Tokelauan language

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Native to Tokelau
Native speakers
unknown (1,400 in Tokelau cited 1987)[1]
2,100 elsewhere, mostly New Zealand (no date)[1]
Official status
Official language in
Language codes
ISO 639-2 tkl
ISO 639-3 tkl
Glottolog toke1240[2]

Tokelauan /tkəˈlən/[3] is a Polynesian language closely related to Tuvaluan.


It is spoken by about 1,500 people on the atolls of Tokelau, and by the few inhabitants of Swains Island in neighbouring American Samoa. It is a member of the Samoic family of Polynesian languages. It is, alongside English, the official language of Tokelau. In addition to the population of Tokelau, it is spoken by approximately 2,900 Tokelauan expatriates in New Zealand. The language is currently being taught privately, and in a few schools, in Brentwood, Essex, UK.[citation needed] Its ISO 639-3 code is tkl.

Affinities with other languages

Tokelauan is mutually intelligible with Tuvaluan, the main language of the neighbouring island realm of Tuvalu, and uses Samoan literature. It also has marked similarities to the Niuafo'ou language of Tonga.

Tokelauan is written in the Latin script, albeit only using 15 letters: a, e, i, o, u, f, g, k, l, m, n, p, h, t, and v. This consists of 5 vowels: a (pronounced: /a/), e (pronounced: /e/), i (pronounced: /i/), o (pronounced: /o/) and u (pronounced: /u/); and 10 consonants: f, ŋ, k, l, m, n, p, h, t, v.

Loimata Iupati, Tokelau's resident Director of Education, has stated that he is in the process of translating the Bible from English into Tokelauan.


Tokelauan English
Fanatu au là? Shall I come too?
Ko toku nena e i Nukunonu. My grandmother lives in Nukunonu.
Malo ni, ea mai koe? Hello, how are you?
E hēai ni vakalele i Tokelau. There are no airplanes in Tokelau.

See also


  1. 1.0 1.1 Tokelauan at Ethnologue (15th ed., 2005)
  2. Nordhoff, Sebastian; Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2013). "Tokelau". Glottolog. Leipzig: Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  3. Laurie Bauer, 2007, The Linguistics Student’s Handbook, Edinburgh

External links