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Maori and Polynesian: their origin, history and culture

The Roots of Polynesian Words are Frequently — Identical with Indo-European

The Roots of Polynesian Words are Frequently
Identical with Indo-European

(21) The vocabulary gives the same indications. When we strip cognate words of all the formative or changeable elements, we reach what philologists have called roots, fragments of from two to four letters with a fundamental sense, from each of which a series of words may be conceived to have grown. In Maori these roots are found to consist of one or two consonants and a vowel, like Aryan roots, and unlike the Semitic, which consist of consonants as the framework with vowels as the changing and formative elements. We may conclude, then, that no Semitic tongue has entered into the body of the Polynesian dialects.

(22) That the vocabulary has been influenced by one or page 92more Aryan tongues seems to be a by no means illogical conclusion when we examine the Polynesian roots; a large proportion of them are the same or almost the same as those common to most Indo-European tongues. A few examples will make the point clearer.

(23) In Maori we have the word anene (to blow softly like the wind); and the root ane (to blow or breathe) appears in many words all through the Polynesian dialects. The same root appears in most Aryan languages. It is the base of the Greek < ἄνεμος (the wind), of the Sanskrit animi (to breathe), and it takes a development natural to the Aryan mind in the Latin animus (the mind) and anima (the soul).

(24) Another widespread root in Indo-European tongues is us (to shine or burn), appearing, for example, in Latin aurora, Greek εος (the dawn), our East, and Sanskrit ush (the morning). In Maori we have ao (the dawn, the day); and that an s has been lost is shown by the cognate Samoan aso (the day).

(25) To take another letter, the Polynesian root mu (to sound, to hum), appearing in Maori mumu (to hum), is clearly the same as the Aryan mu (to utter a slight suppressed sound), appearing in Greek μύζειν (to mutter), Latin mutire (to mumble), and musca (a fly), English midge, Latin mussare (to mutter), mugire (to roar), and murmurare (to murmur), and English mourn.

(26) When we take the Maori liquids, we are faced with the difficulty that r and l have interchanged and are still interchanging all through Polynesia, the preference in the islands being for 1, and in New Zealand for r; but it is not a great difficulty, for the same interchange has taken place in Indo-European. For example, the Aryan ra (to rest, to be delighted, to love), appearing in Sanskrit ran (to rejoice), ram (to rest), and rati (pleasure), in Greek ἔζως (love), and English rest, is not far off in origin page 93from the root la (to yearn for or desire), which appears in Sanskrit lash (to desire), Latin lascivus, English lust, Latin libido, and English love. It seems much the same as the Maori reka (pleasant), rekareka (delighted), Hawaiian lea (joy, pleasure), and lealea (to delight in), and in the other sense of calm, in Maori whakaruru (sheltered from the wind), Tahitian rurua (a lull), and Hawaiian lulu (calm).

(27) Our English lull has no connection with this root, but meant originally to sing, to sleep, coming from Scandinavian lulla, and connected with Greek λάλειν (to speak). These all point back to an Aryan root, la or ra (to sound or utter sound), which appears in Sanskrit ras (to cry loudly), and ra (to resound), Latin latrare (to bark), lamentum, and loqui (to speak), and in English roar; they point also to a modified form of ru or lu, which appears in Sanskrit ru (to sound, to bray), Latin rudere (to roar), rumor, and raucus (hoarse), and Anglo-Saxon run (a mystic letter, but previously a whisper or secret).

(28) These are widely spread in Polynesian words: Maori rangi (a song or tune), Samoan lagi (to sing), Maori rango (a fly), Samoan lago (the housefly), from the sound it emits, Maori rongo (sound, noise, report, tidings), Samoan logo (to report), Tahitian roo (fame), Maori rorohu (to buzz), roria (a Jew's harp), reo (the voice, speech), ruri (a song), ruru (the New Zealand morepork).

(29) It is in the labial, dental, and guttural roots that there is sure to be most that is elusive. For in the Polynesian dialects the three varieties of each, the hard, the soft, and the aspirate, are generally reduced to one, and that is as a rule the hard; whilst Malay has retained two labials, two dentals, and two gutturals. The Samoan, the Tongan, and the Paumotan have g, and the Marquesan k where Maori and Rarotongan have ng, and Tongan has b where all the rest have p. All of them have rejected d, which Malay has page 94retained. They have kept some trace of the guttural aspirates in h, and of the labial aspirate in f or wh, but th has disappeared from all the Polynesian and Indonesian dialects.

(30) Yet even here we find roots that are identifiable with Indo-European. If we take the most elusive of the series, the guttural, there are many Polynesian and Aryan roots similar. There is the common Aryan root ki, or kei, or kai (to lie or reside), which appears in Sanskrit ci (to lie), in Latin quies (rest), and the Greek κει̑μαι (I lie), κοίτη (a bed), κωμη (a village), in Gothic haims (a village), heima (a home), and in English home and ham, the termination of so many village names. In Maori we have kainga a village, home, or place of abode.

(31) So the Maori kohu (to cook), kohua (a boiler, a Maori oven), are evidently in root to be identified with Latin coquere and our cook and kitchen. And the Maori koi (sharp), koinga (the edge), are from a root that is to be identified with the Indo-European ka (to sharpen), which appears in Sanskrit cana, Latin cos, and Scotch hone, each meaning a whetstone, Greek κω̑νος (a cone), and Latin cuneus (a wedge).

(32) A few more may be given briefly: Maori koke (to creak), and koko (the tui), may be set beside the Sanskrit kakh (to laugh), Latin cachinnare, and English quack and cackle; Maori koko (an angle or corner), may be placed with Sanskrit kuch (to bend), and English hunch and hucklebone; Maori koa (glad), may be put with Latin gaudium (joy); Maori hari (joy), and kohara (to shine forth), with Sanskrit ghri (to shine), and English glad; Maori kore (broken), with Sanskrit car (to break up), Latin clades (disaster), and gladius (a sword), and Anglo-Saxon here (a destroying army), whence comes the English harry (to ravage); Maori koro (a noose), may be placed with Latin circus, curvus, and corona, all implying something curved.

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(33) These are taken almost at random from the Maori dictionary, and indicate a close connection between a large number of the primary roots in the Polynesian tongues and those in the Indo-European. And so great has been the predominance of Indo-European words and roots over those from alien sources that after reducing all the words in Maori, beginning with k and m, to their simplest and shortest common stems, one half at least of these were found to have similar meanings to those in Indo-European languages of the same form. It is noteworthy that the roots of Polynesian words are more often to be identified with roots that appear in European tongues than with roots that appear in Sanskrit only. It looks in fact as if the ancestors of one Polynesian migration had been longer in contact with the migrants who brought Aryan speech into western and southern Europe than with those who brought it into India. And if this is confirmed by careful investigation, it will prove that the Caucasian element that came from the north-west along the Japan-Ladrone-Caroline route was not only Caucasian in race, but Aryan in speech. Whilst the coincidence of Maori ruma (an apartment), used all through the Pacific in the sense of house, with the English room, of Maori poaka (a pig), a genuine Polynesian word, with Latin porcus, of hoanga (a whetstone), with Scotch hone, and Polynesian area (an open space), with European area will mean far more than derivation from the same root.