University of Auckland
Tokelau comprises three atolls, Atafu, Nukunono and Fakaofo, situated 750 miles northwest of Samoa. Tokelauan belongs to the Polynesian sub-group of Austronesian. It is spoken by about approximately 5000 people, of whom about 1600 live in the atolls, about 3000 in New Zealand, and several hundred elsewhere in the Pacific region. The phonology and morphology are typical of Polynesian languages. The main morphological processes are reduplication, compounding and derivation. Number, tense and aspect are indicated by particles, and there is little in the way of inflectional morphology. The pronoun system is complex, and an inclusive-exclusive distinction is made in dual and plural pronouns. Two types if possession marking encode a semantic distinction betweeen (loosely) inalienable and alienable possession.
In most studies of Polynesian languages, the smallest convenient unit of analysis is taken to be the phrase, and this convention is followed here. Sections on the structure of the noun phrase and the verb phrase are followed by a description of clause structure. All clauses contain a predicate, of which there are several different types: verbal, locative, existential, possessive, and nominal. Noun phrase relations in the clause are indicated by prepositions, and verbal clauses have the ergative case-marking typical of Western Polynesian languages. Nominalisation, complementation, and kinds of clause combination are briefly described. Although Tokelauan is typologically verb initial, noun phrase initial clauses are common owing to pragmatic and discourse factors such as topicalization and focussing.
Robin Hooper is Lecturer in English Linguistics at the University of Auckland, New Zealand. The author's work on Tokelauan is based on two years' fieldwork in Fakaofo in the 1970s and continuing research among Tokelauan and comparative Polynesian or Oceanic syntax, and assistance in the production of a Tokelauan dictionary.
ISBN 9783929075410. Languages of the World/Materials 58. 48pp.1996.