Ko e ngaahi puʻaki lea faka-Tongaʼ
THE TONGAN ALPHABET (Lau Ā faka-Tongaʼ)
Press play to listen to the sounds.
- five vowels: A E I O U
- 12 consonants: F H K L M N NG P S T V ‘
- includes 1 digraph (two letters that combine to form the one sound): NG
- includes fakaʻua/glottal stop ʻ (a backwards apostrophe)
VOWELS (Ngaahi vaueli)
A vowel can be long or short.
There are special markings placed upon the vowels that changes the pronunciation and hence the meaning of the word.
- TOLOI (macron) – is a line on top of the vowels and it changes the vowels sound to a longer vowel sound (see the picture above)
Play listen and compare vowels sounds with and without a toloi
Kakā, Kākā, Kaka (parrot or barren soil, cunning or a cheat, to climb or a part of a coconut frond)
- FAKAUʻA (glottal stop) – a backwards apostrophe added before the vowels which changes the vowel sound to a shorter sharper sound.
Play, listen and compare the difference
ʻUma, ʻOfa, ʻAnga (to kiss, to love, shark)
Uma, Ofa, Anga (shoulder, a fathom, ways)
- STRESS MARK: FAKAMAMAFA PAU (definitive accent) – added at the end of a word, changes the vowel sound to an exaggerated sound at the end of a word similar to the French word resumé.
Play and listen for the difference
Ko e tama, ko e tamaʼ (A child, THE child)
- STRESS MARK: FAKAMAMAFA HE LEA FIEPIPIKIʼ (Enclitic stress mark) – ʻNIʼ is an adverb of time & place meaning here or this. It is also a common enclitic word which wants to join (lea fiepipiki) with many words like ʻahoʼ (day). When ʻniʼ joins together the stress is on the final vowel of the word ie ʻahOʼ to make one word ʻahOʼni (today). It is similar to the English word ʻcan notʼ changing to one word one syllable ʻcanʼtʼ.
- The Tongan language doesn’t have consonant clusters (consonants that appear together in a syllable without a vowel between them).
- Consonants are pronounced/spelt with an a at the end.
- Consonants are always followed by a vowel
- Consonants can only be pronounced in 1 of 5 ways: (example letter f)