Fijian Language
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Fijian Language
Na vosa vaka-Viti
Native toFiji
Native speakers
339,210 (1996 census)[1]
320,000 second-language users (1991)
Official status
Official language in
Language codes
This article contains IPA phonetic symbols. Without proper rendering support, you may see question marks, boxes, or other symbols instead of Unicode characters. For an introductory guide on IPA symbols, see Help:IPA.
A Fijian speaker, recorded in Fiji.

Fijian (Na vosa vaka-Viti) is an Austronesian language of the Malayo-Polynesian family spoken by some 350,000-450,000 ethnic Fijians as a native language. The 2013 Constitution established Fijian as an official language of Fiji, along with English and Fiji Hindi, and there is discussion about establishing it as the "national language". Fijian is a VOS language.[3]

Pidgin Fijian
Fijian-based pidgin
Language codes
None (mis)

Standard Fijian is based on the speech of Bau, which is an East Fijian language. A pidginized form is used by many Indo-Fijians and Chinese on the islands, while Pidgin Hindustani is used by many rural ethnic Fijians and Chinese in areas dominated by Indo-Fijians.


The consonant phonemes of Fijian are as shown in the following table:

Labial Coronal Palatal Velar Glottal
Nasal m n ?
Plosive voiceless (p) t (t?) k (?)
prenasalized ?b ?d (?d?)
Fricative voiceless (f) s (x)
voiced ? ð
Trill plain r
Approximant w l j (h)

The consonant written ⟨dr⟩ has been described as a prenasalized trill [nr] or trilled fricative [ndr]. However, it is only rarely pronounced with a trilled release; the primary feature distinguishing it from ⟨d⟩ is that it is postalveolar, [], rather than dental/alveolar.[5]

The sounds [p] and [f] occur only in loanwords from other languages. The sounds [x] and [h] only occur for speakers from certain regions of the country.

The sounds [t?] and [?d?] occur as allophones of [t] and [?d].

Note the difference in place of articulation between the voiced-voiceless fricative pairs: bilabial [?] vs. labiodental [f], and dental [ð] vs. alveolar [s].

The vowel phonemes are:

Front Central Back
short long short long short long
Close i i: u u:
Mid e e: o o:
Open a a:
Falling diphthongs
Second component
/i/ /u/
First component /e/ ei? eu?
/o/ oi? ou?
/a/ ai? au?

In addition, there is the rising diphthong i?u.

Syllables can consist of a consonant followed by a vowel (CV) or a single vowel (V).[6]Word stress is based on moras: a short vowel is one mora, diphthongs and long vowels are two morae. Primary stress is on the penultimate mora of the phonological word. That is, if the last syllable of a word is short, then the penultimate syllable will be stressed, while if the last syllable contains either a long vowel or a diphthong, then it receives primary stress. Stress is not lexical and can shift when suffixes are attached to the root. Examples:

  • Stress on the penultimate syllable (final short vowel): síga, "day";
  • Stress on the final syllable (diphthong): cauravóu, "youth" (the stress extends over the whole diphthong).
  • Stress shift: cábe, "kick" -> cabé-ta, "kick-TR"[7]


The Fijian alphabet is based on the Latin script and consists of the following letters.

a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w y z

Among the consonants, there is almost a one-to-one correspondence between letters and phonemes:

  • b = [?b]
  • c = [ð]
  • d = [?d] (di = [?d?i])
  • f = [f]
  • g = [?]
  • h = [h] ~ [x]
  • j = [t?] ~ [?d?]
  • k = [k]
  • l = [l]
  • m = [m]
  • n = [n] (nr = [])
  • p = [p]
  • q = []
  • r = [r]
  • s = [s]
  • t = [t] (ti = [t?i])
  • v = [?]
  • w = [?]
  • y = [j] or silent
  • z = [?d?]

In the 1980s, scholars compiling a dictionary added several more consonants and a few consonant clusters to the alphabet. These newcomers were necessary to handle words entering Standard Fijian from not only English, but from other Fijian languages or dialects as well. These are the most important additions: z (nj), as in ziza 'ginger' and h (h), as in haya 'hire'.[8]

Note that for phonological reasons ti and di are pronounced [t?i], [?d?i] rather than [ti], [?di] (cf. Japanese chi kana, or in standard Brazilian Portuguese). Hence, the Fijian name for Fiji, Viti, from an allophonic pronunciation of [?it?i] as [?id?i].

In addition, the digraph dr stands for postalveolar [?d?], or a prenasalized trill [r?] in careful pronunciation, or more commonly for some people and in some dialects.

The vowel letters a e i o u have roughly their IPA values, [a ?~e i ?~o u]. The vowel length contrast is not usually indicated in writing, except in dictionaries and textbooks for learners of the language, where it is indicated by a macron over the vowel in question; Dixon, in the work cited below, doubles all long vowels in his spelling system. Diphthongs are ai au ei eu oi ou and iu, pronounced [?i? ?u? ei? eu? oi? ou? i?u].



In order to negate a phrase or clause in Fijian, certain verbs are used to create this distinction. These verbs of negation are known as semi-auxiliary verbs. Semi-auxiliary verbs fulfil the functions of main verbs (in terms of syntactic form and pattern) and have a NP or complement clause as their subject[9] (complements clauses within negation are introduced by relators ni (which refers to an event, which is generally a non-specific unit) or me (which refers is translated as "should", referring to the event within the complement clause should occur)).[10] Within a complement clause, the semi-auxiliary verb qualifies the predicate.[9]

Semi-auxiliary verbs

One semi-auxiliary verb used to express negation in Fijian is sega. This semi-auxiliary can be translated as either "there are no-" or "it is not the case that", depending on the subject it relates to.[11] In terms of numerical expression, sega is also used to express the quantity "none".[12] This negator can be used in almost all situations, with the exception of the imperative or in a me (classifier) clauses.[11] When sega takes a NP as its subject, the meaning "there are no-" is assumed:

(1)[11] e sega a 'olii (i+na 'oro yai)
3sg not ART dog IN+ART village THIS
"there are no dogs (in this village)"

Predicate clauses can also be negated in Fijian with the semi-auxiliary verb sega. This can only be completed when the predicate is placed into a complement clause.[11] The subject of sega must also be ni, which introduces the complement clause. It is then translated as "it is not the case that (predicate clause)".[11] An example of this construction is shown here:

(2)[11] e sega [ni la'o o Jone]
3sg not THAT go ART John
"John is not going (lit: it is not the case that John is going)"

Hence, the only way a verb (which is generally the head of a predicate phrase) can be negated in Fijian is when it forms part of the [e sega ni VERB] construction.[11] However, in Fijian the head of a predicate phrase may belong to almost any word class. If another word (e.g. a noun) is used, the structure of negation alters.[11] This distinction can be shown through diverse examples of the negating NPs in Fijian. The below examples show the difference between a noun as the head of a NP and a noun as the head of a predicate in a complement clause, within negation:

NP as subject of sega
(3)[11] e sega a 'olii
3sg not ART dog
"there is no dog"
Ni as the subject of sega
(4)[11] e sega ni 'olii
3sg not THAT dog
"it isn't a dog (it may be a cat)"

Additionally, sega can also work with relator se which introduces interrogative clauses.[13] This combination creates a form translatable as "or not":

(5)[14] au tovele-a se 'ana vina'a a 'aa.'ana yai (se sega)
1sg test-TR WHETHER eat good ART food THIS OR NOT
"I'll test whether this food tastes good or not"

Another common negator is 'ua~waa'ua, which is translatable as "don't, not".[9] Differently to sega, this semi-auxiliary verb is used for imperatives and in me clauses. Therefore, these semi-auxiliaries are fixed, and cannot be used interchangeably.[15]'Ua and waa'ua semantically have the same meaning, however waa'ua may be regarded as having a higher intensity or stronger sense; in most instances either semi-auxiliary verb can be used.[15]'Ua~waa'ua can take a NP as its subject, but most commonly takes the ni complement as a subject,[16] which is demonstrated below:

(6)[16] e aa taqo.-ma'ini au o Jone me+u 'ua ni lau-.vacu
3sg PAST defend-TR 1sg ART Person should+1sg not THAT PASS-punch
"John defended me from being punched (lit: that I should not be punched)"

An example of ua~waa'ua used in imperative structure can be seen here:

(7)[17] au saa vei-.vutuni.-ta'ina sara me+u saa waa'ua ni va'a-.yaco-ra tale a ca''a yai i+na siga.tabu
"I repented (of hunting pigs on the sabbath) so that I won't ever again do this activity on Sunday"

It is important to note that in the case of pronouns, they can only be negated when they form part of the NP, when acting as the predicate head.[18] Therefore, pronouns cannot be the NP subject of semi-auxiliary verbs sega or 'ua~waa'ua in the way that general nouns can [18]

Combining semi-auxiliary verbs

Sega and 'ua~waa'ua can be combined with other auxiliary verbs to produce diverse constructions.[19] Both sega and 'ua~waa'ua can connect with semi-auxiliary rawa ("can") to negate the concept of possibility which is attached to the verb 'can' (resulting in constructions such as "can't" and "shouldn't"). [20]

Modifiers in negation

Two main modifiers, soti ('a lot') and sara ('very; (go) right on, immediately') play key roles in negation in Fijian, and work in conjunction with semi-auxiliary verbs. Soti is added after negators sega and 'ua~waa'ua, and functions as an intensity marker.[21] The construction sega soti is translatable as 'not a lot of, not very'. The sega soti construction requires an adjective (or an adverb which results from an adjective), and must take ni (complement clause) as its subject in order to function.[21]Soti can be found in position immediately after sega, but may also be found after the ni relator without changing the meaning of the phrase.[22] The primary construction is shown below:

(8)[21] au sega soti ni vu'u me tautauvata 'ei Sepo
1sg not LOT THAT clever should same WITH Person
"I'm not as clever as Sepo (lit: I am not clever, to be the same as Sepo)"

Similarly, to soti, the modifier sara ('very; (go) right on, immediately') can also be used in conjunction with sega and ua~waa'ua. This combination is used to stress the negative sense and aspect of a phrase:[22]

(9)[22] 'ua ni la'i taaoo tale i Viidawa, la'o sara i 'Orovou!
DON'T THAT GO held up AGAIN AT Place go MODIF TO Place
"don't get held up at Viidawa (a place en route, where there may be some enticing event in progress), go straight on to 'Orovou!"

Pronouns and person markers

The pronominal system of Fijian is remarkably rich. Like many other languages, it recognises three persons; first person (speaker), second person (addressee), and third person (all other). There is no distinction between human, non-human, animate, or inanimate.[23] Four numbers are represented; singular, dual, paucal, and plural—'paucal' refers to more than two people who have some relationship, as a family or work group; if none, 'plural' is used. Like many other Oceanic languages, Fijian pronouns are marked for number and clusivity.[24]

Fijian Pronouns[25]
Person Number
singular dual paucal plural
1INCL subject (e)taru tou (e)ta
object 'eetaru 'etatou 'eta
cardinal 'eetaru 'etatou 'eta
1EXCL subject au~u 'eirau 'eitou 'eimami
object au 'eirau 'eitou 'eimami
cardinal yau 'eirau 'eitou 'eimami
2 subject o (o)mudrau
object i'o 'emudrau 'emudou 'emunuu
cardinal i'o 'emudrau 'emudou 'emunuu
3 subject e (e)rau (e)ratou (e)ra
object 'ea rau iratou ira
cardinal 'ea (i)rau (i)ratou (i)ra

Forms and function

Each pronoun can have five forms, but some person-number combinations may have the same form for more than one function,[26] as can be seen in the table above.

The forms are:

Cardinal - used when a pronoun occurs as the head of a NP. A cardinal pronoun is usually preceded by the proper article 'o', except when preceded by a preposition:












"They are going"
















"I gave [the coconut] [to them]

Subject - the first constituent of a predicate, acts as person marking. Examples can be seen in examples (1) and (2) above: 'era' and 'au', and (3) below: 'o'

Object - follows the -i-final form of a transitive verb:










"You left them"

Possessive suffix - attaches to inalienable nouns, and

Possessive - precedes the NP head of the 'possessed' constituent in a possessive construction.

(For more information on the form and function of these possessive pronouns, see Possession.)


The major clausal structure in Fijian minimally includes a predicate, which usually has a verb at its head.[27] The initial element in the predicate is the subject form pronoun:






"I am going"






"They are going"

This 'subject marker + verb' predicate construction is obligatory, every other constituent is optional. The subject may be expanded upon by an NP following the predicate:










"[the children] are going"

"They [the children] are going"

The subject pronoun constituent of a predicate acts mainly as a person marker.

Fijian is a verb-object-subject language, and the subject pronoun may be translated as its equivalent in English, the subject NP of a clause in Fijian follows the verb and the object if it is included.

The social use of pronouns is largely driven by respect and hierarchy. Each of the non-singular second person pronouns can be used for a singular addressee. For example, if one's actual or potential in-laws are addressed, the 2DU pronoun should be used. Similarly, when a brother or sister of the opposite sex is addressed, the 2PA pronoun should be used, and it can also be used for same-sex siblings when the speaker wishes to show respect. The 2PL pronoun can be used to show respect to elders, particularly the village chief.[26]


Possession is a grammatical term for a special relationship between two entities: a "possessor" and a "possessed". The relationship may be one of legal ownership, but in Fijian, like many other Austronesian languages, it is often much broader, encompassing kin relations, body parts, parts of an inanimate whole and personal qualities and concepts such as control, association and belonging.

Fijian has a complex system of possessive constructions, depending on the nature of the possessor and of the possessed. Choosing the appropriate structure depends on knowing[28] whether the possessor is described by a person or placename; a pronoun; or a common noun (with human or non-human animate, or inanimate reference) and also on whether the possessed is a free noun or a bound noun.


Only an animate noun may be a possessor in the true possessive constructions shown below, with possession marked on the possessed NP in a number of ways. For personal and place name possessors, the possessive construction may be made by affixing the possessive suffix -i to the possessed noun, bound or free. If the possessor is a pronoun, the possessed noun must be marked by one of the pronominal markers which specify person, number and inclusivity/exclusivity (see table). If the possessor is inanimate, the possessive particle ni is usually placed between the possessed NP and the possessor NP. The particle ni then indicates association, rather than formal possession, but the construction is still regarded as a possessive construction.


Free nouns can stand alone and need no affix; most nouns in Fijian fall into this class. Bound nouns require a suffix to complete them and are written ending in a hyphen to indicate this requirement. Tama- (father) and tina- (mother) are examples of bound nouns. The classes of free and bound nouns roughly correspond with the concept, common in Austronesian languages, of alienable and inalienable possession, respectively. Alienable possession denotes a relationship in which the thing possessed is not culturally considered an inherent part of the possessor, and inalienable possession indicates a relationship in which the possessed is regarded as an intrinsic part of the possessor.

Body parts and kin relations are typical examples of inalienable possession. Inanimate objects are typical examples of alienable possession.

The alienable nature of free nouns is further marked by prefixes, known as classifiers, indicating certain other characteristics. Some common examples are me- when the possessed noun is something drinkable, ke- (or 'e) when the noun is something edible and we- when the referent of the possessed noun is personal property.

Fijian possessive pronominal suffix markers[29]

Person Single Dual Paucal Plural
1 excl -qu -irau -itou -imami
1 incl -- -daru -datou -da
2 -mu -mudrau -mudou -muni
3 -na -drau -dratou -dra

Possessive constructions[30]

The word order of a possessive construction for all except inanimate possessors is possessed NP-classifier(CLF) + possessive marker (POSS) + possessor NP.

For an inanimate possessor, the word order is possessed NP + ni + possessor NP.

POSSESSOR bound noun free noun
personal or place name suffix -i (example 1) classifier plus suffix -i; or suffix -i (example 2)
pronoun pronominal suffix; or suffix -i (example 3a, b) classifier plus possessor pronoun (example 4a, b)
human noun pronominal suffix, expanded by post-head possessor NP; or suffix -i; or NP ni NP (example 5) classifier plus possessor pronoun, expanded by post-head possessor NP (example 6)
animate noun NP ni NP ; or pronominal suffix, expanded by post-head possessor NP NP ni NP; or classifier plus possessor pronoun, expanded by post-head possessor NP
inanimate noun NP ni NP (example 7, 8) NP ni NP (example 7, 8)

Note that there is some degree of flexibility in the use of possessive constructions as described in this table.


  1. a liga-i Paula
    ART Hand-POSS Paula
    "Paula's hand"
  2. a waqona me-i Paula
    ART kava CLF.DRINK-POSS Paula
    "Paula's kava"
    1. a tama-mudrau
      ART father PRON.SUFF.2DUAL
      "The father of you two"
    2. a liga-qu
      ART hand - PRON.SUFF.1SG
      "My hand"
    1. a me-na ti
      "His / her tea"
    2. a 'e-mu uvi
      "Your (SG) yam (for eating)."
  3. a liga-na
    ART Hand- PRON.3SG
    His / her hand
  4. a we-irau waqa o yau ei Jone
    John's and my boat (thing owned).
  5. na yaca ni waqa
    ART name POSS.PART boat
    The name of the boat (The name associated with the boat)
  6. a vale ni kana
    ART house POSS.PART eat
    "A house of eating (A house associated with eating)" = "A restaurant"


The normal Fijian word order is VOS (verb-object-subject):

  • E rai-c-a (1) na no-na (2) vale (3) na gone (4).
  • 3-sg.-sub. see-trans.-3-sg.-obj. (1) the 3-sg.-poss. (2) house (3) the child (4).
  • (The child sees his house.

Grammatical abbreviations

Abbreviations and Constructions
1 first person
2 second person
3 third person
ART article
ASP aspect
CLF numeral classifier
MODIF modifier
NP noun phrase
PART participle
PASS passive voice
PAST past tense
PL plural
POSS possessive
PREP preposition
PRO pronoun
REDUP reduplication
SG singular
TR transitive

National language debate

In May and June 2005, a number of prominent Fiji Islanders called for the status of Fijian to be upgraded. It was not an official language before the adoption of the 1997 Constitution, which made it co-official with English and Fiji Hindi. It is still not a compulsory subject in schools, however; the present[when?] Education Minister, Ro Teimumu Kepa, has endorsed calls for it to be made so, as has Great Council of Chiefs Chairman Ratu Ovini Bokini. Similar calls came from Misiwini Qereqeretabua, the Director of the Institute of Fijian Language and Culture, and from Apolonia Tamata, a linguistics lecturer at Suva's University of the South Pacific, who both said that recognition of the Fijian language is essential to the nation's basic identity and as a unifying factor in Fiji's multicultural society.

Fiji Labour Party leader Mahendra Chaudhry also endorsed the call for Fijian to be made a national language and a compulsory school subject if the same status be given to Fiji Hindi, a position echoed by Krishna Vilas of the National Reconciliation Committee.

See also


  1. ^ Fijian at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015)
  2. ^ Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2017). "Fijian". Glottolog 3.0. Jena, Germany: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History.
  3. ^ [1] WALS - Fijian
  4. ^ Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2017). "Pidgin Fijian". Glottolog 3.0. Jena, Germany: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History.
  5. ^ Ladefoged, Peter; Maddieson, Ian (1996). The Sounds of the World's Languages. Oxford: Blackwell. ISBN 978-0-631-19815-4. p 122, 131. The authors use the transcription ⟨n?⟩, where the sub-dot is their convention for a postalveolar stop that is not prototypically retroflex.
  6. ^ Dixon 1988:15.
  7. ^ Dixon 1988:17
  8. ^ Schütz, Albert J., 1936- (2003). Say it in Fijian : an entertaining introduction to the standard language of Fiji. Textbook Wholesalers Ltd. ISBN 1862730385. OCLC 156199054.CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  9. ^ a b c Dixon, Robert M. W. 1988. A grammar of Boumaa Fijian. Chicago : University of Chicago Press. p. 279
  10. ^ Dixon, Robert M. W. 1988. A grammar of Boumaa Fijian. Chicago : University of Chicago Press. p. 268-271
  11. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Dixon, Robert M. W. 1988. A grammar of Boumaa Fijian. Chicago : University of Chicago Press. p. 40
  12. ^ Dixon, Robert M. W. 1988. A grammar of Boumaa Fijian. Chicago : University of Chicago Press. p. 141
  13. ^ Dixon, Robert M. W. 1988. A grammar of Boumaa Fijian. Chicago : University of Chicago Press. p. 270
  14. ^ Dixon, Robert M. W. 1988. A grammar of Boumaa Fijian. Chicago : University of Chicago Press. p. 271
  15. ^ a b Dixon, Robert M. W. 1988. A grammar of Boumaa Fijian. Chicago : University of Chicago Press. p. 281
  16. ^ a b Dixon, Robert M. W. 1988. A grammar of Boumaa Fijian. Chicago : University of Chicago Press. p. 282
  17. ^ Dixon, Robert M. W. 1988. A grammar of Boumaa Fijian. Chicago : University of Chicago Press. p. 294
  18. ^ a b Dixon, Robert M. W. 1988. A grammar of Boumaa Fijian. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. p. 67
  19. ^ Dixon, Robert M. W. 1988. A grammar of Boumaa Fijian. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. p. 284
  20. ^ Dixon, Robert M. W. 1988. A grammar of Boumaa Fijian. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. p. 285
  21. ^ a b c Dixon, Robert M. W. 1988. A grammar of Boumaa Fijian. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. p. 96
  22. ^ a b c Dixon, Robert M. W. 1988. A grammar of Boumaa Fijian. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. p. 97
  23. ^ Dixon 1988: 52
  24. ^ Cysouw, Michael (2013). "WALS Online - Feature 39A: Inclusive/Exclusive Distinction in Independent Pronouns". The World Atlas of Language Structures Online. Leipzig: Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology. Retrieved 2015.
  25. ^ Dixon 1988: 54-55
  26. ^ a b c d e Dixon 1988: 53
  27. ^ a b c Dixon 1988: 33
  28. ^ Dixon 1988: 119
  29. ^ Schütz 1985: 449
  30. ^ Dixon 1988: 120


External links

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