Raga (also known as Hano) is the language of northern Pentecost Island in Vanuatu. Like all Vanuatu languages, Raga belongs to the Oceanic subgroup of the Austronesian languages family. In old sources the language is sometimes referred to by the names of villages in which it is spoken, such as Bwatvenua (Qatvenua), Lamalanga, Vunmarama and Loltong.
It is the most conservative language of Pentecost Island, having preserved final vowels while also retaining the five-vowel system inherited from Proto-Oceanic, compared to other languages spoken on the island, which have all developed additional vowels in addition to pervasive vowel deletion.
With an estimated 6,500 native speakers (in the year 2000), Raga is the second most widely spoken of Pentecost's five native languages (after Apma), and the seventh largest vernacular in Vanuatu as a whole. There are significant communities of Raga speakers on Maewo island and in Port Vila and Luganville as a result of emigration from Pentecost. Walter Lini, the independence leader of Vanuatu, was a native Raga speaker.
The Raga spoken by most people today is heavily mixed with Bislama, Vanuatu's national language. The Turaga indigenous movement, based at Lavatmanggemu in north-eastern Pentecost, have attempted to purge the language of foreign influences by coining or rediscovering native words for introduced concepts such as "torch battery" (vat bongbongi, literally "night stones") and "hour" (ngguha, literally "movement"). Members of the Turaga movement write in Raga language using Avoiuli, a unique writing system inspired by local sand drawings.
Raga is generally considered an easy language to speak and learn, and is known as a second language by a number of speakers of other Vanuatu languages.
Modern Raga is relatively homogeneous, with no significant dialectal variation. A distinctive southern dialect of Raga, Nggasai, is now extinct; its last native speaker died in 1999.
Several grammatical sketches, vocabulary lists and short papers on Raga have been published, beginning with the work of R H Codrington and von der Gabelentz in the late 19th century, and a number of religious texts have been translated into the language.
The consonants of Raga are as follows,
|Plosive||voiced||b ~ p ⟨b⟩||bʷ||d||ᵑɡ ⟨ḡ⟩|
|Fricative||v ~ f ⟨v⟩||vʷ ~ fʷ||s||ɣ ~ x ⟨g⟩||h|
In this article, the sounds /ŋ/ and /ᵑɡ/ (like the ng of 'singer' and 'finger', respectively), which are written n̄ and ḡ in standard orthography, are written ng and ngg. G is typically pronounced like the ch in Scottish "loch".
Prenasalization of the voiced plosives, such that b becomes mb (always voiced) and d becomes nd, occurs when the preceding consonant is nasal (m, n or ng). Thus mabu "rest" is pronounced mambu.
V, vw are labiodental, unlike in Apma to the immediate south, where they are bilabial [β, w]. Descriptions describe v as [v] and g as [x] more commonly than as [f] or [ɣ], but there is evidently some variation.
Raga has the five basic vowels a, e, i, o and u. Vowels are not generally distinguished for length.
Word roots in Raga nearly always end with a vowel. However, word-final vowels are often dropped within phrases, so that, for example, tanga "basket" and maita "white" combine to make tang maita "white basket".
Stress occurs on the penultimate syllable of a word.
Basic word order in Raga is subject–verb–object.
Personal pronouns are distinguished by person and number. They are not distinguished by gender. The basic pronouns are as follows:
Plurality is indicated by placing ira before a noun:
Nouns may be suffixed to indicate whom an item belongs to. For example:
Possession may also be indicated by the use of possessive classifiers, separate words that occur before the noun and take possessive suffixes. These classifiers are:
Historically there was also a classifier wa- for sugarcane to be chewed (wan toi, "his sugarcane"); this has fallen out of use among younger speakers.
The possessive suffixes are as follows:
|1st person||inclusive||-ku or -nggu||-daru||-da|
A verb may be transformed into a noun by the addition of a nominalising suffix -ana:
Modifiers generally come after a noun:
Verbs in Raga are usually preceded by a subject pronoun and by a marker indicating the tense, aspect and mood of the action.
The subject pronouns are as follows:
There is no 3rd person singular subject pronoun ("he/she/it").
Raga has five sets of tense/aspect/mood markers:
|Tense / Aspect / Mood||Used for||Marker (full form)||Marker (short form)|
|Imperfective||Actions in the present tense
Temporary or changing states
|Perfective||Actions in the past tense
|Potential||Things that may happen in the future||vi||-v or -i|
|Prospective||Things that are about to happen||men||-men|
|Hypothetical||Things that have not happened and probably won't||si||-s|
The full forms of these markers are used in the 3rd person singular, when there is usually no subject pronoun:
Elsewhere, short forms of these markers are suffixed to the subject pronoun:
There are also dual (two-person) forms incorporating a particle ru "two":
Historically there were trial (three-person) forms incorporating a particle dol or tol, but these have fallen out of use.
Imperatives can consist of a verb with no marker. In third person forms, there is a marker na-:
There is a pattern of verb-consonant mutation whereby v at the start of a verb changes to b, vw to bw, g to ngg, and t to d. This mutation occurs in imperfective aspect, and in the presence of the additive marker mom:
Negative sentences are indicated with the two-part marker hav...te(he) "not", which encloses the verb and anything suffixed to it:
The passive voice can be formed by attaching the suffix -ana to the verb:
The direct object immediately follows the verb. Some object pronouns take the form of suffixes attached to the verb:
|1st person singular||-(a)u||"me"|
|2nd person singular||-go||"you" (singular)|
|3rd person singular (or inanimate plural)||-a or -e||"him" / "her" / "it" (or "them")|
|3rd person plural (animate)||-ra||"them"|
In some cases a particle -ni- interposes between the verb and the object pronoun:
|Where are you going?||Gomen van (hala) behe?|
|Where have you come from?||Gon mai (hala) behe?|
|Where is it?||Mwa ndo (hala) behe?|
|It's here||Mwa ndo teti|
|Come here!||Mai teti!|
|Go away!||Van dagai!|
|What's your name?||Ihamwa be ihei?|
|My name is...||Ihaku be...|
|Where are you from?||Ginggo ata behe? / Ginggo nin behe?|
|I am from...||Inau ata... / Inau nin...|
|How much? / How many?||Gaiviha?|
|one||tea / gaituvwa|
|It's just fine||Nu tavuha ngano|