Rotuman language

Rotuman language

name= Rotuman
nativename= Fäeag Rotuma
fam3=Central-Eastern MP
fam4=Eastern MP
fam6=Central-Eastern Oceanic
fam7=Remote Oceanic
fam8=Central Pacific
fam9=West Fijian-Rotuman

Rotuman, also referred to as "Rotunan", "Rutuman" or "Fäeag Rotuma", is an Austronesian language spoken by the indigenous people of the South Pacific island group of Rotuma, an island with a Polynesian-influenced culture that was incorporated as a dependency into the Colony of Fiji in 1881. Classification of Rotuman is difficult due to the large number of loan words from Samoan and Tongan, as a result of much cultural exchange over the history of the Pacific. Research by Andrew Pawley seems to indicate however that the language is related to the West Fijian languages, and may be grouped with it in a West Fijian-Rotuman branch of the Central Pacific sub-group of Oceanic languages.

The Rotuman language has sparked much interest with linguists because the language utilises metathesis to invert the ultimate vowel with the immediately preceding consonant, resulting in a vowel system characterized by umlaut, vowel shortening or extending and diphthongisation.

Unusual compared to its Pacific neighbours, Rotuman is typically considered an AVO (Agent Verb Object) Language.


An important aspect of Rotuman morphonology is what will be hereafter called the "incomplete" and "complete" phases although they have also been referred to as "long" and "short" forms, "primary" and "secondary" forms, "absolute" and "construct" cases, and "proper & original" and "altered or construct" forms. [Harvcoltxt|Schmidt|2003|p=176] The complete phase applies to semantically definite or specific terms. Otherwise, in normal conversation (that is, excluding song, poetry, and chant), the incomplete phase applies to all but the last morpheme of a word and all but the last word of a phrase. [Harvcoltxt|Blevins|1994|pp=492-493] This can lead to syllable-final consonants in a language that has an underlying all-open syllable system.
* |IPA|mafa| ('eyes') + |IPA|huhu| ('take off') → IPA|/mafhuhu/IPA| [mɔfhuh] ('minutely') [Harvcoltxt|Blevins|1994|p=493]

The above table (C indicates any consonant) shows that metathesis and deletion are important parts of incomplete phase formation. The final vowel and immediately preceding consonant metathesize going from V1CV2#, to V1V2C# where V1 is any underlying penultimate vowel, V2 is any underlying ultimate vowel, C is any consonant, and # is the word, phrase, or morpheme boundary. [Harvcoltxt|Schmidt|2003|pp=179-184]

After metathesis, "V2 is deleted if V1 is not further back than V2 and if V2 is not lower than 1" or if the two vowels are identical. [Harvcoltxt|Schmidt|2003|p=187] Further processes of elision result in coalescence or spreading of features. That is, back vowels are fronted before front vowels of equal or greater height (IPA|/ɛ/ and/or IPA|/i/ affect IPA|/ɔ/ and just IPA|/i/ affects IPA|/u/) before the latter are deleted.

* → IPA| [y]
* → IPA| [ø]

In addition, the IPA|/a/IPA| [æ] rule takes effect again, this time outside of the moraic foot, and can occur with a following IPA|/i/; and both IPA|/ɛ/. and IPA|/a/ become IPA| [ɔ] "after" a syllable with a high vowel (IPA|/i/ or IPA|/u/). [Harvcoltxt|Blevins|1994|p=492] When V1 is higher than V2, it is devocalized to the corresponding semivowel; IPA| [j] for front vowels and IPA| [w] for back vowels. [Harvcoltxt|Schmidt|2003|p=90]

Word stress is associated with left-dominant bimoraic feet. The penultimate mora of nonderived words carries the stress. Other than the nominalizing suffix |IPA|-ŋa| and the causative suffix |IPA|-ʔaki|, stress is assigned before additional morphemes are affixed [Harvcoltxt|Blevins|1994|pp=493-497] and before incomplete phase morphonology. [Harvcoltxt|Schmidt|2003|p=189]


Upon missionary contact, various orthographies abounded on the island of Rotuma. The French Catholic Missionaries built an orthography based on their own alphabet, while the primarily English Wesleyan Methodist preachers developed their own orthography to write in Rotuman. The prevalent one used today is one from the English Methodist Reverend C. M. Churchward, in whose knowledge of linguistics the Tongan orthography was also devised. The alphabet, as it appears in Churchward's seminal work, "Rotuman Grammar and Dictionary":

*a - IPA|/a/:*å or ä - IPA|/a/:* - IPA|/ɔ/
*e - IPA|/e/
*f - IPA|/f/
*g - IPA|/ŋ/
*h - IPA|/h/
*i - IPA|/i/
*j - IPA|/tʃ/
*k - IPA|/k/
*l - IPA|/l/
*m - IPA|/m/
*n - IPA|/n/
*o - IPA|/ɔ/:*ö - IPA|/ø/
*p - IPA|/p/
*s - IPA|/s/
*t - IPA|/t/
*u - IPA|/u/:*ü - IPA|/y/
*v - IPA|/v/
*okina - IPA|/ʔ/ the glottal stop

In the cases of the variations to the vowels "a", "o" and "i", Churchward's dictionary treats these letters as though there is no variation between the species within the base letter. Hence the word "päega", meaning "seat", appears before "pạri" meaning "banana", which in turn appears before "pau", meaning very much.

In addition, there are instances where all original vowels above appear with a macron, indicating length (that is, they are longer) although vowel length is arguably a phonological process.

Because Churchward’s alphabet was created before a sufficient analysis of Rotuman phonology, it is not purely phonemic. George Milner [Harvcoltxt|Milner|1971|p=422] proposed a more phonemic spelling without diacritics that incorporates the understanding of vowel allophony as having to do with metathesis (see above)

Text examples

This is the Rotuman language version of the Our Father, as found in the translation of the Bible published in 1975 (Matthew 6:9-13) [] . It is written using the diacritics of Churchward's orthography:

:unicode|'Otomis Ö'faat täe 'e lạgi,:unicode|'Ou asa la äf'äk la ma'ma',:unicode|'Ou pureaga la leum, 'ou rere la sok,:unicode|fak ma 'e lạgi, la tape'ma 'e rä te'.:unicode|'Äe la naam se 'ạmisa, 'e terạnit e 'i,:unicode|ta 'etemis tela'a la taumar,:unicode|Ma 'äe la fạu'ạkia te' ne 'otomis sara,:unicode|la fak ma ne 'ạmis tape'ma re vạhia se iris ne sar 'e 'ạmisag.:unicode|Ma 'äe se hoa' 'ạmis se faksara; 'äe la sại'ạkia 'ạmis 'e raksa'a.:unicode|Ko pureaga, ma ne'ne'i, ma kolori, mou ma ke se 'äeag, se av se 'es gataag ne tore. 'Emen



last =Blevins
first= Juliette
year= 1994
title= The Bimoraic Foot in Rotuman Phonology and Morphology
journal= Oceanic Linguistics
volume= 33(2)
pages = 491-516

last =Churchward
first= C.M.
year= 1940
title= Rotuman Grammar and Dictionary
publisher=Methodist Church of Australasia

last =Milner
first= George B.
editor=Thomas A. Sebeok
year= 1971
chapter= Fijian and Rotuman
title=Current Trends in Linguistics
volume = 8: The Languages of Oceania
place = The Hague
publisher= Mouton
pages = 397-425

last =Saito
first= Mamoru
year= 1981
title= A Preliminary Account of the Rotuman Vowel System
publisher=MIT Press

last =Schmidt
editor=John Lynch
year= 2003
chapter= Temathesis in Rotuman
title=Issues in Austronesian Historical Phonology
publisher= Pacific Linguistics Research School of Pacific and Asian Studies
pages = 175-207
ISBN=0 85883 503 7

External links

* [ Rotuma Website Rotuman Language Page]
* [ Rotuma Website Bibliography of Rotuman Language Studies]
* [ "Rotuman" Page on Metathesis Site of Ohio State University's Language Department]

Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Rotuman — may refer to: *anything related with the island Rotuma *Rotuman people *Rotuman language …   Wikipedia

  • Rotuman people — ethnic group group=Rotuman people poptime= c. 10,000 popplace=Rotuma, Fiji, Samoa, New Zealand, Australia, United States rels=Methodism, Roman Catholicism langs=Rotuman, English related=Samoans, Tongans, Fijians, other Pacific peoples Rotuma is a …   Wikipedia

  • Rotuman — noun a) A language spoken on the island of Rotuma in Fiji. b) The people belonging to said island …   Wiktionary

  • Rotuman — ISO 639 3 Code : rtm ISO 639 2/B Code : ISO 639 2/T Code : ISO 639 1 Code : Scope : Individual Language Type : Living …   Names of Languages ISO 639-3

  • West Fijian-Rotuman languages — Infobox Language family name=West Fijian Rotuman region=Fiji and Rotuma familycolor=Austronesian fam2=Malayo Polynesian (MP) fam3=Nuclear MP fam4=Central Eastern MP fam5=Eastern MP fam6=Oceanic fam7=Central Eastern fam8=Central Pacific… …   Wikipedia

  • Western Fijian language — language name= Western Fijian states=Fiji region=western half of Viti Levu, Waya Islands speakers=57,000 (1977 Lincoln) familycolor=Austronesian fam2=Malayo Polynesian(MP) fam3=Central Eastern MP fam4=Eastern MP fam5=Oceanic fam6=Central Eastern… …   Wikipedia

  • Meriam language — Meriam Spoken in Murray Island, Torres Strait, Queensland, Australia Ethnicity Meriam Native speakers 300–400  (1991) Language family …   Wikipedia

  • Namosi-Naitasiri-Serua language — Namosi Naitasiri Serua Spoken in Fiji Region Namosi, Serua, Naitasiri provinces Native speakers 1,627  (2000) Language family Austronesian …   Wikipedia

  • Rotuma — This article is about the Fijian dependancy. For other uses, see Rotuma (disambiguation). Rotuma Island (Fijian dependency) Rotuma …   Wikipedia

  • Ротуманский язык — Ротуманский Самоназвание: Fäeag Rotuma Страны: Фиджи …   Википедия