Conversational Tahitian: An Introduction to the Tahitian Language of French Polynesia

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University of California Press, 1970 - Tahitian language - 177 pages
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It's difficult to find a good grammar of the Tahitian language in English, but I found the kind of information I was looking for in D. T. Tryon's "Conversational Tahitian: An Introduction to the Tahitian Language of French Polynesia" (CT). It is, by far, the best English-language grammar of Tahitian I've been able to find so far, although it's pretty expensive -- the cheapest edition as of this writing was a bit more than $300. Tryon also takes a stab at trying to present Tahitian grammar on its own terms without trying to force it into European grammatical categories. This is an improvement over earlier Tahitian grammars that I've seen so far.
There's a good deal of information on the language's basic structure and vocabulary. CT has vocabulary lists for the first 11 lessons of this 24-lesson book, and covers grammatical information ranging from orthography and pronunciation, verb 'conjugation' and simple sentences, to the structure of dependent clauses; Lesson 24 provides a brief presentation on conjunctions. There are Tahitian-English and English-Tahitian exercises at the end of nearly every lesson, with a key to the exercises at the end of the book. CT also has a list of nearly all the vocabulary introduced in the text at the end of the book. There are also paragraphs for translation in the later lessons, with an additional 11 Tahitian language texts under the section "Further Passages for Translation" after Lesson 24; translations for these are also provided at the end of the answer-key section.
As good as this grammar is, there are, of course, some flaws: (1) Lesson 2 "The Articles" provides information not only on the 'definite' and 'indefinite' articles, but also supplies a lot of material on articles used to distinguish the gender of various plant and animal species, groupings of various items (compare English 'gaggle of geese', 'bunch of bananas', 'flock of birds', 'herd of sheep', etc.). All of this latter material can be very off-putting, but if you just pass lightly through this part, very little of it appears in the rest of the grammar. (2) While each grammar point is illustrated with examples, the vocabulary used is rather limited and constantly repeated throughout the book, so when you get to the end of CT, you'll have only a very limited Tahitian vocabulary. As one potential remedy, I would recommend Sven Wahlroos' "English-Tahitian, Tahitian-English Dictionary". (3) While many grammars of Tahitian rarely, if ever, indicate vowel length or represent the glottal stop, in this book, Tryon tends to overdo it a bit with using macrons to show long vowels and in placing apostrophes to show glottal stops. That being said, Tryon's approach is a decided improvement over earlier works.
A more modern, linguistics-oriented presentation of Tahitian grammar can be found in 'Structure de la Langue Tahitienne' [LCP15 (Societe d'Etudes Linguistiques et Anthropologiques de France)] by Gilbert Lazard and Louise Peltzer, but, obviously, a knowledge of French is required to use it. That said, I highly recommend CT for access to undeniably good information on this beautiful Polynesian language.


The Articles
The Demonstrative
The Causative Verb
NonVerbal Sentences
Location and Direction
Optional Phrases
The Interrogative II
Dependent Sentences I
Special Verbal Forms
Key to Exercises
The Tahitian Family
EnglishTahitian Glossary

Common terms and phrases

Bibliographic information