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Mangaian Society

The Language

The Language

The Mangaian dialect closely resembles that of the other islands in the Cook archipelago, but contains a number of local words. The alphabet inaugurated by the missionaries contains 5 vowels, a, e, i, o, and u, and 8 consonants, k, m, n, ng, p, r, t, and v. The wh of Manihiki and New Zealand and the f of Tahiti are absent.

The letter h was omitted by the missionaries from the alphabet compiled for Rarotonga. Mr. Stephen Savage and I once held that this letter should have been included, as we thought that the h sound was represented in the spoken language (22, p. 22). I am now of the opinion that the sound is, perhaps, more truly a glottal closure, and would be represented better by the hamzah. Both K. P. Emory and J. F. Stimson of Bernice P. Bishop Museum were already of this opinion, and they have made me doubt the accuracy of my original statement. I have always objected to hearing the Taranaki and Whanganui tribes called the "cockneys of New Zealand," because I could always hear the h sound in their speech. It is probable from my Cook Islands experience that what I heard was the glottal closure and not the fully aspirated h sound. The use of the glottal closure gives the speech a jerkiness which is a marked feature of the Whanganui subdialect of Maori and is sometimes humorously imitated by other tribes. This jerkiness probably results from the application of the glottal closure to the h sound. I had long noticed that the Cook Islands use of the h resembled that of the Taranaki and Whanganui tribes, and now feel that the similarity lies in the use of the glottal closure. In the native text of this paper the h is represented by the hamzah.

If the letter h had been introduced into the alphabet, however, there would have been much less confusion. For example, ua may represent ua (rain), page 7uha (female) or huha (thigh). Similarly aa is evidently meant for aha (what), and there is nothing to indicate that it may be meant for haha (to feel). Sometimes the problem can be solved only by hearing a word pronounced. In Manihiki, Rakahanga, and Tongareva the aspirated h is used.

Though the k sound is used, it has been dropped, as in Tahiti, in a number of words: aore (kaore), ia (kia), o (ko), and uete (kumete). In the native text in this work the hamzah has not been used for a dropped k.

The m sound has been dropped in two words, kuara for kumara (sweet potato), and uete for kumete (wooden bowl), but there is no glottal closure.

Whether or not some words written with v are sounded as though written with w is doubtful in Mangaia as in Aitutaki (23, p. 24).

Christian (3) has compiled a Mangaian vocabulary.