Volume 26 1917 > Volume 26, No. 4 > Polynesian linguistics, by Sidney H. Ray, p 170-179
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IX. The Islands of Rennell and Bellona.

RENNELL Island is about ninety miles to the south-west of San Cristoval in the Southern Solomons. It is about fifty miles in length from east to west, and about seven or eight miles broad. The smaller island of Bellona lies about fifteen miles north-west of Rennell, and is only about twenty miles in circumference. Both islands are composed of upheaved coral, and Rennell presents the appearance of an old reef with enclosed lagoon, which has been raised about 300 feet above the sea, and from a distance appears as a long flat island fringed with perpendicular cliffs of rugged coral. The surface of the old lagoon is covered with red, clayey soil, with a lake of brakish water. Fresh water is found only on the beach.

A short account of Rennell and its inhabitants was given by Mr. Woodford in 1907, 1 and he has since given a much fuller account. 2 The islands were apparently discovered and named by Captain Butler in the “Walpole” in 1801, but Bellona was first visited by Bishop Selwyn (the elder) and Mr. (afterwards Bishop) Patteson in the “Southern Cross” in 1856. 3

In 1863 Bishop Patteson and Dr. Codrington went to Bellona to return Te Kiu, a light coloured tattooed youth whom the Bishop had had in New Zealand. While the Bishop was inland a native came down to the boat, and the Rev. J. Palmer, who knew Maori, had no difficulty in communicating with him. On this occasion Bishop Patteson took ashore the first pigs and first fowls seen on the island, as he had learned from Te Kiu that they had none. They were received with astonishment. The man who came to the boat gave Dr. - 171 Codrington his shell adze (now in the British Museum). The scene is illustrated in Dr. Codrington's book. 4

Beyond the fact that the natives of Rennell and Bellona were Polynesians, 5 nothing was known of them until Mr. Woodford visited the islands.

The south-west portion of Rennell is known as Bethona (which appears to be the same word as Bellona). The part more to east-ward is Mangihamoa. The villages on Rennell are: Juguge on the south-west coast; Okeoke Kungava on centre of the south coast, Deha Kungava on the south-east coast, Kungivi in the interior, at the west end of the lagoon, and Vinegau on the south coast of the lagoon. These names are due to Mr. Woodford.

There is some uncertainty as to the native names of the islands. Mr. Woodford in 1907 stated that they had not been ascertained, 6 but in his later account he calls Rennell Mangana and Bellona Mangiki. In some MS. notes used by me in 1896, Rennell is called Moava and Bellona Moiki. 7 Miss Yonge in the account of Bishop Selwyn's visit names them Mongaua and Mongiki. 8 Wawn calls Rennell Muava or Mungava, and Bellona Muighi or Mungiki. 9 Thilenius uses Muava or Mungava for Rennell, and Moiki for Bellona. 10 The late Rev. F. Drew wrote Moaba and Moiki or Mongiki.

Since the names are plainly made up of the word Mo (perhaps meaning Motu, island), with the native equivalents of the Polynesian Lava, Raha or Raha, and Liki or Riki referring to the size, I have used them in the form of Mo-ngava (i.e., long or large Mo) and Mo-ngiki (i.e., little Mo).

According to Mr. Woodford Rennell is known to the Melanesians of San Cristoval by the name of Totohuti. He considers that it may be identified with the island known to the Sikaiana natives as Fenuahala (land of the Pandanus tree). Fenuahala was said to have no sand beaches, and to be inhabited only by women, who reproduced the species by the aid of the banana fruit. 11 Totohuti in the Wango language of San Cristoval means “sap or juice of the banana.”

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The only printed specimen of the language of Rennell consists of the numerals and nine words given by Mr. Woodford. 12 Some MS. notes taken by or for Bishop Patteson, apparently during the visit of the “Southern Cross” to Bellona in 1856, or on his second visit in 1863, formed the subject of a notice in 1896. 13 Mr. Woodford has now very kindly sent me a much longer vocabulary in the Rennell language. The late Rev. F. Drew also gave me a larger vocabulary from Bellona.

From the MS. notes I extract the following elements of Mo-ngiki grammar. I have added a few notes on Mo-ngava from Mr. Woodford's vocabulary:—

1. Alphabet.—Vowels: a, e, i, o, u. Consonants: k, ng, p, f, v, wh, t, m, n, o, h.

The nasal ng (as in English “sing”) appears to be intended for the Melanesian guttural trill g. Its sound is thus described in a note on the MS. “It is not the pure ng sound, but has something of the r mixed with it.” Thus it corresponds to the r or l of related dialects. In some words the sound seems to have been missed. Cf. Mo-ngiki words for ear, hand, tongue.

A non-nasal g is used by Mr. Drew and Mr. Woodford.

The sounds of f, h, and wh are not distinct. “House” in Mongiki is indifferently fange, hange or whange, the Samoan fale, Maori whare. Mr. Woodford uses w in Mo-ngava in awahi smoke (au, ahi) and iwa, nine. Both Mr. Woodford and Mr. Drew often use b for v.

2. Articles.—These are: te singular, na plural, he indefinite. Te ingoa tokufenua Mo-iki, the name of my land is Mo-iki; ko ai te ingoa o te tangata e noho mai? who is the name of the man (who) dwells here? Na ika e api ai, fishes (are) many there; mai maku he gau, hither for me a fish-hook; he ake, a garment.

In Mo-ngava some examples show a change of vowel in the article: te hanua the land, to moana the sea, tu ngangi the cloud, tu ngaa the sail. There is also a change to de: de nga ail, de tunga chief's house. The plural nga seems to occur in the word given for “paddle” nga hoi. Cf. Maori nga hoe.

3. Adjectives.—These follow the noun and are commonly used with the particle e: tangata e tasi, one man; na ika e api, fish many; te ika ngoa, a long fish; na toa siai, no fowls.

4. Personal Pronouns:

  • Singular: 1. ko au; 2. ko koe; 3. ko ia.
  • Dual: 1 (incl.). ko taua; 1 (excl.). ko maua; 2. ko ngua; 3 ko ngaua.
  • Plural: 1 (incl.). ko tatou; 1 (excl.). ko matou; 2. ko tou; 3. kingatou.
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In the singular te is introduced (as in Tongan and Samoan) after the prepositions kia and ia: avatu kia te ai, give to him; kia te au, to me; kia te koe, to thee.

In Mo-ngava: Singular: 1. au I, aku me. 2. ana you, 3. ana he, him.

5. Possessives:—

  • Singular: 1. toku; 2. tou; 3. tona.
  • Dual: 1 (incl.). tota; 1 (excl). toma; 2. tongua; 3. tonga.
  • Plural: 1 (incl.). totatou; 1 (excl.). tomatou; 2. tokotou; 3. tongatou.

These consist of the article te, the word o and a suffixed pronoun. The corresponding words ma and mo are also found: maku te gau, for me a fish-hook; maku te kai, for me food; moku te ake, for me a garment. These show the distinction between a and o, usual in Polynesian.

The Mo-ngava vocabulary has: Sing. 1. ooku my, 2. oo your, 3. oona his. Plural: 3. ongatu theirs.

6. Interrogatives.—Who? ko ai? What? tea? tia? Koai te ingoa o te tangata? Who is the name of the man? Tia te nei? What is this?

7. Demonstratives.—This te nei, that te na, yonder te nga. These correspond to the Maori tenei, tena, tera.

8. Verbs.—Only e is generally used in the notes, with au and siai as negatives: Tangata o Moava e ango ki Moiki, matou e ango ki Moava, people of Moava paddle to Moiki, we paddle to Moava; ko koe e kongu ia te au, thou strikest me; ko koe e kanukanu a mato muna, thou writest our words; mato e au kite a Paulo, siai te fenua e tu mai, we do not see Bauro, 14 not the land stands up hither; e au mahonga e au, I do not know; e bengo te tangata ki te tau, is speared the man with the spear 15; ko au muna atu kia te koe, I speak to thee; na toa siai, there are no fowls.

In one phrase te is apparently a particle: tona hua te polo, its fruit (is) cut up (?), but the phrase is not translated and may mean its fruit the capsicum, the fruit (of) the capsicum. Samoan polo. (In Mo-ngava the word for ‘red’ is written with e: e unga, Samoan ulaula, red.)

The imperative appears with no particle in the singular, but has a shortened pronoun in the plural: noho iho, sit down (to one); koto noho a kiho, sit down (to many).

9. Adverbs.—Directive: mai hither, to me; atu thither, to thee; angi thither, to him; iho down.

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Interrogative: te hea? where? e hia? how many? toko hia? how many persons? i tia? whither? where?

Place: ki ngunga above, ki ngango below.

Time: itiiti by and bye.

A general relative adverb is ai: na ika e api ai, fishes are many there.

10. Prepositions.ki to, kia to (pronouns); i, ai, at.

11. Numerals.—The Mo-ngiki numerals are thus given in the Patteson MS. and by Rev. F. Drew. The word given by the latter if different is placed within brackets.

1 tasi, 2 ngua, 3 tongu, 4 ha, fa (fa), 5 ngima, 6 ono, 7 fitu (whitu), 8 vangu (bangu), 9 iva (iba), 10 angahungu, katoa.

Katoa means ‘all,’ and Rev. F. Drew gives tuani for the finish of the counting, and also mentions a method of counting backwards from angahungu 11, iva 12, bangu 13, to tasi.

The higher numbers given in Patteson MS. are: 20 ngua ngahungu, 30 tongu ngahungu, 40 ha ngahungu, 50 ngima ngahungu, 100 noa, 200 ngua nga noa, 1000 afe, 10,000 nimo te tau nga.

The numerals are used with the particle e: te ika e fa, four fishes.

Mr. Woodford gives the Mo-ngava numerals as follows: 1 tahi, 2 ngua, 3 tongu, 4 ha, 5 ngima, 6 ono, 7 hitu, 8 bangu, 9 iwa, 10 katoa, 20 katoa haka ngua. Haka in the last term is the causative particle.

The grammar notes on the language of Mo-ngiki formed the material for a notice by W. von Bulow in 1908. 16 He showed that the language practically became Samoan when the following sound changes were taken into account:—

  • 1. A g, h, or wh at the beginning of a word, or h between vowels represents Samoan f.
  • 2. The h following a consonant does not appear in Samoan.
  • 3. The k before or between vowels is elided in Samoan.
  • 4. The ng of syllables which have not ng in Samoan, represents the Samoan l.

In the grammatical particle when these rules are applied no non-Samoan form appears.

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XII.—A Vocabulary of the Mo-ngiki Language.
Adult ta-matua S.
Arm ngima S.
Arrow ngasiau
Back tua S.
Bag, basket kete S.
Banana huti S.
Beard tangaha
Belly menaba S.
Bow n kauhutu
Bowels tinac
Bowstring kahoho
Boy tama-ngiki S.
Calf of leg ate-bae S.
Chest, breast hatahata S.
Chief angiki, S. hakahūa
Child tama S.
Child (small) tama-iti S.
Clothing (man) huna
Clothing (woman) mango
Coconut nīu S.
Come ngaji
Come here! bo-mai
Cut up polo
Deck tau S.
Die oti S.
Drum tipa
Dwell noho S.
Ear tainga, tanginga S.
Earth keange
Eat kai S
Elbow (outside) tunge-ima
Eye mata S.
Fan n ingi S.
Fan v bebenga
Finger mangi-a-ima
Finger-nail dano-ima
Fish n ika S.
Fish v taia
Fish-hook kau 1
Fishing-line uka S.
Flying-fox peka S.
Flying-fox teeth tu'u
Fowl toa
Fruit hua S.
1   Written gau in the MS. notes.
Garment ake
Give avatu, au-mai S.
Give present takioa S. 2
Go away bo-atu
2   Written tagioa (g not nasal) by Rev. F. H. Drew.
Hair ngau-ungu S.
Hand ima S.
Head ungu S.
Hear ngongo S.
Hot buabua
House hangai, fange, hange, whange S. M.
Know mahonga
Land fenua S.
Leg bae, wae S.
Lip au-ngutu, ngutu S.
Long adj ngoa S.
Louse kutu S.
Man tangata S.
Many api
Mat, bed moenga S.
Moon masina, S.
Mouth fingangau S.
Name ingoa S.
Navel pito
Neck ua S.
Net kupenga S.
Night po S.
Nipple bai-u
Nose isu, ishu S.
Paddle v ango S.
Rise tu
Rope (sinnet) kaha S.
Sell tau S.
Ship lakatau
Shoot v fana S.
Sit noho S.
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Speak muna
Spear tau S.
Stand tu S.
Stomach menaba, tinae S.
Strike kongu, ta S.
Sugar-cane tongo S.
Sun na'ā
Taro tango S.
Tattoo tatau S.
Thigh enga
Tongue aio
Tooth niho, nifo S.
Tree akau, ngakau S.
Water bai 3
Woman fafine S.
Write kanukanu
3   This word is inferred from the word given for “nipple,” which is plainly “milk.” Cf. note on “nipple.”
Yam uhi S.
Notes on the Mo-ngiki Vocabulary.

By the application of Herr von Bulow's rules a large number of the words agree with Samoan. These are marked by S. following:—

  • Beard. Cf. Sam. talafa, hairy face, whiskers, and Mao, tără in tărăhău, etc.
  • Belly. Cf. Sam. tinae, entrails of fish.
  • Bowstring. Cf. Sam. afo, Mao. aho, line, etc.
  • Clothing (man). Herr v. Bulow suggests a connection with Sam. funai, to conceal (i.e. the private parts). Cf. Mao. hŭnă.
  • Clothing (woman). Cf. Mao. maro, woman's girdle.
  • Come here. Cf. Mao. homai. Sam. au mai, bring. Also cf. go away.
  • Cut up. Sam. polo, to cut up a pig with a bamboo knife.
  • Drum. Cf. Sam. tipa, to rebound.
  • Earth. Sam. 'ele, red earth, Mao. kĕrĕ in kĕrĕngĕo.
  • Fan v. Cf. Sam. vevela, hot, or pepe, flutter, with noun suffix ga.
  • Fish v. Cf. Sam. taia, to fish for palolo, etc.
  • Fishing-line.—Cf. Sam. u'a, the paper-mulberry, and netting made from the bark.
  • Fowl. Sam. toa, cook.
  • Garment. Cf. Sam. la'ei, a train, to wear a train.
  • Go away. Cf. Mao. ho-atu, go on. Also cf. come here.
  • Know. Sam. măfola, to be plain, Mao. măhoră, exposed to view.
  • Mouth. Herr v. Bulow suggests that this is a reduplication of Sam. finau, to dispute, hence to dispute violently, with prominent activity of the mouth.
  • Navel. Mao. pito, Sam. pute.
  • Nipple. Apparently a mistake for “milk.” Cf. Mao. wai u, milk, water of breast.
  • Rise. Cf. Mao. tŭtū, Sam. Mao. tu, to stand.
  • Speak. Cf. Sam. muna, to contradict, Mao. to speak treacherously.
  • Strike. Herr v. Bulow compares kongu with Sam. olu, to be marked with stripes (as a consequence of being beaten). The word olu is not in Pratt's Samoan Dictionary, 3rd Ed.
  • Sun. The word na'a appears irregularly for ngaa, which would be the correct representative of the Samoan la, Maori ra
  • Thigh. The word enga probably means the “thick part” (i.e. of the leg). Cf. Sam. oga.
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Fish-hook.—Kau or gau is a common Melanesian word, for which the Polynesian is usually matau, but other words I have not identified as definitely Polynesian or Melanesian. These are:—

  • Arrow. Ngasiau.
  • Bow. Kauhutu. Kau is the common word for “tree” in Melanesian, found as “stalk, stick” in Polynesian, and common in words for “bow.”
  • Chief. Hakahūa.
  • Come. Ngaji.
  • Finger. Mangi a ima. With ima. Cf. Mao. rima, Sam. lima. Mangi may perhaps represent mai as in Mao., etc., mai-kuku, claw.
  • Finger-nail. Dano is not identified.
  • Flying-fox teeth. Tu'u.
  • Give as a present. Takioa, or tagioa.
  • Hot. Buabua.
  • Many. Api. Cf. Sam. aupito, many.
  • Ship. Lakatau. Laka appears to be the common aka, vaka ship, as in the Motu (New Guinea) laka-toi, Mala-gasy lakana. But tau cannot be compared with the Motu toi, which means “three.” Most likely tau is the word for trade. Sam. tau, the ship being a “trading” vessel.
  • Tongue. This may represent alelo, with the two l's lost.
  • Write. Kanukanu.
XIII.—A Vocabulary of the Mo-ngava Language.
Alive maungi
Areca-nut pua
Bad songu
Bag (native, of grass) kete S. M.
Bag (another kind) mango
Banana huti S.
Beard tangaha, jovi
Belly tina
Big (too much) e ha
Bird manu S. M.
Black ungi S.
Blow (the nose) isu-hohonu
Blow (with mouth) orka
Boat vaka S. M.
Bone ivi S. M.
Bowl (for lime) kapia
Bowl (for water of coconut) tatai
Breadfruit me
Broken nonoa, momono
Carry to'o
Catch (seize) jabu
Chew (betel) kamu
Chief's stick taangaka
Child tama-itiiti S. M.
Close up hitai-aki
Cloth (bark) kongoa
Cloud tu-ngangi
Club (stone-headed mace) ngakahu
Cold makeke
Come to-mai, cf. S. mai
Cough kangi S.
Cut hair r. dobiku
Cut (or wound) n ma'aka
Dead mamati, matimati S. M.
Drink binu S. M.
Drum titipa
Duck (wild) mangago
Ear tanginga S. M.
Eat kai S. M.
Egg tahi
Fall down po ungi
Fan tugi
Far away mamao S. M.
Finger manania
Finish oti
Fire vakai
Fish ika S. M.
Fish-hook ngau
Go gevo
God atua S. M.
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Good gaui
Hand ngima S.
Hot bebenga S. M.
House hangi S. M.
House (chief's) de-tunga
Hungry ongea
Itch mamai
Kill taa S. M.
Land te-hanua S. M.
Leg vai'i S. M.
Light n. pungu
Lime-stick amosi
Louse ungu S. M.
Make haka S. M.
Man tangata S. M.
Mat majikopi
Mirror titingo
Moon mahina S.
Moustache hu-ngutu
Mouth ngutu M.
Nose isu S. M.
Nose-ring katanga
Osprey kangau
Paddle ngahoi
Pillow (wooden) ungunga S. M.
Quick gagage
Red unga S. M.
Rub noses sosongo S. M. songi
Sail (mat, of canoe) de-nga S. M.
Sail (of ship) tu-ng'a S. M.
Sand (white) isi mana'a
Satisfied (full up with food) mahina
Scratch anga S.
Sea to-moana S. M.
Sharp kakai
Sleep momoi S. M.
Smell v. gubia
Smoke awahi (M. auahi)
Smoke sumeko
Snake ngata S.
Spear (large wooden) ta-tao S. M.
Spear (tipped with bone) kapini
Stand tutu'u S.
Star hatu'u S. M.
Stone (or rock) ha'atu S. M.
Stretch mahongu
String uka, kaha S.
Sun nga'a S. M.
Tap (lime bowl with stick) gituku
Taro tango S. M.
Tattooing tatau S.
Tattooing (crescentic on buttock) haka-thapa M. rape
Teeth (of flying-fox) tu'u
Thigh unguvanga
Throw tupe
Too much (big) e ha
Tooth niho S. M.
Turn round hungiugin
Walk about degehu
Water vai S. M.
Weep tangi S. M.
White sesungu
Woman hahini M. S.
Yawn mababa S.
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Notes on the Mo-ngava Vocabulary.

Words cognate with Samoan are marked s, if with Maori M.:—

  • Alive. Maungi represents a very common Melanesian word mauri, life, live.
  • Areca nut. Cf. San Cristoval hua. This is the common Solomon Island word.
  • Beard. Cf. S. talafa, etc.
  • Belly. Cf. S. tinae, entrails.
  • Blow nose. Cf. S. isu, hohonu
  • Blow (with mouth). Cf. M. whakaha
  • Bowl (for water). Cf. S. tata, baler.
  • Broken. With nonoa Cf. S. nonoa tie. Momono is pps. a mistaks for momomo, S. broken.
  • Carry. Cf. S. to
  • Chew betel. M. kamu eat.
  • Close up. Cf. S. fetina'i, crowded together.
  • Cloth. Cf. S. 'oloa, property of foreign origin.
  • Cloud. Pps. for asu smoke, ngangi sky.
  • Club. The same word as “tree” as in Tahiti and Niue.
  • Cold. S. ma'e'e, to shiver.
  • Cut hair. M. tôpê, to cut off.
  • Drum. Cf. S. tipa.
  • Fall down. Apparently a cautionary word “dark,” hence ‘fall.’
  • Fan. Cf. M. tuki (?)
  • Finish. Cf. S. M. oti, die, M. oti, finish
  • Fire. Cf. M. wahie, fuel.
  • Fish-hook. Cf. note on Mongivi Vocabulary.
  • Hungry. Cf. S. ole, to beg, M. onge, famine.
  • Itch. Cf. S. mama'i pl. of ma'i, sick, ill.
  • Light. Pungu represents a common, Melanesian word pulu, torch, candle. San Cristoval buru.
  • Mirror. Cf. M. titiro, look.
  • Moustache. Hu is pps. for huru, hair, S. fulu, and ngutu is “mouth.”
  • Paddle. Probably plural article nga, and hoi, M. hoe paddle.
  • Sharp. Cf. M. kai, to bite.
  • Smoke. Cf. M. au smoke, ahi fire.
  • Smoke. Sumeko, English “tobacco.”
  • Stretch. Cf. S. M. mafola, spread out.
  • Tap. Cf. S. ongavai.
  • Thigh. Cf. S. ongavai
  • Turn round. Cf. S. fuli, M. huri.
  • White. Cf. S. sesenga, to be dazzled.

A few words which are unlike S. or M. are the same as in the Reef Islands (near Santa Cruz). Some examples are: big ha (R.I. fa): bowl for lime kapia (R.I. kapia); good gaui? ngaui (R.I. lavoi); house of chief de tunga (R.I. taunga house). The word for “breadfruit,” me, is the same as in Tikopia (and Eastern Polynesian) mei, and Micronesian mai.

These notes conclude the series on “Polynesian Languages of the Solomon Islands.” An account of the “Polynesian Languages of the Santa Cruz Islands” will follow.

1   “Notes on Rennell Island.” Man., 1907. No. 24.
2   “On some little-known Polynesian Settlements in the neighbourhood of the Solomon Islands.” By Charles M. Woodford, C.M.G.
3   Charlotte M. Yonge. “Life of J. C. Patteson.” London, 1874, I. p. 272.
4   Rev. R. H. Codrington, D.D. “The Melanesians.” Oxford, 1891. p. 322, and letter to S. H. Ray.
5   Rev. R. H. Codrington. Op. cit., pp. 2, 16, 313, and “Melanesian Languages.” Oxford, 1885. pp. 8, 33.
6   Man., 1907. No. 24.
7   These were apparently made during Bishop Patteson's visit in 1863.
8   Charlotte M. Yonge. “Life of J. C. Patteson.” London, 1874.
9   W. T. Wawn. “The South Sea Islanders.” London, 1893. p. 236.
10   Dr. G. Thilenius. “Ethnographische Ergebnisse aus Melanesien.” Nova Acta. Abh. d. K. Leop. Carol. Deutsch. Akad. d. Naturforscher. Bd. LXXX. No. 1. Halle, 1902.
11   “On some little known Polynesian Settlements.” “Geographical Journal,” July, 1916.
12   Man., 1907. No. 24.
13   Sidney H. Ray. Mittheilungen über drei Dialekte der Salomon. Inseln. Zeitsch. f. afrik. u. ocean. Sprachen, 1896. pp. 6-8.
14   Bauro is San Cristoval Island, north-east of Bellona.
15   The translation is conjectural, and the phrase is untranslated in the MS. I take bengo and tau for the Samoan velo and tao, Maori wero and tao.
16   Einige Bemerkungen zu dem Artikel “Die Sprache von Moi-ki, Bellona Insel” in dem Aufsatze von Sidney H. Ray: Mittheilungen über drei Dialekte der Salomon-Inseln. Von W. von Bulow, Matapoo, Samoa-Inseln. Zeitsch f. afrik. u. ocean. Sprachen, IV. Berlin, 1898. pp. 146-150.