Vaeakau-Taumako language

  (Redirected from Vaeakau-Taumako)

Vaeakau-Taumako (formerly known as Pileni) is a Polynesian language spoken in some of the Reef Islands as well as in the Taumako Islands (also known as the Duff Islands) in the Temotu province of the Solomon Islands.

RegionReef Islands and Taumako, Solomon Islands
Native speakers
1,700 (1999)[1]
Language codes
ISO 639-3piv
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The language is spoken throughout the Taumako Islands, while in the Reef Islands, it is spoken on Aua, Matema, Nifiloli, Nupani, Nukapu, and Pileni. Speakers are thought[by whom?] to be descendants of people from Tuvalu.

Vaeakau-Taumako was described by linguists Even Hovdhaugen and Åshild Næss, in the form of a dictionary[2] and a grammar.[3]


Vaeakau-Taumako is a Polynesian outlier. Within that group, it has traditionally been considered one of the Futunic branch, but a 2008 study (exclusively based on lexical evidence) concluded that this membership is weakly supported.[4]



Vaeakau-Taumako does not vary from the standard Polynesian and Austronesian vowel system, featuring five vowels that can be used either in a long or short form. Short vowels found in word-final syllables are frequently devoiced or dropped, but long vowels in the same position are always stressed. There is little allophonic variation between vowel pronunciations.[GVT 1]

Front Central Back
High i: /i/ and /ī/ u: /u/ and /ū/
Mid e: /e/ and /ē/ o: /o/ and /ō/
Low a: /a/ and /ā/

Vowel sequences in Vaeakau-Taumako are typically not treated as diphthongs, as they are not fully reduplicated, as shown in the word "holauhola". This is despite the vowels in the original word being pronounced like a diphthong.[GVT 1]


The Vaeakau-Taumako language has one of the most complex consonant system of the Polynesian languages, with 19 distinct phonemes, plus a large amount of variation across dialects. /b/ and /d/ are found primarily in loan words, rather being native to the language.[GVT 2]

Aspirated sounds are characteristic of the language, and are typically strong and audible. However, the use of aspirated sounds varies across dialects, enough that it is difficult to identify a consistent pattern aside from noting they always occur at the start of stressed syllables.[GVT 3]

Labial Dentalveolar Velar
Oral stop unvoiced, unaspirated

unvoiced, aspirated








Nasal voiced, unaspirated

unvoiced, aspirated





Lateral voiced, unaspirated

unvoiced, aspirated


Fricative voiced










Vaeakau-Taumako pronouns distinguish between 1st, 2nd and 3rd person pronouns. There are some inclusive and exclusive distinctions, and variations for singular, dual and plural in all cases. There are no gender distinctions. There is variation in the pronoun system for the dialects of Vaeakau-Taumako which can become quite complex, so for simplicity, only the general forms are recorded here.[GVT 4]

Independent personal pronounsEdit

There are two distinctive base sets of independent personal pronouns in Vaeakau-Taumako. The standard forms are used for formal occasions and recorded text, while the colloquial forms are typically found in informal, everyday conversation.[GVT 5]

Standard Colloquial
Singular 1st person

2nd person

3rd person

iau, au



Dual 1st person inclusive

1st person exclusive

2nd person

3rd person



khoulua, kholua



houlua, holua


Plural 1st person inclusive

1st person exclusive

2nd person

3rd person

thatou, thatu

mihatou, mhatu

khoutou, khotou

lhatou, lhatu

hatou, hatu


hatou, hatu

Bound subject pronounsEdit

The language also features bound subject pronouns which act as clitics to the tense-aspect-mood marker of the verb of the constituent. They are not obligatory to use. The presence of the "u" has free variation by the choice of the speaker, but they are typically less prevalent in the colloquial forms.[GVT 6]

Standard Colloquial
Singular 1st person

2nd person

3rd person

u=, ku=



Dual 1st person inclusive

1st person exclusive

2nd person

3rd person








Plural 1st person inclusive

1st person exclusive

2nd person

3rd person








Hortative pronounsEdit

The dual, plural and 2nd person singular have specific pronouns used in imperative and hortative sentences.[GVT 7]

Singular Dual Plural
1st person inclusive ta tatu, hatu, tatou
1st person exclusive ma matu
2nd person ko lu tu
3rd person la latu, hatu

Emphatic corefential pronounsEdit

When the subject and direct object of a sentence are the same thing, repetition of the independent pronoun in place of both argument positions is typically used. However, there is a set of emphatic coreferential pronouns used for the direct object to refer to someone or a group of people acting alone.[GVT 8]

Singular Dual Plural
1st person inclusive okhitaua okithatou
1st person exclusive okhoiau okhimaua okimhatou
2nd person okhoe okhoulua okhoutou
3rd person okhoia okhilaua okilhatou

The general pronoun ngaEdit

The word nga functions as a pronoun with specific use. It is a third person pronoun, but lacks specification for number, and is used to refer to both singular and plural referents. It typically is an anaphoric reference to a previously mentioned referent.[GVT 9]



While it is common for Polynesian languages to distinguish between alienability and inalienability with a and o possessives, this is not the case for Vaeakau-Taumako. This distinction exists, however it instead marks control – not of the possessed item itself, but of the possessive relationship.[GVT 10]


Relationships that can be initiated or terminated freely, such as items that can be bought, sold or given away at will are marked with the a-possessive.[GVT 10]


Relationships that are outside of the possessor's personal control, such as body parts and kinship relationships are marked with o-possessives.[GVT 10]

Alienability and inalienabilityEdit

Instead of a- and o- possessives, alienability and inalienability in Vaeakau-Taumako are distinguished by the use of either prenominal or postnominal possessive pronouns.[GVT 11]

Prenominal possessive pronounsEdit

Prenominal possessive pronouns occur directly preceding the possessed nouns, and are typically used for inalienable relationships, such as kinship terms and body parts.[GVT 12] Prenominal possessive pronouns distinguish between singular, dual and plural of the possessor. The singular possessive forms make an additional distinction between singular and plural of the possessed entity, and encode the a- or o-possessive directly. The dual and plural possessor forms are combined with the possessive prepositions a and o to express this distinction, or they may occur without a preposition.[GVT 11]

Singular possessed Plural possessed
Singular 1st person

2nd person

3rd person

taku, toku/tuku


tana, tona, tena, na

aku, oku

au, ou/ō

ana, ona

Dual 1st person inclusive

1st person inclusive

2nd person

3rd person

(a/o) ta

(a/o) ma

(a/o) lu

(a/o) la

Plural 1st person inclusive

1st person exclusive

2nd person

3rd person

(a/o) tatu

(a/o) matu

(a/o) koto, (a/o) tu

(a/o) latu

Postnominal possessive pronounsEdit

The postnominal possessive pronoun succeeds the possessed noun, and are used to mark alienable relationships, such as owned items. They make no distinction between singular and plural of the possessed item, instead the distinction is usually made through the choice of article preceding the possessed noun. Like with prenominal possessive pronouns, the postnominal possessives are based on the possessive prepositions a and o, plus a pronominal form indicating person and number of the possessor. In the singular form, this is the same set of suffixes found on the prenominal possessives, whereas in the dual and plural form, a distinct set of person and number forms are found. In the third and first person, these forms are identical to the independent personal pronouns, except for the lack of aspiration on the initial consonant.[GVT 13]

Singular Dual Plural
1st person inclusive taua tatou
1st person exclusive aku, oku maua matou
2nd person au, ou aulua, oulua autou, outou
3rd person ana, ona laua latou

Possessive SuffixesEdit

The possessive suffixes -ku (1st person), -u (2nd person) and -na (3rd person) apply to a restricted set of kinship nouns: tama/mha ‘father’, hina ‘mother’, thoka ‘same-sex sibling’, thupu ‘grandparent’, and mokupu ‘grandchild’. These nouns cannot occur without possessive marking, they require either a possessive suffix or, in the dual and plural, a postnominal possessive pronoun.[GVT 14] An alternative construction is for these nouns to take the 3rd person possessive suffix -na in combination with a prenominal possessive pronoun or possessive prepositional phrase. The form in -na must in such cases be understood as a neutral or unmarked form, since it may combine with a pronoun of any person and number; but a form in -na without any further possessive marking is unambiguously 3rd person.[GVT 15] Nouns other than those previously mentioned do not take possessive suffixes, but instead combine with possessive pronouns.[GVT 16]


Vaeako-Taumako displays negation in prohibitions (prohibitive, irrealis, imperfective, admonitive), statements (verbal and non verbal) polar questions and noun phrases. Negation morphemes behave similarly to verbs in many respects although they do not take tense-aspect-mood markers or form independent predicates.[GVT 17] However, there are instances of their taking complement clauses and for this reason negation morphemes might be considered a sub-class of verb.[GVT 18]


Prohibitive clauses may be divided into two. Prohibitive auā, (equal to the English 'don't') and Admonitive na. Prohibitives pattern themselves in similar ways and are most frequently positioned cause initially. Admonitives behave and distribute slightly differently as will be illustrated below.

Negated clauses appear with only a small range of tense-aspect-mood markers. Prohibitive clauses often display no tense-aspect-mood marker at all, if they do, the markers are either na irrealis or me prescriptive. Negated declarative clauses typically occur with either perfective ne or imperfective no, with other options only marginally represented in collected data.[GVT 19]

Prohibitive auāEdit

auā appears clause-initially, however discourse particles such as nahilā (’take care, make sure’) may precede it. Other grammatical morphemes such as articles or markers of tense, aspect or mood may not precede it which excludes auā from the verb category of Vaeakao-Taumako.[GVT 19]


auā t-a-u hano

Auā tau hano!

‘Don’t go.’ [GVT 19]

However, auā behaves like a verb in that it may take clausal complements, which are then often either nominalised or the irrealis marker na is present (see table 1.1.3).[GVT 19] A correlation exists between singular 2nd person subject and a nominalised clause although this correlation is not absolute.[GVT 20]

1.1 a

auā ko=no hualonga
PROH 2SG=IPFV make.noise

Auā ko no hualonga!

‘Don’t make noise!’[GVT 21]

Contrasting this, the 2nd person dual or plural subjects attract the irrealis marker na to create a prohibitive clause.

1.1 b

auā kholu=na ō

Auā kholuna ō!

‘Don’t you (two) go!’ [GVT 21]

Within data sets of Næss, A., & Hovdhaugen, E. (2011), as implied by the imperative nature of the morpheme, auā will tend to appear with 2nd person subjects as above, although both 1st and 3rd subjects are also found.

1st Person

1.1 c

tatu noho themu, auā hat=no holongā
1PL.INCL.HORT stay quiet PROH PL.INCL=IPFV make.noise

Tatu noho themu, auā hatno folongā

‘We should all sit still and not be noisy.’[GVT 20]

3rd Person

1.1 d

o ia auā no kute-a mai t-o-ku mata ia a iau auā t-a-ku kut-a ange o-na mata

O ia auā no kutea mai tuku mata, ia a iau auā taku kuteange ona mata.

‘She is not allowed to look at my face, ‘and I cannot look at her face.’ [GVT 20]

Auā is also found in conjunction with modifiers such as ala which marks a hypothetical or oki, ‘back, again’. [GVT 19]



auā ala t-a-u fai-a e anga e tapeo i taha

Auā ala tau faia e anga e tapeo i taha

‘You should not do bad things outside.’ [GVT 19]

auā - okiEdit


auā oki t-ō hai-a ange oki la mua nei oki la
PROH again SG.SP-2S.POSS do-TR go.along again DM.3 place DEM.1 again DM.3

Auoki tō haiange oki la manei oki la

‘Don’t ever do that anymore here.’[GVT 20]

Irrealis na and Imperfective noEdit

Irrealis na and imperfective no adheres to a common pattern of appearing in 2nd person in dual or plural within prohibitive clause structure.


auā kholu= na

Auā kholuna  !

‘Don’t you (two) go!’ [GVT 21]

Instances of 3rd person are less frequent and tend to include the imperfective no in postposition to morpheme auā.

1.1.3 a

a heinga auā no ite koe
COLL thing PROH IPFV hidden LDA 2SG

A heinga auā no hū ite koe.

‘Nothing shall be hidden from you.’[GVT 21]

Admonitive naEdit

na behaves similarly to aluā only in that it is clause initial, it is otherwise classified as a clause initial particle and it must be accompanied by the tense-aspect-mood marker me which acts as a prescriptive.[GVT 22]


na me ta-ai te tangata

Na me teia te tangara!

‘Don’t kill the man!’[GVT 22]

However na also has a second function, it acts to point out the consequences of disobeying the order. In this role the na often appears without me, creating a clause without tense-aspect-mood marking.[GVT 23]

1.1.4 a

Meri noho lavoi na me sepe
Mary stay good ADMON PRSC expose.oneself

Meri noho lavoi, na me sepe.

‘Mary, sit properly, do not expose yourself.’[GVT 23]


Verbal Clause NegationEdit

Verbal negation is made up of three morphemes which act independently and may be understood as the English equivalents to siai ‘not’, sikiai ‘not yet’,and hiekh ‘not at all’.[GVT 23]

siai ‘not, no’Edit

According to Næss, A., & Hovdhaugen, E. (2011) the colloquial pronunciation of siai is hiai, however the standard written form is siai. Siai comes after preverbal arguments but is placed before the tense-aspect-mood particle and following clitic pronoun.


ko ia siai ne longo ange ki a sina na
TOP 3SG NEG PFV listen go.along to PERS mother 3SG.POSS

Ko ia siai ne longo ange ki a sinana.

‘She did not listen to her mother.’[GVT 24]

As in the case of auā modifying particles, which are traditionally found after verbs, may appear following siai. An example of this is loa which is an emphatic marker.

For example, siai loa.

2.1.1 a

e mae loa te kai ia siai oki ne-i fui-a o-na mata
GNR refuse EMPH SG.SP eat CONJ NEG again PFV-3SG wash-TR POSS-3SG.POSS eye

E mae loa te kai ia siai oki nei fuia ona mata.

'He refused to eat, and he didn't wash his face either.’[GVT 25]

A further example is the addition of po which generally serves to connect a complement clause.

2.1.1 b

siai po ke ila~ila sika
NEG COMP HORT RED~look straight

Siai po ke ileila sika.

‘She did not feel safe.’[GVT 26]

sikiai, hikiai ‘not yet’Edit

sikiai, hikiai (where sikiai is the formal written expression of spoken hikiai) appears in the same formation as above siai except it proceeds the preverbal argument and precedes any tense-aspect-mood markers. It appears less frequently and is often accompanied by the perfective marker ne.[GVT 27]


A Osil sikiai ne ala
PERS Åshild not.yet PFV wake

A Osil hikiai ne ala.

‘Åshild is not yet up.’[GVT 27]

hiekhī/hiekhiē ‘not at all’Edit

This is the emphatic form of the negator. It follows the same distribution as both sia and sikiai and is often accompanied by the post-nuclear modifier loa.[GVT 28]


hiekhī loa ne-i kute-a te ali na EMPH PFV-3SG see-TR SG.SP flatfish DM.2

Hiekhī loa nei kutea te ali na.

‘He couldn’t find the flatfish at all.’ [GVT 28]

As with siai hiekhī appears in conjunction with complementiser po, although with lower frequency.[GVT 28]

2.1.3 a

a thatou hiekhiē po no kutea i mui thatu=no utu~utu ai na

A thatou hiekhiē po no kutea i mui thatuno utuutu ai na.

‘We had no idea where to draw water.’[GVT 28]

Non-verbal Clause NegationEdit

The same negators are used as in the verbal clauses above.


a Malani na siai e vai ai
then Malani DEM.2 NEG SG.NSP water OBL.PRO

A Malani na siai e vai ai.

‘And Malani, there was no water there.’[GVT 29]


Polar QuestionsEdit

Polar questions are commonly formed in three ways. A declarative clause with a rise in intonation to mark the interrogative which requires the binary, ‘yes’ or ‘no’ response, much as they are in English may be used. The second alternative is the addition of the verbal negator (o) siai ‘(or) not’ and the third is the addition of verbal negator sikiai (not yet) if the interrogative has a temporal element.[GVT 30]

Simple interrogative formed with declarative clause:


tha=ka ō mua?
1DU.INCL=FUT go.PL just

Thaka ō mua?

‘Shall we go?’[GVT 30]

3.1 a

(o) siai

E ai mua etai ne au o sai
GNR exist just person PFV come CONJ NEG

E ai mua etai ne au o siai? (NUP)

‘Has anyone come here?’ [GVT 31]

3.1 b


a hina-na ko-i taku-a ange po ke hano mua oi kute-a mua a thaupē po ka lanu o sikiai
PERS mother-3SG.POSS INCP-3SG say-TR go.along COMP HORT go.SG just CONJ see-TR just PERS lagoon COMP FUT rise CONJ not.yet

A hinana koi takuange po ke hano moa oi kutea moa a haupƝ po ko lanu e hikiai?

‘His mother told him to go and see if the tide was rising yet.’[GVT 30]

Noun Phrase NegationEdit

Negated ExistenceEdit

Non-specific article e can be used to express 'negated existence' unless the noun has a possessive marker in which case e is absent.[GVT 32]


siai loa e mahila k=u kapakapa ai i hale

Hiai loa e mahila ku kapakapai i hale.

‘There is no knife for me to use in the house.’ [GVT 33]

Spatial DeixisEdit

Spatial deixis is primarily expressed through demonstratives and directional forms in Vaeakau-Taumako. These spatial-deictic forms “allow the speaker to point to spatial locations” and encode the context of utterances or speech events. Interestingly, demonstrative and directional usage in Vaeakau-Taumako is particularly unique for a Polynesian language.[5] This illustrates that spatial deixis is an especially important feature of Vaeakau-Taumako grammar. Demonstratives and directionals are discussed in more detail below.


Vaeakau-Taumako demonstratives comprise a three-term system which is summarised below:

Figure 1[GVT 34]
Demonstrative English Translation
ne(i) 'here, close to speaker'
na 'there, close to addressee, some distance away'
la 'there, away from both speaker and hearer, quite far away

Overall, these demonstratives have not only nominal and adverbial uses, but are also used in various capacities to structure discourse. The demonstrative particles also occur in more complex forms (see verbal demonstratives and deictic adverbs below).

Historical contextEdit

Vaeakau-Taumako demonstratives have cognates in other Polynesian languages. These demonstratives are also consistent with what has been reconstructed for Proto-Polynesian and Proto-Oceanic. These linguistic reconstructions are summarised below:[6]

Figure 2[6]
Language 1st person 2nd person 3rd person
Proto-Oceanic *ni/*ne *na *ra(i)
Proto-Polynesian *ni/*nei *na *ra
Tongan e-ni e-na ia
Irafa-Mele -nei - nā
Vaeakau-Taumako ne(i) na la
Samoan (le)nei (le)nā le(lā)
Marquesan nei ʔā, aʔā

Furthermore, in the following discussion it will become evident that Boumma Fijian shares multiple linguistic traits with Vaeakau-Taumako. Therefore, it is possible that Boumma Fijian may be more closely related to Vaeakau-Taumako than other Polynesian languages.

Speaker-based systemEdit

The Vaeakau-Taumako demonstrative system is speaker-based: the location of the hearer or speaker serves as reference point for where the relevant object is located.[GVT 35] Denny summarised this succinctly in describing this system as one that centers space on the speaker or other participant.[7] In Vaeakau-Taumako, ‘ne(i)’ reflects an object’s proximity to the speaker, ‘na’ reflects an object’s proximity to the hearer and ‘la’ reflects distance from both the speaker and hearer, or a third party in the conversation.[GVT 36]

This three-way distinction is so common in Oceanic languages that it is “virtually certain” that Proto-Oceanic also adopted a person-based demonstrative system.[6] On a global scale, this three-way contrast is the second most common demonstrative system in the languages listed on The World Atlas of Linguistic Structures(WALS), with a two-way contrast being the most common system.[8]

Vaeakau-Taumako's speaker-based system can be rationalised by the geographic context in which it is spoken. As the language is spoken on islands in the Solomon Islands, the speakers inhabit relatively small environments that do not have naturally defined reference points to describe space. To compensate for this, demonstratives are instead based on the speakers and hearers who are in the “immediate speech situation”.[9]

Distance-based systemEdit

However, discourse analyses of current demonstrative usage indicates that the system may be shifting to one that is distance-based and therefore not dependent on the speech-act participants. This is summarised below:

Figure 3[GVT 37]
Demonstrative English Translation
ne(i) 'here, close by'
na 'there, some distance away; neither very near nor very far'
la 'there, far away'

‘Na’ is generally the preferred neutral choice of demonstrative to refer to an object that is neither far nor close. Therefore ‘na’ is not only used in direct conversations to illustrate proximity with a speech-participant (e.g. ‘that one near you'), but it is also used in narratives as a medial term of a distance-based system. In these narrative contexts, ‘na’ refers to an object that is distance-neutral or medium-distance. This dual purpose of 'na' is not completely unique to Vaeakau-Taumako as Boumaa Fijian also adopts a "mixed" system.[GVT 38]

Demonstrative pronounsEdit

Demonstratives in Vaeakau-Taumako can be used as heads of noun phrases that are comparable to the English phrases 'this one' and 'that one'. In this capacity, the demonstrative is often preceded by the articles ‘te’ (indicating singularity) or ‘ngha’ (indicating plurality). This is typical for a Polynesian language.[GVT 39] The following example shows the demonstrative ‘na’ (‘that’), being used in conjunction with the prefix ‘te’ to denote singularity:

Figure 4.1[9]
Ko te-na e ika efa.
‘That is a big fish.’

Furthermore the following example shows the prefix ‘ngha’ attaching to the demonstrative ‘la’ ('those') to indicate plurality:

Figure 4.2[GVT 40]
Ngha-la a hahine e toko-lua ma te memea e ko-tahi
‘There were two women and a child (literal meaning: those ones, the women were two and the child was one).’

Alternatively, the demonstratives can occur as a free-standing lexical item (i.e. without the need for preceding articles). This more unique aspect of Vaeakau-Taumako is exemplified in the following clause:[9]

Figure 4.3[9]
Na e kio
DEM ART chicken.
That is a chicken’.

When acting as heads of nouns, the demonstratives may also be used anaphorically to refer to previously mentioned objects/participants in the conversation. The demonstratives can therefore serve the same purpose as a third-person pronoun (see Figure 4.4 below).[GVT 41] Cross-linguistically this is not common, with the 100 of the 225 languages on WALS having language systems where third person pronouns are unrelated to demonstratives.[10] 

Figure 4.4[GVT 42]
ila mua a nohine a-u la nga te-la ia
look just PERS wife POSS-2SG.POSS DEM.3 PRON.3 SG.SP-DEM.3 3SG
‘Look, that is your wife there.’

Demonstrative adjectiveEdit

Demonstratives also function to modify a noun phrase in Vaeakau-Taumako. They can be used with nouns or pronouns and can function as a deictic or anaphoric reference.[GVT 43] The following example shows how the demonstrative ‘na’ ('that') is suffixed to the noun ‘mhe’ ('man') for a deictic purpose:

Figure 5.1[GVT 44]
a mhe-na ko=ne lau-a i hea na
PERS man-DEM.2 2SG=PFV find-TR LDA where DEM.2
‘Where did you find that man?’

This second example shows how the demonstrative 'ne' can be used as an anaphoric reference:

Figure 5.2[GVT 45]
thai lhatou e Diuku te tai ne e ingoa ko Diuku
one 3PL SG.NSP Diuku SG.SP person DEM.1 SG.NSP name TOP Diuku
‘One of them was Diuku, this man is called Diuku.’

When a demonstrative is used with a pronoun, the demonstrative often (but not always) corresponds with the speech-act participant that is being referred to in the respective pronoun. Therefore ‘ne’ will be generally used with first person pronouns, ‘na’ will be used with second person pronouns and ‘la’ will be used with third person pronouns. However, ‘na’ can also be adopted as a neutral particle that is used interchangeably with third person and second person pronouns.[GVT 46]

Local adverbial demonstrativesEdit

Demonstratives in Vaeakau-Taumako also function as local adverbs that modify a verb and indicate the location in which the respective action occurs:[GVT 47]

Figure 6.1[GVT 48]
a thatu=e ilo-a po a kio no tahao ne i nghauta
PERS 1PL.INC=GENR know-TR COMP COLL chicken IPFV stroll DEM.1 LDA shore
‘We know that chickens wander around here, on land (as opposed to the sea).’

When being used in this adverbial capacity, the demonstratives also have temporal-deictic references to refer to time (i.e. ‘now’ and ‘then’):[GVT 49]

Figure 6.2[GVT 50]
ilhatu=ne ta-ia i mua ne a-na ko ia u=ka tala∼tala-a atu ne
3PL=PFV hit-TR LDA place DEM.1 then-DEM.2 TOP 3SG 1SG=FUT RED∼tell-TR go.out DEM.1
‘They killed him in this place, I will tell you about it now.’

Verbal demonstrativesEdit

In Vaeakau-Taumako, the formal class of adverbs is limited, so manner adverbial demonstratives with the meanings ‘do/be like this, do/be like that’ are regularly utilised.[GVT 51] These verbal demonstratives are cross-linguistically rare, however Boumaa Fijian and Dyirbal also exhibit similar forms. For example, in Fijian ‘eneii’ functions like the verbal demonstratives in Vaeakau-Taumako.[GVT 52] The Vaeakau-Taumako forms are created by attaching the prefix ‘p(h)e’ to the core demonstrative particles:

Figure 7.1[GVT 53]
Adverbial demonstrative English Translation
phenē 'do/be like this'
phenā 'do/be like that'
phelā 'do/be like that'

This first example shows the adverbial demonstrative ‘phe-ne’ being used to convey the meaning ‘do like this’:

Figure 7.2[GVT 54]
noho phe-ne
sit like-DEM.1
‘Sit like this!’

Secondly, verbal demonstratives also function to mean ‘be the same as, in the same way’:

Figure 7.3[GVT 55]
e phe-na mai i Kahula hano mai ki nghauta
GENR like-DEM.2 come LDA Kahula go.SG come to shore
‘It was the same as in Kahula, he went to the village there’

Thirdly, the verbal demonstratives can function as modifiers of nouns to mean ‘an X like that’ (Figure 7.4) or ‘a certain X’ (Figure 7.5):

FIgure 7.4
thatu=no he-henga ange e niu boho e taveli a hinga phe-na
lPL.INCL=IPFV RED∼search go.along SG.NSP coconut young SG.NSP banana COLL thing like-DEM.2
'We have looked for coconuts, bananas, things like that.'
Figure 7.5
po lhatu=ka ta-pena ala la i te langi phe-la
COMP 3PL=FUT PREP-prepare HYP DEM.3 LDA SG.SP day like-DEM.3
'They were to be ready on a certain day.'

This complex three-way distinction in which verbal demonstratives can be used is not only uncommon cross-linguistically, but it is also atypical among the languages which do have similar verbal demonstrative systems. Dyirbal and Boumaa Fijian only adopt a single verb to denote ‘do it like this’ in comparison to Vaeakau-Taumako's three-way system.[GVT 56]

Deictic adverbsEdit

Vaeakau-Taumako also has deictic adverbs that are formed by applying the prefixes ‘a-’, ‘i-'or ‘e-’ to the core demonstrative particles.[GVT 57] These forms are summarised below:

Figure 8.1[GVT 58]
Proximal Medial/neutral Distal
anē ‘and now’ anā ‘and then’ alā ‘and then’
inē ‘here, now’ inā ‘there, then’ Ilā ‘there, then’
enā ‘somewhere there’

It is worth noting that ‘ena’ ('somewhere there') appears to only have a spatial reference. Furthermore the usage of 'ena' seems restricted to colloquial contexts:[GVT 59]  

Figure 8.2[GVT 60]
a ko-i taku-a ange po ī e-na na po ni vai ai
‘And he said, “Oh, somewhere here there is water.”’

Demonstratives in discourse  Edit

Demonstrative particles commonly occur at the end of phrases. This applies to a variety of phrase types, with the following examples illustrating how 'na' can occur phrase-finally in a noun phrase (Figure 9.1), a verb phrase (Figure 9.2) and an adverbial phrase (Figure 9.3):[GVT 61]

Figure 9.1[GVT 62]
te hahine na ko le∼lek∼ake na
SG.SP woman DEM.2 INCP RED∼go∼go.up DEM.2
'The woman went up.'
Figure 9.2[GVT 63]
ko hano na e kau∼kau i thaupē na
INCP go.SG DEM.2 GENR RED∼swim LDA lagoon DEM.2
'He went and bathed in the lagoon.'
Figure 9.3[GVT 64]
matea atiao ala na thatu=ka ō atu mua hangota i Malimi
maybe tomorrow HYP DEM.2 lPL.INCL=FUT go.PL go.out just fish LDA Malimi
'Maybe tomorrow we will go fishing at Malimi.'

Beyond deictic and anaphoric uses of demonstratives (which have been discussed above), another core use of demonstratives is for phrase demarcation. Demonstratives occur at the end of a phrase as a means of marking the phrase boundary and situating the phrase within the overarching context of the clause.[GVT 65] In Vaeakau-Taumako, demonstratives are commonly used to indicate that there is a link between the demonstrative-marked phrase and the succeeding speech. It is often used in conjunction with rising intonation to indicate that “more is coming” (Figure 9.4 below).[GVT 66] Similar demarcative particle morphemes are used in the Outlier East Futuna with the particle ‘la’.

Figure 9.4
mhatu=ne ō ake na ioko a lakau na ko pae ino ki te ala na
lPL.EXCL=PFV go.PL go. up DEM.2 CONJ COLL tree DEM.2 INCP scatter fall to SG.SP path DEM.2
'We went up, and the trees, they were scattered all over the road.,'
e takoto na e tapeo loa
'they were lying there, it was very bad.'


In addition to demonstratives, Vaeakau-Taumako also has a set of morphemes that indicate verbal deixis (i.e. the physical or metaphorical direction in which an action is being carried out). There are six morphemes which can be divided into two categories (Figure 1.1 and 1.2). The directionals are best described as verbs that are most commonly used as part of a verbal nucleus, following one or more verbs. The first category of Vaeakau-Taumako directionals is summarised below:[GVT 67]

Figure 1.1 - Person-based directionals (indicate direction relative to speech-act participants)[GVT 68]
Directional English translation
mai Towards speaker
atu Towards hearer
ange Towards hearer
ange Away from both speaker and hearer, toward a third person, along

The following example shows ‘mai’ ('towards speaker') following another verb and marking the direction in space in which the act is occurring (i.e. towards the speech-act participants):

Figure 1.1.a[GVT 69]
me le-mai na o kake
PRSC go-come DEM.2 to climb
'Come here and climb aboard (the canoe).'

The second category of directionals is summarised below:

Figure 1.2 - Directionals that denote direction on a vertical axis[GVT 70]
Directional English translation
ake 'up'
iho 'down'
oho 'vertical movement, up or down'

The following examples show ‘iho’ ('down') and ‘oho’ ('up or down') following another verb and marking the vertical direction in which the respective verb occurs:

Figure 1.2.a[GVT 71]
tatu noho iho i te lakau a ngha lepū na
lPL.INCL.HORT stay go.down LDA SG.SP tree POSS PL.SP rat DEM.2
'Let us sit down on the rafter of the rats.’
Figure 1.2.b[GVT 72]
Noho oho ki lalo
stay go.vertically LDA under
‘Sit down!’.

Independent usageEdit

Directionals may also be used as independent verbs, with ‘iho’ and ‘oho’ being the most commonly used forms.[GVT 73] When used as independent verbs, ‘iho’ means ‘go down’ (Figure 2.1) and ‘oho’ means ‘move vertically; rise up; go down’ (Figure 2.2):

Figure 2.1[GVT 74]
Ko iho ma ia e thū
INCP go.down with 3SG GENR stand
‘She went down with it and stood (there)’.
Figure 2.2[GVT 75]
lhatou ko oho lhatou ko iho oho ki nghauta
3PL INCP go.vertically 3PL INCP go.down go.vertically to shore
'They went down and came to the village.'

Furthermore ‘mai’ can function as an independent verb to mean ‘come’ (Figure 2.3). This commonly occurs in imperative clauses, which is typically how cognates of ‘mai’ in related Polynesian languages are also used.[GVT 76]

Figure 2.3[GVT 77]
lhatu=ko ha-haloki oho po mai tatu la-ina i nghauta
3PL=INCP RED-call.PL go. vertically COMP come lPL.INCL.HORT sun-TR LDA shore
'They called to him, "Come here, let us sunbathe on the shore.'"

It is also interesting to note that ‘mai’ can not only encode a literal direction, but also a metaphorical ‘social’ direction. In the example below (Figure 2.4), ‘mai’ denotes ‘towards me’ in a metaphorical sense that is ‘for me; for my benefit; on my behalf’: [GVT 78]

FIgure 2.4[GVT 79]
oi-na mai a iau
help-TR come PERS lSG
Help me!'

Lastly ‘atu’ also functions an independent verb which means ‘move out, go away’. This is shown in the below example (note: ‘poi’ is a prenuclear modifier that precedes verbs):[GVT 80]

Figure 2.5[GVT 81]
a koe poi atu
PERS 2SG little go.out
'You get away! You move out!'

Historical contextEdit

Vaeakau-Taumako directionals have cognates in most other Polynesian and Oceanic languages. The corresponding reconstructed forms in Proto-Oceanic were directional verbs that occurred either independently or in serialisation constructions with another verb. The reflexes of these forms occur in modern Oceanic languages in variety of formal word classes. For example, in Tuvaluan, 'mai' ('hither'), 'atu' ('thither'), 'aka' ('up') and 'ifo' ('down') have been classified as adverbs, while directionals are categorised as 'particles' in Somoan.[GVT 82]


The abbreviations used in the above examples are listed below:[GVT 83]

Grammatical glossesEdit

ADMON admonitive

AG agentive marker

APPL applicative suffix

BEN benefactive

CAUS causative prefix

CLASS classifier

COLL collective

CONI conjunction

COMP complementizer

DEM demonstrative

DES desiderative

DIST distributive

DU dual

DY dyad particle

EMPH emphatic particle

EXCL exclusive

FUT future

GENR general tense-aspect -mood marker

HORT hortative

HYP hypothetical particle

INCL inclusive

INCP inceptive

INTI interjection

IPFV imperfective

IRR irrealis

LDA locative-directional-ablative

NEG negative

NMLZ nominalizing suffix

NSP nonspecific

OBL.PRO oblique pro-forru

OPT optative

PERS personal marker PFV perfective

PL plural

POSS possessive

pp predicative possessive particle

PREF prefix; gloss uncertain

PROH prohibitive

PRON pronoun

PRSC prescriptive

PST past

RECP reciprocal

RED reduplication

SG singular

SP specific

TOP topicalizing preposition

TR transitive suffix

voc vocative

I 1st person

2 2nd person

3 3rd person

Lexical categoriesEdit

adj adjective

adv adverb

gn geographical narue

In local noun

n, en corrnnon noun

part particle

pron pronoun

prep prepos1t10n

quant quantifier

VI intransitive verb

vsem semi-transitive verb

vt transitive verb


  • References from Næss, Åshild; Hovdhaugen, Even (2011). A Grammar of Vaeakau-Taumako. Berlin: De Gruyter Mouton. ISBN 978-3-11-023826-6.:
  1. ^ a b p.28
  2. ^ p.34-35
  3. ^ p.36
  4. ^ p.98
  5. ^ p.99-100
  6. ^ p.103-104
  7. ^ p.105
  8. ^ p.106
  9. ^ p.106-107
  10. ^ a b c p.109
  11. ^ a b p.111
  12. ^ p.112
  13. ^ p.115
  14. ^ p.147
  15. ^ p.148
  16. ^ p.149.
  17. ^ p.397.
  18. ^ p.385.
  19. ^ a b c d e f p.386.
  20. ^ a b c d p.387.
  21. ^ a b c d p.388.
  22. ^ a b p.389.
  23. ^ a b c p.390.
  24. ^ p.391.
  25. ^ p.392.
  26. ^ p.393.
  27. ^ a b p.394.
  28. ^ a b c d p.395.
  29. ^ p.396.
  30. ^ a b c p.398.
  31. ^ p.399.
  32. ^ p.166.
  33. ^ p.167.
  34. ^ p. 121
  35. ^ p. 122
  36. ^ p. 121
  37. ^ p. 122
  38. ^ p. 122
  39. ^ p. 122
  40. ^ p. 123
  41. ^ p. 123
  42. ^ p. 123
  43. ^ p. 124
  44. ^ p. 124
  45. ^ p. 125
  46. ^ p. 126
  47. ^ p. 126
  48. ^ p. 126
  49. ^ p. 127
  50. ^ p. 127
  51. ^ p. 128
  52. ^ p. 128
  53. ^ p. 128
  54. ^ p. 128
  55. ^ p. 129
  56. ^ p. 129
  57. ^ p. 130
  58. ^ p. 130
  59. ^ p. 132
  60. ^ p. 132
  61. ^ p. 432
  62. ^ p. 432
  63. ^ p. 433
  64. ^ p. 433
  65. ^ p. 436
  66. ^ p. 436
  67. ^ p. 133
  68. ^ p. 133
  69. ^ p. 140
  70. ^ p. 133
  71. ^ p. 135
  72. ^ p. 135
  73. ^ p. 134
  74. ^ p. 134
  75. ^ p. 134
  76. ^ p. 135
  77. ^ p. 136
  78. ^ p. 142
  79. ^ p. 142
  80. ^ p. 136
  81. ^ p. 136
  82. ^ p. 133
  83. ^ p. xi
  • Other sources
  1. ^ Vaeakau-Taumako at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015)
  2. ^ Hovdhaugen (2006).
  3. ^ Næss & Hovdhaugen (2011).
  4. ^ Austronesian Basic Vocabulary Database
  5. ^ Senft, Gunter (ed.). Deixis and demonstratives in Oceanic languages. Canberra, Australia: Pacific Linguistics. p. 2. ISBN 0 85883 55 1 7.
  6. ^ a b c Ross, Malcolm D. (2004). "Demonstratives, local nouns and directionals in Oceanic languages: a diachronic perspective". In Senft, Gunter (ed.). Deixis and demonstratives in Oceanic languages. Canberra, Australia: Pacific Linguistics. p. 177. ISBN 0 85883 55 1 7.
  7. ^ Denny, Peter J. (1978). "Locating the universals in lexical systems for spatial deixis". Papers from the Parasession on the Lexicon, Chicago Linguistic Society. 14–15: 71–84 – via Chicago: CLS.
  8. ^ "WALS Online - Chapter Distance Contrasts in Demonstratives". Retrieved 29 March 2021.
  9. ^ a b c d Næss, Åshild (2004). "Spatial deixis in Pileni". In Senft, Gunter (ed.). Deixis and demonstratives in Oceanic languages. Canberra, Australia: Pacific Linguistics. pp. 81–98. ISBN 0 85883 55 1 7.
  10. ^ "WALS Online - Chapter Third Person Pronouns and Demonstratives". Retrieved 29 March 2021.


  • Næss, Åshild; Hovdhaugen, Even (2011). A Grammar of Vaeakau-Taumako. Berlin: De Gruyter Mouton. ISBN 978-3-11-023826-6..
  • Hovdhaugen, Even (2006). A Short Dictionary of the Vaeakau-Taumako Language. Oslo: Kon-Tiki Museum, Institute for Pacific Archaeology and Cultural History..

External linksEdit