|Native to||French Polynesia|
|68,000 (2007 census)|
|Regulated by||No official regulation|
Tahitian (autonym Reo Tahiti, part of Reo Mā'ohi, languages of French Polynesia) is a Polynesian language, spoken mainly in the Society Islands in French Polynesia. It belongs to the Eastern Polynesian group.
Tahitian was first transcribed from the oral spoken language into writing 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 (ʻeo ʻenana) and South-Eastern (ʻeo ʻenata)
- Pa'umotu (reo pa'umotu), 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
- Raʻivavae, 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. 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, to translate the English Bible into Tahitian. A system of 5 vowels and 9 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.
Next follows a table with all phonemes in more detail.
|a||’ā||/a/, /ɑː/||a: opera, ā: father|
|e||’ē||/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||’ī||/i/, /iː/||as in machine||may become diphthong ai in some words like rahi|
|o||’ō||/ɔ/, /oː/||o: nought, ō: same but longer|
|p||pī||/p/||sponge (not aspirated)|
|t||tī||/t/||stand (not aspirated)|
|u||’ū||/u/, /uː/||u: foot, ū: moo||strong lip rounding|
|v||vī||/v/||vine||becomes bilabial ([β]) after o and u|
|’||’eta||/ʔ/||uh-oh||glottal stop beginning each syllable|
The glottal stop or 'eta 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, ' , 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 ’a’ï, 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 'eta and tārava is equal to the usage of such symbols in other Polynesian languages, it is promoted by l'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 'eta should appear as a small normal curly comma (’) or a small inverted curly comma (‘). Compare 'okina. 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.
Further, 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 'eta 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 'eta.
- Au (Vau before "a", "o" or "u") – I, me; 'Ua 'amu vau i te i'a. – I have eaten the fish.: E haere au i te farehaapi'ira'a ānānahi – I will go to school tomorrow;
- 'oe : you; Ua 'amu 'oe i te i'a. – You have eaten the fish; Ua tu'ino 'oe i tō mātou pere'o'o. – You damaged our car. ;
- 'ōna/'oia : he, she; Ua amu 'ōna i te i'a. – He/she ate the fish. ; E aha 'ōna i haere mai ai ? – Why is she here/why did she come here? ; Aita 'ōna i 'ō nei. – He/she is not here.
- Tāua (inclusive) – we/us two ; Ua 'amu tāua i te i'a : We (us two) have eaten the fish.; E haere tāua. : Let's go (literally 'go us two'). ; O tō tāua hoa tēi tae mai. : Our friend has arrived.
- Māua (exclusive) – we/us two ; 'Ua 'amu māua i te i'a. : We have eaten the fish. ;E ho'i māua 'o Titaua i te fare. : Titaua and I will return/go home. ; Nō māua tera fare. : That is our house.
- 'ōrua : you two ; Ua 'amu 'ōrua i te i'a. : You two ate the fish. ; A haere 'ōrua : You (two) go. ; Nā 'ōrua teie puta. : This book belongs to both of you.
- Rāua : they two ; Ua 'amu rāua i te i'a. – They (they two) have eaten the fish. ; Nō hea mai rāua ? – Where are they (they two) from? ; O rāua 'o Pā tei fa'aea i te fare – He/she and Pa stayed home.
- Tātou (inclusive) – we ; 'O vai tā tātou e tīa'i nei? – Who are we waiting for/expecting ? ; E 'ore tā tātou mā'a e toe. – There won't be any of our food more left.
- Mātou (exclusive) – we, them and me ; O mātou 'o Herenui tei haere mai. – We came with Herenui; Ua 'ite mai 'oe ia mātou – You saw us/you have seen us.
- outou – you (plural) ; A haere atu 'outou, e pe'e atu vau. – You (all) go, I will follow. ; 'O 'outou 'o vai mā tei haere i te tautai ? – Who went fishing with you (all)?
- Rātou – they/them; 'Ua mārō rātou ia Teina. – They have quarrelled with Teina. ; Nō rātou te pupu pūai a'e. – They have the strongest team.
- tē tāmā'a nei au – "[present continuous] eat [present continuous] I", "I am eating"
- 'ua tāpū vau 'i te vahie – "[perfective aspect] chop I [object marker] the wood", "I chopped the wood"
- 'ua hohoni hia 'oia e te 'ūrī – "[perfective aspect] bite [passive voice] he by the dog", "He was bitten by the dog"
[*e mea marō te ha'ari – "Are thing dry the coconut", "The coconuts are dry"] [*e ta'ata pūai 'oia – "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 ta'ata – can mean the person or the people
The indefinite article is e
The article e also introduces an indefinite common noun.
- e ta'ata – a person
- e vahine – a woman
- e mau vahine – (many) women
- te hō'ē fare – a certain house
- 'O Tahiti – (It is) Tahiti
- 'O rātou – (It is) they
Aspect and modality markers
- e: expresses an unfinished action or state.
- 'ua: expresses a finished action, a state different from a preceding state. ['ua 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 'ōna: "Always is late he", "He is always late"
- i ... nei: indicates a finished action or a past state.
- 'Ua fānau hia 'oia 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 'ōna: "He just came"
- 'ia: indicates a wish, desire, supposition, or condition.
- 'Ia vave mai!: "Hurry up!"
- 'a : indicates a command or obligation.
- 'A pi'o 'oe i raro!: "Bend down!"
- 'eiaha : indicates negative imperative.
- 'Eiaha e parau!: "Do not speak"
- 'Āhiri, 'ahani: indicates a condition or hypothetical supposition.
- 'Āhiri te pahī i ta'ahuri, 'ua pohe pau roa īa tātou: "If the boat had capsized, we would all be dead"
- 'aita: expresses negation.
- 'Aita vau e ho'i 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|
Taboo names – pi’i
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 ti’a, because the word was included in the name of king Tū-nui-’ē’a-i-te-atua. Likewise fetū (star) has become in Tahiti feti’a and aratū (pillar) became arati’a. 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 ’ē’a fell in disuse, replaced by purūmu or porōmu. Nowadays ’ē’a 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 ru'i (nowadays 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, Papeno’o, Pape’ete
- moe (sleep) became ta’oto (the original meaning of which was 'to lie down').
Some of the old words are still used on the Leewards.
- Tahitian at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015)
- Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin; Bank, Sebastian, eds. (2016). "Tahitian". Glottolog 2.7. Jena: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History.
- Reo Mā'ohi 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).
- 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
- Tahitian–English dictionary
- Tahitian Swadesh list of basic vocabulary words (from Wiktionary's Swadesh-list appendix)
- Académie Tahitienne – Fare Vāna’a
- 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|