Language facts sheet by Niklas Jonsson
©1997-1999 POLLI & Niklas Jonsson
A bibliography of works refered to in this file may be found in the
Polynesian Literature List.
Country/territory where spoken
TOK (Grimes 1996: Ethnologue);
TOK (Biggs 1971)
Alternate language names
Nukunonu, Fakaofo, Atafu
Austronesian, Malayo-Polynesian, Central-Eastern Malayo-Polynesian, Eastern
Malayo-Polynesian, Oceanic, Central-Eastern Oceanic, Remote Oceanic, Central
Pacific, Eastern Fiji-Polynesian, Polynesian, Nuclear Polynesian, Samoic-
Tokelauan speaking population
1,680 in Tokelau (1987), 99% of the population in the Tokelau Islands; 1,737 in
New Zealand (1976); 100 in American Samoa on the Olosega atoll (Biggs 1971); 100
in Hawai'i (1976); 4,500 total, out of which 65% in New Zealand (Wurm/Hattori
Fishermen mainly; agriculturalists: coconut, taro, breadfruit, banana, arrowroot
Status of language
A, E, I, O, U, F, G, H, K, L, M, N, P, T, V (Hovdhaugen/Hoëm/Iosefo/Muruvik
Vonen 1989). F is clearly bilabial (Hovdhaugen/Hoëm/Iosefo/Muruvik Vonen 1989).
There are dialect differences among the three Tokelau atolls. Tokelauan speakers
also live on the Olosega atoll (Swain's Island) which is politacally part of
American Samoa. Tokelauan and Tuvaluan are mutually intelligible. The language
is also closely related to Samoan. Tokelauans read the Samoan Bible and some
speak some Samoan. Most who live in Tokelau have very rudimentary knowledge of
English as a second language. Tokelauan is used in the schools.
Data last updated
11 February 1999
SELECTED BIBLIOGRAPHY - TOKELAUAN
1937. Ethnology of the Tokelau Islands (in: Bernice P. Bishop
1992. Kupu Mai Te Tutolu (Tokelau oral literature)
1995. A way with words: Language and culture in Tokelau society
HOVDHAUGEN, EVEN (editor).
1989. Ko te kalama Tokelau muamua
HOVDHAUGEN, E./HOËM, I./IOSEFO, C.M./MURUVIK VONEN, A.
1989. A Handbook of the Tokelau Language
HUNTSMAN, JUDITH/HOOPER, ANTHONY.
1996. Tokelau: a historical ethnography
1986. Tokelau Dictionary. Auckland. Office of Tokelau Affairs
[NATIONAL LIBRARY OF NEW ZEALAND].
Continuously updated. Tokelau national bibliography. National Library of