'Are'are language

Native toSolomon Islands
Regionsouthern Malaita, Solomon Islands
Native speakers
18,000 (1999)[1]
  • 'Are'are
  • Marau Sound
Language codes
ISO 639-3alu

The 'Are'are language is spoken by the 'Are'are people of the southern part of Malaita island, as well as nearby South Malaita Island and the eastern shore of Guadalcanal (the Marau Sound, 60 km away), in the Solomon Islands archipelago. It is spoken by about 18,000 people, making it the second-largest Oceanic language in the Solomons after the Kwara'ae (also spoken on Malaita). The literacy rate for 'Are'are is somewhere between 30% and 60% for first language speakers, and 25%–50% for second language learners.[1] There are also translated Bible portions into the language from 1957 to 2008.[1] 'Are'Are is just one of seventy-one languages spoken in the Solomon Islands. It is estimated that at least seven dialects of 'Are'Are exist. Some of the known dialects are Are, Aiaisii, Woo, I'iaa, Tarapaina, Mareho and Marau; however, the written resources on the difference between dialects are rare; with no technical written standard. There are only few resources on the vocabulary of the 'Are'Are language. A written standard has yet to be established, the only official document on the language being the 'Are'Are dictionary written by Peter Geerts, which however does not explain pronunciation, sound systems or the grammar of the language.[citation needed]

Language usage and trends

The 'Are'are are an ethnically Melanesian people that had up to 18,000 native speakers as of 1999 which was a steep increase from the 9,000 native speakers that were recorded in 1993 by John Houainamo Naitoro. According to census conducted by the Solomon Islands National Statistics Office, the total population of the islands rose from 285,176 in 1986 to 515,870 people in 2009.[citation needed] However, the 'Are'Are language does not encompass the entirety of the Islands. Rather, most of the speaker population is limited to the southern side of the Malaita island as well as the capital Honiara on the island of Guadalcanal. The speakers live as hunters and agriculturalists.[1] They are traditionally a religious people and although they are mostly a Christian culture now, the 'Are still place a large importance on the connection between ancestors and the land around them. Burial grounds are viewed to be closely related both spiritually and in terms of "ancestral power". The culture of the 'Are'Are people is traditionally passed down orally through myths and other stories, which is why it has been difficult to keep record of all aspects of their beliefs and language. However, steps have been taken by the Wairokai Translation Committee to establish a written standard that can later be implemented into the 'Are'Are school curriculum.[2]

Musical culture

The 'Are'Are people in the Solomon Islands place a large emphasis on music. In fact, most of the 'Are'Are people recognize at least 20 different musical types. The 'Are'are refer to musical instruments using the lexeme 'au, which has different meaning depending on the context used. At the root level 'au means "bamboo" which contrasts with other plants. For example, when one refers to a "tree" the word 'ai is used. Since the meaning of the lexeme au changes based on context, 'au might also mean "musical instruments (of bamboo)" depending the utilization of that specific product. Since words within the 'Are'Are language have such ambiguity it can often be difficult to translate the meaning completely accurately.[3]


The phoneme inventory of the 'Are'are language is presented in the table below.[4] Orthographic conventions differing from the IPA notation are given in angled brackets.[4]

Bilabial Alveolar Velar Labiovelar Glottal
Plosive p t k ʔ <'>
Nasal m n
Tap ɾ <r>
Fricative s h
Approximant w

The plosives (p, t, k, ʔ) are all voiceless and unaspirated. Besides these, 'Are'are has two nasals (m, n), one liquid (r), two fricatives (s, h), and one approximant (w). The two fricatives are contrasted in the minimal pair ɾasu 'smoke' vs. ɾahu 'to be old'.

The 'Are'Are language has a five vowel system which uses the letters "i, e, a, u, o". The length of these vowels is contrastive.[2] Long vowels are marked with a macron.

Vowel sounds
Front Central Back
High i u
Mid e o
Low a

Minimal pairs to show the phonemic status of vowel length are presented below:[citation needed]

  • isu 'move' vs. i:su 'count, read'
  • tete 'pebble' vs. te:te 'mother'
  • masika 'small' vs. ma:sika 'worm'
  • oto 'throw, spear' vs. o:to 'meet'
  • ʔuta 'what' vs. u:tə 'rain'

Grammar Structure

Lexical categories

Since 'Are'are lexical categories are not distinguished morphologically, the position of a word in a sentence is necessary to determine their function in a sentence. For example, the noun rae'areha 'learned knowledge' is based on the verb root rae-'are 'to be knowledgeable', but the individual components rae and are can function as separate lexemes, meaning 'to know' and 'thing', respectively.[5]


Verbs in the 'Are'are language do not show agreement with the subject and instead of using verbal inflection, preverbal particles are used to express tense. The subject is usually expressed by a noun phrase and independent pronoun which can be followed by a subject markers; which is an independent form and not a verbal prefix.[2]

The following are the three categories that distinguish the difference between verbs:

  1. Strictly intransitive
  2. Strictly transitive
  3. Ambitransitive


Research undertaken by Katerina Naitoro has shown that the 'Are'are language has a basic tense distinction between future and non-future. Tense is used to tie situations to a specific point in time so the following structure is recognized.[5] The future tense is marked in all types of predicates but the non-future is unmarked. Non-verbal clauses can be used in non-future but not in future.

There is also a non-future and future distinction in negation. The non-future is negated with the preverbal particle ma, whereas the particle si is used for future negation. An example of this is used in the phrase Na=ma ma'asu which means "I didn't sleep". But in the phrase Na=si ma'asu, ma is replaced with si which now changes the meaning to "I will not sleep". In addition, active and stative verbal predicates will have the positive future is marked by the preverbal particle ka rao. For example, the phrase Na ma'asu means "I slept". However the similar phrase Na=ka rao ma'asu translates to "I will sleep".


'Are'are nouns are not different in structure, so it is common that a word form functions as either a noun or verb.

Nouns in the 'Are'are language are divided into the following categories:

  1. Common and proper nouns
  2. Count and mass nouns
  3. Directly and indirectly possessed nouns

In the 'Are'are language, proper nouns consist of personal names and place names whereas, the common noun subgroup consists of words that refer to locations, buildings and geographical features.


The 'Are'are language uses a range of personal, possessive and relative pronouns to reference both inanimate and animate objects. These pronouns are also distinguished by singular, dual, and plural number. The dual and plural pronouns distinguish inclusive and exclusive categories. Inclusive pronouns will include the addressee in the group whereas Exclusive pronouns only reference the speaker.[2]


  1. ^ a b c d 'Are'are at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015)
  2. ^ a b c d e Naitoro 2013, pp. 1-5
  3. ^ Zemp, Hugo (1978). "'Are'are Classification of Musical Types and Instruments". Ethnomusicology. 22 (1): 37. doi:10.2307/851365.
  4. ^ a b Naitoro 2013
  5. ^ a b Payne, T. E. (1997). Describing morphosyntax: a guide for filed linguists. Cambridge, UK; New York, NY: Cambridge University Press.
  • Naitoro, Kateřina (2013). A Sketch Grammar of 'Are'are: The Sound System and Morpho-syntax (Master of Arts thesis). University of Canterbury. hdl:10092/8085.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)

External links

This page was last updated at 2021-02-04 01:01, update this pageView original page

All information on this site, including but not limited to text, pictures, etc., are reproduced on Wikipedia (wikipedia.org), following the . Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License


If the math, chemistry, physics and other formulas on this page are not displayed correctly, please useFirefox or Safari