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Fijian (Na Vosa Vakaviti) is an Austronesian language of the Malayo-Polynesian family spoken by some 350,000–450,000 ethnic Fijians as a native language. The 2013 Constitution established Fijian as an official language of Fiji, along with English and Hindi, and there is discussion about establishing it as the "national language", though English and Hindi would remain official. Fijian is a VOS language.[3]

Na Vosa Vakaviti
Native toFiji
Native speakers
339,210 (1996 census)[1]
320,000 second-language users (1991)
Official status
Official language in
Language codes
ISO 639-1fj
ISO 639-2fij
ISO 639-3fij
This article contains IPA phonetic symbols. Without proper rendering support, you may see question marks, boxes, or other symbols instead of Unicode characters. For a guide to IPA symbols, see Help:IPA.

Standard Fijian is based on the speech of Bau, which is an East Fijian language.



The consonant phonemes of Fijian are as shown in the following table:

Labial Coronal Palatal Velar
Nasal m n ŋ
Plosive voiceless (p) t k
prenasalized ᵐb ⁿd ⁿɡ
Fricative voiceless (f) s (x)
voiced β ð
Trill plain r
prenasalized ᶯɖʳ
Approximant w l j (h)

The consonant written ⟨dr⟩ has been described as a prenasalized trill [nr] or trilled fricative [ndr]. However, it is only rarely pronounced with a trilled release; the primary feature distinguishing it from ⟨d⟩ is that it is postalveolar, [ɳɖ], rather than dental/alveolar.[4]

The sounds [p] and [f] occur only in loanwords from other languages. The sounds [x] and [h] only occur for speakers from certain regions of the country.

Note the difference in place of articulation between the voiced-voiceless fricative pairs: bilabial [β] vs. labiodental [f], and dental [ð] vs. alveolar [s].

The vowel phonemes are:

Front Central Back
short long short long short long
Close i u
Mid e o
Open a
Falling diphthongs
Second component
/i/ /u/
First component /e/ ei̯ eu̯
/o/ oi̯ ou̯
/a/ ai̯ au̯

In addition, there is the rising diphthong i̯u.

Syllables can consist of a consonant followed by a vowel (CV) or a single vowel (V).[5]Word stress is based on moras: a short vowel is one mora, diphthongs and long vowels are two morae. Primary stress is on the penultimate mora of the phonological word. That is, if the last syllable of a word is short, then the penultimate syllable will be stressed, while if the last syllable contains either a long vowel or a diphthong, then it receives primary stress. Stress is not lexical and can shift when suffixes are attached to the root. Examples:

  • Stress on the penultimate syllable (final short vowel): síga, "day";
  • Stress on the final syllable (diphthong): cauravóu, "youth" (the stress extends over the whole diphthong).
  • Stress shift: cábe, "kick" → cabé-ta, "kick-TR"[6]


The Fijian alphabet is based on the Latin script and consists of the following letters.

a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w y

Among the consonants, there is almost a one-to-one correspondence between letters and phonemes:

  • b = [ᵐb]
  • c = [ð]
  • d = [ⁿd] (di = [ⁿdʒi])
  • f = [f]
  • g = [ŋ]
  • h = [h] ~ [x]
  • j = [tʃ] ~ [ndʒ]
  • k = [k]
  • l = [l]
  • m = [m]
  • n = [n] nr = [ᶯɖ]
  • p = [p]
  • q = [ᵑɡ]
  • r = [r]
  • s = [s]
  • t = [t] (ti = [tʃi])
  • v = [β]
  • w = [ɰ]
  • y = [j] or silent

Note that for phonological reasons ti and di are pronounced [tʃi], [ⁿdʒi] rather than [ti], [ⁿdi] (cf. Japanese chi kana). Hence, the Fijian name for Fiji, Viti, from an allophonic pronunciation of [βitʃi] as [ɸidʒi].

In addition, the digraph dr stands for postalveolar [ⁿd̠], or a prenasalized trill [ⁿᵈ̠r̠] in careful pronunciation, or more commonly for some people and in some dialects.

The vowel letters a e i o u have roughly their IPA values, [a ɛ~e i ɔ~o u]. The vowel length contrast is not usually indicated in writing, except in dictionaries and textbooks for learners of the language, where it is indicated by a macron over the vowel in question; Dixon, in the work cited below, doubles all long vowels in his spelling system. Diphthongs are ai au ei eu oi ou and iu, pronounced [ɛi̯ ɔu̯ ei̯ eu̯ oi̯ ou̯ i̯u].


Pronouns and Person MarkersEdit

The pronominal system of Fijian is remarkably rich. Like many other languages, it recognises three persons; first person (speaker), second person (addressee), and third person (all other). There is no distinction between human, non-human, animate, or inanimate.[7] Four numbers are represented; singular, dual, paucal, and plural—'paucal' refers to more than two people who have some relationship, as a family or work group; if none, 'plural' is used. Like many other Oceanic languages, Fijian pronouns are marked for number and clusivity.[8]

Fijian Pronouns[9]
Person Number
singular dual paucal plural
1INCL subject (e)taru tou (e)ta
object 'eetaru 'etatou 'eta
cardinal 'eetaru 'etatou 'eta
1EXCL subject au~u 'eirau 'eitou 'eimami
object au 'eirau 'eitou 'eimami
cardinal yau 'eirau 'eitou 'eimami
2 subject o (o)mudrau
object i'o 'emudrau 'emudou 'emunuu
cardinal i'o 'emudrau 'emudou 'emunuu
3 subject e (e)rau (e)ratou (e)ra
object 'ea rau iratou ira
cardinal 'ea (i)rau (i)ratou (i)ra

Forms and FunctionEdit

Each pronoun can have five forms, but some person-number combinations may have the same form for more than one function[10], as can be seen in the table above.

The forms are:

Cardinal – used when a pronoun occurs as the head of a NP. A cardinal pronoun is usually preceded by the proper article 'o', except when preceded by a preposition:












"They are going"
















"I gave [the coconut] [to them]

Subject – the first constituent of a predicate, acts as person marking. Examples can be seen in examples (1) and (2) above: 'era' and 'au', and (3) below: 'o'

Object – follows the -i-final form of a transitive verb:










"You left them"

Possessive suffix – attaches to inalienable nouns, and

Possessive – precedes the NP head of the 'possessed' constituent in a possessive construction.

(For more information on the form and function of these possessive pronouns, see Possession.)


The major clausal structure in Fijian minimally includes a predicate, which usually has a verb at its head.[11] The initial element in the predicate is the subject form pronoun:






"I am going"






"They are going"

This 'subject marker + verb' predicate construction is obligatory, every other constituent is optional. The subject may be expanded upon by a NP following the predicate:










"[the children] are going"

"They [the children] are going"

The subject pronoun constituent of a predicate acts mainly as a person marker.

Fijian is a verb–object–subject language, and the subject pronoun may be translated as its equivalent in English, the subject NP of a clause in Fijian follows the verb and the object if it is included.

The social use of pronouns is largely driven by respect and hierarchy. Each of the non-singular second person pronouns can be used for a singular addressee. For example, if one's actual or potential in-laws are addressed, the 2DU pronoun should be used. Similarly, when a brother or sister of the opposite sex is addressed, the 2PA pronoun should be used, and it can also be used for same-sex siblings when the speaker wishes to show respect. The 2PL pronoun can be used to show respect to elders, particularly the village chief.[10]


Possession is a grammatical term for a special relationship between two entities: a "possessor" and a "possessed". The relationship may be one of legal ownership, but in Fijian, like many other Austronesian languages, it is often much broader, encompassing kin relations, body parts, parts of an inanimate whole and personal qualities and concepts such as control, association and belonging.

Fijian has a complex system of possessive constructions, depending on the nature of the possessor and of the possessed. Choosing the appropriate structure depends on knowing[12] whether the possessor is described by a person or placename; a pronoun; or a common noun (with human or non-human animate, or inanimate reference) and also on whether the possessed is a free noun or a bound noun.


Only an animate noun may be a possessor in the true possessive constructions shown below, with possession marked on the possessed NP in a number of ways. For personal and place name possessors, the possessive construction may be made by affixing the possessive suffix –i to the possessed noun, bound or free. If the possessor is a pronoun, the possessed noun must be marked by one of the pronominal markers which specify person, number and inclusivity/exclusivity (see table). If the possessor is inanimate, the possessive particle ni is usually placed between the possessed NP and the possessor NP. The particle ni then indicates association, rather than formal possession, but the construction is still regarded as a possessive construction.


Free nouns can stand alone and need no affix; most nouns in Fijian fall into this class. Bound nouns require a suffix to complete them and are written ending in a hyphen to indicate this requirement. Tama- (father) and tina- (mother) are examples of bound nouns. The classes of free and bound nouns roughly correspond with the concept, common in Austronesian languages, of alienable and inalienable possession, respectively. Alienable possession denotes a relationship in which the thing possessed is not culturally considered an inherent part of the possessor, and inalienable possession indicates a relationship in which the possessed is regarded as an intrinsic part of the possessor.

Body parts and kin relations are typical examples of inalienable possession. Inanimate objects are typical examples of alienable possession.

The alienable nature of free nouns is further marked by prefixes, known as classifiers, indicating certain other characteristics. Some common examples are me- when the possessed noun is something drinkable, ke- (or ‘e) when the noun is something edible and we- when the referent of the possessed noun is personal property.

Fijian possessive pronominal suffix markers[13]Edit

Person Single Dual Paucal Plural
1 excl -qu -irau -itou -imami
1 incl -- -daru -datou -da
2 -mu -mudrau -mudou -muni
3 -na -drau -dratou -dra

Possessive Constructions[14]Edit

The word order of a possessive construction for all except inanimate possessors is possessed NP-classifier(CLF) + possessive marker (POSS) + possessor NP.

For an inanimate possessor, the word order is possessed NP + ni + possessor NP.

POSSESSOR bound noun free noun
personal or place name suffix -i (example 1) classifier plus suffix -i; or suffix -i (example 2)
pronoun pronominal suffix; or suffix -i (example 3a, b) classifier plus possessor pronoun (example 4a, b)
human noun pronominal suffix, expanded by post-head possessor NP; or suffix -i; or NP ni NP (example 5) classifier plus possessor pronoun, expanded by post-head possessor NP (example 6)
animate noun NP ni NP ; or pronominal suffix, expanded by post-head possessor NP NP ni NP; or classifier plus possessor pronoun, expanded by post-head possessor NP
inanimate noun NP ni NP (example 7, 8) NP ni NP (example 7, 8)

Note that there is some degree of flexibility in the use of possessive constructions as described in this table.


  1. a liga-i Paula
    ART Hand-POSS Paula
    "Paula's hand"
  2. a waqona me-i Paula
    ART kava CLF.DRINK-POSS Paula
    "Paula's kava"
    1. a tama-mudrau
      ART father PRON.SUFF.2DUAL
      "The father of you two"
    2. a liga-qu
      ART hand – PRON.SUFF.1SG
      "My hand"
    1. a me-na ti
      "His / her tea"
    2. a 'e-mu uvi
      "Your (SG) yam (for eating)."
  3. a liga-na
    ART Hand- PRON.3SG
    His / her hand
  4. a we-irau waqa o yau ei Jone
    John's and my boat (thing owned).
  5. na yaca ni waqa
    ART name POSS.PART boat
    The name of the boat (The name associated with the boat)
  6. a vale ni kana
    ART house POSS.PART eat
    "A house of eating (A house associated with eating)" = "A restaurant"


The normal Fijian word order is VOS (verb–object–subject):

  • E rai-c-a (1) na no-na (2) vale (3) na gone (4).
  • 3-sg.-sub. see-trans.-3-sg.-obj. (1) the 3-sg.-poss. (2) house (3) the child (4).
  • (The child sees his house.)

National language debateEdit

In May and June 2005, a number of prominent Fiji Islanders called for the status of Fijian to be upgraded. It was not an official language before the adoption of the 1997 Constitution, which made it co-official with English and Fiji Hindi. It is still not a compulsory subject in schools, however; the present[when?] Education Minister, Ro Teimumu Kepa, has endorsed calls for it to be made so, as has Great Council of Chiefs Chairman Ratu Ovini Bokini. Similar calls came from Misiwini Qereqeretabua, the Director of the Institute of Fijian Language and Culture, and from Apolonia Tamata, a linguistics lecturer at Suva's University of the South Pacific, who both said that recognition of the Fijian language is essential to the nation's basic identity and as a unifying factor in Fiji's multicultural society.

Fiji Labour Party leader Mahendra Chaudhry also endorsed the call for Fijian to be made a national language and a compulsory school subject if the same status be given to Fiji Hindi, a position echoed by Krishna Vilas of the National Reconciliation Committee.

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Fijian at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015)
  2. ^ Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2017). "Fijian". Glottolog 3.0. Jena, Germany: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History.
  3. ^ [1] WALS – Fijian
  4. ^ Ladefoged, Peter; Maddieson, Ian (1996). The Sounds of the World's Languages. Oxford: Blackwell. ISBN 0-631-19814-8. p 122, 131. The authors use the transcription ⟨nḍ⟩, where the sub-dot is their convention for a postalveolar stop that is not prototypically retroflex.
  5. ^ Dixon 1988:15.
  6. ^ Dixon 1988:17
  7. ^ Dixon 1988: 52
  8. ^ Cysouw, Michael (2013). "WALS Online – Feature 39A: Inclusive/Exclusive Distinction in Independent Pronouns". The World Atlas of Language Structures Online. Leipzig: Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology. Retrieved May 4, 2015.
  9. ^ Dixon 1988: 54–55
  10. ^ a b c d e Dixon 1988: 53
  11. ^ a b c Dixon 1988: 33
  12. ^ Dixon 1988: 119
  13. ^ Schütz 1985: 449
  14. ^ Dixon 1988: 120


External linksEdit