Maragai love poem
To koe hohoa ki roto ki te hi’o,
Ko taku ia pehepehe nei,
Hakavitiviti mai ra hou teie ka garo ai,
Ko toku ia here hope’a!
→ French poem ←
Here is a new "I love you" " = "Kua here au kia koe", today in Maragai (Maraga, Marangai, Paumotu, Fangatau, Napuka, Tapuhoe, Parata, Vahitu, Mihiro, Putahi, Reao, Tuamotuan, Fagatau, Tupitimoake, autonym: Pa'umotu, Reo Pa'umotu or Reko pa'umotu), the language into which my love poem is translated.
If French is the language of the Republic, therefore the only official language for the entire territory, "French, Tahitian, Marquesan, Paumotu and Mangarevan are the languages of French Polynesia." .... this is what is written in the french organic law of 2004.
Paumotu and its dialect Maragai are therefore part of the Polynesian languages "recognized" by the French state. The French language, for its part, in this territory, being the language of exchanges, public services and education..
The word maragai would have several possible origins, it would first designate the inhabitants and not their language and would mean, those whose life was saved after a fight, and perhaps the name of the wind which would have pushed the first inhabitants so far.
Polynesian society is diglossic, thus, in the Tuamotu, Pa’umotu, which has the status of a regional language, is taught at school alongside French.
If following colonization the trend was to eradicate local languages, today the desire to preserve Polynesian languages and cultures shows a totally opposite trend. For example, an attempt has been made to double the teaching hours for regional languages.
Nevertheless, even if a radio broadcasts in Pa'umotu, and if there are a few hours of practice on television, the fate of the maragai remains uncertain. The area it covers has been depopulated, and its tendency is towards Tahitianization mixed with French.
Given the vastness of the Tuamotu territory, over which the populations are dispersed, it is common to divide it into seven main linguistic geographical areas comprising a very large number of Reo Pa'umotu dialects.... which are , from west to east: Mihiroa, Vahitu, Parata, Tapuhoe, Napuka, Fangatau and Maragai.
Currently, if there are 18,000 inhabitants in the Tuamotu archipelago, it is essentially the maragai that is practiced (by about 3,000 people). All other dialects are spoken by a really tiny number of speakers.
In the north-west of the archipelago, in Mihiroa and in a part of Tapuhoe, the pearl farming activity, having led to significant migratory flows, the influence of Tahitian has become evident. These same flows have put the populations of these atolls in the minority, drowning them little by little in a forced Tahitianization.
Further east there are Napuka and Fangatau, two slightly very isolated atolls which present a very different vocabulary, leaving the way open to two hypotheses; The prevervation of the languages of the first arrivals, or, on the contrary, a local innovation. If we take the first hypothesis, the variations would imply successive waves of settlement and not a dialectization.
A settlement from the east (Marquesas) seems very likely, especially on Napuka-Tepooto. On Fangatau-Fakahina, whose wealth is copra, the linguistic link is closer to the dialects of the center. Fangatau-Fakahina and Napuka-Tepooto together have less than 600 inhabitants.
The so-called Marangai zone which includes (Nukutavake, Vahitahi, Tureia), due to the intensity of exchanges between the atolls, remains linked to those of Tatakoto, Pukarua and Reao, even if with these last two, mutual understanding seems more complicated.
The case of Reao is a bit special since on this atoll lepers who came from very distant places were concentrated. This diversity has of course contributed to the evolution of the language in a particular way. Then Pukarua and Reao will host another mix, that linked to the sites of the atomic tests, therefore French, which will end up putting the language of these two atolls at the rank of practically extinct languages.
The case of parata (anaa), in the western Tuamotu, remains surprising, because despite its proximity to Tahitian influence, parata is much less Tahitianized than the languages of other nearby atolls and keeps more the characteristics of the mangarai.