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Tonga Islands Info
Tonga Islands Info
Pages and Files
Tonga Location, Environment, and Population
Traditional and Contemporary Adaptive Strategies
Traditional and Contemporary Political Organization
Family Structure, Kinship, and Marriage
Issues Related to Gender and Sexual Orientation
Effects of Colonialism and the World System
Globalization of Tongan People
Environmental Issue of the Tonga Islands
Language is our primary means of communication that is transmitted through learning in a social and cultural context. Human linguistics, involving spoken and written forms, is influenced by regional patterns, diversity, even economic stratification. Languages change over time as speech patterns evolve and outside forces disrupt traditional linguistic practices- a phenomenon that limits cultural complexity and may even result in the loss of language. Regardless of this linguistic variation and diversity within a group of people, language is one of the most expressive forms of a culture that reveals the inner-workings of the social environment.
Tongan, the primary and national language of Tonga, is an Austronesian language that is spoken by
about 200,000 people.
A Tongic subgroup of Polynesian descent related to
Hawaiian, Maori, Tahitian, Niuean, Samoan, and other Pacific cultures, Tongan shares the
linguistic stage with English as the two national languages of Tonga. Although Tongan is widely
used among locals and is featured in many domestic settings, English is now becoming the
encouraged language especially in the fields on international commerce and foreign relations.
Along with its use in business transactions, English is now taught in most school systems and
is the language of most high school instruction.
The Tongan language is primarily oral rather than written, adapting to the phonological system of proto-Polynesian. It is exclusively phonetic, meaning that each word in the Tongan lexicon is spelled just as it is pronounced and visa versa. The glottal stop, or fakau'a changes the sound of each vowel and the meaning of the words. This diglossian trait of the Tongan language can be placed in front of a vowel or between two vowels. The five Tongan vowels have four distinct pronunciations: the stand-alone vowel, the fakau'a, the toloi, and the combination of both the fakau'a and toloi.
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