Collected songs and legends from the southern Cook Islands
Legibility problems in some of the books arise from damaged pages or ink-seep through the sheets, but generally both recorders had hand-writing that was not too troublesome for the reader. Hall used a purple pencil for his editing.
Hutchin, wracked as he was by ill-health for several periods during his time in the Cook Islands, sometimes became less meticulous in his letter formation. "k" and "p" are not always easy to differentiate but the greatest problems arise with "a" and "o", "m","n","u". He dots his "i" in most instances which helps with "e" recognition. I have attempted to proof-read carefully, but commend the originals to any person who wishes to use this material for linguistic studies. Hutchin did not observe late 19th let alone 20th Century orthodoxy in punctuation! He is erratic in using upper case for the beginnings of sentences, for most of his sentence constructions are separated by what I took to be commas.
After a time I began to recognise that "..., kua..." probably meant a change of topic and hence sentence. Paragraphing seemed to be rarely considered and would probably have improved clarity in the longer (3-7 page) stories. He had a distinctive style for indicating interrogatives and used "&" in songs to signal what I have assumed to be the repetition of choruses. "=" is also used to indicate choruses that may change by a few words only, in each repetition. Hutchin did not use the hyphen but made a regular habit of using up the whole line and then completing a word on the next line ( e.g. "tanga/ta" or "mai/ra").
After almost two hundred and fifty hours of working with the material I am conscious of the amount of repetition in many of the stories and have sustained myself with the thought that I had back in 1992, that some of this could be useful as beginning school readers.
More recently I have found myself responding to vocabulary from some of the books that I didn't recall having transcribed before. I shall be interested to learn how current some of these usages may be today. Another realisation that has become more clear from my most recent delving into the texts, is that every now and then, there is an item that is a record of some anthropological and/or genealogical relevance, that could be a trigger further research. My school-teacherly instincts tell me to categorise these items as “Useful General Knowledge” for Twenty-first Century Cook Islanders to be aware of. And that they should appreciate the work of Hutchin and Hall a century ago.