Tahitian (Tahitian: Reo Tahiti, part of Reo Māꞌohi, languages of French Polynesia) is a Polynesian language, spoken mainly on the Society Islands in French Polynesia. It belongs to the Eastern Polynesian group.
|Native to||French Polynesia|
|68,260, 37% of ethnic population (2007 census)|
As Tahitian had no written tradition before the arrival of the Western colonists, the spoken language was first transcribed by missionaries of the London Missionary Society in the early 19th century.
- Marquesan, spoken by about 8,000 people in the Marquesas Islands, with two sub-divisions, North-Western (ꞌeo ꞌenana) and South-Eastern (ꞌeo ꞌenata)
- Paꞌumotu (reo paꞌumotu), spoken by about 4,000 people in the Tuamotu Islands
- Austral, spoken by about 3,000 people in the Austral Islands
- Rapa, spoken by about 400 people on Rapa Iti
- Raꞌivavae, spoken by about 900 people in the Austral Islands
- Mangareva, spoken by about 600 people in the Gambier Islands
When Europeans first arrived in Tahiti at the end of the 18th century, there was no writing system and Tahitian was only a spoken language. Reports by some early European explorers including Quirós include attempts to trascribe notable Tahitian words heard during initial interactions with the indigenous people of Marquesa. Aboard the Endeavour, Lt. James Cook and the ship's master, Robert Molyneux, transcribed the names of 72 and 55 islands respectively as recited by the Tahitian arioi, Tupaia. Many of these were "non-geographic" or "ghost islands" of Polynesian mythology and all were transcribed using phonetic English spelling. In 1797, Protestant missionaries arrived in Tahiti on a British ship called Duff, captained by James Wilson. Among the missionaries was Henry Nott (1774–1844) who learned the Tahitian language and worked with Pōmare II, a Tahitian king, and the Welsh missionary, John Davies (1772-1855), to translate the Bible into Tahitian. A system of five vowels and nine consonants was adopted for the Tahitian Bible, which would become the key text by which many Polynesians would learn to read and write.
Tahitian features a very small number of phonemes: five vowels and nine consonants, not counting the lengthened vowels and diphthongs. Notably, the consonant inventory lacks any sort of dorsal consonants.
There is a five vowel inventory with vowel length:
|Close||i iː||u uː|
|Mid||e eː||o oː|
Next follows a table with all phonemes in more detail.
|a||ꞌā||/a/, /aː~ɑː/||a: opera, ā: father|
|e||ꞌē||/e/, /eː/||e: late, ē: same but longer|
|f||fā||/f/||friend||becomes bilabial [ɸ] after o and u|
|h||hē||/h/||house||becomes [ʃ] (as in English shoe) after i and before o or u|
|i||ꞌī||/i/, /iː/||as in machine||may become diphthong ai in some words like rahi|
|o||ꞌō||/o~ɔ/, /oː/||o: nought, ō: same but longer|
|p||pī||/p/||sponge (not aspirated)|
|r||rō||/r/||-||alveolar trill, may also be heard as a flap [ɾ]|
|t||tī||/t/||stand (not aspirated)|
|u||ꞌū||/u/, /uː/||u: foot, ū: moo||strong lip rounding|
|v||vī||/v/||vine||becomes bilabial ([β]) after o and u|
|ꞌ||ꞌeta||/ʔ/||uh-oh||glottal stop beginning each syllable|
The glottal stop or ꞌeta is a genuine consonant. This is typical of Polynesian languages (compare to the Hawaiian ʻokina and others). Glottal stops used to be seldom written in practice, but are now commonly written, though often as straight apostrophes, ꞌ, instead of the curly apostrophes used in Hawaiian. Alphabetical word ordering in dictionaries used to ignore the existence of glottals. However, academics and scholars now publish text content with due use of glottal stops.
Tahitian makes a phonemic distinction between long and short vowels; long vowels are marked with macron or tārava.
For example, pāto, meaning "to pick, to pluck" and pato, "to break out", are distinguished solely by their vowel length. However, macrons are seldom written among older people because Tahitian writing was never taught at school until one or two decades ago.
Finally there is a toro ꞌaꞌï, a trema put on the i, but only used in ïa when used as a reflexive pronoun. It does not indicate a different pronunciation. Usage of this diacritic was promoted by academics but has now virtually disappeared, mostly due to the fact that there is no difference in the quality of the vowel when the trema is used and when the macron is used.
Although the use of ꞌeta and tārava is equal to the usage of such symbols in other Polynesian languages, it is promoted by the Académie tahitienne and adopted by the territorial government. There are at least a dozen other ways of applying accents. Some methods are historical and no longer used. This can make usage unclear. See list. At this moment l'Académie tahitienne seems to have not made a final decision yet whether the ꞌeta should appear as a small normal curly comma (ʼ) or a small inverted curly comma (ʻ). (Compare ʻokina.) The straight apostrophe (Unicode U+0027) being the default apostrophe displayed when striking the apostrophe key on a usual French AZERTY keyboard, it has become natural for writers to use the straight apostrophe for glottal stops, though to avoid the complications caused by substituting punctuation marks for letters in digital documents, the saltillo (ꞌ) may be used.
Tahitian syllables are entirely open, as is usual in Polynesian languages. In its morphology, Tahitian relies on the use of "helper words" (such as prepositions, articles, and particles) to encode grammatical relationships, rather than on inflection, as would be typical of European languages. It is a very analytic language, except when it comes to the personal pronouns, which have separate forms for singular, plural and dual numbers.
Today, macronized vowels and ꞌeta are also available for mobile devices like smartphones and tablets. People can download and install mobile applications to realize the macron on vowels as well as the ꞌeta.
- Au (Vau after "a", "o" or "u") I, me: ꞌUa ꞌamu vau i te iꞌa I have eaten the fish; E haere au i te farehaapiꞌira ānānahi I will go to school tomorrow.
- ꞌOe you: ꞌUa ꞌamu ꞌoe i te iꞌa You have eaten the fish; ꞌUa tuꞌino ꞌoe i tō mātou pereꞌoꞌo You damaged our car.
- ꞌŌna/ꞌoia he, she: ꞌUa ꞌamu ꞌōna i te iꞌa He/she ate the fish; E aha ꞌōna i haere mai ai? Why is she here/why did she come here?; ꞌAita ꞌōna i ꞌō nei He/she is not here.
- Tāua (inclusive) we/us two: ꞌUa ꞌamu tāua i te iꞌa We (us two) have eaten the fish; E haere tāua Let's go (literally 'go us two'); ꞌO tō tāua hoa tēi tae mai Our friend has arrived.
- Māua (exclusive) we/us two: ꞌUa ꞌamu māua i te iꞌa We have eaten the fish; E hoꞌi māua ꞌo Titaua i te fare Titaua and I will return/go home; Nō māua tera fare That is our house.
- ꞌŌrua you two: ꞌUa ꞌamu ꞌōrua i te iꞌa You two ate the fish; A haere ꞌōrua You (two) go; Nā ꞌōrua teie puta This book belongs to both of you.
- Rāua they two: ꞌUa ꞌamu rāua i te iꞌa They (they two) have eaten the fish; Nō hea mai rāua? Where are they (they two) from?; ꞌO rāua ꞌo Pā tei faꞌaea i te fare He/she and Pa stayed home.
- Tātou (inclusive) we: ꞌO vai tā tātou e tīaꞌi nei? Who are we waiting for/expecting?, E ꞌore tā tātou māꞌa e toe There won't be any of our food more left.
- Mātou (exclusive) we, they and I: ꞌO mātou ꞌo Herenui tei haere mai We came with Herenui; ꞌUa ꞌite mai ꞌoe ia mātou You saw us/you have seen us.
- ꞌOutou you (plural): ꞌA haere atu ꞌoutou, e peꞌe atu vau You (all) go, I will follow; ꞌO ꞌoutou ꞌo vai mā tei haere i te tautai? Who went fishing with you (all)?
- Rātou they/them: ꞌUa mārō rātou ia Teina They have quarrelled with Teina; Nō rātou te pupu pūai aꞌe They have the strongest team.
- tē tāmāꞌa nei au – "[present continuous] eat [present continuous] I", "I am eating"
- ꞌua tāpū vau ꞌi te vahie – "[perfective aspect] chop I [object marker] the wood", "I chopped the wood"
- ꞌua hohoni hia ꞌoia e te ꞌūrī – "[perfective aspect] bite [passive voice] he by the dog", "He was bitten by the dog"
[*e mea marō te haꞌari – "Are thing dry the coconut", "The coconuts are dry"] [*e taꞌata pūai ꞌoia – "Is man strong he", "He is a strong man"]
- te fare – the house; te tāne – the man
The plural of the definite article te is te mau.
- te mau fare – the houses; te mau tāne – the men
Also, te may also be used to indicate a plural;
- te taꞌata – can mean the person or the people
The indefinite article is e
The article e also introduces an indefinite common noun.
- e taꞌata – a person
- e vahine – a woman
- e mau vahine – (many) women
- te hōꞌē fare – a certain house
The article ꞌo is used with proper nouns and pronouns and implies it is.
- ꞌO Tahiti – (It is) Tahiti
- ꞌO rātou – (It is) they
Aspect and modality markers
Verbal aspect and modality are important parts of Tahitian grammar, and are indicated with markers preceding and/or following the invariant verb. Important examples are:
- e: expresses an unfinished action or state.
- ꞌua: expresses a finished action, a state different from a preceding state. [ꞌua does not indicate surprise]
- tē ... nei: indicates progressive aspect.
- Tē tanu nei au i te taro: "planting I [dir. obj. marker] the taro", "I am planting the taro"
- E tāere ana ꞌōna "Always is late he", "He is always late"
- i ... nei indicates a finished action or a past state.
- ꞌUa fānau hia ꞌoia i Tahiti nei "Was born she in Tahiti", "She was born in Tahiti"
- i ... iho nei indicates an action finished in the immediate past.
- I tae mai iho nei ꞌōna "He just came"
- ꞌia indicates a wish, desire, supposition, or condition.
- ꞌIa vave mai! "Hurry up!"
- ꞌa indicates a command or obligation.
- ꞌA piꞌo ꞌoe i raro! "Bend down!"
- ꞌeiaha indicates negative imperative.
- ꞌEiaha e parau! "Do not speak"
- ꞌĀhiri, ꞌahani indicates a condition or hypothetical supposition.
- ꞌĀhiri te pahī i taꞌahuri, ꞌua pohe pau roa īa tātou "If the boat had capsized, we would all be dead"
- ꞌaita expresses negation.
- ꞌAita vau e hoꞌi mai "I will not return"
Common phrases and words
|’Ia ora na||hello, greetings|
|haere mai, maeva, mānava||welcome|
|māuruuru roa||thank you very much|
|e aha te huru?||how are you?|
|maita’i roa||very good|
|e ua||it's raining|
|ua to’eto’e||it's cold|
|ua here au ia ’oe||I love you|
|’ōrapa maha roa||rectangle|
Taboo names – piꞌi
In many parts of Polynesia the name of an important leader was (and sometimes still is) considered sacred (tapu) and was therefore accorded appropriate respect (mana). In order to avoid offense, all words resembling such a name were suppressed and replaced by another term of related meaning until the personage died. If, however, the leader should happen to live to a very great age this temporary substitution could become permanent.
In the rest of Polynesia tū means to stand, but in Tahitian it became tiꞌa, because the word was included in the name of king Tū-nui-ꞌēꞌa-i-te-atua. Likewise fetū (star) has become in Tahiti fetiꞌa and aratū (pillar) became aratiꞌa. Although nui (big) still occurs in some compounds, like Tahiti-nui, the usual word is rahi (which is a common word in Polynesian languages for 'large'). The term ꞌēꞌa fell in disuse, replaced by purūmu or porōmu. Currently ꞌēꞌa means 'path' while purūmu means 'road'.
Tū also had a nickname, Pō-mare (literally means 'night coughing'), under which his dynasty has become best known. By consequence pō (night) became ruꞌi (currently only used in the Bible, pō having become the word commonly in use once again), but mare (literally cough) has irreversibly been replaced by hota.
Other examples include;
- vai (water) became pape as in the names of Papeari, Papenoꞌo, Papeꞌete
- moe (sleep) became taꞌoto (the original meaning of which was 'to lie down').
Some of the old words are still used on the Leewards.
- Lord Monboddo
- Swadesh list of Tahitian words
- Tahitian at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015)
- Reo Māꞌohi correspond to "languages of natives from French Polynesia," and may in principle designate any of the seven indigenous languages spoken in French Polynesia. The Tahitian language specifically is called Reo Tahiti (See Charpentier & François 2015: 106).
- "Les Langues Polynésiennes". Académie Tahitienne. Retrieved 1 August 2010.
- See Charpentier & François (2015).
- Thompson, Christina (5 March 2020). Sea People: In Search of the Ancient Navigators of the Pacific. Glasgow, Scotland: William Collins. p. 33. ISBN 978-0-00-833905-0.
- Thompson, Christina (5 March 2020). Sea People: In Search of the Ancient Navigators of the Pacific. Glasgow, Scotland: William Collins. p. 83. ISBN 978-0-00-833905-0.
- Tryon, Darrell T. (1970). Conversational Tahitian. University of California Press. ISBN 9780520016002. Retrieved 1 August 2010.
- Charpentier, Jean-Michel; François, Alexandre (2015). Atlas Linguistique de Polynésie Française — Linguistic Atlas of French Polynesia (in French and English). Mouton de Gruyter & Université de la Polynésie Française. ISBN 978-3-11-026035-9.
- Y. Lemaître, Lexique du tahitien contemporain, 1973. ISBN 2-7099-0228-1
- same; 2nd, reviewed edition, 1995. ISBN 2-7099-1247-3
- T. Henry, Ancient Tahiti – Tahiti aux temps anciens
- Darrell Tryon, Conversational Tahitian; ANU 1970
- 1851 Tahitian–English dictionary
- 1898 Tahitian-French dictionary
- Tahitian Swadesh list of basic vocabulary words (from Wiktionary's Swadesh-list appendix)
- Académie Tahitienne – Fare Vānaꞌa
- Puna Reo – Cultural Association, English section too
- Index cards of plant and animal names from the 1960s archived with Kaipuleohone
|Tahitian edition of Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia|