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Tahitian, a Tahitic language, spoken by Tahitians, is one of the two official languages of French Polynesiamarker (along with French). It is an Eastern Polynesian language closely related to Rarotongan, New Zealand Māori, and Hawaiian.

Alphabet

Tahitian features a very small number of phonemes, as further evidence of its linguistic heritage: five vowels and eight consonants not counting the lengthened vowels, diphthongs and the glottal stop.

letter name pronunciation notes
IPA English

approximation
a ’ā a: butter, ā: father
e ’ē e: late, ē: same but longer
f friend becomes bilabial after o and u
h house becomes (as in English shoe) after i and before o or u
i ’ī as in machine may become diphthong ai in some words like rahi
m mouse
n nap
o ’ō o: nought, ō: go
p sponge (not aspirated)
r - alveolar trill
t stand (not aspirated)
u ’ū u: foot, ū: moo strong lip rounding
v vine becomes bilabial ( ) after o and u
’eta uh-oh glottal stop beginning each syllable


The glottal stop or ’eta is a genuine consonant. (People unfamiliar with Tahitian might mistake it for a punctuation mark.) This is typical of Polynesian languages (compare to the Hawaiian okina and others). However, in Tahitian the glottal stops are seldom written in practice, and if they are, often as a straight apostrophe ' , instead of the curly apostrophe. The native speakers know where to pronounce them and are not taught to write them down. Alphabetical word ordering in dictionaries ignores the existence of glottals. Admittedly, the Tahitian glottal is normally weak, except in a few words like i’a (fish), and easily missed by the untrained ear of the non-native speaker.

Tahitian makes a phonemic distinction between long and short vowels; long vowels are marked with a tārava or macron. 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.

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.

Although the use of ’eta and tārava is equal to the usage of such symbols in other Polynesian languages, is promoted by l'Académie Tahitienne, and is adopted by the territorial government, there are at least a dozen other ways of applying accents. Some methods are historical and no longer used, while others are heavily promoted by people who think they know better. This only adds to the confusion. 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.

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, article, and particle) to encode grammatical relationships, rather than on inflection, as would be typical of European languages. It is practically an isolating language, except when it comes to the personal pronouns, which have separate forms for singular, plural and dual number.

Grammar

Typologically, Tahitian word order is VSO (Verb-Subject-Object), which is typical of Polynesian languages.

Taboo names (pi’i)

In many parts of Polynesia the name of an important leader was (and sometimes still is) considered sacred and was therefore accorded appropriate respect. 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 means to stand, but in Tahitian it is ti’a, because 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 normal word is rahi (which is common Polynesian for 'large'). And also ’ē’a fell in disuse, replaced by purūmu or porōmu. Nowadays ’ē’a means 'path', purūmu is 'road'.Tū also had a nickname, Pō-mare (night coughing), under which his dynasty has become best known. By consequence (night) became ru`i (nowadays only used in the Bible, pō having become the normal word again), but mare (literally cough) has irreversibly been replaced by hota.Other examples: 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 Leewardsmarker.

See also



External links



References

  • Y. Lemaître; Lexique du tahitien contemporain; 1973 ISBN 2-7099-0228-1
  • same; second, reviewed edition, 1995 ISBN 2-7099-1247-3
  • T. Henry; Ancient Tahiti – Tahiti aux temps anciens
  • D.T. Tryon; Conversational Tahitian; ANU 1970



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