|Native to||French Polynesia|
|68,260, 37% of ethnic population (2007 census)|
Tahitian (autonym Reo Tahiti, part of Reo Mā'ohi, languages of French Polynesia) is a Polynesian language, spoken mainly on the Society Islands in French Polynesia. It belongs to the Eastern Polynesian group.
As Tahitian had no written tradition before the arrival of the Western colonists, the spoken language was first transcribed by missionaries of the London Missionary Society in the early 19th century.
When Europeans first arrived in Tahiti at the end of the 18th century, there was no writing system and Tahitian was only a spoken language. In 1797, Protestant missionaries arrived in Tahiti on a British ship called Duff, captained by James Wilson. Among the missionaries was Henry Nott (1774–1844) who learned the Tahitian language and worked with Pōmare II, a Tahitian king, to translate the English Bible into Tahitian. A system of 5 vowels and 9 consonants was adopted for the Tahitian Bible which would become the key text by which many Polynesians would learn to read and write.
Tahitian features a very small number of phonemes: five vowels and nine consonants, not counting the lengthened vowels and diphthongs. Notably, the consonant inventory lacks any sort of dorsal consonants.
Next follows a table with all phonemes in more detail.
|a||’ā||/a/, /ɑː/||a: opera, ā: father|
|e||’ē||/e/, /eː/||e: late, ē: same but longer|
|f||fā||/f/||friend||becomes bilabial [ɸ] after o and u|
|h||hē||/h/||house||becomes [ʃ] (as in English shoe) after i and before o or u|
|i||’ī||/i/, /iː/||as in machine||may become diphthong ai in some words like rahi|
|o||’ō||/ɔ/, /oː/||o: nought, ō: same but longer|
|p||pī||/p/||sponge (not aspirated)|
|t||tī||/t/||stand (not aspirated)|
|u||’ū||/u/, /uː/||u: foot, ū: moo||strong lip rounding|
|v||vī||/v/||vine||becomes bilabial ([β]) after o and u|
|’||’eta||/ʔ/||uh-oh||glottal stop beginning each syllable|
The glottal stop or 'eta is a genuine consonant. This is typical of Polynesian languages (compare to the Hawaiian ʻokina and others). Glottal stops used to be seldom written in practice, but are now commonly written, though often as straight apostrophes, ' , instead of the curly apostrophes used in Hawaiian. Alphabetical word ordering in dictionaries used to ignore the existence of glottals. However, academics and scholars now publish text content with due use of glottal stops.
Tahitian makes a phonemic distinction between long and short vowels; long vowels are marked with macron or tārava.
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 among older people because Tahitian writing was never taught at school until one or two decades ago.
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. Usage of this diacritic was promoted by academics but has now virtually disappeared, mostly due to the fact that there is no difference in the quality of the vowel when the trema is used and when the macron is used.
Although the use of 'eta and tārava is equal to the usage of such symbols in other Polynesian languages, it is promoted by l'Académie Tahitienne and adopted by the territorial government. There are at least a dozen other ways of applying accents. Some methods are historical and no longer used. This can make usage unclear. 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 ʻokina. The straight apostrophe (Unicode U+0027) being the default apostrophe displayed when striking the apostrophe key on a usual French AZERTY keyboard, it has become natural for writers to use the straight apostrophe for glottal stops.
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, articles, and particles) to encode grammatical relationships, rather than on inflection, as would be typical of European languages. It is a very analytic language, except when it comes to the personal pronouns, which have separate forms for singular, plural and dual numbers.
Today, macronized vowels and 'eta are also available for mobile devices like smartphones and tablets. People can download and install mobile applications to realize the macron on vowels as well as the 'eta.
[*e mea marō te ha'ari – "Are thing dry the coconut", "The coconuts are dry"] [*e ta'ata pūai 'oia – "Is man strong he", "He is a strong man"]
The plural of the definite article te is te mau.
Also, te may also be used to indicate a plural;
The indefinite article is e
The article e also introduces an indefinite common noun.
In contrast, te hō'ē means a certain. 
|'Ia ora na||Hello, greetings|
|Haere mai, maeva, mānava||Welcome|
|māuruuru roa||thank you very much|
|E aha te huru?||How are you?|
|maita'i roa||very good|
In many parts of Polynesia the name of an important leader was (and sometimes still is) considered sacred (tapu) and was therefore accorded appropriate respect (mana). 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 tū means to stand, but in Tahitian it became tiʻa, because the word was included in the name of king Tū-nui-ʻēʻa-i-te-atua. Likewise fetū (star) has become in Tahiti fetiʻa and aratū (pillar) became aratiʻa. Although nui (big) still occurs in some compounds, like Tahiti-nui, the usual word is rahi (which is a common word in Polynesian languages for 'large'). The term ʻēʻa fell in disuse, replaced by purūmu or porōmu. Nowadays ʻēʻa means 'path' while purūmu means 'road'.
Tū also had a nickname, Pō-mare (literally means 'night coughing'), under which his dynasty has become best known. By consequence pō (night) became ruʻi (nowadays only used in the Bible, pō having become the word commonly in use once again), but mare (literally cough) has irreversibly been replaced by hota.
Other examples include;
Some of the old words are still used on the Leewards.
|Tahitian edition of Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia|
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