Volume 1 1892 > Volume 1, No. 1, 1892 > Polynesian causatives, by E. Tregear, p 53-56
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- 53

THE letter-changes and the variety of meanings attached to the different forms of the Polynesian Causative form one of the most interesting subjects of thought to which the student of language can address his powers. The addition of a certain prefix confers the sense of causation—of “making to do” a thing, whether the main word so treated is generally used as a noun or a verb. Thus, with takoto, to lie, to recline, we have whaka-takoto, to lay down; with atua, a god, we get whaka-atua, to deify.

The most common, and, perhaps, important form of the causative prefix is the Maori whaka, the Tongan faka, the Samoan fa'a. We have also the Tahitian, faa, which varies in this dialect with haa. The Hawaiian haa, the Marquesan haa finds itself side by side with the Rarotongan aka, Mangarevan aka, and Futuna haka and faka. This form, then, in the most important Polynesian dialects holds its own, either as the only causative or as allied with others. It would appear probable, when one considers the change between NG and K so common in Polynesian words of different dialects (and even in the same dialect, as Maori kainga=kaika and tangata=takata), that the word hanga, to build, to make, is a form of the word whaka—perhaps the original form. The universality of the K and NG change is strengthened by the fact that the Tahitian, which drops K, drops NG as well; thus the Maori ngakau, the heart, Tahitian aau. The Rarotongan, which dislikes the H sound so strongly as to drop the WH also, gives the causative as aka, in which it is followed by the Mangarevan, which has not nearly so great a repugnance for the aspirate. This aka as causative is probably related to aga (anga), labour, to work, where aga is also used as a kind of causative as in aga-mana, a miracle—i.e., a miracle-causing act.

The Hawaiian hana (hanga) appears to be distinct from the causative forms haa, ha, &c., and is associated by Lorrin Andrews, the Hawaiian lexicographer with hana warm, to become warm, hanahana, heated as by violent exercise. But this association is, I think, falsely - 54 induced by the absence in Hawaiian of the NG sound (or, rather, by both N and NG being written as N), and a consequent confusion between “labour” (to build, &c.) and “heat.” If we compare the Maori hana, to glow, with Tahitian hanahana, splendour, anaana, brightness; Mangarevan hana, shining, brilliant; Paumotan hana, the sun; the Brunner Island mahana, the sun; Aneityumese henhen, to burn, &c., the conclusion will probably be that the word hana is associated with brilliant radiance as of sunshine, and is distinct from hanga, to build, to make, and the idea of “heat caused by exercise” is adventitious.

If we consider how loosely the H sits on this word in many dialects, and also our possession of unaspirated kindred words, such as Maori anga, to begin to do anything; the Samoan aga (anga) to act, to do; the Rarotongan anga, to make, angaanga, to work; the Mangarevan aga (anga), to work, to labour; it appears probable that the word has suffered much change at different times, but that in spite of fine shades of meaning being attached in each dialect to some slight change in verbal form that, on the whole, it is probable that the original root is ✓ FAK—that is to say, that faka is equivalent to whaka; whaka is equivalent to hanga (through whanga, at present a lost form1), and that this has varied in Eastern Polynesia as haa, ha, anga, aga, faka, fa'a, whaka, &c.2

So far we have considered the word having A as its working vowel. The question assumes its more complicated aspect when we turn to the Hawaiian form in O. The Hawaiian presents us with a causative hoo, as in hoo-kokolo, to cause to crawl (Maori—whaka-totoro), &c. This form has been abraded to ho in a few words, as in ho-a, to cause to blaze, to kindle (Maori—whaka-ka.) It has been suggested that a proof of hoo having been of later formation than haa is the word hoo-haa-lulu, to shake; the word haa-lulu having received the accretion of the duplicate causative hoo. The Hawaiian hoo would represent a Maori hoko, and it would be interesting to know if the Maori ever used hoko or ho as a causative. There are several words which appear to strengthen the idea that such was the case; should linguists decide in favour of such form being present the kinship between Hawaiian and Maori would appear much closer than is now allowed. One of the most striking examples is the Maori hokomirimiri, to rub; if hoko is here a causative the Hawaiians appear to have lost it from common - 55 use; mili and milimili, to handle, to examine, not generally taking a causative prefix. The Maori hoa, to aim a blow at by throwing, is apparently related to the Hawaiian hoa, to strike on the head, to beat with a stick or stone; but the Hawaiian hoa is a compound of ho causative, with a, and has another meaning, viz., to drive cattle, plainly showing a likeness to Maori a, to drive. If this relationship is allowed, the Maori has kept ho as a causative in hoa, but not only has the Maori done this, the Samoan foa, to break the head, the Tongan foa, to fracture, the Mangaian oa, to strike, all show the presence of the causative. Too much stress must not be laid upon an isolated instance, but at the same time a single word may have preserved an inestimable relic of obsolete grammar. The difficulty may be seen in its fullest extent in the Maori word hokai, a brace or stay, which, supported by the Samoan so'ai, the brace of a house, appears to be related to the Hawaiian hoai, a suture, a joining, to unite two things together; but the Hawaiian in its most direct meaning is ho-ai (in Maori letters whaka-kai), to mix food together. It is possible that the Maori hoatu, to give away, and homai, to give towards a person, may be forms equal to whaka-atu and whaka-mai.

The use by the Chatham Islanders (Moriori) of the causative hoko is a most interesting puzzle. The dialect is, in its vocabulary and in the greater part of its grammar, a corrupt sub-dialect of New Zealand Maori. The causative, however, apparently resembles the Hawaiian hoo. This seems to point to one of two conclusions. Either the Moriori have retained the hoko causative discarded by the Maori, or else the Moriori have descended from a foreign branch having affinities with Hawaiian. The probability, if we compare the Moriori vocabulary with Maori and Hawaiian, is strongly against the latter hypothesis.

The origin of hoko as a causative appears to be different from that of faka or whaka; a multitude of connected words hinting that as whaka is supported on the root ✓ FAK to make, to do, hoko stands upon the ✓ HON or ✓ HOK (hong), to join. We find:

Maori —Hono, to splice, to join, to unite; tuhono, to join, and tarahono, to pile in a heap.

Samoan—Fono, to hold a council; fofono, to patch; fa'a-fono, to gather to a meeting; tafono, to join the planks of a canoe.

Tahitian—Hono, to splice a rope, to join pieces of wood.

And similar words with like meaning in all the Polynesian dialects. Side by side with these we may place Samoan so'o (soko), to join, to encircle; so'oso'o, to be joined in many places; so'omau, to have a firm joint. Tongan—hokohoko, to splice to join; hohoko, continuous, unbroken; faka-hoko, to splice, to join; and the Mangarevan aka-oko, to tie, to bind. These examples would appear to show a common root ✓ HONG (HOK), the derivatives from which have parted in two - 56 directions as to meaning; thus, the sense of “joining” or “splicing” has been kept mainly for the hono form, the other, hoko, being reserved for the idea of “bringing together,” “uniting,” or “joining,” as articles of barter or trade; hoko being the common word for exchange, barter, buying and selling in the Pacific.3

This derivation of hoko as a causative is very much strengthened by finding that in Samoan the other causative is used as a numeral or ordinal, thus fa'a-tasi (tasi=Maori tahi, one), once, to add to, to join together, to make one; fa'a-lua, twice; fa'a-tolu, thrice, &c. If we compare this with the Maori numeral prefix hoko, signifying “ten times” (as whitu seven, hokowhitu seventy), it would seem extremely likely that the Maori hoko thus used as a numeral is a form of the causative “to make ten,” “to make twenty,” &c. The meaning of “multiplied by ten” attached to it in Maori may be a late evolution of meaning, for we cannot allow that any rendering of decimal notation is possible to primitive savage peoples, whose difficulty in getting beyond any numerals above 3 and 4 is well known. Certainly the Tongan hogofulu, ten (Maori ngahuru, ten) assists the idea that the root is ✓ HONG.4

It will probably be found hereafter that, in spite of the Hawaiian example of Hoo-haa-lulu, the root ✓ HONG has been superseded by the root ✓ FAK in Maori, Tongan, Samoan, &c.

1  New Zealand has an interesting example in the name of Akaroa Harbour, Akaroa being South-Island-Maori for Whangaroa, although this Whanga is not the causative, but probably means “beach.”
2  The Sulu mak and Tagal mag, causative prefixes, exhibit the common letter-change of F and M. It may be worthy of notice that our verb “ to make” is formed on a Teutonic base MAK; and may be related to the Latin base FAK, on which rests facio, I make, and whence the French faire (from facere) to make, to do, often used causatively.
3  Foko still appears to possess as a causative a few Tongan examples—e.g., foko-tuu, to set up, to raise; unless the meaning here is original in its second sense—viz., to fill up—when it might be from hono, to join together.
4  The Maori ngahuru appears to be a corrupted word, and is perhaps to be read as anga-huru—that is, as a causative, anga-huru, hanga-huru or whaka-huru—because we have in Samoan tino, ten, tinolua, twenty, tino-aga-fulu, ten, when used in counting men. Also Hawaiian anaulu, ten days.