11 thoughts on “Language quiz

  1. At first, I was about to say Hawai’ian, but doesn’t sound right, so I’ll just go with some other Polynesian language.

  2. Sounds definitely Polynesian. With the inventory of consonants I’m hearing here (/ʔ f h k l m n ŋ p r s t w/), I think we can narrow things down.

    I don’t think it’s Hawaiian given that I hear lots of consonants that Hawaiian famously doesn’t have: /s f ŋ t/. (I might even be hearing both /l/ and /r/, which is a little surprising since Polynesian languages usually have just one or the other. I might be mishearing a contrast.)

    Tahitian doesn’t have /s ŋ k/.

    Maori and Rarotongan don’t have /s l/. Also, the /u/ vowel of both languages is very fronted, like the /u/ of New Zealand English, and unlike the examples in this song.

    Rapa Nui doesn’t have /s f/.

    Tokelauan doesn’t have /s/.

    Samoan has all these sounds, but /k/ is just the colloquial version of /t/, so I wouldn’t expect both to exist in the same song.

    So, my guess would be Tongan or Niuean. Since someone already guessed Tongan, I’ll just guess Niuean to be different 🙂

  3. The answer is Niuafoʻou, a Polynesian language spoken on islands of Niuafoʻou and ʻEua in the kingdom of Tonga.

    The recording comes from YouTube:

    It is a song called Tali paea ki Vailahi.

  4. Ah! Of course it would be the little sister of Tongan and Niuean in the Tongic group 🙂

    The Wikipedia entry cites a dissertation that demonstrates that the [ɾ] sound is just a variant of /t/ between vowels. That explains how this Polynesian language ended up with both an /l/ and an r-like sound, when most of the languages in this group just have one or the other. Very cool!

  5. O.k., Niuafo’ou and Tongan share the same phonemic inventory – apart perhaps from that intervocalic allophone of /t/ Sameer mentioned – so that’s why I just missed the mark … Tricky 🙂

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