Marquesan language

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.[4]

ʻEo ʻenana (North Marquesan)
ʻEo ʻenata (South Marquesan)
RegionMarquesas Islands, Tahiti
Native speakers
8,700 (2007 census)[1]
Language codes
ISO 639-3Either:
mrq – North Marquesan
mqm – South Marquesan
Glottolognort2845  North[2]
sout2866  South[3]


The most striking feature of the Marquesan languages is their almost universal replacement of the /r/ or /l/ of other Polynesian languages by a /ʔ/ (glottal stop).[5]

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:

Labial Alveolar Velar Glottal
Plosive p t k ʔ
Fricative f v h
Nasal m n ŋ
Liquid r

Of this small number of consonants, /ŋ/ is found only in eastern Nuku Hiva (Tai Pi Marquesan), and /f/ is found only in South Marquesan dialects. In writing, the phoneme /ŋ/ is represented by n(g), and /ʔ/ is represented as ʻ.

Unlike Samoan, the /ŋ/ is not an isolated nasal: it is found only in conjunction with a following /k/. So, whereas the Samoan word for "bay" is faga, pronounced [ˈfa.ŋa], it is hanga in Tai Pi Marquesan, and is pronounced /ˈha.ŋka/. 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. It is sometimes realised phonetically as [h], and sometimes [s] or [x], depending on the following vowel.

The vowel phonemes are the same as in other Polynesian languages, long and short versions of each:

Front Central Back
Long Short Long Short Long Short
High i: i u: u
Mid e: e o: o
Low a: a


Noun and Verb Phrases

Verbal particles are placed before the verb they modify.[6]

Verbal Phrase[7]
Verbal Particles example example in a sentence
past i i ui (asked) te mehai i iu (the youth asked)
present te...nei te maakau nei (think) te maakau nei au i tuu kui (I think of my mother)
perfective u\ua u hanau (was born) u hanau au i Hakehatau (I was born at Hakehatau)
imperfective e e hee (going) e hee koe i hea (where are you going?)
inceptive atahi a atahi a kai (then they eat) iu pao taia, atahi a kai (...when finish that, then do they eat)
imperative a a hee! (go!) a hee io te tante (go to the doctor!)

A noun phrase in Marquesan is any phrase beginning with either a case marker or a determiner. Case markers or prepositions always precede the determiners, which in turn precede the number markers. As such, they all precede the noun they modify.[8]

Nominal Phrase Markers[8]
Articles Demonstratives Other
definite singular te/t- this tenei a certain titahi
indefinite e/he that tena other tahipito
dual/ paucal definite na that tea
anaphoric hua
Nominal Number Markers[7] Number Markers
dual mou
dual/paucal mau
plural tau

There are 11 personal pronouns which are distinguished by singular, dual, and plural. As well as that, there are two other personal pronouns which distinguish possession.[9]

Pronoun Singular Dual/Paucal Plural Possession au/-ʻu tuʻu
1.inclusive taua tatou
1.exclusive maua mataou koe koʻua kotou to ia ʻaua ʻatou

Complex sentences use verbal nouns in subordinate clauses.

For example,

[Te hakaiki kei mei Hanaiapa te ono-tina te hakaiki momo mei def chief big from H. def hear-devb def chief lesser from

Hanaiapa, o Tua-i-kaie, ua noho me te vehine pootu oko][11]


Margaret Mutu & Ben Teìkitutoua (2002) present descriptions and examples of possession in Ùa Pou (a north Marquesan dialect). All examples in this section are taken from their work. See notes for more information.

Possession in Marquesan is marked by prepositional particles affixed to the noun phrase which they modify. These prepositional particles relate the phrase as a whole to other parts of the sentence or discourse and therefore can be considered centrifugal particles.[12] Possession is essentially different from the other types of adposition modification in that it marks a relationship between two noun phrases as opposed to that between the verbal phrase and the noun phrase.

There are four possession markers in Marquesan. They are the prepositions: a, o, na and no. Possessive prepositions a and o translate as 'of' while na and no are attributive, possessive prepositions which translate either as 'belong to, of' or 'for'.[13]

a and o possessive prepositions

In these examples, we see the relation of two noun phases with the use of the possessive prepositions a and o. The preposition is affixed to the possessor noun phrase which in turn dominates the possessed phrase.



















Úa tihe mai te vahana a tenei tau vehine

PRF arrive hither DEF husband of this PL woman

"The husband of these women has arrived."















Úa tau ma ùka o te haè

PRF land path top of DEF house

"(It) landed on top of the house."

na and no attributive, possessive prepositions

In these examples, we see the relation of constituents which form a noun phrase. This is an example of attributive, alienable possession.

…ùa ìò i -a Tainaivao è tama na Pekapeka...
PFV taken STATAG PS Tainaivao INDEF son of (belong to) Pekapeka

'(she) was taken by Tainaivao, a son of Pekapeka.'

À too tēnei vaka no koe
IMP take this canoe for you(SG)

'Take this canoe for yourself.'

Dominant vs subordinate possession

Marquesan distinguishes between two contrastive types of possession.[12] The first can be described in very broad terms as possession in which the possessor is dominant, active, superior, or in control of the possessed. A and na mark this type of possession:

















E ìò koe he mea vehine na ia

NP take 2.SG INDEF thing woman of him

"You will get a wife for him."

On the other hand, o and no indicate possession where the possessor is subordinate, passive, inferior to, or lacking in control over the possessed:



















Ù kave mai koe i tēnā kahu no ia

PFV bring hither 2.SG DO that dress for her

"You have brought that dress for her (to wear)."

Locative Phrases

Locative constructions in Marquesan follow this pattern (elements in parentheses are optional):

Preposition - (Modifier) - lexical head - (Directional) - (Demonstrative) - (Modifier) - Possessive Attribute/Attributive Noun Phrases [14]

For example:















Huʻi-ʻia atu t-o ia keo ʻi tai

turn-PASS DIR ART-POSS 3.SG bottom LD sea

"Its bottom is turned seawards."


This locative syntactic pattern is common among Polynesian languages. [16]

Dialect diversity

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. Comparative data on the various dialects of Marquesan can be found in the Linguistic Atlas of French Polynesia (Charpentier & François 2015).[5]

The most noticeable differences between the varieties are Northern Marquesan /k/ in some words where South Marquesan has /n/ or /ʔ/ (glottal stop), and /h/ in all words where South Marquesan has /f/. For example,

North South
haka fana "bay"
haʻe faʻe "house"
koe ʻoe "you" (singular)
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
Teiʻi, spoken in western Nuku Hiva
Eastern Ua Pou
Western Ua Pou

The southern dialects fall roughly into three groups:

Pepane: Eastern Hiva ʻOa and Ua Huka
Fatu Hiva
Nuku: Western Hiva ʻOa and Tahuata

North Marquesan exhibits some original characteristics. While some Polynesian languages maintained the velar nasal /ŋ/, many have lost the distinction between the nasals /ŋ/ and /n/, merging both into /n/. North Marquesan, like South Island Māori dialects of New Zealand, prefers /k/. Another feature is that, while some Polynesian languages replace *k with /ʔ/, North Marquesan has retained it. (Tahitian and formal Samoan have no /k/ whatsoever, and the /k/ in modern Hawaiian is pronounced either [k] or [t] and derives from Polynesian *t.)

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. Puka-Pukan, spoken in Puka-Puka and the Disappointment Islands in northeastern Tuamotu, is a dialect of South Marquesan, and should not be confused with the homonymous Pukapukan language spoken in Pukapuka, one of the Cook 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”: Mgr Dordillon's Marquesan language dictionary (Société des études océaniennes, Pape’ete, 1904 – reissued 1999) (in French)
  • Margaret Mutu & Ben Teìkitutoua (2002). Ùa Pou : aspects of a Marquesan dialect. Canberra: Pacific Linguistics.
  • Charpentier, Jean-Michel; François, Alexandre (2015). Atlas Linguistique de Polynésie Française — Linguistic Atlas of French Polynesia (in French and English). Mouton de Gruyter & Université de la Polynésie Française. ISBN 978-3-11-026035-9.
  • Bernice Pauahi Bishop Museum Bulletins.
  • Krupa, V. (2005). Syntax of Verbal Nouns in Marquesan. Oceanic Linguistics, 44(2), 505-516.


  1. ^ North Marquesan at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015)
    South Marquesan at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015)
  2. ^ Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2017). "North Marquesan". Glottolog 3.0. Jena, Germany: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History.
  3. ^ Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2017). "South Marquesan". Glottolog 3.0. Jena, Germany: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History.
  4. ^ See Charpentier & François (2015).
  5. ^ a b For regular sound correspondences between Marquesan dialects and other Polynesian languages, see Charpentier & François (2015), p.93.
  6. ^ Margaret Mutu & Ben Teìkitutoua (2002), p. 38
  7. ^ a b Margaret Mutu & Ben Teìkitutoua (2002), p. 40
  8. ^ a b Mutu & Teìkitutoua (2002). Ùa Pou: Aspects of a Marquesan dialect. p. 72.
  9. ^ Gabriele H. Cablitz (2006), p. 100
  10. ^ Gabriele H. Cablitz (2006), p. 101
  11. ^ Krupa, Viktor (2005). "Syntax of Verbal Nouns in Marquesan". Oceanic Linguistics: 505–516.
  12. ^ a b Margaret Mutu & Ben Teìkitutoua (2002), p. 88
  13. ^ Mutu & Teìkitutoua (2002). Ùa Pou: Aspects of a Marquesan dialect. p. 94.
  14. ^ Gabriele H. Cablitz (2006), p. 282
  15. ^ Gabriele H. Cablitz (2006), p. 284
  16. ^ Gabriele H. Cablitz (2006), p. 282

External links

Bible translations into Oceanic languages

Bible translations into Oceanic languages have a relatively closely related and recent history.


The Fatu-liva is a fictional species of bird invented by George S. Chappell in his travel parody The Cruise of the Kawa: Wanderings in the South Seas, by Walter E. Traprock (1921). Fatu-liva were said to be found only in the fictional "Filbert Islands" in the South Pacific Ocean where they laid cube-like, black-spotted eggs that were very similar in appearance to dice. The bird's nest was described in the book as:

"...a semi-spheric bowl of closely woven grass in which lay four snow-white, polka-dotted cubes, the marvelous square eggs of the fatu-liva."

Additionally, a black-and-white photograph of what was supposedly the bird's dice-like eggs was provided. Its caption read:

"This is without question the most extraordinary picture which has ever been taken of any natural history subject. It corroborates in most convincing manner the author's claim to the discovery of the wonderful fatu-liva bird with its unique gift of laying square eggs. Here we see the eggs themselves in all the beauty of their cubical form and quaint marking; here we see the nest itself, made of delicately woven haro and brought carefully from the tree's summit by its discoverer, Babai-Alova-Babai. An extremely interesting feature of the picture is the presence in the nest of lapa or signal-feather. By close observation, Mr. Whinney, the scientist of the expedition, discovered that whenever the mother-bird left the nest in search of food she always decorated her home with one of her wing feathers which served as a signal to her mate that she would return shortly, which she invariably did. Skeptics have said that it would be impossible to lay a square egg. To which the author is justly entitled to say: 'The camera never lies.'"

The name "Fatu-liva" probably derives from the real island of Fatu Hiva, sometimes spelled Fatu Iva. The name Fatu Hiva means "strange rock" in the Marquesan language. "Fatu-liva" is a theoretically possible transcription of terms like fatu riva ("encircled rock") in some Polynesian languages.


In Polynesian mythology, Hawaiki (also rendered as "Avaiki" (Society Islands), "Savai'i", (Samoa), "Havai’i" (Reo Tahiti)) is the original home of the Polynesians, before dispersal across Polynesia. It also features as the underworld in many Māori stories.

Anne Salmond states Havai'i is the old name for Raiatea, the homeland of the Māori. When James Cook first sighted New Zealand in 1769, he had Tupaia on board, a Raiatean navigator and linguist. Cook's arrival seemed to be a confirmation of a prophecy by Toiroa, a priest from Mahia. At Tolaga Bay, Tupaia conversed with the priest, tohunga, associated with the school of learning located there, called Te Rawheoro. The priest asked about the Maori homelands, 'Rangiatea' (Ra'iatea), 'Hawaiki' (Havai'i, the ancient name for Ra'iatea), and 'Tawhiti' (Tahiti).

Hiva Oa

With its 320 square kilometres (124 square miles), Hiva Oa is the second largest island in the Marquesas Islands, in French Polynesia, an overseas territory of France in the Pacific Ocean. Located at 9 45' south latitude and 139 W longitude, it is the largest island of the southern Marquesas group. Around 2,200 people reside on the island. A volcano, Temetiu, is Hiva Oa's highest point with 1,200 metres (3,937 feet).

According to local religion, the gods created the Marquesas as their home. Therefore, all islands have names that are related with the building of a house - Hiva Oa means long ridgepole.

Index of French Polynesia-related articles

This page list topics related to French Polynesia.


MRQ is a three-letter acronym that may refer to:

Marinduque Airport, IATA MRQ

Marquesan language, ISO 639:mrq

Midalja għall-Qlubija (Medal of Bravery), Maltese post-nominal letters

Modern Rock Quartet, Canadian jazz-rock band

most recent quarter (time), in a fiscal year


A marae (in New Zealand Māori, Cook Islands Māori, Tahitian), malaʻe (in Tongan), meʻae (in Marquesan), and malae (in Samoan) is a communal or sacred place that serves religious and social purposes in Polynesian societies. In all these languages, the term also means "cleared, free of weeds, trees, etc". Marae generally consist of an area of cleared land roughly rectangular (the marae itself), bordered with stones or wooden posts (called au in Tahitian and Cook Islands Māori) perhaps with paepae (terraces) which were traditionally used for ceremonial purposes; and in some cases, a central stone ahu or a'u. In the Rapa Nui culture of Easter Island, the term ahu has become a synonym for the whole marae complex.

In some modern Polynesian societies, notably that of the Māori of Aotearoa New Zealand, the marae is still a vital part of everyday life. In tropical Polynesia, most marae were destroyed or abandoned with the arrival of Christianity in the 19th century, and some have become an attraction for tourists or archaeologists. Nevertheless, the place where these marae were built are still considered tapu (sacred) in most of these cultures.

Marquesa (disambiguation)

Marquesa is a title of nobility.

Marquesa may also refer to:

Marquesas Islands, a group of islands in French Polynesia

Marquesan language, the language of the Marquesas Islands

Marquesas Keys, a group of uninhabited islands near Florida

Survivor: Marquesas, the fourth season of the television series Survivor

Marquesan Dog

The Marquesan Dog or Marquesas Islands Dog is an extinct breed of dog from the Marquesas Islands. Similar to other strains of Polynesian dogs, it was introduced to the Marquesas by the ancestors of the Polynesian people during their migrations. Serving as a tribal totems and religious symbols, they were sometimes consumed as meat although less frequently than in other parts of the Pacific because of their scarcity. These native dogs are thought to have become extinct before the arrival of Europeans, who did not record their presence on the islands. Petroglyphic representations of dogs and the archaeological remains of dog bones and burials are the only evidence that the breed ever existed. Modern dog population on the island are the descendants of foreign breeds later reintroduced in the 19th century as companions for European settlers.

Marquesas Islands

The Marquesas Islands (; French: Îles Marquises or Archipel des Marquises or Marquises; Marquesan: Te Henua (K)enana (North Marquesan) and Te Fenua ʻEnata (South Marquesan), both meaning "the land of men") are a group of volcanic islands in French Polynesia, an overseas collectivity of France in the southern Pacific Ocean. The Marquesas are located at 9.7812° S, 139.0817° W. The highest point is the peak of Mount Oave (French: Mont Oave) on Ua Pou island at 1,230 m (4,035 ft) above sea level.Research based on 2010 studies suggests the islands were colonized rapidly in two successive waves by indigenous colonists from West Polynesia, beginning c. 1025–1120 AD, leading to the development of a "remarkably uniform culture, human biology and language."The Marquesas Islands form one of the five administrative divisions (subdivisions administratives) of French Polynesia. The capital of the Marquesas Islands administrative subdivision is the settlement of Taiohae on the island of Nuku Hiva. The population of the Marquesas Islands was 9,346 inhabitants at the August 2017 census.


The Tuamotus, also referred to in English as the Tuamotu Archipelago or the Tuamotu Islands (French: Îles Tuamotu, officially Archipel des Tuamotu), are a French Polynesian chain of almost 80 islands and atolls forming the largest chain of atolls in the world. This archipelago in the southern Pacific Ocean stretches from the northwest to the southeast over an area roughly the size of Western Europe. The total area of land within this chain is 850 square kilometres (328 square miles), with its major islands being Anaa, Fakarava, Hao and Makemo.

The Tuamotus have approximately 16,000 inhabitants. The islands were initially settled by Polynesians, and from them, modern Tuamotuans share a common culture and the Tuamotuan language.

The Tuamotus are a French overseas collectivity. The people of Tahiti originally referred to the islands with the exonym of the Paumotus, which means the "Subservient Islands", until a delegation from the island convinced the French authorities to change it to Tuamotus, which means the "Distant Islands".

Official languages
Indigenous languages


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