|Tokelau, Swains Island (American Samoa, United States)
|1,200 in Tokelau (2020)
2,500 in New Zealand (2013 census)
Official language in
Tokelauan (//) is a Polynesian language spoken in Tokelau and historically by the small population of Swains Island (or Olohega) in American Samoa. It is closely related to Tuvaluan and is related to Samoan and other Polynesian languages. Tokelauan has a co-official status with English in Tokelau. There are approximately 4,260 speakers of Tokelauan, of whom 2,100 live in New Zealand, 1,400 in Tokelau, and 17 in Swains Island. "Tokelau" means "north-northeast".
Loimata Iupati, Tokelau's resident Director of Education, has stated that he is in the process of translating the Bible from English into Tokelauan. While many Tokelau residents are multilingual, Tokelauan was the language of day-to-day affairs in Tokelau until at least the 1990s, and is spoken by 88% of Tokelauan residents. Of the 4600 people who speak the language, 1600 of them live in the three atolls of Tokelau – Atafu, Nukunonu and Fakaofo. Approximately 3000 people in New Zealand speak Tokelauan, and the rest of the known Tokelauan speakers are spread across Australia, Hawaii, and the West Coast of the United States. The Tokelauan language closely resembles its more widely spoken and close genealogical relative, Samoan; the two maintain a degree of mutual intelligibility.
Horatio Hale was the first person to publish a Tokelauan dictionary of sorts, which he did in 1846. Rather than being the accepted definition of dictionary, it was a reference that only contained 214 entries of vocabulary. Hale's publication remained the only published Tokelauan reference until 1969. However, Tokelauan had been instituted into schools in the late 1940s; prior to the publication, there was not much headway made in the teaching of the language. In 1969, the New Zealand Department of Education published D. W. Boardman's Tokelau-English Vocabulary. This second, more advanced reference was a collection of around 1200 vocabulary entries. In the times that passed after the second publication, the necessity of a more detailed and in depth reference to the language for the purpose of education with the Tokelauan community was realized by Hosea Kirifi (who later became the first Tokelau Director of Education) and J. H. Webster. In the year 1975, Kirifi and Webster published the first official precursory Tokelauan dictionary, which contained an estimated 3000 items, called the Tokelau-English Dictionary. This entire movement was based on the fact that the Tokelauan people take a great deal of pride in their language. Tokelauan schools lacked an abundance of resources and materials that could be used to educate their children on the language. It has a high place in their culture, and the revitalization and renewal of the language for their younger generation had eventually reached a point where action had to be taken. One year after the publication of the 1975 Tokelau-English Dictionary, the government approved the installation of Ropati Simona who was to head the Tokelau Dictionary Project. This eventually led to the publication of the first comprehensive Tokelauan dictionary, Tokelau Dictionary by the Office of Tokelau Affairs in 1986.
Tokelau is a dependency of New Zealand and has three main parts, which consist of atolls: Atafu, Nukunonu, and Fakaofo. Together these three atolls lay roughly about two hundred sixty nautical miles away from Samoa. The three atolls of Tokelau are also known as the Duke of York, Duke of Clarence, and D'Wolf or Bowditch, respectively (on old maps). Together, they are known as The Union Islands, The Union Group, and as the Tokelau Islands. Tokelau's language, Tokelauan, belongs to the Austronesian language family and is considered to be part of the subgroup of Polynesian languages. More than half of the speakers of the Tokelauan language reside in New Zealand, about thirty percent live in either Atafu, Nukuonono, or Fakaofo, and a minority live in Australia (geographically close to New Zealand) and states in the United States that touch the Pacific Ocean (Hawaii and other western states part of the mainland). Since Tokelau lies very close to Samoa, it is common to think that the Tokelauan language has some Samoan language influences, but due to the lack in extensive documentation, it is inaccurate to assume such a thing. Tokelauan was still only considered to be a spoken language up until the 1960s. During the 1960s schools began teaching their peoples how to read and write their own language. Short works were also produced in Tokelauan. Additionally, it was common for adults to be fluent in Samoan and Tokelauan. The Tokelauan language is small, and has always been fairly small, even before the Europeans invaded, because of the limited resources that each atoll had, which limited the number of people that could be supported on each.
Tokelauan is written in the Latin script, albeit using only 15 letters: A, E, I, O, U, F, G, K, L, M, N, P, H, T, and V.
Its alphabet consists of 5 vowels: a (pronounced: /a/), e (pronounced: /e/), i (pronounced: /i/), o (pronounced: /o/) and u (pronounced: /u/);
and 10 consonants: /p t k f v h m n ŋ l/, /ŋ/ spelled g
Long vowels can be marked with a macron above them: ā (/aː/), ē (/eː/), ī (/iː/), ō (/oː/), ū (/uː/)
The Tokelauan alphabet is phonemic, except for long vowels that are not differentiated orthographically by most Tokelauan writers. The language does not heavily rely on the use of macrons to lengthen their vowels. There are some phonetic similarities between sounds in the language, such as /h/ and /f/, which results in some variation in orthographic practice. For example, toha and tofa both mean goodbye but can be pronounced differently. The sounds for h, s, f and wh can all be used interchangeably. There are two dialects in Polynesia, which has shaped the Tokelauan language to sound how it does. The h and wh sounds are from the older dialect, while the f and s sounds are from the newer one. The fact that all these sounds are interchangeable regardless of when it arrived at the islands suggests that no one dialect surpassed the other. Although Tokelauan is closely related to the Samoan language, there is a distinct difference between their pronunciation of words. For example, Samoan words containing the k sound can sound like g with words such as hiki often mistakenly heard as higi. Tokelauan language does not allow the k's to drop.
Like English, vowels can be short or long. Moreover, vowels are lengthened for a more expressive statement. To indicate whether a vowel is read short or long, Tokelauan language denotes a long vowel with a macron over the letter symbol. A macron is a horizontal line, also seen in English. However, it is worthwhile to note that not all Tokelauan speaking peoples agree with the use of the macron. Those residing in the three atolls of Tokelau are known to have shown much resistance to the macron, while the Tokelauan speakers of New Zealand are more open and accepting of adopting the use of this linguistic symbol.
Although there is not a lot of available systemic data for Tokelauan word stressing, linguistics have developed three rules relating word stress and vowels based upon some previous evidence. The first rule is that a long vowel will receive the main stress. Secondly, with some exceptions to rule number one, the second to last vowel would bear the main stress (if the long vowel is not the main stress). And thirdly, words do not lose their normal stress when compounded with another word. Furthermore, monosyllabic grammatical morphemes are left unstressed.
Similarly to English, each Tokelauan clause has a predicate. There are five types of predicate including verbal, locative, existential, possessive, and nominal. Each predicate is available for an interrogative and declarative statement, and can also have multiple predicates conjoined.
A verbal phrase will follow a verbal clause.
(An evaluative predicate can and usually does occur with no argument.)
Preposition ⟨i⟩ and a noun phrase following a tense-aspect particle.
Below is a table displaying the predicative possessive pronouns in the Tokelauan language.
|o oku, o kita
a aku, a kite
|o taua, o ta
a taua, a ta
|o maua, o ma o
a maua, a ma a
|o ou/o koe
a au/a koe
|o laua, o la
a laua, a la
Shown below is a table showing Tokelauan premodifying possessive pronouns.
|toku, taku, tota, tata
|oku, aku, ota, ata
|1 dual incl.
|to ta, to taua
ta ta, ta taue
|o ta, o taue
a ta, a taua
|1 dual excl.
|to ma, to maua
ta ma, ta maua
|o ma, o maua
a ma, a maua
|to la, to laue
ta la, ta laue
|o la, o laua
a la a laua
|1 plural incl.
|to tatou, ta tatou
|o tatou, a tatou
|1 plural excl.
|to matou, ta matou
|o matou, a matou
|to latou, ta latau
|o latou, a latou
|ni oku, ni ota
|ni o, ni au
|ni ona, ni ana
|1 dual incl.
|ho ta, ho taua
ha ta, ha taua
|ni o ta, ni o taue
ni a ta, ni a taua
|1 dual excl.
|ho ma, ho maua
ha ma, ha maua
|ni o ma, ni o maua
ni a ma, ni a maua
|ni oulua, ni aulua
There are two articles that are used in the English language. These articles are the and a/an. The usage for the word the when speaking of a noun is strictly reserved for the case in which the receiver of the word should be aware of its context, or if said item has been referred to previously. This is because in English, the word the acts as what is known as a definite article, meaning that a defined object or person is being spoken of. However, in the case of definite article usage in Tokelauan language, if the speaker is speaking of an item in the same manner as the English languages uses the, they need not to have referred to it previously so long as the item is specific. The same can be said for the reference of singular being. Because of the difference in grammatical ruling, although the definite article in the Tokelauan language is te, it is very common for it to translate to the English indefinite article a. An indefinite article is used when there is no specification of the noun being referred to. The usage of the word he, the indefinite article in Tokelauan is 'any such item'. In negative statements the word he is used because that is where it is most often found[clarification needed], as well as when phrasing a question. However, it is important to remember that just because these two types of statements are where he occurs the greatest it does not mean that he does not occur in other types of statements as well. Examples of both te and he are as such:
The use of he and te in Tokelauan are reserved for when describing a singular noun. When describing a plural noun, different articles are used. For plural definite nouns, nā is the article that is used. However, in some cases, rather than using nā, plural definite nouns are subject to the absence of an article represented by 0. The absence of an article is usually used if a large amount or a specific class of things are being described. An example of an exception to this commonality would be if one was describing an entire class of things, but in a nonspecific way. In this case, rather than nā as the article, the singular definite noun te would be used. The article ni is used for describing a plural indefinite noun. Examples of nā, a 0 exception, and ni are as such:
(Notice that this is the use of an indefinite article in an interrogative statement. As mentioned above, the use of indefinite articles in these types of statements is very common.)
The particles of the Tokelauan language are ia, a (or ā), a te, and ia te. When describing personal names as well as the names of the month, pronouns (the use here is optional and it is most commonly used when there are words in between the pronoun and verb), and collaborative nouns that describe a group of people working together the most common particle is used. This particle is ia, which is used so long as none of the nouns listed above follow the prepositions e, o, a, or ko. When the subject of a sentence is a locative or name of a place, ia is also used as the particle in those particular, as well as other specific instances. The particle a is used before a person's name as well as the names of months and the particle a te is used before pronouns when these instances are following the prepositions i or ki. If describing a pronoun and using the preposition mai, the article that follows is ia te.
There are four main classes of lexemes in the Tokelauan language, and are as follows:
Majority of the lexemes can be used in both position 1 & 2, meaning they can function as nouns and verbs, depending on the context.
The Tokulauan language makes use of complementizers pe, ke, oi, and ona. The complementizer pe is used for indicative complements, while ke, oi, and ona are used for non-indicative complements.
Pe: Complement used in sentences pertaining to knowledge.
'My guess was that a full week had passed.'
Ke: Complement used in sentences pertaining to purpose.
'[They] were tired of trying to get me to drink.'
Ona: Complement used in sentences pertaining to “phasal, modal, and commentative predicates.”
'It had become necessary to acquire a house'
Oi: Complement used in sentences pertaining to items of sequence.
'Very soon that star will be in the ascendant.'
The Tokelauan language also must take into mind the systematics of its complements. There is a bonding hierarchy between the complements and its sentences. According to Hooper's research, there are four elements that in Tokelauan semantics that determine the strength of the bond between the complement and rest of the sentence. In the binding system, the complements act inversely to the verb of the sentence. Therefore, if the strength of the verb is higher on the binding scale, the complement is unlikely to appear as its own separate clause. The four elements are: Subject/agent case marking, Verb modalities, Fusion or co-lexicalization, and Separation.
Tokelauan is a quite free flowing language as the sentence structures can vary greatly. Although there is a preferred method of ordering the phrase (i.e., argument, subject, case complement), the language allows for different variations. There are certain rules when it comes to sentence permutations when it comes to “subject shifting” or “case scrambling.” Generally, across these sentence permutations, the parts of speech, such as argument, subject, and case complements, have to stay together. Meaning, the argument is one section that would shift together and subject is its own unit.
mai te fale i te auala
Walked from the house along the road the girl
mai te fale i te auala
Walked the girl from the house along the road
i te hiipuni
i te hiipuni
i te hiipuni
All of which still mean, The fish was eaten by me with a spoon.
Tokelauan is mutually intelligible with the Tuvaluan language. Samoan literature is recognised mostly due to the early introduction of Christian Samoan missionaries to which the Samoan language was held as the language of instruction at school and at church. It also has marked similarities to the Niuafo'ou language of Tonga.
|Fanatu au là?
|Shall I come too?
|Ko toku nena e i Nukunonu.
|My grandmother lives in Nukunonu.
|Malo ni, ea mai koe?
|Hello, how are you?
|Ko ai tō igoa?
|What is your name?
|Ulu tonu mai
|E fakafeiloaki atu
|We greet you
|Te malie o te meakai
|The food is delicious.
|Hēai / Helo / Kole
|Tahi te afe /Afe
|Lua te afe / Luaafe
|Tolu te afe / Toluafe
|Fā te afe / Fāafe
|Lima te afe / Limaafe
The Tokelau kinship terms are used to define family organizations within the community. Tokelau has adopted the Hawaiian-type kinship system and modified distinctions in sibling terms. The language has specific words for different members of the family, and some of these terms have multiple meanings.
There are three terms that showcase the distinction of same-sex and opposite-sex sibling terms: Sibling of own sex (male or female); sibling of opposite sex (male); and sibling of opposite sex, (female). For example, 'mother's sister,' 'male cousin's brother' and 'sister's nephew' are all different terms in the Tokelauan language. In Tokelau, the term most closely translated to “incest” is holi kāiga which is made up of two words: holi meaning 'to tread' and also 'to desecrate' or 'violate'. The word Kāiga means 'kinship'. The term holi kāiga can be applied to not only a 'desecration of kinship' but in any cases that the order of kinship is changed, for example a child defying an elder. The most common use of the term, however, is used when speaking about the sexual contact between individuals. In the Tokelauan language, Kāiga has both adjectival and nominal linguistic functions:
When the word is used nominally, it may imply a diverse variety of social units that all have a shared ancestor. The Tokelau languages contains terms for affinal relationships, however, there is no single word that can be transcribed as 'affinity'. The term opposite of kāiga ('kin' or 'related') is he kāiga ('not kin' or 'unrelated'), and that only those who are he kāiga should be wedded. Violating the kinship relationship means breaching not only the current relationship but the whole kinship of all descendants.
With fewer than 5000 speakers, the Tokelauan language is endangered. There is a struggle to teach a language that is spoken by only handful of people, when learning a widely known language such as English has a much greater benefit in their society. The heritage language of the community starts to diminish as parents stray away from teaching their children the local language, in hopes that they will succeed in learning the more dominant language, and as Tokelauan speakers intermarry with non-speakers. Older generations of people living in Tokelau speak both Tokelauan and Samoan, but the younger generation, due to the newer schooling system, are apt to speak English rather than Samoan. In a census in 2001 in New Zealand, only 44 percent of the people with a Tokelauan background could hold a conversation in the language, compared to 53 percent in 1996. Comparably, a meager 29 percent of New Zealand-born Tokelauans reported being able to speak the language, compared to the 71 percent born in the three atolls.
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