Relay 10/R

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a (art) 1. absolutive case marker for pronouns; 2. used between a preposed possessive and the possessed noun; see ha maua.
afi - see i ne afi.
āfine - see tama āfine.
ai (pron) him/her/it (previously mentioned); (v.aux) used before a verb: makes the verb negative. Usually, no tense marker is used in sentences with negative ai.
au (pron) I
e (art) 1. ergative case marker for pronouns; 2. absolutive case marker for common nouns; 3. see ko e.
faguna (v) To interrupt ceaselessly, to be a nuisance, to annoy, to irritate.
fakaenene (v) To be wary, to be cautious, to be careful.
fakafiafia (vt) To make happy.
fakahaupō (vi) To attack by surprise (intransitive, with the victim marked by ki for pronouns or ke he for common nouns)
fakamaama (n) window.
fale (n) house.
fefeua (vi) to play.
finage (v) to arrive.
fulufuluola (adj) very beautiful
ha: ha maua (pron) first person dual exclusive possessive: our; belong to us two (but not you, the listener). Can be behind the noun (ART NOUN ha maua) or before, in which case it is followed by the particle a (ART ha maua a NOUN).
hagahagakelea (adj) dangerous.
he (art) ergative case marker for common nouns; (prep) 1. because of, on account of, since, due to; 2. locative case marker: in, into, through, by, from, at, out of; 3. see ke he; 4. marker for some expressions of time; see mogonai.
heigoa ( what?; see also ko e.
hūhū (v) to ask; (n) question.
i: i ne afi (adv) yesterday.
ia (pron) 1. third person animate singular: he, she, it, him, her; 2. this, that (mentioned previously).
iloa (v) to know.
ka (conj) but; pete (nī) X ka Y: despite X, Y.
kai (v) to eat.
kamata (v.aux.) used before the verb: to begin to ...
ke (part) 1. particle introducing a goal clause: to, in order to; 2. particle introducing a subordinate clause: that. ke he (prep) goal case marker for common nouns: to, towards.
ki (part) (for pronouns) marks an oblique noun phrases belonging to a verb. Note that ai, not ia, is used as a third person pronoun after ki for something or somebody that was mentioned previously. See also fakahaupō.
ko: ko e (art) makes predicate nominatives; ko e heigoa? (pred) what? (used like a verb; can be followed by a subordinate clause introduced by ne to mean 'what <verb>ed/what <verb>s?', i.e. 'what is it that <verb>ed/<verb>s?')
kua (t) default tense marker: non-future or present perfect. When used together with tuai (q.v.), indicates perfect aspect (usually past perfect, but can be present perfect or even future perfect).
lata (v) to be right, to be proper. In the construction lata ke X (it is right/proper that X), can be translated as 'should'.
leoleo (n) policeman.
leveki (v) to guard, to care for, to protect, to watch over.
lologo: see uhu lologo.
maana (prep) for him/her/it (benefactive).
mai (adv) used after verbs to indicate motion, gesture, emotion, etc. towards the speaker.
maua (pron) first person dual exclusive: we two (but not you, the listener). See also ha maua.
mena (n) thing, affair, object, matter.
mo (prep) with.
mogonai: he mogonai (adv) now, at this time.
mukemuke: see tama mukemuke.
ne (t) past tense marker on main clauses; (part) introduces a relative clause marked for non-future tense.
nei (adj) this.
neke (conj) lest, so that not.
nī: emphatic particle; see pete nī.
oioi (int) interjection used to express emotions such as excitement, surprise, or fright.
pete: pete nī (conj) Even though, despite. See also ka.
taha (part) marks an indefinite but specific noun phrase: a, an; a certain.
tama: tama āfine (n) girl, young woman (roughly from 12-20); tama mukemuke (n) baby, infant; tama tote (n) child.
taotao (v) to conceal, to hide.
tātukumate (v) to work very hard.
tau (part) plural marker, used before nouns.
taute (v) to do, to act.
ti (conj) and, and then, and so, therefore.
tinatina (v) to rip or tear to shreds.
(v) to happen.
toetoe (n) remnants, leftovers, remainder.
tote: see tama tote.
tōfua (v) to continue, to carry on; used here as 'and so on'.
tuai: perfective marker; see kua.
uhu: uhu lologo (v) to sing songs.
vake (v) to throw away carelessly.


adj. - adjective
art. - article
conj. - conjunction
int. - interjection
part. - particle
pred. - predicate
prep. - preposition
pron. - pronoun - interrogative pronoun
pron.rel. - relative pronoun
t. - tense marker
v. - verb
vi. - intransitive verb
vt. - transitive verb
v.aux. - verbal auxiliary

Ko e Vagahau he Motu

Philip Newton

Ring A

Fakaenene he tama mukemuke hagahagakelea!

Oioi, ko e heigoa ne tō mai? Kua finage e taha tama āfine fulufuluola i ne afi ke he ha maua a fale ke leveki e tama mukemuke. Kua tātukumate a ia ke fakafiafia e tama tote: ne fefeua a ia mo ia, ne uhu lologo maana, tōfua.

Pete nī ia ka kua fakahaupō tuai e tama mukemuke ki ai, kua tinatina tuai e ia a ia, kua kai tuai e ia a ia; ti kua vake e ia e toetoe he fakamaama.

Ko e heigoa ne lata ke taute a maua? Ai iloa au. Ti taotao he mogonai e maua e mena nei, neke kamata hūhū he tau leoleo e tau hūhū ne faguna.

Be careful because of the dangerous child!

Oy vey, what happened to us? Yesterday, a beautiful young woman arrived at our house in order to watch over a child. She worked very hard to make the child happy: she played with it, she sang songs for it, etc.

But despite this, the baby attacked her by surprise, it tore her to shreds, it ate her; and then it threw away the remnants carelessly out of the window.

What should we (two) do? I don't know. So now we conceal the matter, lest policemen start asking annoying questions.

Some notes on grammar

Ko e Vagahau he Motu is an ergative language; that is, it makes intransitive subjects and transitive objects in the absolutive case (with e for common nouns and a for pronouns) and transitive subjects in the ergative case (with he for common nouns and e for pronouns). There is very little case morphology; such things as case, tense, and number are marked by separate particles.

It uses VSO word order. Expressions of time or location (oblique NPs) usually appear after the object but can also appear before the subject or the object. Adjectives follow the noun they modify.

Note that some verbs which might be transitive in other languages are syntactically intransitive in Ko e Vagahau he Motu: they take a subject in the absolutive case and put their 'object' into an oblique phrase introduced by prepositions such as ki or ke he.

Most sentences have a particle in front of the main verb indicating tense or aspect; the most common is kua, whose meaning is basically present perfect. Together with tuai, it unambiguously marks the perfect aspect. Another is ne, which marks the past.

Imperatives usually use no such tense particle nor mark a subject but simply use the verb itself.

Relative clauses also start with a marker before the verb; however, the set of markers is not the same as that for main clauses. The only such marker used in this text is ne, which is used for nonfuture verbs (i.e. not only past, as ne indicates in a main clause, but also present). The head noun phrase of the relative clause does not appear in the clause itself, if it was a subject or an object in that clause; this is as in English (cp. "The man whom I saw" and not *"The man whom I saw him" for a relativised object, and "The man who saw me" and not *"The man who he saw me" for a relativised subject).

Due to historical processes, the number of articles has shrunk compared to the proto-language and some prepositions have merged with articles, so there are a number of particles with more than one meaning; for example, e is used to mark the absolutive case on nouns, the ergative case on pronouns, and is used after some prepositions, while he is not only the ergative case marker on common nouns but also a kind of combination preposition-and-article for various concepts including possession (not used here), location (as a kind of 'generic locative preposition'), time, and cause.

Smooth translation of the text received

Beware of the baby!

Oh dear, what happened? Yesterday, a beautiful young girl came to our house in order to watch over a baby. She did what she could in order to entertain the child: she played with it, she sang songs to it, etc.

But despite this, the baby attacked her, tore her into pieces, devoured her, and threw the remants out of the window.

What to do, what to do? Truly, I don't know. And thus for the time being we conceal the affair, in order that the police not begin to ask irritating questions.

© Jan van Steenbergen, Philip Newton, 10 Aug. 2004