movement write in Raga language using Avoiuli, a unique writing system inspired by local sand drawings.
Raga is generally considered an easy language to speak and learn, and is known as a second language by a number of speakers of other Vanuatu languages.
Modern Raga is relatively homogeneous, with no significant dialectal variation. A distinctive southern dialect of Raga, Nggasai, is now extinct; its last native speaker died in 1999.
Several grammatical sketches, vocabulary lists and short papers on Raga have been published, beginning with the work of R H Codrington and von der Gabelentz in the late 19th century, and a number of religious texts have been translated into the language. However, no thorough description of Raga has ever been published.
The consonants of Raga are b, d, g (pronounced [x] like in Scottish "loch"), h, k, l, m, n, ng (like in English "singer"), ngg (prenasalised g), r, s, t, v (commonly pronounced like English f), w, and labiovelar bw, mw and vw. In printed media, ng and ngg are generally represented by n and g with italics or macrons.
Prenasalization of consonants, such that b becomes mb and d becomes nd, occurs when the preceding consonant is a nasal one (m, n or ng). Thus mabu "rest", for example, is pronounced mambu.
Raga has the five basic vowels a, e, i, o and u. Vowels are not generally distinguished for length.
Word roots in Raga nearly always end with a vowel. However, word-final vowels are often dropped within phrases, so that, for example, tanga "basket" and maita "white" combine to make tang maita "white basket".
Stress occurs on the penultimate syllable of a word.
Basic word order in Raga is subject–verb–object.
|1st person singular||inau||"me"|
|2nd person singular||ginggo||"you" (singular)|
|3rd person singular||kea||"him / her / it"|
|1st person dual (inclusive)||gidaru||"us" (you and me, two of us)|
|1st person dual (exclusive)||kamaru||"us" (me and another)|
|2nd person dual||kimiru||"you (two)"|
|1st person plural (inclusive)||gida||"us" (you and me)|
|1st person plural (exclusive)||kamai||"us" (me and others)|
|2nd person plural||kimiu||"you" (plural)|
|3rd person dual/plural||kera||"them"|
Plurality is indicated by placing ira before a noun:
- manu = [the] bird
- ira manu = [the] birds
Nouns may be suffixed to indicate whom an item belongs to. For example:
- iha = name
- ihaku = my name
- ihamwa = your name
- ihana = his/her name
- ihan ratahigi = the chief's name
Possession may also be indicated by the use of possessive classifiers, separate words that occur before the noun and take possessive suffixes. These classifiers are:
- no- for general possessions (nonggu tanga, "my basket")
- bila- for things that are cared for, such as crops and livestock (bilada boe, "our pig")
- ga- for things to be eaten (gam bweta, "your taro")
- ma- for things to be drunk (mara wai, "their water")
Historically there was also a classifier wa- for sugarcane to be chewed (wan toi, "his sugarcane"); this has fallen out of use among younger speakers.
The possessive suffixes are as follows:
|1st person singular||-ku or -nggu||"of mine"|
|2nd person singular||-mwa||"of yours" (singular)|
|3rd person singular||-na||"of his/hers/its"|
|1st person dual (inclusive)||-daru||"of ours" (yours and mine, two of us)|
|1st person dual (exclusive)||-maru||"of ours" (mine and another's)|
|2nd person dual||-miru||"of yours" (two of you)|
|1st person plural (inclusive)||-da||"of ours" (yours and mine)|
|1st person plural (exclusive)||-mai||"of ours" (mine and others')|
|2nd person plural||-miu||"of yours" (plural)|
|3rd person dual/plural||-ra||"of theirs"|
A verb may be transformed into a noun by the addition of a nominalising suffix -ana:
- bwalo = to fight (verb)
- bwaloana = a fight (noun)
Modifiers generally come after a noun:
- vanua = island
- vanua kolo = small island
- vanua gairua = two islands
The subject pronouns are as follows:
|1st person singular||na-||"I"|
|2nd person singular||go-||"you" (singular)|
|1st person plural (inclusive)||ta-||"we" (you and I)|
|1st person plural (exclusive)||ga-||"we" (others and I)|
|2nd person plural||gi-||"you" (plural)|
|3rd person plural||ra-||"they"|
There is no 3rd person singular subject pronoun ("he/she/it").
Raga has five sets of tense/aspect/mood markers:
|Tense / Aspect / Mood||Used for||Marker (full form)||Marker (short form)|
|Imperfective||Actions in the present tense
Temporary or changing states
|Perfective||Actions in the past tense
|Potential||Things that may happen in the future||vi||-v or -i|
|Prospective||Things that are about to happen||men||-men|
|Hypothetical||Things that have not happened and probably won't||si||-s|
The full forms of these markers are used in the 3rd person singular, when there is usually no subject pronoun:
- mwa lolia = he does it
- nu lolia = he did it
- vi lolia = he will do it
Elsewhere, short forms of these markers are suffixed to the subject pronoun:
- nam lolia = I do it
- nan lolia = I did it
- nav lolia = I will do it
There are also dual (two-person) forms incorporating a particle ru "two":
- ram lolia = they do it
- ramuru lolia = the two of them do it
Historically there were trial (three-person) forms incorporating a particle dol or tol, but these have fallen out of use.
There is a pattern of verb-consonant mutation whereby v at the start of a verb changes to b, vw to bw, g to ngg, and t to d. This mutation occurs in imperfective aspect, and in the presence of the additive marker mom:
- nan vano = I went
- nam bano = I am going
Negative sentences are indicated with the two-part marker hav...te(he) "not", which encloses the verb and anything suffixed to it:
- nan hav lolia tehe = I didn't do it
The passive voice can be formed by attaching the suffix -ana to the verb:
- nu lolia = he did it
- nu loliana = it was done
The direct object immediately follows the verb. Some object pronouns take the form of suffixes attached to the verb:
|1st person singular||-(a)u||"me"|
|2nd person singular||-go||"you" (singular)|
|3rd person singular (or inanimate plural)||-a or -e||"him" / "her" / "it" (or "them")|
|3rd person plural (animate)||-ra||"them"|
In some cases a particle -ni- interposes between the verb and the object pronoun:
- nam doronia = I like it
|Where are you going?||Gomen van (hala) behe?|
|Where have you come from?||Gon mai (hala) behe?|
|Where is it?||Mwa ndo (hala) behe?|
|It's here||Mwa ndo teti|
|Come here!||Mai teti!|
|Go away!||Van dagai!|
|What's your name?||Ihamwa be ihei?|
|My name is...||Ihaku be...|
|Where are you from?||Ginggo ata behe? / Ginggo nin behe?|
|I am from...||Inau ata... / Inau nin...|
|How much? / How many?||Gaiviha?|
|one||tea / gaituvwa|
|It's just fine||Nu tavuha ngano|
- The Languages of Pentecost Island - information on Raga
- Leo huri ganisabuga Anglican Holy Communion from the Book of Common Prayer in Raga, digitized by Richard Mammana and Charles Wohlers