To’abaita language

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Native to Solomon Islands
Region Malaita Island
Native speakers
13,000 (1999)[1]
Language codes
ISO 639-3 mlu
Glottolog toab1237[2]

Toqabaqita/To'abaita Language[edit]

Toqabaqita is the language spoken by the people living at the north-western tip of Malaita Island, of South Eastern Solomon Islands. Toqabaqita, also known as To’abaita as well as To’ambaita, Malu and Malu’u is an Austronesian language.[3] The website Ethnologue records the number of speakers of Toqabaqita as 12,600 in 1999.[4] Lichtenberk, who has written an extensive grammar of Toqabaqita reports that Toqabaqita may be part of a North Malaita group of dialects which includes Baeguu, Baelelae and Fataleka, and possibly Lau. Ethnologue however reports no known dialects of Toqabaqita, but reports that within this group of languages, they are mutually intelligible.[5] Lichtenberk points out that the speakers of Toqabaqita do recognize similarities across the whole island’s languages, but the Toqabaqita people themselves do not have this conception of North Malaita being a language and Toqabaqita as a dialect within this group.[6]

Toqabaqita is classified as member of the Malayo-Polynesian, Oceanic, Central-Eastern Oceanic, Southeast Solomonic language family. Then there is a slight divergence in classification between Lichtenberk and Glottolog.[7] Lichetenberk classifies the next subgrouping as Longgu/Malaita/Makira (San Crisobel), whereas Glottolog does not include Longgu at this point, but instead as a sister subgroup to Malaita/Makira.[8]

The Wikipedia entry for Longgu, which is a Southeast Solomonic language spoken on Guadalcanal, is reported to be originally from Malaita. Lichtenberg then breaks the Malaita/Makira subgroup into the Central/Northern and Southern Malaita subgroups, then North Malaita subgroup itself, to which Toqabaqita belongs.[9] In contrast Glottolog breaks the subgroup Malaita/ San Cristobel (Makira) into two subgroups Malaita/Makira and Longgu, then to North and south Malaita subgroups, where the north includes the above listed putative dialects as well as the central Malaita languages.[10] The number of speakers of Toqabaqita is relatively high for a Solomon Islands language, although most speakers become bilingual in Pijin as they grow up. Toqabaqita has the status of first language for children, and is used in daily life. Many Toqabaqita speakers also speak some English, and this is the language of the schools, although only primary schools are available locally.[11] The literacy rate in Toqabaqita is 30-60%, and Latin script is used.[12]


Toqabaqita phonemes consist of 17 consonants and 5 vowels.[13]

Consonant phonemes[14]
Bilabial Interdental Dental Velar Labial-velar Glottal
Nasal m n ŋ
Stop voiceless t k k͡p ʔ
voiced b d g g͡b
Fricative ɸ θ s
Approximant w
Leteral l
Trill r

/k͡p/ and /g͡b/ are doubly-articulated voiceless and voiced labial–velar stop consonants.[15] Pre-nasalization is a feature of particular Toqabaqita consonants, including all the voiced plosives, that is /b/, /d/, /g/ and /g͡b/, and for the glide /w/ . The degree of prenasalization varies and is determined by their position in the word.[16]

Vowel Phonemes[17]
front central back
close ɪ ʊ
open-mid ɛ ɔ
open a

Vowels can be long, but it is not allowed to have adjacent long vowels. Stress is not indicated by the phonemes, but by the symbols (’) for primary stress and (’) for secondary stress.[18]

Language Typology[edit]

Toqabaqita has as its basic constituent order Subject - Predicate – X, with X referring to other elements that the subject and predicate.[19] This can also be categorized as SVO (subject verb object) and SVX (subject verb other). Lynch in his review of Oceanic languages found that this constituent order is in fact the most widely geographically distributed pattern.[20]

Verbs in Toqabaqita can include a variety of affixes, both suffixes and pre-fixes, which mark other grammatical categories of tense aspect, sequentiality and negation. Lexical objects are usually indexed on the verb as a suffix. In Toqabaqita the basic noun phrase consists minimally of a noun or an independent personal pronoun. Noun phrases may contain modifiers, which are generally suffixes.[21] Lexical morphemes consist of at least two syllables in Toqabaqita. Where a monosyllabic word occurs, such as a grammatical morpheme, it then attaches as a clitic to the preceding word, with some notable exceptions. If speech is slow then the grammatical morpheme may have its vowel lengthened and take stress.[22]

Personal Pronouns and Person Markers[edit]

Independent Personal Pronouns[edit]

The Independent person pronouns in Toqabaqita are for single, dual and plural pronouns for first person exclusive, first person inclusive, second and third person categories. With only a few systematic exceptions the pronominal noun phrases are used in the same position as where a lexical noun phrase would occur. Lexical nouns are marked only as singular or plural in Toqabaqita.[23]

Singular Dual Plural
1 EXCL nau kamareqa kamiliqa, kamaliqa, kami(1)
1 INCL koro kulu, kia(1)
2 qoe, qoo kamaroqa kamuluqa, kamaluqa,kamiu(1), kamu(1)
3 nia keeroqa kera, kiiluqa


(1) nau ku thathami-a koro koki
"I want the two of us to eat."

(2) kamiliqa kori-a fau rafu
1PL(EXCL) scrape-3.OBJ stone sea.cucumber.sp
"We scrape limestone..."

The variants marked with * were used exclusively by women. Of these pronouns used only by women, only the first person inclusive plural pronoun kia is used at the present time. This is specifically in the context of referring to one’s home, or one’s home place or one’s country most commonly when away from one’s home area’.[26] It is notable that although there are multiple plural personal pronouns some are used more commonly than others. Some alternatives are rarely used, specifically these are the first person exclusive kamaliqa, the third person plural kiiluqa, and the second person singular qoo. Both forms of the second person plural, kamuluqa and kamaluqa are commonly used. There are phonetic associations with specific person pronouns. The dual pronouns all contain r, and the plurals all contain l, with exception of the third person plural kera. Lichtenberk suggests that this is due to their associations with the numbers rua which glosses as two, and ulu which glosses as three, and also that perhaps the plurals were previously trial or paucal forms of pronouns.[27]

In some cases where the independent pronoun and a subject marker are identical (homophones) and occur in the same sentence one will be omitted, and Lichtenberk (2008) suggests it is the pronoun that is omitted. This occurs for koro, where it is both the inclusive dual inclusive independent personal pronoun and the dual inclusive nonfuture subject marker. Similarly kulu is both the plural inclusive independent plural pronoun and the plural inclusive nonfuture subject marker. Lichtenberk believes that most speakers would avoid the repetition.[28]

(3) (?kulu) kulu foqa naqa
"Let's pray now"

In the above example the first kulu would be deleted. The independent personal pronouns, including the third person pronouns are used with human reference, or with spirits, very rarely with animals. The may be used with mythological animals or with an animal that is in view.

(4) Nia ka riki-a ma ka thathami-a kai lai bii keeroqa
3SG 3SG.SEQ see.3SG.OBJ and 3SG.SEQ want-3.OBJ 3.SG.FUT go COM 3DU
"He (a boy)saw it and wanted to go with them (his parents)"

(5) Nia e mataqi nena
"It (a chicken)is sick (the chicken is in view)"

The third person pronoun can be used to specify subject topicalization, even with inanimate objects, as is:

(6) dadaku) qeri nia qe takwi qi' laa one
Calophyllum.sp that 3SG 3SG.NFUT that stand LOC in <smallsand
"The dadaku tree, it stood in the sand on the beach"

There are numerous specific uses of the independent personal pronouns such as the third person singular pronoun being used to close off a story or a narration, in a verb-less statement:

(7) Nia bo-naqa neri
"That's all I have to say"

To emphasize a pronoun the same strategies that are used with lexical nouns are also employed, but with a specific pronominal foregrounder ni.

(8) Nau ku lae naqa ma ni kamuluqa
"I'm going now; and you?)"

Here the emphasis is on the persons being spoken to. The inclusive pronouns can be used in a way to include the addressee, to index personal closeness or in a jocular sense.

(9) Nau kwai qasi-qaba fas=i laa waki koro wane nau
1SG 1SG.FUT fall-hand PREC=LOC in basket DU(INCL) man 1SG
"I am going to poke my hand into our basket, my friend (in the context of searching another's basket for tobacco or areca nut."

Person Markers[edit]

Toqabaqita uses person markers with proper nouns that designate people, spirits, ogres, pets and domestic animals. They are gender differentiated, with tha used with male and ni with female people. When referring to gods and spirits and introduced Christian deities, tha is used. Tha is used to refer to all pets and domestic animals, both male and female. They are used for reference not for address, see examples 11 and 12, but even then they are not obligatory.[36]

(10) Tha Kwaqengara ka thare-a ni Kwakwanumae
PRSMKR Kwaqengara 3.SG.SEQ beget-3.OBJ PRSMKR/small> Kwakwanumae
"Kwaqengara(male) begot Kwakwanumae(female)."

Contrast the need for a person marker when talking about Ulufaala the named person in the narration, rather than when he arrives in person.

(11) Ma tha Ulufaalu qe sifo
And PRSMKR Ulufaalu 3SG.NFUT descend
"And Ulufaalu went down to the coast?."

(12) Ulufaalu qe fula naqa
Ulufaalu 3SG.NFUT arrive PRF
"Ulufaalu has arrived."
(13) Qoko suqu-si-a raa-la-na wane queri tha Saetana
2SG.SEQ block-TR3.OBJ work.NMZL.PERS man this PRSMKR Satan
"Block the workings of this man, Satan."

Tha is used with the nouns that refer to children, wela (child, young person), kale (offspring), or adult males, weleqi.

(14) Tha wela 'ba=e sui naqa
PRSMKR chap that=3.SG.NFUT be.finished PRF
"The chap expired."

Tha is used for inanimate objects that actually have names.

(15) Nini qau marakawa nia tha Raqafeqebasi
bamboo.knife piece.of.bamboo 3SG PRSMKR Raqafeqebasi
"His green bamboo knife is named Raqafeqebasi."

Object Pronouns[edit]

In Toqabaqita there are two classes of transitive verbs, Class 1 and Class 2, and they index their pronominal direct objects differently. Class 1 transitives have object indexing suffixes only for the third person; -a for singular direct objects, -daroqa for dual categories and -da for plural objects.[43]

(16) Qo riki-a?
"Did you see him/her/it?"

(17) Qo riki-daroqa?
"Did you see them(2)?"

Toqabaqita doesn't index object status first and second person, but it is indicated by the appropriate independent personal pronoun as in (18).

(18) Kai lole qoe
"He is lying to you."

Class 2 Transitive verbs have object indexing suffixes for all grammatical persons and numbers, and follow a similar pattern to the independent personal pronouns.[47]

Singular Dual Plural
1EXCL -ku -mareqa -miliqa, -maliqa, -mi(1), miqa(1)
1INCL -karoqa -kuluqa, -kaluqa, -ka(1)
2 -mu -maroqa -muluqa, -maluqa, -miu(1)
3 -na, -a -daroqa -da, -daluqa

Again there are forms that were previously used only by women, in women's speech, that are no longer used. For the third person singular there are two forms -na and -a, and their use is often phonologically determined, in particular so there are no sequences of three vowels.[48]

(19) taqe-fuil-a maka nia
ascend-site.3.OBJ father 3SG
"(of a son)replace his father."

(20) Nia biinga qa-na qe aqi si thaitoqoma-na
"He was asleep(and) didn't know (about) it."

The -na object pronoun is used here in (20) to follow the vowel a.

Subject Pronouns[edit]

Toqabaqita has subject indexing suffixes which appear on the verb and also indicate nonfuture tense, future tense, imperfect aspect, sequentiality, negative aspect and dehortation.[51] There is some suffixes that are the same in the third person dual and plural categories. It is interesting to observe that there are no archaic women's speech forms noted by Lichtenberk.

nonfuture future/imperfect sequential negative dehortive
1SG ku kwai kwa kwasi kwata
2SG qo, qoi qoki qoko qosi qoto
3SG qe, e kai ka si ta
1DU(EXCL) mere meki meka mesi meta
1DU(INCL) koro koki koka,koko kosi kota
2DU moro, mori moki moka, moko mosi mota
3DU kero keki,kiki keko, kiku kesi, kisi keto
1PL(EXCL) mili miki mika misi mita
1PL(INCL) kulu kuki kuka kusi kuta
2PL mulu muki muka,muku musi muta
3L kera, kere, kilu keki, kiki keka, kiku kesi, kisi keta


(21) Mada sa mika fula qi qusungadi ka leqa ba-na
or IRR 1PL(EXCL).SEQ arrive LOC tomorrow 3SG.SEQ be.good LIM-3SG.PERS
"If we come tomorrow, will that be alright? (lit.:will that only be good?)"

(22) Wela qeri roo qaaqae nia ki' qe taqaa
child that two 3SG PL 3SG.NFUT be.bad
"The child, both of his legs are no good."


Possession in Toqabaqita is relational in that there are two entities in the relationship the “possessor” and the “possessum”. The possessor may own an item, it may be a body part, or a tool. But this also includes relationships with the person or item, including a kinship relationship. Lichtenberk prefers to term these “personal suffixes” as they not only index possession, but also with a transitive verb to index their subject, to indicate a recipient/beneficiary relationship, and to index a complement with a number of prepositions. These suffixes can be used with both lexical nouns and verbs. It can be seen that some of these suffixes are identical with the singular object pronoun suffixes, namely -ku, -na, and -a.[55]

singular dual plural
1EXCL -ku -mareqa -miliqa,maliqa, -mi(1), -miqa(1)
1INCL -karoqa -kuluqa, -kulaqa, -ka(1)
2 -mu -maroqa -muluqa, -maluqa, miu(1)
3 -na, -a -daroqa -da, daluqa

[56] Again there are forms previously used by women in speech, that are no longer used, marked (1). In terms of semantics the personal suffixes are used with relational nouns where the relationship is described as inalienable possession. This includes parts of a whole (24), body parts (23,27), products of a possessor (25,26) and integral contents such as blood of animal or juice of a fruit.[57]

(23) gwalusu-ku
"my nose"

(24) boor-a kilu
bottom-3SG.PERS hole
"the bottom of a hole"

(25) qiiqida-ku
"my sweat"

(26) nuu-na
"A man's shadow/reflection/picture"

(27) babali-na
"his/her cheek(s)"

From a phontactic point of view words with –l or-r in the syllable use third person singular –na, as in example (27). Attributes as well as spatial and temporal relations of the possessor are also designated with these personal suffixes, as in example (28).[63]

(28) qintoqo-na biqu naqi
LOC centre-3SG.PERS house this
"In the centre of this house."

Toqabaqita also employs the bare possessive noun phrase where there is no indexing of the possessor on the possessed noun. A Possessor noun phrase must be present, this may be a lexical noun or a pronoun. The two following examples display this, in that a possessor noun phrase is pronominal, and it is the independent personal pronoun that is employed. In this manner all the independent pronouns can be bare possessor nouns.[65]

(29) biqu keeroqa na=i Takwaraasi
house 3DU REL=LOC Takwarassi
"Their house at Takwaraasi."

(30) tarausis tekwa nau baa
trousers be.long 1SG that
"Those long trousers of mine."


  1. ^ Toqabaqita/To’abaita at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015)
  2. ^ Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2017). "To'abaita". Glottolog 3.0. Jena, Germany: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History. 
  3. ^ Lichtenberk, 2008, p.1
  4. ^ Lewia, 2015
  5. ^ Lichtenberk, 2008, p.1
  6. ^ Lichtenberk, 2008
  7. ^ Hammarström, 2015
  8. ^ Hammarström, 2015
  9. ^ Lichtenberk 2008, p.5
  10. ^ Hammarström, 2015
  11. ^ Lichtenberk, 2008
  12. ^ Hammarström, 2015
  13. ^ Lichtenberk, 2008
  14. ^ Lichtenberk 2008, p.8
  15. ^ Lichtenberk 2008, p.8
  16. ^ Lichtenberk, 2008, p.8
  17. ^ Lichtenberk, 2008, p.10
  18. ^ Lichtenberk 2008, p.10
  19. ^ Lichtenberk, 2008, p.43
  20. ^ Lynch, 2008, p.50
  21. ^ Lichtenberk 2008, p.44
  22. ^ Lichtenberk 2008, p.16
  23. ^ Lichtenberk 2008, p.325
  24. ^ Lichtenberk 2008, p.146
  25. ^ Lichtenberk 2008, p.148
  26. ^ Lichtenberk, 2008, p.243
  27. ^ Lichtenberk, 2008
  28. ^ Lichtenberk 2008, p.244
  29. ^ Lichtenberk 2008, p.243
  30. ^ Lichtenberk 2008, p.245
  31. ^ Lichtenberk 2008, p.246
  32. ^ Lichtenberk 2008, p.246
  33. ^ Lichtenberk 2008, p.247
  34. ^ Lichtenberk 2008, p.248
  35. ^ Lichtenberk 2008, p.249
  36. ^ Lichtenberk, 2008, p.250
  37. ^ Lichtenberk 2008, p.250
  38. ^ Lichtenberk 2008, p.251
  39. ^ Lichtenberk 2008, p.250
  40. ^ Lichtenberk 2008, p.328
  41. ^ Lichtenberk 2008, p.252
  42. ^ Lichtenberk 2008, p.253
  43. ^ Lichtenberk 2008, p.71
  44. ^ Lichtenberk 2008, p.71
  45. ^ Lichtenberk 2008, p.71
  46. ^ Lichtenberk 2008, p.71
  47. ^ Lichtenberk 2008, p.114
  48. ^ Lichtenberk 2008, p.114
  49. ^ Lichtenberk 2008, p.71
  50. ^ Lichtenberk 2008, p.71
  51. ^ Lichtenberk 2008, p.143
  52. ^ Lichtenberk 2008, p.144
  53. ^ Lichtenberk 2008, p.147
  54. ^ Lichtenberk 2008, p.151
  55. ^ Lichtenberk 2008, p.376
  56. ^ Lichtenberk 2008, p.376
  57. ^ Lichtenberk 2008, p.378
  58. ^ Lichtenberk 2008, p.379
  59. ^ Lichtenberk 2008, p.379
  60. ^ Lichtenberk 2008, p.380
  61. ^ Lichtenberk 2008, p.380
  62. ^ Lichtenberk 2008, p.379
  63. ^ Lichtenberk 2008, p.379
  64. ^ Lichtenberk 2008, p.380
  65. ^ Lichtenberk 2008, p.384
  66. ^ Lichtenberk 2008, p.384
  67. ^ Lichtenberk 2008, p.384

External links[edit]


  • Lichtenberk, F. 2008. A Grammar of Toqabaqita. De Gruyter:Berlin/Boston.
  • Lewis, M. P., Simons, G. F., & Fennig, C. D. 2015. Ethnoloq. Ethnologue: Languages of the World, Eighteenth edition. Dallas, Texas: SIL International. Available online at Accessed 2015-03-23.)
  • Lynch,J. 2002. Typological Overview in Oceanic Languages. Curzon.
  • Hammarström, Harald & Forkel, Robert & Haspelmath, Martin & Bank, Sebastian. 2015. Glottolog 2.4. Leipzig: Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology. (Available online at, Accessed on 2015-04-07.)