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|‘Eo Kenata (North Marquesan)
‘Eo ‘Enana (South Marquesan)
|Region||Marquesas Islands, Tahiti|
|Native speakers||~11,000 (date missing)|
mrq – North Marquesan
mqm – South Marquesan
Marquesan is a collection of East-Central Polynesian dialects, of the Marquesic group, spoken in the Marquesas Islands of French Polynesia. They are usually classified into two groups, North Marquesan and South Marquesan, roughly along geographic lines.
The North Marquesan dialects are spoken on the islands of Ua Pu and Nuku Hiva, and South Marquesan dialects on the islands of Hiva ʻOa, Tahuata and Fatu Hiva. The dialects of Ua Huka are often incorrectly classified as North Marquesan; they are instead transitional. While the island is in the northern Marquesas group, the dialects show more morphological and phonological affinities with South Marquesan. The North Marquesan dialects are sometimes considered two separate languages: North Marquesan and Tai Pi Marquesan, the latter being spoken in the valleys of the eastern third of the island of Nuku Hiva, in the ancient province of Tai Pi.
The most striking feature of the Marquesan languages is their almost universal replacement of the or of other Polynesian languages by a (glottal stop).
Like other Polynesian languages, the phonology of Marquesan languages is characterized by a scarcity of consonants and a comparative abundance of vowels. The consonant phonemes are:
Of this small number of consonants, is found only in eastern Nuku Hiva (Tai Pi Marquesan), and is found only in South Marquesan dialects. In writing, the phoneme is represented by n(g), and is represented as ‘ or ’.
Unlike Samoan, the is not an isolated nasal: it is found only in conjunction with a following . So, whereas the Samoan word for "bay" is faga, pronounced , it is hanga in Tai Pi Marquesan, and is pronounced . (This word is useful to demonstrate one of the more predictable regular consonantal differences between the northern and southern dialects: in North Marquesan, the word is haka, and in South Marquesan, it is hana).
The letter h is used to represent a wide range of sounds, with some authors reporting that, in addition to representing , it also represents a variety of fricatives from to , along with a number of palatalized or labialized variants. The primary factor in this wide range of sounds appears a result of sandhi. These fricatives are all allophones of the simple .
The vowel phonemes are the same as in other Polynesian languages, long and short versions of each:
North vs South Marquesan
North Marquesan is found in the northern islands, and South Marquesan in the southern islands, as well as on Ua Huka in the northern Marquesas.
The most noticeable differences between the varieties are Northern Marquesan in some words where South Marquesan has or (glottal stop), and in all words where South Marquesan has . For example,
|Ua Huka||Ua Huna||(the island)|
The northern dialects fall roughly into four groups:
- Tai Pi, spoken in the eastern third of Nuku Hiva, and according to some linguists, a separate language, Tai Pi Marquesan
- Tei`i, spoken in western Nuku Hiva
- Eastern Ua Pu
- Western Ua Pu
The southern dialects fall roughly into three groups:
North Marquesan exhibits some interesting characteristics. While some Polynesian languages maintained the velar nasal , many have lost the distinction between the nasals and , merging both into . North Marquesan, like some New Zealand Māori dialects, prefers . Another feature is that, while some Polynesian languages replace *k with , North Marquesan has retained it. (Tahitian and formal Samoan have no whatsoever, and the in modern Hawaiian is pronounced either [k] or [t] and derives from Polynesian *t.)
- Much of this information was gleaned from reading the Bernice Pauahi Bishop Museum Bulletins regarding the Marquesas Islands.
- Gabriele H. Cablitz (2006). Marquesan: A Grammar of Space. Trends in Linguistics. Studies and Monographs 169. Mouton de Gruyter.
- “Grammaire et dictionnaire de la langue des Îles Marquises”: Msgr. Dordillon's Marquesan language dictionary (Société des études océaniennes, Pape’ete, 1904 – reissued 1999) (French)
- Online version of the Grammaire et dictionnaire de la langue des Iles Marquises – Marquisien–Français (Paris, Institut d'Ethnologie, 1931) (French)
- Aperçu de la langue des îles Marquises et de la langue taïtienne, accompagné d'un vocabulaire inédit de la langue taïtienne (Johann Buschmann & Guillaume de Humboldt, Berlin, 1843) (French)
- DoBeS — Marquesan - Language
- Sic, for “tahitienne”. Historical and geographical introduction by Johann Buschmann, plus a lexicon by Wilhelm von Humboldt. Though old and outdated, this book is interesting enough.