Zabana language

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Zabana is an Oceanic language spoken almost exclusively in the Kia district on the northern part of Santa Isabel Island in the Solomon Islands. Zabana is considered a developing language (EGIDS 5) which means that the language is in vigorous use, with literature in a standardized form being used by some though this is not yet widespread or sustainable.[1] It is one of the most spoken languages on Santa Isabel Island, competing with Cheke Holo. There is a 30% to 60% literacy rate in Zabana as a first language and a 25% to 50% literacy rate in Zabana as a second language.[1]

Native toCentral Solomon Islands
RegionSanta Isabel Island
Native speakers
3,400 (2003)[2]
Official status
Official language in
Solomon Islands
Language codes
ISO 639-3kji


Zabana is almost exclusively spoken on Santa Isabel Island which is the largest island in the Isabel provenience and the third largest island in the Solomon Island chain. Zabana is one of the eight different languages spoken on Santa Isabel island. Out of the other seven different languages spoken on the island, Zabana shares major similarities with Kokota and Cheke Holo (also known as Maringe.) A combination dialect of Zabana and Cheke Holo is also developed and widely spoken within the area.[4]


Phonology of the Zabana Language
Bilabial Labiodental Post-alveolar Velar Glottal
Plosive p b t d k
Fricative f v s z ɤ h
Nasal m n ŋ
Lateral l
Trill ɾ

Zabana only contains open syllables, since there are no consonant clusters and geminate vowels in the language. It is important to note that vocal stress on a single phoneme does not exist in Zabana, instead certain syllables called penultimate syllables (the final syllable of a word that ends in a vowel) are stressed. When compared to the neighboring languages, it is also important to note that Zabana has fewer phonemes than its neighbors, in particular Kokota.[4]

Frequency of Consonant Occurrence
Initial Medial
k 17% l 13%
p 12% r 13%
t 10% k 11%
s 10% t 9%
m 8% n 7%
b 7% p 6%
l 6% s 6%
r 5% h 6%
n 4% m 5%
h 4% b 4%
d 3% g 4%
v 3% gh 4%
f 3% d 3%
g 2% v 3%
gh 2% ng 3%
ng 2% f 2%
z 1% z 1%


English Zabana
To see Fifini
To drink Ketuhu
To sleep epu
To fall riufu/zɔɣu
To eat mahai
To stand tetu
To sew tena
To vomit mumuti
To flow ɔrɔ/kɔtɔrɔ
To dig hara

There are two types of verbs in Zabana, transitive and intransitive verbs.[4]

English Zabana
Mother Uke
Father mama
House suga
Tooth hiŋa-
Blood busaka-
Eye hiba-
Egg tediri
Dog meusu
Rat pururudu
Fruit fua-
Fish namari

In Zabana, possession is denoted syntactically by a possessive suffix attached to the noun such as "no" or "ka". It is important to note that words such as "father", "mother", and "uncle" can never take on a possessive suffix.[4]

English Zabana
Rotten bɔe
Cold kapɔ
Warm daŋava
Red busaka
Yellow hekɔ
Green dɔdɔli
Black sisibe
Good veha|na
Bad/Evil mukɔ
Heavy tahu
Wet bɔese
Dry ka|raŋɔ
English Zabana
One kaike-ɣu
Two palu-ɣu
Three litɔ-ɣu
Four rɔdana-ɣu
Five gahaɣu
Six ɔnɔmɔɣu
Seven vituɣu
Eight hanaɣu
Nine leɣahaɣu
Ten tazo
One Hundred kaike ɣɔbi
One Thousand kaike tɔɤa

Larger numbers are made by compounding "Cardinal Numbers" such as one through ten and the exponential factors of ten such as one hundred and one thousand.[4]

Base Reduplicate
nohe "sit" nonohe "seat form"
goto "to boil" gotogoto "to sweat"
baolo "to name" babaolo "name"

Reduplication is used in Zabana to derive intransitive verbs from transitive terms and to derive nouns from verbs.[4]

Interrogative Words
English Zabana
Who hei
What/Why heve
Where/Which hae
When/How Much/How Many niha

Sentence Structure

Zabana is a mainly a VSO (Verb, Subject, Object) language.


Declarative sentences are denoted by a drop in intonation at the end of the sentence and the basic sentence structure or word ordering of a declarative sentence is shown below.[4]

Example:Ghe manevaka ianimu neke "but whiteman there stay"

Predicate, subject, direct object, oblique object


There are four basic types of question sentences in Zabana: polar questions (yes/no), content questions, alternative questions, dubitative questions (rhetorical).[4]

  • Polar Question: Denoted by a rise in intonation at the end of a sentence[4]
  • Content Questions: Denoted by the use of one of the four interrogative words and by a fall in intonation at the end of the question[4]
  • Alternative Questions: In Zabana they are usually request or open ended questions[4]

Honorific Language

There is a chiefly language form of Zabana which is used when addressing clan chiefs.

English Common Form Chiefly Form
Child rekaha suli gitau
Eye hiba nahali
Sleep epu megho
Fall riufu neukete

Complex Sentences

Complex sentences in Zabana are formed when a conjoined clause is used in a sentence, by using one of the three different connectors: "nia", "ga", and "ba" which are "and", "or", and "but" respectively. The exception of this rule is the connecting particle "ghe" which is used to denote a conditional sentence or question and "nia" must be used to connect the pronoun and the proper noun together. "Ghe" can also be used in a complex sentence to link together two different proper nouns.[4]

Conditional Sentence

In Zabana there are two different types of conditional sentences: simple and counterfactual sentences. Both sentences use the particle "la" to denote that they are conditional sentences.[4]

  • Simple Conditional: Denoted by the use of the particle "to" along with the particle "la", simple conditional sentences state a hypothetical situation in Zabana.[4]

Example: To nanarela ghatu e kotoro hofi ini "If it rains today, the roof will leak."

  • Counterfactual: States a situation where the condition is no fulfilled.[4]

Example: Geke meha la ia vaka norao gela to lao ara kia "If the boat had come yesterday, I would have gone to Kia."

External links


  1. ^ a b "Zabana". Ethnologue. Retrieved 2016-10-21.
  2. ^ Zabana at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015)
  3. ^ Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2017). "Zabana". Glottolog 3.0. Jena, Germany: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History.
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q Fitzsimons, Matthew (1989). Zabana : a grammar of a Solomon Islands language.