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The Language of Easter Island

Englert's Orthography

Rapanui has ten consonants (g, h, k, m, n, p, r, t, v and the glottal stop), five vowels (a, e, i, o, u), and three diphthongs counting as single syllables (ai, au, oi); g is the sound of ng as in sing, h is strongly aspirated, the rest are much like in Spanish. The glottal stop is the sound which is heard instead of t in Cockney: Wha' is i'? ("What is it?").

Englert is careful to record vowel length, stress, and glottal stops, which are all crucial in distinguishing between words in the Rapanui language (as in all Polynesian languages), but he is not consistent __ or perhaps the misprints make it so appear. He indicates length with a circumflex, the glottal stop with an apostrophe. Stress is indicated by an acute, but only when it does not occur where expected regularly (here Englert follows the principles of Spanish orthography).

Stress. To tell where the stress should normally occur on a word, and is omitted in writing, count its syllables from the end. The three diphthongs count for one syllable each, and a vowel, long or short, also counts for one syllable.

Whenever the stress does not occur where expected under those rules, Englert writes an acute over the stressed vowel: takaúre "fly" (not takaure); ra'á "sun" (not ra'a), ká "to light a fire," distinct from ka (unstressed), which is the mark of the imperative. When the final vowel of a word is stressed, it is also pronounced long. Thus the á of ra'á is long: ra'â; likewise the é of "other, different": me'e kê "something different."

Omission of the glottal stop. Englert seems to omit the glottal stop systematically at the beginning of words and usually between the same vowels twice repeated. Thus oone "dirty," is probably rather 'o'one. However, he draws the reader's attention onto the fact that some words are indifferently pronounced with or without the glottal stop: "Pero hay palabras cuya pronunciación no es siempre igual con respecto al hiato. Así se oye pronunciar túu y tu'u (llegar), tóo y to'o (tomar), takaúre y taka'ure (mosca), con hiato o simplemente con pronuciación de dos vocales, una de las quales lleva el tono." ("But they are words the pronunciation of which sometimes varies with respect to the glottal stop. Thus one hears túu and tu'u (to arrive), tóo and to'o (to take), takaúre and taka'ure (fly), with glottal stop or merely with two vowels, one of them stressed").

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