Takuu language

Native to Papua New Guinea
Region Takuu (Mortlock atoll)
Native speakers
1,800 (2003)[1]
Language codes
ISO 639-3 nho
Glottolog taku1257[2]

Takuu (also Mortlock, Taku, Tau, or Tauu) is a Polynesian language from the Ellicean group spoken on the atoll of Takuu, near Bougainville Island. It is very closely related to Nukumanu and Nukuria from Papua New Guinea and to Ontong Java and Sikaiana from Solomon Islands.[1]


The Takuu language is spoken in Mortlock village on the Takuu atoll (Marqueen Islands) off the east coast of Bougainville in Papua New Guinea. Takuu lies about 250 km to the northeast of Kieta, capital of Bougainville. The atoll consists of about 13 islands, but most of the population lives on a small neighboring island named Nukutoa. The islands are inhabited by approximately, 400 people of Polynesian origin. The people who speak the Takuu language are known “the people of Takuu” or just Takuu. According to Ethnologue, there are about 1,750 speakers of the Takuu language.



Takuu has eleven consonants: f, k, l, m, n, p, r, s, t, v, and h”. Moyle states that the consonants containing stops consist of the letters, p, t and k. The consonants named fricatives are, f/v, s and h. The nasal consonants are m and n, the lateral consonant is, l, and the approximant is r. The labial consonants consist of p, f/v and m. The apical consonants consist of, t, s, n, l and r. The velar consonant is k and the glottal is h (Consonants 2011). According to Moyle, “there is a length distinction in the vowels and between single and geminate consonants that is phonemic and important for correct pronunciation”. Moyle states that these distinctions affect not only the vowel length but also the stress patterns when saying different words. Moyle says that very often will you find people who pronounce the same words with a vowel between those consonants. There are also expanded forms of different words when used in songs.


According to Richard Moyle from the Takuu grammar and dictionary book, the vowels that are in the Takuu language consist of, “a, e, i, o, and u”.

He stated that the high vowels /u/ and /i/ are pronounced as glides /w/ and /j/ respectively, especially when they precede the low back vowel /a/, or when /u/ precedes /i/.


Basic Word Order

The basic word order in the Takuu language is Subject-Object-Verb.


The Takuu language also uses reduplication in their language. It mostly shows within their verbs. They use reduplication as a repeated action marker. The example below is to illustrate an example of some of the words in their language that uses reduplication. Example Verbs:

Moyle also states that, “In Takuu, most verbs agree in number with plural subjects by reduplicating the first syllable of the root. There are exceptions: some verbs have only one form. When the first syllable is reduplicated, the vowel is omitted, forming an initial geminate consonant. However, among older speakers, the syllable reduplication is retained. It is also routinely retained in singing to achieve a predetermined number of syllables in a poetic line. The basic patterns for reduplication are listed below.

When the initial consonant is h, however, it changes to ff in plural form.

Geminate consonants are used when the verb begins with a vowel.

Verbs with three syllables beginning with a consonant and having r as the second consonant mark the plural form by changing that r to ll (Moyle, 2011).

In the case of verbs with initial consonant r, that too changes to l (Moyle, 2011).

Reduplication is also a feature of sentences where the verb action relates to many or all the available items standing as subjects or objects.


The Takuu use a base-10 numeral counting system. The Takuu language has a unique counting system of words just like any other language in the world, but use different words for counting different things. The Takuu counting system doesn’t have one set of words, but many different sets of words. According to Richard Moyle’s research on the Takuu language, they have words for counting cardinals, coin money, net mesh, coconuts and stones, fish, length of ropes, length of woods, humans, and canoes. According to Moyle, the counting system of the Takuu language extends from 1 to 1000 (Moyle, 2011).


Indigenous Vocabulary

Comparative Vocabulary

Takuu Samoan Tokelauan Rarotongan Māori Hawaiian
sky /ɾani/ /laŋi/ /ɾaŋi/ /ɾaŋi/ /lani/
north wind /tokoɾau/ /toʔelau/ /tokelau/ /tokeɾau/ /tokeɾau/ /koʔolau/
woman /ffine/ /fafine/ /fafine/ /vaʔine/ /wahine/ /wahine/
house /faɾe/ /fale/ /fale/ /ʔaɾe/ /ɸaɾe/ /hale/
parent /maːtua/ /matua/ /metua/ /matua/ /makua/
mother /tinna/, /tinnaː/ /tinaː/ /maːtua/ /maːmaː/ /ɸaea/ /makuahine/
father /tama/, /tamana/ /tamaː/ /tama/, /tamana/ /metua/, /paːpaː/ /matua/, /paːpaː/ /makua kaːne/


Takuu is not considered to be an endangered language. Although the Takuu language is considered to be a level 5 (developing) language on the Expanded Graded Intergeneration Disruption Scale; because of their culture, location and education within schools, it will soon be one of the primary languages spoken amongst the Marqueen Islands. Due to their isolation of outside influences, and education of the language, it will be easier for the younger generation of speakers to learn the language and be able to use it in their day-to-day lives. Eventually they will pass the language down to the next generation of speakers, and in time, Takuu will become an important and widespread language amongst the islands of Takuu atoll. The amount of speakers will grow, as well as the language and the culture.


In 2006 a team of filmmakers (Briar March and Lyn Collie) visited the atoll twice, “making a documentary that records culture and life on the atoll, and examines the possibility that the community might have to relocate to Bougainville mainland if their physical situation worsens”. The second shoot in 2008 was filmed by Scott Smithers and John Hunter. Their films helped people capture how the people of Takuu live their day-to-day lives. Briar, Lyn, Scott and John all discovered that the Takuu people reside in “traditional thatched houses that stand in crowded rows, so close to each other that the eaves almost touch. There are few trees on the island apart from coconut palms, and the main street serves as a marae, a space for ritual ceremonies”. Music is a fundamental part of their life and because of their “long periods of isolation”; many of the indigenous songs, stories and dances have survived till this day. This shows that the Takuu people place great value on their indigenous practices and religious belief. Although there are a numerous amount of churches established on Nukutoa, they didn’t seem to bother to push out their old culture for a new one, making them an independent culture. Just like how the Hawaiian language uses a danced called hula to tell stories, the Takuu use the musical side of their language to tell stories of “voyages between the islands, as well as celebrations of successful relationships, whether relationships that link extended families together, in productive activity or relationships binding people with their ancestors in time of need” through songs.


  1. 1 2 Takuu at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015)
  2. Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin; Bank, Sebastian, eds. (2016). "Takuu". Glottolog 2.7. Jena: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History.

Further reading

See also

This article is issued from Wikipedia - version of the 11/9/2016. The text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike but additional terms may apply for the media files.