As I study the language of Fiji, I am stunned by the many ways to say "there is". Milner gives some examples:


E tu e dua na vuniniu mai Serua

E tiko koya e dua na tamata

Sa dua na waqa


Schütz, in his grammar, mentions several verbs with the meaning "there is", some with additional shades of meaning (quality): taqa, dodo, tawa, to. Also, the quantity of the thing that exists can be specified:


E levu na niu e Viti

E veiraurau na wai kei na suka


So what are exactly the differences between these sentences and expressions? Are there more? Is there an exact translation of "there is" into Fijian, or does Fijian express existence in an entirely different way from English?


And if so, does this means that the Fijian language brings with it its own conceptualization of existence? I wonder what a philosopher would make of this!

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Interesting. Fijian is an interesting language. 

This are the words derived from share (wase)

wase - share

wasewase - locality

wasewase ni tuirara - tuirara's share

wasea - share with

veiwasei - share amongst 


related? is 'ta' an anti of wase?

tawase - divide

tawasea - devide in two

veitawasei - come apart



These examples illustrate the richness of word formation processes in Fijian! From the root "wase" you can form a derived noun, by reduplication ("wase-wase"), a verb by suffixation of the -a/-i affixes ("wase-a/wase-i"), and a 'plural' form by prefixation of vei- ("vei-wase-i").
"vei-" is a versatile and interesting prefix. According to Milner, it has several different but related functions: a) plural: na vei-siga 'the days'; b) an aggregate or a whole: vei-niu 'coconut groove'; c) variety: na vei-gauna 'at different times'; d) each/every: vei-yabaki 'each year'; e) recipocal relations: vanua ni vei-voli 'marketplace' (lit. place of exchanging, selling to each other?).
With "passive" verbal forms, Milner says, vei- is equivalent to an English reciprocal. "keirau sa vei-kilai"  'we know each other'. So I believe you could not say "vei-wase-a"?
As for the prefix ta-, Schütz mentions one that corresponds to 'middle' voice. He mentions these examples:
e sere 'it is untied' [ACTIVE]
e sere-ki 'it is untied (by someone)' [PASSIVE]
e ta-sere 'it is untied (by accident)' [MIDDLE]
I doubt this is the same ta- that you mention in "ta-wase", but I have not been able to find any other reference to a ta- prefix with the meaning or function you identify. Something to explore further. There is a "tawa" prefix with negative meaning, but I doubt it is the same as "ta-".
Now, I presume that "vei-ta-wasei" is not "vei-wasei" + "-ta-", bur rather "vei-" + "ta-wasei" (passive of tawasea), does that sound right? 

Yes that is right



veitawasei - E rau sa qai mai 'vetawasei' vakadua na veiwatini, ni sa qai leqa o tinai Mere.

                   "The couple have finally parted when Mere's mom passed away. "


veiwasei -Isa sa yali ko tinai Mere, keirau a se qai veiwasei tikoga e na macawa sa oti.

               Isa, Mere's mom is gone, we were just sharing last week.

                ('veiwasei' here means sharing as a matter of discussing..) 


There is a boat there sails from Suva to Levuka

E tiko e dua na waqa e dau soko mai Suva ki Levuka


There was a boat...

E *a dau tiko e dua na waqa....


*a - is that redundant?

Can you say "e tiko na waqa e dau soko mai Suva ki Levuka"? That is, what is the difference between using "na waqa" and "e dua na waqa" in examples like these?


Also, I believe the particle "a" is there to indicate past tense, at least that's what the grammars I have access to say.

Customer:" Ni bula, e tiko beka na waqa e dau soko mai Suva ki Levuka?" (Is there a boat going from Suva to Levuka?)

Shipping Service: "Io kemuni, e tiko na waqa e dau soko mai Suva ki Levuka" (generalized answer thou not specifically pointing to 'a' boat.. (Yes, we do have a boat that travels from Suva to Levuka")


The difference between "na waqa" and "e dua na waqa" is specificness. But note that "dua na waqa" could well fit into the above sentence  replacing "na waqa"


But in the sentence below ..
 "E a dua na waqa e dau soko tiko mai Suva ki Levuka.. au sa guilecava na yacana..."

"There was a boat that used to travel from Suva to Levuka, i have forgotten the name.."


"dua na waqa" has a specific meaning. Points to a boat.

Noted *a stands as the past tense.."there was a boat.."


PS: i am no lingusitics, i am just interested in it :) 

So apologies for any mistakes. Vinaka


Hello, Sivo, thanks for the detailed comments! I have a few follow-up thoughts...


One of the reasons I am interested in these constructions is because in some grammars (won't say which ones) the article "na" is analyzed as a "definite" article. That's because of the opposition between a sentence like "au a gunuva na yaqona" and "au gunu yaqona", right? But definite noun phrases, at least in English, are excluded from existential constructions. So, while we can say "there is a boat that sails from Suva...", it is odd to say "*there is the boat that sails from Suva..." Likewise, we can say "there are some/many boats..." but not "*there are both/all boats that sail from Suva..." So I am starting to think that "na" is not always a definite article, or that something else is going on here!


Notice that I use the asterisk * to mark a sentence that is wrong, ungrammatical, odd, or that cannot be said in Fijian. This is standard practice in linguistics. Actually, building these ungrammatical sentences is a very hard thing to do, we tend to "fix" them as we make them up. My students need to learn to do this before graduating! Think of it as 'learning to talk like a foreigner'...


One thought: the sentence "there are lots of coconuts in Fiji" is translated as "e levu na niu e Viti", correct? But what if the meaning of the fijian sentence is closer to "the coconut is abundant in Fiji"? 


Aout the sentence "E a dua na waqa e dau soko tiko mai Suva ki Levuka": what is the right analysis? Is "e dua" a modifier of "waqa" there, or is it the eistential predicate: "[E a dua] [na waqa]..."


Please keep thinking with me about this, my curiosity keeps growing!

i know how 2 read in Fijian only & know sum fijian slangs...lool

I think it depends on where u hail from


What is your background, Nisi? Were you raised in Fiji? To me, the linguistic diversity of the islands is fascinating, in particular the multi-lingual environment that emerged there. I am also curious about the development and maintenance of Fijian in the migrant communities, particularly here in Sacramento, where there is a large population of Fijians (both Taukei and Indo-Fijians). This matters to me from a different perspective: I am a native speaker of Spanish, and I am trying to raise my son bilingual. There is a large Spanish-speaking population here in California, but the language fades a bit with each generation. I think it is important to strive for the preservation of one's linguistic heritage, however hard that may be.

Bula vinaka Raul - the Fijian language is truly interesting. As you expressed above, you (and I) are stunned by the many meanings to one simple English sentence. There are often several ways to pinpoint the meaning of a Fijian sentence when learning the language as references in one sentence (where it matters) are different between one that is referred to human beings and to animals - or to living things than to non-living things.

With your first three Fijian sentences above, the first refers to a thing in a place - a coconut tree in Serua - the sentence can be spoken by one person to another or to two or more. Now, "tu" and "tiko" in the two sentences serve the same purpose and/or meaning in this context because it is being spoken by a first person to another or to two or more persons.

The way the word "koya" in the second sentence must be separated into two because koya has a different meaning so the word "ko ya" must replace "koya" - as "koya" means he or she (third party) when one speaks to a second party about someone else.

In "sa dua na waqa", the sentence sounds ambiguous to me because it can mean two things - first party answering a question about means of travel to an island, OR first party writing a letter or speaking on the phone or Skype or whatever (using means of communication to another person) confirming there IS a boat/canoe in place to travel we make in-roads into the Fijian language, it becomes more and more interesting, but no too complicated.

The references to human beings, then to one, or two, or three and many, change dramatically when you make references. It then changes dramatically when references are made to non-living things with first party speaking to one (different) then two (changes) and then three or more (another change of words)...quantity, quality makes the immediate changes as we proceed, in the references to persons or other in th sentences.

With the last two sentences above, absolute quality and quantity quantify them...hahahaha...Thansk Raul - looking forwards to meeting you soon - VASITI


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