Rapa Nui language

Rapa Nui or Rapanui (/ˌræpəˈnuːi/)[3] also known as Pascuan (/ˈpæskjuən/), or Pascuense, is an Eastern Polynesian language of the Austronesian language family. It is spoken on the island of Rapa Nui, also known as Easter Island.

The island is home to a population of just under 6,000 and is a special territory of Chile. According to census data,[4] there are about 3,700 people on the island and on the Chilean mainland who identify as ethnically Rapa Nui. Census data does not exist on the primary known and spoken languages among these people. There are recent claims that the number of fluent speakers is as low as 800.[5] Rapa Nui is a minority language and many of its adult speakers also speak Spanish. Most Rapa Nui children now grow up speaking Spanish and those who do learn Rapa Nui begin learning it later in life.[6]

Rapa Nui
Vānanga Rapa Nui
Pronunciation[ˈɾapa ˈnu.i]
Native toChile
RegionEaster Island
EthnicityRapa Nui people
Native speakers
2,700 (2007)[1]
Latin script, possibly formerly rongorongo
Official status
Official language in
 Easter Island (Chile)
Language codes
ISO 639-2rap
ISO 639-3rap


Rapa Nui has ten consonants and five vowels.


Labial Alveolar Velar Glottal
Nasal /m/






Stop /p/








Fricative /v/




Flap /ɾ/


As present generation Rapa Nui speak Spanish as their first language in younger years and learn Rapa Nui later in life, flap /ɾ/ in word-initial position can be pronounced alveolar trill [r].


Front Central Back
High i u
Mid e o
Low a

All vowels can be either long or short and are always long when they are stressed in the final position of a word.[7] Most vowel sequences are present, with the exception of *uo. Repetition sequences do not occur except in eee ('yes').[8]


Written Rapa Nui uses the Latin script. The Latin alphabet for Rapa Nui consists of 20 letters:

A, Ā, E, Ē, G, H, I, Ī, K, M, N, O, О̄, P, R, T, U, Ū, V, ꞌ

The nasal velar consonant /ŋ/ is generally written with the Latin letter ⟨g⟩, but occasionally as ⟨ng⟩. In electronic texts, the glottal plosive /ʔ/ may be written with an 'okina ⟨ꞌ⟩ to avoid the problems of using a straight apostrophe ⟨'⟩.[9] A special letter, ⟨ġ⟩, is sometimes used to distinguish the Spanish /ɡ/, occurring in introduced terms, from the Rapa Nui /ŋ/.[10] Similarly, /ŋ/ has been written ⟨g̈⟩ to distinguish it from Spanish g. The IPA letter ⟨ŋ⟩ is now also coming into use.[9]


Syllable structure

Syllables in Rapa Nui are CV (consonant-vowel) or V (vowel). There are no consonant clusters or word-final consonants.[8]


The reduplication of whole nouns or syllable parts performs a variety of different functions within Rapa Nui.[11] To describe colours for which there is not a predefined word, the noun for an object of a like colour is duplicated to form an adjective. For example:

  • ꞌehu (mist) → ꞌehu ꞌehu = dark grey
  • tea (dawn) → tea tea = white

Besides forming adjectives from nouns, the reduplication of whole words can indicate a multiple or intensified action. For example:

  • hatu (weave) → hatuhatu (fold)
  • kume (undo) → kumekume (take to pieces)
  • ruku (dive) → rukuruku (go diving)

There are some apparent duplicate forms for which the original form has been lost. For example:

  • rohirohi (tired)

The reduplication of the initial syllable in verbs can indicate plurality of subject or object. In this example the bolded section represents the reduplication of a syllable which indicates the plurality of the subject of a transitive verb:

ꞌori (dance):
E ꞌori ro ꞌa (he/she/they is/are dancing)
E ꞌoꞌori ro ꞌa (they are all dancing)

The reduplication of the final two syllables of a verb indicates plurality or intensity. In this example the bolded section represents the reduplication of two final syllables, indicating intensity or emphasis:

Haꞌaki (tell):
Ka haꞌaki (Tell the story)
Ka haꞌakiꞌaki (Tell the whole story)


Rapa Nui incorporates a number of loanwords in which constructions such as consonant clusters or word-final consonants occur, though they do not occur naturally in the language. Historically, the practice was to transliterate unfamiliar consonants, insert vowels between clustered consonants and append word-final vowels where necessary.

e.g.: Britain (English loanword)Peretane (Rapa Nui rendering)

More recently, loanwords – which come primarily from Spanish – retain their consonant clusters. For example, "litro" (litre).[12]


Word order

Rapa Nui is a VSO (verb–subject–object) language.[13] Except where verbs of sensing are used, the object of a verb is marked by the relational particle i.

e.g.: He hakahu koe i te rama (the relational particle and object are bolded)
"You light the torch"

Where a verb of sensing is used, the subject is marked by the agentive particle e.

e.g.: He tikea e au te poki (the agentive particle and subject are bolded)
"I can see the child"


Pronouns are usually marked for number: in Rapa Nui there are markers for first, second and third personal singular and plural; however, there is only a marker for dual in the first person. The first person dual and plural can mark for exclusive and inclusive. The pronouns are always ahead of the person singular (PRS) 'a' and relational particle (RLT) 'i' or dative (DAT) 'ki'. However, in some examples, they do not have PRS, RLT and DAT.[14]

There is only one paradigm of pronouns for Rapa Nui. They function the same in both subject and object cases.

Here is the table for the pronoun forms in Rapa Nui [15]

abbreviations grammatical interpretations Rapa Nui forms
1s 1st-person singular au
2s 2nd-person singular koe
3s 3rd-person singular ia
1de 1st-person dual exclusive maua
1di 1st-person dual inclusive taua
1pe 1st-person plural exclusive matou
1pi 1st-person plural inclusive tatou
2p 2nd-person dual korua
3p 3rd-person dual raua
e.g. (1) [16]
Ko au e noho mai ena hokotahi no
PFT 1s STA stay TOW PPD alone LIM

'I live here all alone'

e.g. (2) [17]
He haka ai i a ia he suerkao
ACT CAUS EX RLT PRS 3s ±SPE governor

'They made him governor'

Abbreviations used

ACT – action

CAUS – causative

EX – existential

LIM – limitative

PFT – perfect tense

PPD – postpositive determinant

PRS – person singular

RLT – relational particle

STA – state (verbal)

±SPE – +/- specific

TOW – towards subject


Yes/no questions are distinguished from statements chiefly by a particular pattern of intonation. Where there is no expectation of a particular answer, the form remains the same as a statement. A question expecting an agreement is preceded by hoki.[18]


Original Rapa Nui has no conjunctive particles. Copulative, adversative and disjunctive notions are typically communicated by context or clause order. Modern Rapa Nui has almost completely adopted Spanish conjunctions rather than rely on this.[19]


Alienable and inalienable possession

In the Rapa Nui language, there are alienable and inalienable possession. Lichtemberk described alienable possession as the possessed noun being contingently associated with the possessor, and on the other hand inalienable possession as the possessed noun being necessarily associated with the possessor. The distinction is marked by a possessive suffix inserted before the relevant pronoun. Possessive particles:

  • a (alienable) expresses dominant possession

Alienable possession is used to refer to a person's spouse, children, food, books, work, all animals (except horses), all tools and gadgets (including refrigerators), and some illnesses.[20]

e.g. (1) [21]

E tunu au i te kai mo taꞌaku ga poki ko maruaki ꞌa
STA cook 1sg RLT +SPE food BEN POS.1sg.al GRP child PFT hungry RES

'I must cook dinner for my children who are hungry'

poki 'children' is an alienable possession therefore a is used to indicate that in this sentence, therefore the possessive pronoun "ta'aku" is used instead of "to'oku"

  • o (inalienable) expresses the subordinate possession

It is used with parents, siblings, house, furniture, transports (including carts, cars, scooters, boats, airplanes), clothes, feeling, native land, parts of the body (including mind), horses, and their bridles.

e.g. (2) [22]

He agi na boꞌi he taina ꞌoꞌoku
STA true LIM EMP -SPE sibling POS.1sg.inal.

'It is true apparently, he is my brother.'

Inalienable possession o is used in this example, therefore "'o'oku" instead of "'a'aku" is used. It is talking about the speaker's brother, which is an inalienable relation.

There are no markers to distinguish between temporary or permanent possession; the nature of objects possessed; or between past, present or future possession.

A and O possession

A and O possession refer to alienable and inalienable possession in Rapa Nui. a marks for alienable possession and o marks for inalienable possession. a and o are marked as suffixes of the possessive pronouns; however, they are only marked when the possessive pronoun is in the first, second or third person singular. In (2) above, taina 'sibling' is inalienable and the possessor is first person singular ꞌoꞌoku 'my'. However, for all the other situations, a and o are not marked as a suffix of the possessor.

He vanaga maua o te meꞌe era
ATC talk 1de POS +SPE thing PPD

'We'll talk about those matters.'[17]

In the above example, the possessor meꞌe 'those' is not a possessive pronoun of the first, second or third person singular. Therefore, o is marked not as a suffix of the possessor but a separate word in the sentence.


There are no classifiers in the Rapa Nui language.

Abbreviations used

BEN- benefactive


GRP- group plural

LIM - limitative

POS1sa- possessive 1st person singular alienable

POS1si - possessive 1st person singular inalienable

POS - possession

PPD- postpositive determinant

PFT - perfect tense

RES - resultativetative

RLT-relational particle

+/- SPE - +/- specific

STA- state (verbal)


Ko and ka are exclamatory indicators.[23]

Ko suggests a personal reaction:
Ko te aroha (Poor thing!)
Ka suggests judgement on external events:
Ka haꞌakiꞌaki (Tell the whole story!)

Compound words

Terms which did not exist in original Rapa Nui were created via compounding:[24]

patia ika = ('spear fish') = harpoon
patia kai = ('spear food') = fork
kiri vaꞌe = ('skin foot') = shoe
manu patia =('bird spear') = wasp
pepe hoi = ('stool horse') = saddle
pepe noho =('stool stay') = chair


In Rapa Nui, negation is indicated by free standing morphemes.[25] Rapa Nui has 4 main negators:

ꞌina (neutral)
kai (perfective)
(e)ko (imperfective)
taꞌe (constituent negator)

Additionally there are also two additional particles/ morphemes which also contribute to negation in Rapa Nui:

kore (Existential/noun negator)
hia / ia (verb phrase particle which occurs in combination with different negators to form the meaning 'not yet')

Negation occurs as preverbal particles in the verb phrase,[26] with the clausal negator kai and (e)ko occurring in first position in the verbal phrase, while the constituent negator (taꞌe) occurs in second position in the verbal phrase. Clausal negators occur in the same position as aspect markers and subordinators- this means it's impossible for these elements to co-occur.[27] As a result, negative clauses tend to have fewer aspectual distinctions.[28] Hia occurs in eighth position as a post-verbal marker.  Verbal negators precede adjectives.[29] The table below roughly depicts the positions of negators in the Verb Phrase:

1 2 VERB 8
NEG (kai / eko) determiner hia
Aspect marker CONNEG (taꞌe)
subordinator numeral

Clausal negators

ꞌIna is the neutral negator (regarding aspect).[30] It has the widest range of use in a variety of contexts.[31] It usually occurs in imperfective contexts, as well as habitual clauses and narrative contexts, and is used to negate actions and states.[30] It almost always occurs clause initially and is always followed by the neutral aspectual he + noun or he + verb.[32]

34) ꞌIna he maꞌeha mo uꞌi iga i te kai
NEG PRED light for see NMLZ ACC ART food

'There was no light to see the food.' [R352.070][33]

In the example above ꞌina is followed by the combination of he+ maꞌeha (noun)

103) ꞌIna he takeꞌa rahi i te tagata
       NEG NTR see many/much ACC ART man

'He did not see many people.' [R459.003][34]

In this example, ꞌina is followed by he + takeꞌa (verb)

In addition to negating verbal and nominal clauses, it also functions as the term ꞌnoꞌas shown below:[35]

27) ¿ꞌIna he pepe?...
        NEG PRED chair...

'There were no chairs?...' [R413.635][36]

Unlike the other two clausal negators (which are preverbal particles), ꞌina is a phrase head,[28] thus it can form a constituent of its own.[37]

Kai negates clauses with perfective aspects.[38]

74) kai ꞌite a au ko ai a ia

'I don't know who she is.' [R413.356][39]

It is used to negate past events and narrative events, and is usually combined with ꞌina.[38] It is also used to negate stative verbs, and a verb phrase marked with kai may contain various post-verbal particles such as the continuity marker ꞌâ / ꞌana. This marker occurs when the clause has perfect aspect (often obligatory with the perfect marker ko). When combined with kai, it indicates that the negative state continues.[38]

45) Kai haꞌamata a au kai paꞌo ꞌâ e tahi miro
NEG.PFV begin PROP 1SG NEG.PFV chop CONT NUM one tree

'I haven't yet started to chop down a tree.' [R363.091][40]

(E)ko is the imperfective negator, which (like kai) replaces the aspectual marker in front of the verb, and which can occur with the negator ꞌina.[38]

'(The fisherman) would not eat the tune (caught with) his boat.' [Ley-5-27.013][41]

It marks negative commands in imperatives (usually with ꞌina) with the e often excluded in imperatives.[42]

39) ꞌIna ko kai i te kai mata
       NEG NEG.IPFV eat ACC ART food raw

'Don't eat raw food.' (Weber 2003b:610)[43]

In other contexts, especially when ꞌina is absent, the e is obligatory.[42]

132) ¿E ko haga ꞌô koe mo ꞌori o Tâua?
NEG.IPFV NEG.IPFV want really 2SG for dance of 1DU.INCL

'Don't you want to dance with me (lit. us to dance)?' [R315.115][42]

Constituent negator

Taꞌe is a constituent negator used to negate anything other than a main clause.[35] This can be subordinate clauses, prepositional phrases, possessive predicates and other non-verbal clauses.[44] It also negates nominalised verbs and sub-constituents such as adjectives and quantifiers.[45] It does not negate nouns (this is done by the noun negator kore). It is also used to negate locative phrases, actor emphasis constructions, and is also used to reinforce the preposition mai.[46]

152) ꞌI au he oho ꞌai mai taꞌe

'I'm going now, before it gets dark.' [R153.042][47]

Taꞌe is an indicator for subordinate clauses, as it can also negate subordinate clauses without subordinate markers (in which case it usually occurs with an aspect marker).[45]

17) ꞌI te taꞌe hakarogo, he garo atu ꞌai
at ART CONNEG listen NTR lost EMPH away SUBS

'Because (the sheep) did not listen, it got lost.' [R490.005][48]

It also occurs in main clauses with main clause negators and aspect markers i and e, when the clause has a feature of a subordinate clause such as oblique constituents[49]

Noun negator: kore

kore is a verb meaning 'the absence or lack of something'.[50]

164) He uꞌi ku kore ꞌâ te tagi
NTR look PRF lack CONT ART cry

'He looked (at his wife); the crying was over.' [Ley-9-55.076][50]

It immediately follows the noun in the adjective position, and is used to indicate that the entity expressed by the noun or noun modifier does not exist or is lacking in the given context.[50]

166) Te ꞌati he matariki kore mo oro o hora
ART problem PRED file lack for grate of DIST time

'The problem was the lack of files to sharpen (the fishhooks) at the time.' [R539-1.335][50]

Hia / ia

Hia / ia is a morpheme used immediately after negated verbs and co-occurs with a negator to indicate actions or events which are interrupted or are yet to happen.[51]

57) kai oromatuꞌa hia i oho mai era ki nei
NEG.PFV priest yet PFV go EMPH hither DIST to PROX

'When he had not yet become a priest, he came here.' [R423.004][52]

Double negation

In Rapa Nui, double negation is more frequent than single negation (with the negotor ꞌina often co-occurring with another clause negator most of the time).[53] It is often used as a slight reinforcement or emphasis.[41]

ꞌIna can be combined with negators kai and (e)ko- both of these are main clause negators.

17) ¡ Ka rua ꞌô mahana ꞌina kai tuꞌu mai!
CNTG two really day NEG NEG.PFV arrive hither

'She hasn't come for two days.' [R229.132][54]

In the example above we see the negator ꞌina co-occurring with the perfective negator kai.

When taꞌe occurs in double negation, if the other negator is kai or (e)ko, the negative polarity is cancelled out.[49]

161) kai taꞌe haka ꞌite ko ai a ia hai meꞌe rivariva aga
NEG.PFV CONNEG CAUS know PROM who PROP 3SG INS thing good:RED do

'(God) did not fail to make known who he is, by the good things he did.' (Acts 14:17)[49]

ꞌIna only negates main clauses so it never combines with the negator taꞌe, which is a subordinate clause negator. When occurring with ꞌina, negation may be reinforced.[49]

162) ....ꞌina e ko taꞌe ravaꞌa te ika
             NEG IPFV NEG.IPFV CONNEG obtain ART fish

'(if the mother does not eat the fish caught by her firstborn son), he will not fail to catch fish.' [Ley-5-27.008][50]

Double negation occurs very frequently in imperatives in particular.[41]

82) ꞌIna ko oho ki te têtahi kona
       NEG NEG.IPFV go to ART some/other place

'Don't go to another place.' [R161.027][55]


There is a system for the numerals 1–10 in both Rapa Nui and Tahitian, both of which are used, though all numbers higher than ten are expressed in Tahitian. When counting, all numerals whether Tahitian or Rapanui are preceded by 'ka'. This is not used, however, when using a number in a sentence.[56]

Rapa Nui Numerals 1-10:
(ka) tahi
(ka) rua
(ka) toru
(ka) ha
(ka) rima
(ka) ono
(ka) hitu
(ka) vaꞌu/varu
(ka) iva
(ka) agahuru


The Rapa Nui language is isolated within Eastern Polynesian, which also includes the Marquesic and Tahitic languages. Within Eastern Polynesian, it is closest to Marquesan morphologically, although its phonology has more in common with New Zealand Maori, as both languages are relatively conservative in retaining consonants lost in other Eastern Polynesian languages.

Like all Polynesian languages, Rapa Nui has relatively few consonants. Uniquely for an Eastern Polynesian language, Rapa Nui has preserved the original glottal stop of Proto-Polynesian. It is, or until recently was, a verb-initial language.

One of the most important recent books written about the language of Rapa Nui is Verónica du Feu's Rapanui (Descriptive Grammar) (ISBN 0-415-00011-4).

Very little is known about the Rapa Nui language prior to European contact. The majority of Rapa Nui vocabulary is inherited directly from Proto–Eastern Polynesian. Due to extensive borrowing from Tahitian there now often exist two forms for what was the same word in the early language. For example, Rapa Nui has Tahitian ꞌite alongside original tikeꞌa for 'to see', both derived from Proto-Eastern Polynesian *kiteꞌa. There are also hybridized forms of words such as hakaꞌite 'to teach', from native haka (causative prefix) and Tahitian ꞌite.

Language notes from 1770

Spanish notes from a 1770 visit to the island record 94 words and terms. Many are clearly Polynesian, but several are not easily recognizable.[57] For example, the numbers from one to ten seemingly have no relation to any known language. They are compared with contemporary Rapa Nui words, in parenthesis:

  1. cojàna (katahi)
  2. corena (karua)
  3. cogojù (katoru)
  4. quirote (kaha)
  5. majanà (karima)
  6. teùto (kaono)
  7. tejèa (kahitu)
  8. moroqui (kavau)
  9. vijoviri (kaiva)
  10. queromata-paùpaca quacaxixiva (kaangaahuru)

It may be that the list is a misunderstanding, and the words not related to numbers at all. The Spanish may have shown Arabic numerals to the islanders who did not understand their meaning, and likened them to some other abstraction. For example, the "moroqui" for number eight (8) would have actually been "moroki", a small fish that is used as a bait, since "8" can look like a simple drawing of a fish.[58]

Language notes from 1774

Captain James Cook visited the island four years later, and had a Tahitian interpreter with him, who, while recognizing some Polynesian words (up to 17 were written down), was not able to converse with the islanders in general. The British also attempted to record the numerals and were able to record the correct Polynesian words.[57]

Post-Peruvian enslavement

In the 1860s the Peruvian slave raids began. It was at this time that Peruvians were experiencing labor shortages and they came to regard the Pacific as a vast source of free labor. Slavers raided islands as far away as Micronesia, but Easter Island was much closer and became a prime target.

In December 1862 eight Peruvian ships landed their crewmen and between bribery and outright violence they captured some 1,000 Easter Islanders, including the king, his son, and the ritual priests (one of the reasons for so many gaps in knowledge of the ancient ways). It has been estimated that a total of 2,000 Easter Islanders were captured over a period of years. Those who survived to arrive in Peru were poorly treated, overworked, and exposed to diseases. Ninety percent of the Rapa Nui died within one or two years of capture.

Eventually the Bishop of Tahiti caused a public outcry and an embarrassed Peru rounded up the few survivors to return them. A shipload headed to Easter Island, but smallpox broke out en route and only 15 arrived at the island. They were put ashore. The resulting smallpox epidemic nearly wiped out the remaining population.

In the aftermath of the Peruvian slave deportations in the 1860s, Rapa Nui came under extensive outside influence from neighbouring Polynesian languages such as Tahitian. While the majority of the population that was taken to work as slaves in the Peruvian mines died of diseases and bad treatment in the 1860s, hundreds of other Easter Islanders who left for Mangareva in the 1870s and 1880s to work as servants or labourers adopted the local form of Tahitian-Pidgin. Fischer argues that this pidgin became the basis for the modern Rapa Nui language when the surviving part of the Rapa Nui immigrants on Mangareva returned to their almost deserted home island.

Language notes from 1886

William J. Thomson, paymaster on the USS Mohican, spent twelve days on Easter Island from 19 to 30 December 1886. Among the data Thomson collected was the Rapa Nui calendar.

Language notes from the twentieth century

Father Sebastian Englert,[59] a German missionary living on Easter Island during 1935–1969, published a partial Rapa Nui–Spanish dictionary in his La Tierra de Hotu Matuꞌa in 1948, trying to save what was left of the old language. Despite the many typographical mistakes, the dictionary is valuable, because it provides a wealth of examples which all appear drawn from a real corpus, part oral traditions and legends, part actual conversations.[60]

Englert recorded vowel length, stress, and glottal stop, but was not always consistent, or perhaps the misprints make it seem so. He indicated vowel length with a circumflex, and stress with an acute accent, but only when it does not occur where expected. The glottal stop /ʔ/ is written as an apostrophe, but is often omitted. The velar nasal /ŋ/ is sometimes transcribed with a ⟨g⟩, but sometimes with a Greek eta, ⟨η⟩, as a graphic approximation of ⟨ŋ⟩.


Rongorongo Gr4
Part of a line of rongorongo script.

It is assumed that rongorongo, the undeciphered script of Easter Island, represents the old Rapa Nui language.[61]


The island is under the jurisdiction of Chile and is now home to a number of Chilean continentals most of whom speak only Spanish. The influence of the Spanish language is noticeable in modern Rapa Nui speech. As fewer children learn to speak Rapa Nui at an early age, their superior knowledge of Spanish affects the 'passive knowledge' they have of Rapa Nui. A version of Rapa Nui interspersed with Spanish nouns, verbs and adjectives has become a popular form of casual speech.[62][63] The most well integrated borrowings are the Spanish conjunctions o (or), pero (but) and y (and).[64] Spanish words such as problema (problem), which was once rendered as poroborema, are now often integrated with minimal or no change.[65]

Spanish words are still often used within Rapa Nui grammatical rules, though some word order changes are occurring and it is argued that Rapa Nui may be undergoing a shift from VSO to the Spanish SVO. This example sentence was recorded first in 1948 and again in 2001 and its expression has changed from VSO to SVO.[66]

'They both suffer and weep"
1948: he ꞌaroha, he tatagi ararua
2001: ararua he ꞌaroha he tatagi

Easter Island's indigenous Rapa Nui toponymy has survived with few Spanish additions or replacements, a fact that has been attributed in part to the survival of the Rapa Nui language.[67] This contrasts with the toponymy of continental Chile, which has lost most of its indigenous names.


  1. ^ Rapa Nui at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015)
  2. ^ Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2017). "Rapanui". Glottolog 3.0. Jena, Germany: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History.
  3. ^ Laurie Bauer (2007), The Linguistics Student's Handbook, Edinburgh
  4. ^ 2002 Chilean census data
  5. ^ Fischer 2008: p. 149
  6. ^ Makihara 2005a: p. 728
  7. ^ Du Feu 1996: p. 184
  8. ^ a b Du Feu 1996: p. 185–186
  9. ^ a b Paulus Kieviet, 2017, A grammar of Rapa Nui
  10. ^ Du Feu 1996: p. 4
  11. ^ Du Feu 1996: pp. 176–177, 192–193.
  12. ^ Du Feu 1996: p. 185
  13. ^ Du Feu 1996: pp. 9–10
  14. ^ Du Fu 1996: pp.110
  15. ^ Du Fu 1996: pp.6
  16. ^ Du Fu 1996
  17. ^ a b Du Fu 1996 pp.123
  18. ^ Du Feu 1996: p. 84
  19. ^ Du Feu 1996: p. 3
  20. ^ Du Fu 1996: pp.102
  21. ^ Du Fu 1996: pp.160
  22. ^ Du Fu 1996: pp. 102-103
  23. ^ Du Feu 1996: p. 110
  24. ^ Du Feu 1996: p. 180
  25. ^ Kieviet, Paulus (2017). A grammar of Rapa Nui. Berlin: Language Science Press. p. 12. ISBN 978-3-946234-75-3.
  26. ^ Kieviet, Paulus (2017). A grammar of Rapa Nui. Berlin: Language Science Press. p. 462. ISBN 978-3-946234-75-3.
  27. ^ Kieviet, Paulus (2017). A grammar of Rapa Nui. Berlin: Language Science Press. p. 314. ISBN 978-3-946234-75-3.
  28. ^ a b Kieviet, Paulus (2017). A grammar of Rapa Nui. Berlin: Language Science Press. p. 493. ISBN 978-3-946234-75-3.
  29. ^ Kieviet, Paulus (2017). A grammar of Rapa Nui. Berlin: Language Science Press. p. 116. ISBN 978-3-946234-75-3.
  30. ^ a b Kieviet, Paulus (2017). A grammar of Rapa Nui. Berlin: Language Science Press. p. 494. ISBN 978-3-946234-75-3.
  31. ^ Kieviet, Paulus (2017). A grammar of Rapa Nui. Berlin: Language Science Press. pp. 493, 494. ISBN 978-3-946234-75-3.
  32. ^ Kieviet, Paulus (2017). A grammar of Rapa Nui. Berlin: Language Science Press. p. 316. ISBN 978-3-946234-75-3.
  33. ^ Kieviet, Paulus (2017). A grammar of Rapa Nui. Berlin: Language Science Press. p. 93. ISBN 978-3-946234-75-3.
  34. ^ Kieviet, Paulus (2017). A grammar of Rapa Nui. Berlin: Language Science Press. p. 170. ISBN 978-3-946234-75-3.
  35. ^ a b Kieviet, Paulus (2017). A grammar of Rapa Nui. Berlin: Language Science Press. p. 498. ISBN 978-3-946234-75-3.
  36. ^ Kietviet, Paulus (2017). A grammar of Rapa Nui. Berlin: Language Science Press. p. 482. ISBN 978-3-946234-75-3.
  37. ^ Kieviet, Paulus (2017). A grammar of Rapa Nui. Berlin: Language Science Press. p. 499. ISBN 978-3-946234-75-3.
  38. ^ a b c d Kieviet, Paulus (2017). A grammar of Rapa Nui. Berlin: Language Science Press. p. 500. ISBN 978-3-946234-75-3.
  39. ^ Kieviet, Paulus (2017). A grammar of Rapa Nui. Berlin: Language Science Press. p. 490. ISBN 978-3-946234-75-3.
  40. ^ Kieviet, Paulus (2017). A grammar of Rapa Nui. Berlin: Language Science Press. p. 520. ISBN 978-3-946234-75-3.
  41. ^ a b c Kieviet, Paulus (2017). A grammar of Rapa Nui. Berlin: Language Science Press. p. 497. ISBN 978-3-946234-75-3.
  42. ^ a b c Kieviet, Paulus (2017). A grammar of Rapa Nui. Berlin: Language Science Press. p. 503. ISBN 978-3-946234-75-3.
  43. ^ Kieviet, Paulus (2017). A grammar of Rapa Nui. Berlin: Language Science Press. p. 241. ISBN 978-3-946234-75-3.
  44. ^ Kieviet, Paulus (2017). A grammar of Rapa Nui. Berlin: Language Science Press. p. 504. ISBN 978-3-946234-75-3.
  45. ^ a b Kieviet, Paulus (2017). A grammar of Rapa Nui. Berlin: Language Science Press. p. 506. ISBN 978-3-946234-75-3.
  46. ^ Kieviet, Paulus (2017). A grammar of Rapa Nui. Berlin: Language Science Press. p. 554. ISBN 978-3-946234-75-3.
  47. ^ Kieviet, Paulus (2017). A grammar of Rapa Nui. Berlin: Language Science Press. p. 184. ISBN 978-3-946234-75-3.
  48. ^ Kieviet, Paulus (2017). A grammar of Rapa Nui. Berlin: Language Science Press. p. 88. ISBN 978-3-946234-75-3.
  49. ^ a b c d Kieviet, Paulus (2017). A grammar of Rapa Nui. Berlin: Language Science Press. p. 507. ISBN 978-3-946234-75-3.
  50. ^ a b c d e Kieviet, Paulus (2017). A grammar of Rapa Nui. Berlin: Language Science Press. p. 508. ISBN 978-3-946234-75-3.
  51. ^ Kieviet, Paulus (2017). A grammar of Rapa Nui. Berlin: Language Science Press. p. 509. ISBN 978-3-946234-75-3.
  52. ^ Kieviet, Paulus (2017). A grammar of Rapa Nui. Berlin: Language Science Press. p. 99. ISBN 978-3-946234-75-3.
  53. ^ Kieviet, Paulus (2017). A grammar of Rapa Nui. Berlin: Language Science Press. p. 496. ISBN 978-3-946234-75-3.
  54. ^ Kieviet, Paulus (2017). A grammar of Rapa Nui. Berlin: Language Science Press. p. 155. ISBN 978-3-946234-75-3.
  55. ^ Kieviet, Paulus (2017). A grammar of Rapa Nui. Berlin: Language Science Press. p. 166. ISBN 978-3-946234-75-3.
  56. ^ Du Feu 1996: pp. 79–82
  57. ^ a b Heyerdahl, Thor. Easter Island – The Mystery Solved. Random House New York 1989.
  58. ^ See Revista Española del Pacífico. Asociación Española de Estudios del Pacífico (A.E.E.P.). N.º3. Año III. Enero-Diciembre 1993. See also online version.
  59. ^ Online biography of Sebastian Englert Archived 28 June 2009 at the Wayback Machine as hosted by Minnesota State University.
  60. ^ Englert's online dictionary with Spanish translated to English.
  61. ^ Rongorongo connections to Rapa Nui.
  62. ^ Makihara 2005a
  63. ^ Makihara 2005b
  64. ^ Du Feu 1996: pp.84–88
  65. ^ Pagel 2008: p. 175
  66. ^ Pagel 2008: p. 176
  67. ^ Latorre 2001: p. 129


  • Chilean Census 2002
  • Du Feu, V., 1996. Rapa Nui. London: Routledge.
  • Fischer, S.R., 2008. Reversing Hispanisation on Rapa Nui (Easter Island). In T. Stolz, D. Bakker, R.S. Palomo (eds) Hispanisation: The Impact of Spanish on the Lexicon and Grammar of the Indigenous Languages of Austronesia and the Americas. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter, pp. 149–165.
  • Latorre, Guilermo (2001). "Chilean toponymy: "the far-away possession"". Estudios Filológicos (in Spanish). Austral University of Chile. 36: 129–142. Retrieved 10 January 2014.
  • Kieviet, Paulus. 2017. A grammar of Rapa Nui (Studies in Diversity Linguistics 12). Berlin: Language Science Press. http://langsci-press.org/catalog/view/124/303/581-1 (Open Access). ISBN 978-3-946234-75-3. doi:10.17169/langsci.b124.303.
  • Makihara, M., 2005a. Rapa Nui ways of speaking Spanish: Language shift and socialization on Easter Island. Language in Society 34, pp. 727–762.
  • Makihara, M., 2005b. Being Rapa Nui, speaking Spanish: Children's voices on Easter Island. Anthropological Theory 5, pp. 117–134.
  • Pagel, S., 2008. The old, the new, the in-between: Comparative aspects of Hispanisation on the Marianas and Easter Island (Rapa Nui). In T. Stolz, D. Bakker, R.S. Palomo (eds) Hispanisation: The Impact of Spanish on the Lexicon and Grammar of the Indigenous Languages of Austronesia and the Americas. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter, pp. 167–201.
  • Jauncey D. G., 2011, Tamambo: the language of west Malo, Vanuatu, Pacific Linguistics Research School of Pacific and Asian Studies, Digital Pty Ltd, Canberra

External links

Ana Kai Tangata

Ana Kai Tangata is a sea cave in Easter Island that contains rock art of terns on its ceiling. It is located near Mataveri, and the cave opens up directly to the incoming surf. The cave is accessible and one of the most visited caves in Easter Island.


Chile ( (listen), ; Spanish: [ˈtʃile]), officially the Republic of Chile (Spanish: República de Chile ), is a South American country occupying a long, narrow strip of land between the Andes to the east and the Pacific Ocean to the west. It borders Peru to the north, Bolivia to the northeast, Argentina to the east, and the Drake Passage in the far south. Chilean territory includes the Pacific islands of Juan Fernández, Salas y Gómez, Desventuradas, and Easter Island in Oceania. Chile also claims about 1,250,000 square kilometres (480,000 sq mi) of Antarctica, although all claims are suspended under the Antarctic Treaty.

The arid Atacama Desert in northern Chile contains great mineral wealth, principally copper and lithium. The relatively small central area dominates in terms of population and agricultural resources, and is the cultural and political center from which Chile expanded in the late 19th century when it incorporated its northern and southern regions. Southern Chile is rich in forests and grazing lands, and features a string of volcanoes and lakes. The southern coast is a labyrinth of fjords, inlets, canals, twisting peninsulas, and islands.Spain conquered and colonized the region in the mid-16th century, replacing Inca rule in the north and centre, but failing to conquer the independent Mapuche who inhabited what is now south-central Chile. After declaring its independence from Spain in 1818, Chile emerged in the 1830s as a relatively stable authoritarian republic. In the 19th century, Chile saw significant economic and territorial growth, ending Mapuche resistance in the 1880s and gaining its current northern territory in the War of the Pacific (1879–83) after defeating Peru and Bolivia. In the 1960s and 1970s, the country experienced severe left-right political polarization and turmoil. This development culminated with the 1973 Chilean coup d'état that overthrew Salvador Allende's democratically elected left-wing government and instituted a 16-year-long right-wing military dictatorship that left more than 3,000 people dead or missing. The regime, headed by Augusto Pinochet, ended in 1990 after it lost a referendum in 1988 and was succeeded by a center-left coalition which ruled through four presidencies until 2010.

The modern sovereign state of Chile is among South America's most economically and socially stable and prosperous nations, with a high-income economy and high living standards. It leads Latin American nations in rankings of human development, competitiveness, income per capita, globalization, state of peace, economic freedom, and low perception of corruption. It also ranks high regionally in sustainability of the state, and democratic development. Currently it also has the lowest homicide rate in the Americas after Canada. Chile is a founding member of the United Nations, the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR), the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) and the Pacific Alliance, and joined the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) in 2010.

Creator deity

A creator deity or creator god (often called the Creator) is a deity or god responsible for the creation of the Earth, world, and universe in human religion and mythology. In monotheism, the single God is often also the creator. A number of monolatristic traditions separate a secondary creator from a primary transcendent being, identified as a primary creator.

Decipherment of rongorongo

There have been numerous attempts to decipher the rongorongo script of Easter Island since its discovery in the late nineteenth century. As with most undeciphered scripts, many of the proposals have been fanciful. Apart from a portion of one tablet which has been shown to deal with a lunar calendar, none of the texts are understood, and even the calendar cannot actually be read. It is not known if rongorongo directly represents the Rapa Nui language – that is, if it is a true writing system – and oral accounts report that experts in one category of tablet were unable to read other tablets, suggesting either that rongorongo is not a unified system, or that it is proto-writing that requires the reader to already know the text. There are three serious obstacles to decipherment, assuming that rongorongo is writing: the small number of remaining texts, comprising only 15,000 legible glyphs; the lack of context in which to interpret the texts, such as illustrations or parallels to texts which can be read; and the fact that the modern Rapa Nui language is heavily mixed with Tahitian and is unlikely to closely reflect the language of the tablets—especially if they record a specialized register such as incantations—while the few remaining examples of the old language are heavily restricted in genre and may not correspond well to the tablets either.Since a proposal by Butinov and Knorozov in the 1950s, the majority of philologists, linguists and cultural historians have taken the line that rongorongo was not true writing but proto-writing, that is, an ideographic- and rebus-based mnemonic device, such as the Dongba script of the Nakhi people, which would in all likelihood make it impossible to decipher. This skepticism is justified not only by the failure of the numerous attempts at decipherment, but by the extreme rarity of independent writing systems around the world. Of those who have attempted to decipher rongorongo as a true writing system, the vast majority have assumed it was logographic, a few that it was syllabic or mixed. Statistically, it appears to have been compatible with neither a pure logography nor a pure syllabary. The topic of the texts is unknown; various investigators have speculated they cover genealogy, navigation, astronomy, or agriculture. Oral history suggests that only a small elite were ever literate, and that the tablets were considered sacred.

Easter Island

Easter Island (Rapa Nui: Rapa Nui, Spanish: Isla de Pascua) is a Chilean island in the southeastern Pacific Ocean, at the southeasternmost point of the Polynesian Triangle in Oceania. Easter Island is most famous for its nearly 1,000 extant monumental statues, called moai, created by the early Rapa Nui people. In 1995, UNESCO named Easter Island a World Heritage Site, with much of the island protected within Rapa Nui National Park.

It is believed that Easter Island's Polynesian inhabitants arrived on Easter Island sometime near 1200 AD. They created a thriving and industrious culture, as evidenced by the island's numerous enormous stone moai and other artifacts. However, land clearing for cultivation and the introduction of the Polynesian rat led to gradual deforestation. By the time of European arrival in 1722, the island's population was estimated to be 2,000–3,000. European diseases, Peruvian slave raiding expeditions in the 1860s, and emigration to other islands, e.g. Tahiti, further depleted the population, reducing it to a low of 111 native inhabitants in 1877.Chile annexed Easter Island in 1888. In 1966, the Rapa Nui were granted Chilean citizenship. In 2007 the island gained the constitutional status of "special territory." Administratively, it belongs to the Valparaíso Region, constituting a single commune of the Province Isla de Pascua. The 2017 Chilean census registered 7,750 people on the island, of whom 3,512 (45%) considered themselves Rapa Nui.Easter Island is one of the most remote inhabited islands in the world. The nearest inhabited land (around 50 residents in 2013) is Pitcairn Island, 2,075 kilometres (1,289 mi) away; the nearest town with a population over 500 is Rikitea, on the island of Mangareva, 2,606 km (1,619 mi) away; the nearest continental point lies in central Chile, 3,512 kilometres (2,182 mi) away.

Easter Island is considered part of Insular Chile.


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).

Holy Cross Church, Hanga Roa

The Holy Cross Church (Spanish: Iglesia de la Santa Cruz), also known as Hanga Roa Church or simply Catholic Church of Hanga Roa is the name of the religious building affiliated with the Catholic Church in the "Te Pito Te Henua" Street in the city of Hanga Roa, the capital and greater city of the Easter Island, a Territory of Chile in the Pacific Ocean.

The temple that follows the Roman or Latin rite was established in 1937 being its first priest Father Sebástian Englert. The building stands out for its external decoration and the gardens that surround it. Mainly remarkable is its facade that mixes Christian religious motifs and native elements.

It offers masses in Spanish and you can hear songs in the Rapa Nui language. In the inner part there are images carved locally that represent Christian saints, Jesus Christ and the Virgin Mary.

The religious services are attended by both Catholic faithful and tourists attracted by the architecture of the site.

Languages of South America

The languages of South America can be divided into three broad groups:

the languages of the (in most cases, former) colonial powers

many indigenous languages, some of which are co-official alongside the colonial languages

and various pockets of other languages spoken by immigrant populations that have survived assimilation by the process

List of sovereign states and dependent territories in Oceania

This is a list of sovereign states and dependent territories in Oceania. Although it is mostly ocean and spans many continental plates, Oceania is often listed with the continents.

This list follows the boundaries of geopolitical Oceania, which includes Australasia, Melanesia, Micronesia and Polynesia. The main continental landmass of Oceania is Australia.The boundary between Asia and Oceania is not clearly defined. For political reasons, the United Nations considers the boundary between the two regions to be the Indonesian–Papua New Guinean border. Papua New Guinea is occasionally considered Asian as it neighbours Indonesia, but this is rare, and it is generally accepted to be part of Oceania. Geographically, Papua and West Papua provinces are part of Oceania.


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.

Motu Iti (Rapa Nui)

Motu Iti, or Little island in the Rapa Nui language, is a small uninhabited islet near Motu Nui, about a mile from Rano Kau on the south western corner of Easter Island, a Chilean island in the Pacific. It has a land area of 1.6 hectares, which makes it the second largest of the five satellite islands of Easter Island, after Motu Nui.

Nowadays it is a bird sanctuary and part of the Rapa Nui National Park but until the late nineteenth century CE it was important to the Rapanui people both as their best source of obsidian for sharp edged tools and for an annual harvest of eggs and fledglings from the seabirds that nested on it. Motu Iti is the summit of a large volcanic mountain which rises over 2,000 meters from the sea bed.

Seabirds nesting on Motu Iti include the sooty tern.

Motu Nui

Motu Nui (large island in the Rapa Nui language) is the largest of three islets just south of Easter Island and is the most westerly place in Chile and all of South America. All three islets have seabirds, but Motu Nui was also an essential location for the Tangata manu ("Bird Man") cult which was the island religion between the moai era and the Christian era (the people of the island were converted to Roman Catholicism in the 1860s). Motu Nui is the summit of a large volcanic mountain which rises over 2,000 meters from the sea bed. It measures 3.9 hectares in land area and is the largest of the five satellite islets of Easter island.

The ritual of the "Bird Man" cult was a competition to collect the first egg of the manutara. This took place starting from Motu Nui where the Hopu (representatives from each clan) waited for the sooty terns to lay their first eggs of the season. The Hopu who seized the first egg raced to swim back to Easter Island, climbed the cliffs to Orongo and presented the egg to their sponsor in front of the judges at Orongo. This gave their sponsor the title of Tangata manu and great power on the island for a year. Many Hopu were killed by sharks or by falling. The winning clan gained certain rights, including the collecting of eggs and young birds from the islets.

Motu means "island" in Rapa Nui language, and there are two smaller motus located nearby: Motu Kao Kao (a sea stack, rising around 20 meters (65 feet) above sea level) and Motu Iti (near Motu Nui).

Motu Nui was scientifically surveyed by the Routledge expedition of 1914, which reported that six other varieties of seabirds nested there in addition to the sooty tern. They explored two caves on Motu Nui, in one of which the Hopu used to stay while waiting for the first egg of the season, and the other used to contain Titahanga-o-te-henua "The Boundary of the Land", a small moai that had already been taken to the Pitt Rivers Museum in Oxford, England.

Although the Tangata Manu cult's rituals have long since been discontinued (the last competition known to have taken place in 1888), current visitors to Rapa Nui often enjoy the beauty of the Motus via small boat excursions from Hanga Roa, the island's only town. The diving in the sea between Motu Nui and Kau Kau is exceptional, and is a highly sought-after scuba diving location for dive enthusiasts from around the world. Once heavily populated with sharks, the coastal waters of Rapa Nui are now much safer, due in large part to overfishing.


Onychoprion, the "brown-backed terns", is a genus of seabirds in the family Laridae. The genus name is from Ancient Greek onux, "claw", and prion, "nail".

Rapa Nui (disambiguation)

Rapa Nui is the native name for Easter Island.

Rapa Nui can also refer to:

Rapa Nui language, the indigenous language of Easter Island

Rapa Nui mythology, the mythology of the indigenous inhabitants of Easter Island

Rapa Nui people, the native Polynesian inhabitants of Easter Island

Rapa Nui National Park the Chilean National Park which incorporates most of Easter Island

Rapa-Nui (film), 1994

Rapanui Rock, also known as Shag Rock, a sea stack near Sumner, New Zealand

CF Rapa Nui, Chilean association football team representing Easter Island

Rapa Nui people

The Rapa Nui are the aboriginal Polynesian inhabitants of Easter Island in the Pacific Ocean. The easternmost Polynesian culture, the descendants of the original people of Rapa Nui (Easter Island) make up about 60% of the current Rapa Nui population and have a significant portion of their population residing in mainland Chile. They speak both the traditional Rapa Nui language and the primary language of Chile, Spanish. At the 2002 census there were 3,304 island inhabitants—almost all living in the village of Hanga Roa on the sheltered west coast.

As of 2011, Rapa Nui's main source of income derived from tourism, which focuses on the giant sculptures called moai.

Rapa Nui activists have been fighting for their right of self-determination and possession of the island. Protests in 2010 and 2011 by the indigenous Rapa Nui on Easter Island objecting the creation of a marine park and reserve, have led to clashes with Chilean police.

Recognition of same-sex unions in Chile

Chile has recognized civil unions since 22 October 2015. On 28 January 2015, the National Congress approved a bill recognizing civil unions for same-sex and opposite-sex couples, offering some of the rights of marriage. The bill was signed into law on 13 April 2015 and was published in the Official Gazette on 21 April 2015 and took effect on 22 October 2015.

In April 2015, in response to a lawsuit filed before the Inter-American Court of Human Rights (IACHR) seeking to overturn the same-sex marriage ban, the Chilean Government, local LGBT groups and the Inter-American Commission of Human Rights signed a friendly agreement, wherein the Government pledged to legalise same-sex marriage. A bill to this effect was introduced to the National Congress in August 2017, but failed to pass before March 2018, when a new government was inaugurated. This agreement and a January 2018 ruling by the IACHR, stating that countries signatory to the American Convention on Human Rights must legalise same-sex marriage, have put pressure on the new Government to legalise same-sex marriage.

Scott Nicolay

Scott Nicolay (born April 16, 1963) is an American author of weird fiction. Nicolay's "Do You Like to Look At Monsters?" received the World Fantasy Award for Best Short Story in 2015. He resides on the Navajo Nation in New Mexico. Nicolay hosts The Outer Dark, a weekly podcast about weird fiction.


In Māori mythology, Tiki is the first man created by either Tūmatauenga or Tāne. He found the first woman, Marikoriko, in a pond; she seduced him and he became the father of Hine-kau-ataata. By extension, a tiki is a large or small wooden or stone carving in humanoid form, although this is a somewhat archaic usage in the Māori language. Carvings similar to tikis and coming to represent deified ancestors are found in most Polynesian cultures. They often serve to mark the boundaries of sacred or significant sites.

Velar nasal

The velar nasal, also known as agma, from the Greek word for 'fragment', is a type of consonantal sound, used in some spoken languages. It is the sound of ng in English sing. The symbol in the International Phonetic Alphabet that represents this sound is ⟨ŋ⟩, and the equivalent X-SAMPA symbol is N. The IPA symbol ⟨ŋ⟩ is similar to ⟨ɳ⟩, the symbol for the retroflex nasal, which has a rightward-pointing hook extending from the bottom of the right stem, and to ⟨ɲ⟩, the symbol for the palatal nasal, which has a leftward-pointing hook extending from the bottom of the left stem. Both the IPA symbol and the sound are commonly called 'eng' or 'engma'.

As a phoneme, the velar nasal does not occur in many of the indigenous languages of the Americas or in many European or Middle Eastern or Caucasian languages, but it is extremely common in Australian Aboriginal languages and is also common in many languages of Sub-Saharan Africa, East Asia, Southeast Asia and Polynesia. While almost all languages have /m/ and /n/, /ŋ/ is rarer. Only half of the 469 languages surveyed in Anderson (2008) had a velar nasal phoneme; as a further curiosity, a large proportion of them limits its occurrence to the syllable coda. In many languages that do not have the velar nasal as a phoneme, it occurs as an allophone of /n/ before velar consonants. An example of it used this way is the English word ingredient, which can be pronounced as either [ɪnˈɡriːdiənt] or [ɪŋˈɡriːdiənt].

An example of a language that lacks a phonemic or allophonic velar nasal is Russian, in which /n/ is pronounced as laminal denti-alveolar [n̪] even before velar consonants.Some languages have the pre-velar nasal, which is articulated slightly more front compared with the place of articulation of the prototypical velar nasal, though not as front as the prototypical palatal nasal - see that article for more information.

Conversely, some languages have the post-velar nasal, which is articulated slightly behind the place of articulation of a prototypical velar nasal, though not as back as the prototypical uvular nasal.

107) ꞌIna e ko kai i te kahi o tôꞌona vaka
       NEG IPFV NEG.IPFV eat ACC ART tuna of POSS.3SG.O boat
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