Saturday, April 7, 2012

Origins of the Tongan Language

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This essay seeks to explain the origins of the Tongan language. For this purpose I will also be addressing the journey of the ancestors of Polynesia, and how their original language divided and evolved into the Tongan language (and other Polynesian languages) we know today.

6,000 years Before Present Time (B.P.T) the ancestors of the Polynesian people, called the Austronesians, set out from Formosa in South East Asia and began their journey. This journey took the Austronesians to Papua New Guinea, one of the first places they settled in. When they arrived here they found black people already inhabiting the island, and interracial mixing between the blacks and Asians was inevitable. Many years later, by the time the Austronesians resumed their journey and arrived in Fiji, they had become a group of brown people.

It was ,500 years B.P.T when the [now interracially mixed] Austronesians arrived in Fiji. This was the first island in Polynesia the Austronesians settled in before they spread to Samoa and Tonga. After Western Polynesia was settled, their journey continued on to Eastern Polynesia, up to the Hawaiian Islands, then finally down to New Zealand, the last place that was settled. This migration took place over a period of hundreds of years, thus those who began the journey and those who arrived in New Zealand were two very different (and distant) generations of Austronesians.

The original Polynesian language was called Proto-polynesian. As the migrational journey continued, this language started to change, and as they moved from island to island, there was less contact with the people who had stayed behind, causing the languages to grow apart. From Proto-polynesian developed an intermediate language called Proto-tongic, which was the parent language of Tongan and Niuean. There are main points of evidence for this migrational journey of the Austronesians. Firstly, there are the languages from the Austronesian family [including Polynesian] that were found along the migratory pathway [from S.E. Asia). Secondly, there is the similarity of words in the various Polynesian languages, which suggests they all stem from the same language, the Proto-polynesian language. Thus, the Polynesian languages are obviously cognate languages, having descended from the same ancestral root language (Proto-polynesian), as they are too numerous to be accounted for by coincidence.

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Examples of these similarities The word for fish in the Proto Polynesian language is ‘ika’. It is also the same in Tongan and Maori. There is a slight variation in Hawaiian ‘iĆ ’. The number “two” in Proto Polynesian is ‘rua’, as it also is in Maori, whereas in Tongan it is ‘ua’, and ‘lua’ in Tokelauan. Although these forms do vary, the difference is only slight and the relationship between the languages is obvious. The Proto Polynesian words for I - ‘au, and he/she - ‘ia’ are exactly the same in the Tongan, Tokelauan, Hawaiian and Maori languages.

In this essay I have attempted to shed light upon the journey of the Austronesians and the development of their proto Polynesian language, and how we can link these to the peoples and languages of Polynesia today. This is how the Tongan people and the Tongan language originated.

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