Volume 62 1953 > Volume 62, No. 1 > A dialect of Yasawa Island (Fiji), by R. Raven-Hart, p 33-56
A DIALECT OF YASAWA ISLAND (FIJI)
Although a linguistic survey was not one of the main purposes of a recent stay at Nabukeru, it seemed desirable to collect notes on this village-dialect of West Fijian, which appears to have been very little studied. The village lies at the southern end of Yasawa Island, the northernmost of the group to which it gives its name: the dialects are stated to vary considerably even on this one island.
The official spelling has been used in preference to the so-called “phonetic” system: an odd misnomer, since, if the conventions of the official system be accepted, this is almost rigorously phonetic, which the “phonetic” system is not—for example, there is nothing to show whether the “ng” in that system stands for the sound in “anger,” “singer,” or “change”; or whether its “th” is that of “they,” or of “thigh.” In what follows B is therefore to be read as mb, D as nd, C as the th of “thy,” G as the ng of “singer,” and Q as the ng of “anger.” As an abbreviation B stands for “Bau,” the East Fijian dialect adopted as official ,Y for the Yasawan dialect under study; and for “Capell,” “Biggs,” “Churchward,” “Thomson,” see the Bibliography.
My special thanks are due to the brothers Epeli and Kamenieli Sokidrau, Storekeeper and Schoolmaster respectively; and above all to their 65-year old father Livina Sokidrau.
Pronunciation. The C is very palatal, even retroflex, and is almost a Z in many words. The flat of the tongue (Churchward II.1) does not appear to be used, only the tip.
The S tends, for the same reason, to SH.
The introduced J is usually very nearly CH, and in some words takes this sound exactly.
The V is frequently a quite definite P.- 34
There is a strong tendency to clip off final vowels entirely, not merely to leave them voiceless (Churchward II.2). The village schoolmaster finds this his greatest difficulty in teaching the Bau dialect.
Articles. The indefinite article is e t'la na, as in Nailanga (Biggs) for the B e dua na. Y-speakers insist that it is e tila na, but the i is never heard.
The definite article is na, as in B, but before i (especially before the Preformative I of the next section) tends to ne (as in the last of Biggs' Nailanga examples). Ko is used before proper nouns and cardinal pronouns as in B, and, as in B again, is often abbreviated to o. A definite article E was occasionally heard before nouns (not only before numerals as in B) but it was not possible to trace any rule governing its use: not infrequently it was replaced by na when a repetition was asked for. One example will however be found in the Vocabulary, s.v. “male.”
Preformative I. This is used as in B to form nouns from verbs, especially to designate the intrument, locale, mode, result, etc. of the action. There seems to be a tendency to omit this I where B would use it, but this may be due to the extremely rapid Y speech.
Pronouns. In Y, as in B, there are in theory four persons (First inclusive, where “we” includes the person addressed; First exclusive, where it does not; Second; Third) and four numbers (Singular; Dual; Trial, also used for a small number; and Plural). In practice, however, these do not all occur, as will be seen.
The one First Inclusive form shown is however rarely used, the Exclusive forms being preferred even when not grammatically applicable.- 35
For the short forms see below under the example of a Conjugation.
Possessive Pronouns. These have five forms: Suffixed, Short, and Full in L, K, and M.
The suffixed forms are:
In B, such suffixed forms are used for relationships and parts of the body (and in some other cases): in Y (as in Nalotawa, Biggs) for relationships only, with one interesting exception, q.v. below.
The short forms, used before the noun, are:
The Full forms in L are:
The K- and M-forms merely substitute these letters for the L.
The L-forms are the ones normally used (as in B the N-forms), the M-forms being used for foods, the K-forms for drinks, and also in cases where the object is not owned but concerns the possessor (e.g., na lemu i taba, the photograph owned by him, na kemu i taba, the photograph of him). In B, however, the K-forms are used also of inanimate objects (“its”) instead of the N-forms, from the logical idea that an inanimate object cannot “own” anything: in Y the corresponding use of the K for the L-forms is not invariable.
In all the last three tables no Inclusive forms are shown. They were never heard in conversation; and when - 36 they were asked for, the B form was produced, or a phonetic modification of it (e.g., T for D).
Auxiliary Verbs. For the continuative, nō (in B “to lie”) after the principal verb replaces the B tiko. For possibility, rewa after the verb replaces rawa; for completion devu after the verb replaces the B oti; and for desire matā or sometimes vinatia before the verb replaces the B via, as in Nalotawa (Biggs) in all cases. Examples are: I am speaking, qi sa tata nō; you can speak, i sa tata rewa; he has spoken, oi sa tata devu o koya; they wish to speak, a ra matā tata. All these auxiliaries also exist as verbs in their own right, except matā.
Causative Verbs. In B these are formed by prefixing vaka- (or vā- before g, k, q) and suffixing -taka (as a rule). to nouns, adjectives, and verbs: in Y by vaka- (very rarely vā, even where B would use this, unlike most dialects of West Fijian according to Capell, page 293), and the suffix is almost always -takinia.
Definitive-transitive Verbs. In B these are formed by suffixing -a, -ca, -ga, -caka, -taka, etc. (Churchward I.11), to the Indefinite-transitive form, the verbal root: thus B tā niu, to chop coconuts, but taya na niu, to chop the coconuts. The Y suffixes almost invariably add an i to the B form, as -ia, -cia, -gia, -cakia, -takia, etc. It would have been possible to extend the Vocabulary below from some 600 words to ten times that length by giving such variations, but only enough have been included to show the principle, the suffixes being in brackets.
Conjugation of the Verb. As in B, the verb itself is not changed for person, number, or tense: person and number are shown by the pronouns preceding the verb, but whereas B shows the past tense by the tense-sign a, Y does so by a change in the form of the pronoun. For the future both Y and B use the tense-sign na; but there is in Y-speakers a definite dislike of this, even when speaking B, the simple present being preferred (as in English, “I am going next week”). Also in Y the predicate-sign - 37 sa is sometimes used as a tense-sign, to differentiate the Present (or Future) from the past, whereas in B it is an intensifier only (Churchward II.5). Thus, for the verb lā, to go:
No signs of a separate First Incl. form appeared.
The identification of the Trial with the Dual in the First and Second persons but with the Plural in the Third person is curious: it will be found also, more or less completely, in the other tables of pronouns above.
Passives. In B these are formed in various ways, among which is the prefixing of lau- to the verbal root, but rarely except where there is a connotation of injury. In Y, on the other hand, the use of this prefix, in the form lei-, is by far the commonest manner of forming the Passive.
Reciprocal. The B prefix vei- becomes vi- in Y: examples will be found in the Vocabulary.
Negatives. The B sega ni before the verb is replaced in Y by tamu, with a very clipped final u (as in Nalotawa, Biggs): I do not go, B au sā sega ni lako, Y qi sā tamu lā (the sā being here an intensifier in both cases). Tamu is also used for the B prefix tawa-, English “un-”, “less”: B tawa-yaga, useless, Y tamu yaga.
There is however a second negative, tikai, in Y, taking me, the “Subjunctive” “that”: sā tikai me vinā, it is not good: oi sā tikai me lā, he is not going. But these could also be sā tamu vina, oi sā tamu lā; and in fact these latter appeared to be the forms preferred by the younger Y speakers, tikai being somewhat old-fashioned. Even for them, however, tikai is the only acceptable form for “No” - 38 (in answer to a question); for “or not?” at the end of a query, Y i sā la se tikai, B ko sā lako se sega, are you going or not?; and as a verb, “there is no sugar,” sā tikai na suka.
Suggestors. (to coin a term). In B li after the verb indicates that a negative answer is expected; and ne at the end of the sentence, an affirmative one. (But if the question is negative, to the logical Fijian an affirmative answer is what to the illogical English is negative: sa sega li ni ika?, is there no fish? expects “No,” but meaning “No, you are wrong, there is some fish; and sa sega ni ika, ne? expects “Yes,” but meaning “Yes, you are right, there is no fish.”) In Y se at the end of the sentence replaces the B ne; and li is used, but is also placed at the end of the sentence.
Moderators (to coin another). In B mada, and (with negatives) sō or soti are used to soften commands or statements: e.g., lako mai, come here, but lako mada mai, please come here; au sa lako, I am going, but au sa lako mada, I am going if you don't mind. (This, and “please” are too strong for mada: nearer equivalents would be “You might come here, will you?” and “Well, I think I'll be going.”) Or again: kua ni lako, do not go, but kua sō ni lako, you had better not go; sā sega ni vinaka, it is no good, but sā sega sō ni vinaka, it is not much good. In Y mada is used as in B; but sō is replaced by du or sewa (“small”): thus kua sewa ni lā, sā tikai du me vinā or sā tamu vinā du for the examples given.
Numerals. These, with the exception of “one,” B e dua na, Y e t'la na, are the same in Y and B in their indefinite forms; but when definite (i.e., “the three villages” instead of “three villages”) the Y is na koro ke tolu for the B na koro e tolu.
Relationship Terms. These show interesting variations from B, always in the direction of greater simplicity.
Thus, there is no difference between “brother” and “sister,” real or assimilated (children of mother's sister - 39 or father's brother), which might suggest that the brother-sister avoidance-compulsion was not strong. Again, no difference is made between the sons and the daughters of one's paternal aunt or maternal uncle. In both cases, of course, a distinction can be made by adding tagwane, male, or yalewa, female, but no separate words exist as in B.
Assuming that a man is speaking, the terms are as follows: Grandfather, Y tubu (in B “ancestor”) for B tuka (which in Y is “elder brother”), with Y tai as term of address; Grandmother, Y again tubu and tai, for B bu. The brothers and sisters of the grandparents are assimilated to and named as these.
Father, Y tama as B, with mo as term of address; Mother, tina and nau as in B. Father's brother and grandparents' sons assimilated to father: mother's sisters and grandparents' daughters, to mother; but with if necessary the distinction between, e.g., tama sadu (B tama dina), “true father,” and tama sewa, “little father.” In B the equivalent, tama lailai, is used (Capell) only for assimilated fathers and mothers younger than the true parents respectively, the forms tama levu, “big father,” tina levu, “big mother,” being used for those older than the true parents: in Y no such distinction is made.
The important relationships of mother's brother and father's sister are both gwadi in Y, being respectively gadina and gane-ni-tama in B. Their children of both sexes are in Y tavale, which in B refers to their sons only, their daughters being davola. In Fiji in general, this davola was the destined wife of a man: the fact that no special term exists for it in Y might suggest that this obligation to marry was less strong there.
With the exception of these, all the relations of one's own generation, whether one's siblings or the children of one's uncles and aunts, are in Y taci if younger, tuka if older than oneself, whereas in B taci and tuaka are thus used only of those of the same sex as oneself, gane for those of the opposite sex.
One's sister's children (if one is a man) or brother's children (for a woman) are in Y batuvu, in B vugo, or, in the case of a man's sister's son (only) vasu. With - 40 these exceptions, all relations of the next generation, whether one's own children or those of brothers and sisters (true or assimilated) are luve both in Y and B. Finally, children of these luve and batuvu are in Y viago, B makubu.
All these take in Y the suffixed possessive pronouns, e.g., tamaqu, gwadimu; with however one interesting exception, batuvu, which takes the short possessive, qu batuvu, with qu va as term of address, as if this particular relative were regarded as a part of one's body rather than a nephew or niece. It of course suggests the matrilineal importance of the sister's son (and cf. vasu in e.g. Capell); but applies also to the sister's daughter, and, in the case of a woman speaking, to her brother's children.
What Capell calls “tabu words” have been included, since in many languages (e.g., English) they tend to be of great antiquity. Many words will be seen to be the same as in Biggs' Vocabulary (which of course proved indispensable), usually in his Nalotawa, less often in Kaibulu or Lewā dialects: they are shown by N, K, or L in brackets.
With the Y cf. B “to grunt.”
Cf. B bora, “to speak angrily.”- 41
Cf. Y “back.”
With the Y cf. B “bēche-de-mer.”
For the Y see “gimlet,” “rectum.”
Y “eye of the land.”
Cf. B e na matana, s.v. mata.
Capell page 355 gives in error mata-ni-vakowiri for B.
The Y word may be English “bridle,” in B vreli.
For the Y cf. “egg.”
For both cf. “tongue.”
But venu is used in Y for “to pick nose,” as B.- 42
With Y cf. B “smooth.”
With the Y cf. B rubu.
In Y, uto is “pawpaw.”
For the Y see B dawa.
See Relationship Terms above.
With the Y cf. B “flower,” “sticky” (of soil).
See also lovo(na) in B, Capell.
Vede is also “rectum” in Y.
With the Y cf. B kara(ca).
Luve is also B, but in the sense of son or daughter.
Musu is also B, to cut across.
With the Y cf. B cake, upwards.
For ō in Y see “grass.”
With the Y cf. B droka, “raw.”
With the Y cf. taba, “skin.”
For the Y cf. B “pandanus.”
Also used in B.
The Y word is used in B of people only, “to sing.”
With the Y cf. B, sele(va).
The Y word is used in B for “to plane.”
The Y word is used in B for “fearless.”
The Y is used in B for “to touch.”
The same word is also used for King in Y, as in B.
The Y respectively, “eye in the lower part,” and “eye in the side.”
The Y is “eye of the house.”
See for both “intercourse” and “water.”
The Y term is also used in B.
Both mean “the going up of the sun.”
Cf. for both “to be able to.”
Cf. “different.”- 45
See above among the Auxiliary Verbs.
I follow here Biggs' spelling: I heard it as kwaikwai.
Cf. B “to wash the hands.”
Both have the meaning “back of the eye.”
Both have the meaning “hollow of the eye.”
Cf. Y “easy.”
Cf. B vuqa, “many.”
Cf. Y “to see.”
Cf. B “mangrove-root.”
Cf. B and Y voce, “paddle.”
Y-speakers take liga mudu as lacking the hand or arm, as in Capell s.v. mudu, not lacking the finger as Capell s.v. liga. But see e.g. Thomson for latter.
See for both “ashes.”- 46
(stationary) piece being tina-ni-nita, the upper (mobile) piece being luve-ni-nita.
Cf. B in connection with “fish-fence.”
The Y term is the B word for the old thorn-hook.
The Y word is “a ceremonial banquet” in B.
See “angry” for both.
Cf. B “many.”
The latter Y fungus is edible.
The Y is a verb in B, “to garden.”
The B word is given in Capell both for the glans and (in error) for the prepuce.
The Y is “to kill with club” in B.
See preceding entry.
For the Y cf. B “comb.”
The Y is used in B for persons.
The Y is used in B for the kitchen part of house.
The Y is “lower jaw” in (N), a more obvious meaning.
With the Y cf. B “to scratch.”
Cf. Y “to hold.”
With the Y cf. “upwards.”
The Y is “woman” in B: Y makes no distinction between “lady” and “woman.”
With the Y cf. B “shallow.”
The Y is “far” in B.
The Y is “indolent” in B.- 49
The B is in Y “full”: the Y in B is “large.”
The B word is given as “sodomy” in Capell, in error according to Y-speakers.
The Y word is “navel of the sky.”
The Y is also used in B.
The Y is perhaps also used in B: the Capell entry is not clear.
Cf. “to be able to.”
With the Y cf. B i lumu.
The Y occurs in B for “correct, righteous.”
The Y word is also used in B.
The Y word is used in B for “breadfruit.”
With the Y word cf. B bai, bā.
The second Y word is used in B for the core of breadfruit.
The Y word is used in B for “needle” or “table-fork.”
Capell gives vuso-ni-uti both for the glans and the foreskin, the latter apparently in error. No special word was traced either in Y or B, other than general words B kuli, Y taba, “skin.”
The Y is probably “the thing of pairs,” with the change of a to i as in the Article, q.v.
The Y verb is used in B for “to drown.”
The Y word is also used in Y for “buttocks,” but “rectum” seems to be the principal meaning.
But in Y for “to cut out the meat of nuts” the B cici is used.
The Y root is used in B for “to beat” or “kill.”
The Y word is used for one particular species in B.
Cf. “to find.”
The Y root is “scissors” in B.
With the Y cf. B “high,” and English “high and dry.”
The Y root is “to put in order” in B.
With the Y cf. “to fear.”
With the Y cf. B dromu.
The Y word is used in B for “to lie,” of things not persons.
For Y cf. B sau, “to clap hands.”
The Y word is also used in B, in another similar sense.
With the Y cf. B bera, “tardy.”
Veivutu (Capell in this sense) is normal intercourse.
Cf. “small” in Y.
The B word is a “tabu word” in Y, for the vulva.
The Y word is used for “to stammer” in B.
Also “to pour.”
But the Y and N word is that for a different plant.
Also used in B.
With the Y word cf. B “to drown.”
The Y is “duck's posterior.”
The Y is used in B of sticky ground.
With the Y cf. B for “bold.”
See “milk” in both cases.
With the Y cf. “vulva” in B.
The Y is also “reed.”
The Y word is used in B for “finger-” or “toe-nail.”
The Y word is also used for the spurs of a cock, in Y and B.
The Y is used in B for “to cleanse,” “scour.”- 55
The Y is used in B for “to strive.”
The Y root is used in B for “to push aside.”
The Y root is used in B for “to cut with knife.”
The Y word is also used for “raw.”
The Y word is used in B for an old yam-garden on flat land.
The Y word is “span” in B. The B word bebe is also used in Y.
The Y root is used in B for the inside corner of house.
The Y word is also used in B.
Some 3,500 B. words were checked to obtain the above.
It is of interest that Waterhouse (see the Bibliography) noted in 1866 a number of dialect variations. They are as follow, the second and third columns being respectively what he calls “supposed immigrants” (East Fijian) and “supposed aborigines” (West Fijian).