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The letters are used on the principle of representing the sound of the Mota by the letter which represents not the same, but the corresponding sound in English. The power of the letters in the two languages is very rarely identical, but in most cases the difference is slight. The following are the most important differences:—

1. g is in no case the same as in English, but represents a consonant common to all Melanesian tongues.
2. q represents a compound consonant in which k p w are present, with varying prominence in various words.
3. represents the English ng in singer, not that in finger. Because the Mota g is not the English g the sound of ng in Mota (as in tangae, a tree) is altogether different to the English ng, in either of its two sounds. In writing, or in printing in italics, this sound is represented by n̈; in printing in ordinary type by an italic n.

The letters used are a e g i k l m n o p q r s t u v w.

Before r, after n and l, there is an euphonic sound of d; as nan ra sounds nandra; and pul rua, puldrua; but the d is not written, as the words are nan and ra, pul and rua, and it is only a way of pronouncing r to please the ear. m is often pronounced very broadly, as if mw.

The vowel sounds represented by a e i o u are perhaps ten; a e i o having a long or short sound, u only a long one, as English oo, and o a third, peculiar, approaching u.

The only true diphthongs are ai, ae, ao, au.

The proper vowel sounds are represented by the vowel letters, not the English sounds. w is commonly used to close a syllable; u at the end of a word often is very faintly pronounced.

(For notes on the Dialects more appropriate here see page 31.)


The Mota Articles are three—o, na, i.

1. 2. O is the more common, na being used only when the noun has a pronominal affix: o ima, 'a or the house;' naimak, 'my house.'

There is no distinction of definite and indefinite, but both articles are, as regards the mind of the native, probably definite.

There is no distinction of number: o ima, 'a house;' o ima n̈an̈, 'houses.'

3. i is a Personal Article, used with Personal Nouns, as na and o with common nouns; o being used with names of places.

i is used with all names, native or foreign: i Sarawia, i Palmer. It is also used with the interrogative 'who?' isei? It has also the power, not only of showing a word to be the name of a person, not of a thing, but of personifying the notion conveyed by a noun or a verb.

This power of the personal article with a verb produces something resembling a participle: gale 'to deceive;' i gale, 'the deceiver;' but this is only used when something like a title or special appellation is in view.

(Caution.—In the translation of St. John this is often wrong.)

This power of i with a noun is simple, conveying what a capital letter does in English: i Vat, 'the Rock;' i Vavae, 'the Word;' i Nun, 'the True One.'

It is probably a consequence of native names having always a significance with them, that, whether interrogatively or demonstratively, the personal article used with the word for 'thing' means a person. Thus, gene, 'a thing;' o gene iloke, 'this thing;' i gene iloke, 'this person.' O sava? 'what?' I sava? 'who?' The feminine is iro. Ro is prefixed to native female names, not to foreign ones, and can be used without i as well as with; but i is the article, ro not.

The presence of ro shows the word to have become a native feminine name; as in ordinary personal names, and, as above, in personification; and shows, in the same way, a female to be spoken of or inquired about: iro gale, 'the female deceiver;' iro gene, 'the woman;' iro sava? 'what woman?'

Ro is not used with foreign names, because they have no signification: i Sara, i Mary, i On̈o. I and iro are used with names also of animals. The plural is ira, masculine; ira ro, feminine ; but the article of these is i.


Nouns Substantive, i. e. the names of things, are divided in Mota (as in Fiji), into two classes, viz., those that do and do not take the pronominal affix, with the article na. This division is almost exhaustive; there are but very few words with which, according to strict native usage, the two forms of the possessive can be used.

(Caution.—In our translations, till of late, errors are common.)

The principle of this division appears to be a nearer or more remote connection between the possessor or the possessed. Parts of a body, or of an organization, the ordinary equipment and properties of a man, things in which proprietorship seems most nearly involved—these take the pronominal affix. Other nouns, a more distant notion of relation to which exists, are incapable of this affix. This appears to be the principle; but the application of it in particular is in some cases unintelligible, e.g. 'a man's bag,' is na tan̈a na; 'his basket,' non o gete; 'his bow' is na us una; 'his paddle,' non o wose.

This distinction is common to all Melanesian languages.

A second division of nouns is according to termination:—

1. Some have a termination marking a substantive in what may be called its nominative case, i. e. as it stands unaffected by connection with another word.

2. Others have no such termination.

These two classes of substantives again approach the division before mentioned, those (1) which have a special termination, being generally names of things which are relative to some other things ; those (2) which have not, being generally the names of things which have an absolute existence of their own. It will consequently be mostly the case that nouns which can also be used as verbs belong to the first class; the names of things as such not bearing use as verbs.

Of the second class, nouns with no special termination, it is unnecessary to say anything.

The first class may be divided according to the termination affixed to the radical word;—

a. If the radical ends in a vowel, i is affixed, and sometimes e; e.g. sasa-i, 'a name;' vava-e, 'a word;' tuqe-i 'a garden;' roro-i, 'a report.'

b. If the radical ends in a consonant the termination iu or ui (according to dialect) is affixed; e.g. tol-iu, 'an egg;' qat-ui, 'head;' qeteg-iu, 'beginning.'

This termination, as above stated, is an addition to the radical word; and it drops when, in what corresponds to the inflection of a possessive case, the pronoun is affixed, thus na-sasa-k, 'my name;' na-tuqe-ma, 'your garden.' It also drops in composition with another word; as, tol toa, 'a fowl's egg;' o qat qoe, 'a pig's head.'


It will have been seen that there is something of inflection in what may be called the possessive case of the noun (though the word inflected represents the thing possessed, not the possessor); but this is indeed but the rejection of termination, and not the modification of the true noun: i.e. in qat qoe, 'a pig's head,' qat is the true form of the word, which is lengthened into qatui, when it stands absolute, by the special substantival termination ui.

There is besides a further and truer inflection undergone by words whose radical ends in the vowel a, which in what has been called the possessive case becomes e. Thus sasai, 'a name,' standing absolute, and with the termination; na-sasa-k, 'my name,' the radical with the pronominal affix; but o sase tanun, 'a man's name,' with the radical inflected in the possessive case.

It is, however, probably much better not to speak of a possessive case, but to regard the word as in composition, in which the first member of the compound very naturally takes a lighter termination.

But it should be observed that when the two substantives thus form a compound word, it represents what in English would be expressed by the possessive case. When in an adjective, i. e. where it qualifies the noun, there is no compound form, there is no inflection in Mota: thus o ime qoe, 'a pig's house,' with the notion of a pig whose house it is; but o ima qoe, 'a pig house,' as distinct from a man's habitation. O sinage vui, 'a spirit's food;' o sinaga vui, 'spiritual food.'

(Caution.—There are some errors in this matter in our translations.)

This inflection obtains in words whose radicals end in a, whether they take a substantival termination or not. Naui, 'a leaf,' is inflected no; no tangae, 'a tree's leaf,' an example of a small class. It is desirable perhaps here to show a noun with the pronominal affix; thus—napanek, 'my hand;' napanema, 'your hand;' napanena, 'his hand;' napanenina, 'our hand,' inclusive; napanemam, 'our hand,' exclusive; napanera, 'their hand.'

Where the radical ends with a consonant the affix k, ma, na, &c., is assisted with a vowel, i or u, according to dialect: nāqatuk or naqatik, 'my head;' naqetegina, 'its beginning.'

A great number of words are indifferently used as verbs or substantives; but there is, as above mentioned, a common use of a termination marking a word as a noun. Besides this there is a form of verbal substantive, the verb with, generally, the termination va: mule 'to go;' muleva, 'a going;' tape, 'to love;' tapeva, 'love,' i. e. loving.

This verbal substantive is sometimes formed with ga: vano 'to go;' vanoga, 'a going.' Sometimes with ra: toga 'to stay;' togara 'staying,' way of life. Sometimes with ia : nonom, 'to think;' nonomia, 'thought, thinking.' Sometimes with a: mate, 'to die;' matea, 'death.'

Compound Nouns follow the last member as regards inflection: natano-panek, 'my handiwork;' tanoi, 'a place;' panei, 'a hand.' But nok o tano-pul 'my candlestick;' tanoi, 'a place;' pul, 'candle,' panei belonging to one class, pul to the other.

It may be observed that a noun only takes the pronominal affix when used in its primary sense; when it has a secondary use it cannot be so used. Thus panei is not only 'a hand' or 'arm,' but 'an armlet;' and it is not possible to say napanek, 'my armlet,' but nok o panei.

Number.—There is no mark of number in the noun; the addition of n̈an̈ makes a plural.


The qualification of a substantive is most commonly effected in Mota by a verb, not by an adjective, e. g. o tanun we tatas, 'a bad man'=a man (who) is bad. This is in fact the ordinary way of speaking, and the true adjectives in the language are few. There are, however, some words, that is to say, not substantives, which may be used adjectively to qualify, as above, sinaga vui, 'spirit (= spiritual) food;' not words which are really verbs, used where in English an adjective would be used; but words signifying a quality, and coming after the substantive to qualify the idea.

It is possible that all these true adjectives might be soon written down, but a few examples will suffice:— O ima mantagai, 'a small house;' o ima liwoa, 'a large house.' Mantagai and liwoa have no use as substantives; they are here adjectives purely. These, and indeed all adjectives can be used as verbs, o ima we mantagai, o ima we liwoa, but with a slight corresponding change of sense.

Degrees of comparison are expressed by prepositions and adverbs:—'A horse is bigger than a cow,' O horse we poa nan o kau—is big away from. 'We are more than they,' Kamam we qoqo sal neira—many over and above them. 'This is the biggest,' iloke we poa aneane— big exceedingly. It is sufficient to express comparison to say merely, 'This is big.' Iloke we poa, it being understood that a comparison is made in the mind.


Numerals are in use, sometimes substantives, sometimes adjectives, and sometimes are used in the form of verbs.

1. The cardinals are (1) tuwale, (2) nirua, (3) nitol, (4) nivat, (5) tavelima, (6) laveatea, (7) lavearua, (8) laveatol, (9) laveavat, (10) san̈avul. There are evidently two sets of five: rua, tol, vat, being 2, 3 and 4, on the first hand, with ni prefixed; on the second hand, with lavea.

Ni is a verbal form, sometimes prefixed also to tuwale. The verbal particles (hereafter to be mentioned) are freely applied to all the cardinals, taking the place of ni in 2, 3 and 4. All the cardinals, used as adjectives, come after the noun: One man, O tanun tuwale; Ten men, o tanun san̈avul. San̈avul, ten, used as a substantive, comes first, followed by other cardinals used as adjectives: san̈avul tol, 'tens three'=30. San̈avul, 'ten,' melnol, '100,' tar, '1000,' as substantives take, the two latter require, multiplicatives: san̈avul vagatol, 'ten three times'=30; melnol vagavat, 'hundred four times'=400; tar vagatuwale, 'thousand once'=1000. But it may be san̈avul tol.

2. Multiplicatives are the cardinals with vaga or va prefixed: vagavatuwale, 'once;' vagavatalima, 'five times.'

3. Ordinals are formed from cardinals by the addition of various terminations, with, in the case of 2, 3 and 4, the prefix vaga or va:—2nd, 3rd and 4th, vagaruei or varuei, vaga or va-toliu, vaga or vavatiu; 5th, 6th and 7th, tavelimai, laveteai, laveruai; 8th, 9th and 10th, lavetoliu, lavevatiu, san̈avuliu; 100th, melnolanae. There is no ordinal to the cardinal tuwale; moai is 'first.'

Obs.: — Ni, not properly part of the ordinal, is dropped from 2nd, 3rd and 4th; and a from lavea in 6th, 7th 8th and 9th.

4. Numeration in Mota is clear, if lengthy. There is a word to express the units above tens, the substantive o numei; and another to express units or tens above hundreds, o avaviu. 1876 is thus expressed: tar vatuwale, melnol vagalaveatol, o avaviu san̈navul lavearua (or vagalavearua), o numei laveatea; i. e. thousand once, hundreds eight times, the sum above the hundreds seven tens (or seven times ten), the sum above the tens six. Other shorter examples: Eleven, san̈avul tuwale o numeī tuwale; i. e. ten, one, the unit above, one. Thirty, san̈avul tol, tens three. Thirty-three: san̈avul tol o numei nitol; 106, melnol vatuwale o avaviu laveatea; i. e. hundred once, the sum above, six.


1. Personal Pronouns.

Singular: 1. Inau, nau, na.
2. Iniko, ko, ka.
3. Ineia neia, ia, a, ni.
Dual: 1. Ikara, kara, exclusive.
Inara, nara, inclusive.
2. Ikamurua, kamurua, kamrua.
3. Irarua, rarua, irara, rara.
Trial: 1. Ikatol, katol, exclusive.
Inatol, natol, inclusive.
2. Ikamtol, kamtol.
3. Iratol, ratol.
Plural: 1. Ikamam, kamam, exclusive.
Inina, nina, inclusive.
2. Ikamiu, kamiu, kam.
3. Ineira, neira, ira, ra.

The personal article i in these Pronouns is used or disused at pleasure.

The exclusive and inclusive forms of the first person are used when the speaker excludes or includes the person or persons to whom he is speaking; 'You and I,' is nara, 'He and I' is kara.

1. The short form na in the first person is used only before, never after a verb. It is used indifferently, with nau, in direct indicative sentences, but is alone correct in subjoined construction. Nau me ilo or na me ilo, 'I saw;' but Nau we mule si na ilo, 'I am going, that I may see.'

2. Ka in the second person is also used only in subjoined clauses, and in the imperative. Ko becomes iko when affixed after a consonant, in which use i is not the personal article but euphonic.

3. Ineia, neia, ni in direct construction; ni only in subjoined and imperative. Ia, a, are used only in the objective, and, affixed to the verb or preposition: Na me sikea, me tataga suria, 'I sought him and looked after him.'

4. In the second person plural, kam can only be used as the subject.

5. In the third person ira and ra as ia and a in the singular. Ira and ra, when subjects in a sentence, are the article.

The pronominal affixes, giving a possessive sense with nouns, are no doubt only pronouns, in the form k, ma, na, &c. It is equally right, but not so idiomatic, to add the pronouns in the ordinary form, to say ima inau, instead of imak. In other Melanesian tongues, the pronouns in the form k, ma, na, substantially, but variously modified, are used as affixes to verbs and prepositions. In Mota there is one remnant, or representative, of this use in the word apena, 'in reference to it, about it'—the preposition ape with na.

The analogy of other languages makes it very probable that the n, which occurs in the so-called possessive case when persons are referred to, is this pronoun na. Thus, natanopanensei iloke? natanopanen Wogale, 'Whose handwriting is this? Wogali's.' This is restricted to animate objects; thus, ni we pute ape kikin o tanun, 'he sits by the man's side;' but ape kiki ima, 'by the side of the house.' Ni we pute vawo kulan o horse, 'he sits on the back of the horse;' but ni we pute ape kule ima, 'he sits at the back of the house.' "When the pronominal affix begins with r, n is added at the end of the substantive, but not always; thus, 'the house of two,' imanrara or imarara. It is possible that this is the pronoun na; it occurs commonly after certain prepositions.

Interrogative Pronouns.

For persons, sei is used; for things, sava, 'what?'

Sei takes the personal article, isei? irosei? irasei? irarosei? perhaps always when the subject, but very commonly not after a verb or preposition. Sei is no doubt a substantive; sava is a noun substantive in all respects.

Relative Pronouns.

There are no relative pronouns as such; when a relative would be used in English, the sense is conveyed in Mota:—

1. By the personal pronoun: I gene me gaganag, ko me vatran̈ia ma ti, 'The man whom you sent told me,' i. e. 'The man told, you sent him here.'

2. By adding a verb without a conjunction: I gene me ilo me gaganag, 'The man (who) saw it told me,' or I gene me gaganag me ilo, 'the man told (who) saw.'

3. By the word used as the interrogative pronoun: Ni me gaganag munrasei, me vatatua, 'He told those who met him.' This corresponds to 'whoever,' rather than 'who.'

Demonstrative Pronouns.

These are—iloke, 'this;' iloke n̈an̈, 'these;' ilone, 'that;' ilone n̈an̈, 'those;' o ike, 'this;' o ike n̈an̈, 'these;' o ine, 'that;' o ine n̈an̈, 'those.'

Ke and ne are particles of place. The difference is remarkable that the article cannot be used with iloke, ne; but always is used with ike, ine. The personal article is used with ike, ne; i ike, 'this fellow;' iro ine, 'that woman.'

Possessive Pronouns.

It is evident that the work of possessive pronouns is done for one large division of Mota words by the affixed personal pronouns; but there remains the other division, the class of words to which the pronominal affix does not apply. With them, however, the same usage really prevails, though in the use of words which have the appearance of personal pronouns. These are—nok, 'my;' noma, 'thy;' nona, 'his;' nonara inclusive, nonkara exclusive, 'belonging to us two;' nomurua, 'belonging to you two;' nomam exclusive, nonina inclusive, 'our;' nomiu, 'your;' nora, 'their.' There is equally common the form anok, anoma, &c. Amok mok, amoma, &c., is also my, thy, &c., with a slightly closer relation implied, as of origination.

Anak, anama, &c., in no case nak, nama, is used with regard to persons: o rowrowovag anak, 'my servant.'

It is evident upon the face of it that there is here only a substantive with the pronominal affix. This becomes more distinct on observing the form nanok, namok, with the article; and also the words used as possessive pronouns in regard to things eaten, or drunk, and possessions regarded as choice properties.

A thing for my eating is gak, your gama, and so on.
drinking is mak, your mama, &c.
'A pig,' 'a fruit tree,' is pulak, pulama, &c.

These words then apply as apparent personal pronouns to the class of Mota nouns which do not take the pronominal affix. Thus, nok a gasal, 'my knife;' moma or mom vavae, 'your word;' nona or non a togara, 'his behaviour;' and so on throughout the persons.

If anok, amok, is used, it generally follows the noun, nok and mok never do: o gasal anok, o vavae amoma.

Mok, amok, namok, are used in the sense of "my doing" in such a way as to represent something like a passive participle. "The word spoken by the Prophet," o vavae amon o Prophet me vava, i. e. "The word, it was the Prophets doing (that) spoke it." At the end of a book, "Printed by A. Lobu, H. Silter, and others," "Namora A. Lobu, H. Silter, &c., me qisan̈," "The doing of A. L., H. S., &c. (who) printed it."

Nok and mok are used very indifferently, and yet mok is more correct where a thing is not regarded as a mere possession, but in a sense a product Mok o vavae is more natural for 'my word,' and nok o gasal for 'my knife.'


The simple Prepositions in Mota are nine—a, i, ape, mun, sur, nan, goro, nia, ama.

Some of these, compounded or constructed with adverbs and nouns, form many prepositions in ordinary use whose force depends on the simple preposition in them. There is another, ta, which can hardly be counted with these.

1. A is a preposition of simple local force, "at." The Mota idiom is to say "at" when we should say "from." Thus, "I saw the ship from the cliff," na me ilo o aka a mate nua—I saw the ship at the cliff, i.e., I was there when I saw the ship; "that came from Mota," O gene me mule ma a Mota—came hither at Mota, the locality of its coming.

2. I a preposition of motion to. This is of motion completed. Ni me mule i taun, "He has gone to town and has arrived."

3. Ape gives the sense of place with relation to something else, by, alongside of, against; and thence in reference, or regard to, concerning, because of. Ipe with the sense of motion is used, but very rarely. "He is standing by the fence," Ni we tira ape geara. "The plank leans against the house," O irav we pesinag apeima.—"What for? Why?" Ape sava, i. e. in reference to what?—"What about?" Ape sava, i. e. concerning what?—"I ran because of the rain," na me valago ape wena.

4. Mun conveys the notion of transition, as by an instrument or through a medium, or with the end attained. Hence mun may be translated commonly as 'by,' or 'through,' or 'with,' or 'to,' or 'for.' "He hit him with a stick,' Ni me vusia mun o qat kere.—"He got it by deceit," Ni me taur mona mun o galeva.—"Give it to me," Le ma mun nau.

"Through" at the end of prayers is rendered mun. "Who are you doing that for? For myself." Ko we ge munsei? Mun nau kel.

Mun is used in a peculiar manner to express the object of an action where we should use "for" or "as," and when nothing corresponding would be used in English: "He bought it for his own," Ni me wol mun pulana.—"He took him as his servant," Ni me lavia mun rowrowovag anana.—"I will be to him a father, and he shall be to me a son," Na te munia mun tamana, wa ni te munau mun natuk. In this use mun takes no article after it.

5. Sur, of motion to a person, never to a place of approach, not merely dative: "Go to him," Mule suria."— "Give it to him," Le munia, not sur. This does not mean that sur is only used of personal approach, but that the notion is of bringing a thing closely home to a person if not of coming. Thus, Ni me gaganag ma munau, "He gave me information of it," merely dative; but Ni me gaganag ma sur nau would imply that he brought the information; and it might also be said that Ni me gaganag ma sur nau mun o letas, "by a letter."

6. Nan is simply "from": "Where does this come from? From Mota."—Iloke we raule ma avea? nan o Mota ma. Nan is used at the end of a sentence without a substantive after it, referring back to a substantive that has gone before. "That is his own place that he has gone away from."—Ilone navanuana ni me toa veta nan.

7. Goro is the most difficult of the prepositions. There is always the notion of motion in it, and of motion over against. If a rail simply stands against a fence with nothing against which it bears up, the preposition is ape, but if it stands as a prop, it would be goro. If a man stands before another, with no reference to motion; he stands ape nagona; but if he has come to stand, goro nanagona, not at his face, but against his face.

With this is connected the sense of round about, as if surrounding for protection, or for a guard, as to fence round a garden: geara goro o tuqei, "To fence against pigs," geara goro o qoe. So a glass is round about a lamp, waliog goro o pul.

In very many cases goro will be translated "over," but always with the notion of motion and of action, not of mere superposition. To put on clothes is saru goro natarapema mun o siopa, to clothe over your body with a garment; and the garment, te toga goro natarapema, covers over your body, as protection, or concealment, or decoration. In the same way to paint over a surface is to lamas goro. If anything be hung over the fire, with an express view to some action on or from the fire, the preposition will be goro; if with no such view, avune. If a person sits over the fire to look after it, ni te pute goro av; if he sits over it to get warmth from it, te masil goro av.

Then follows the further sense of "after" as applied to that which is the object of action. Thus, to look after, to take care of, is ilo-goro; to go after a thing, to fetch it, is mule-goro.

8. Nia is peculiar in its use, inasmuch as it never comes before, but always follows the noun to which it is applied: "This is the pen I wrote the letter with," Iloke o qat raverave na me rave o letas ti nia, corresponding exactly to the English. This position is invariable; and it also occurs after the verb ris, to turn, to change:" the water that turned into wine, o pei me ris wine nia; in this corresponding to the English withal. That it is a preposition seems clear from its use in another language; but from its use then, it may be said that ni is the preposition, and a the pronoun.

9. Ama, in its other form amen, is "with," in the sense of together with: "He lives with me," Ni we toga amenau;amaiko, 'with you.' It is very questionable, however, whether the preposition in this is not merely a, and the latter syllable a fragment of a noun. The form of it seems to indicate this: amen nau, amaiko, amaia, amen kamam, amen nina, amen kamiu, amaira or amenra or amera. The same may be said of ape, and the rare ipe.

Another simple preposition, if it can so be called, is ta, which is used in the sense of "of" when spoken of belonging to a place: A man of Mota, o tanun ta Mota; the language of Mota, o vava ta Mota; A Mota plant, o tangae ta Mota; You speak Mota, ko we vava ta Mota; A Mota person, o ta Mota. This is probably in fact a substantive, not in origin merely, but in native use.

Compound prepositions, have their force as such from the presence in them of one of the simple prepositions, and much most commonly of a and i.

1. Alo, 'in,' ilo, 'into,' compounded of a and i, with a noun which with the reduplication is loloi, 'inside;' sa alele, ilele, 'inside;' avune, 'above,' 'on;' ivune, 'above,' 'on to;' vunai, 'the upper side;' alalan̈e, 'under;' ilalan̈e, 'under,' with sense of motion; lalan̈ai, 'under side;' apan, 'beside;' panei, 'a hand;' a tavala,' 'beyond;' tavaliu, 'side.'

2. With alo and ilo, alovatitnai, ilovatitnai, between.

3. An adverb with nan, 'out from;' lue nan, 'down from;' siwo nan, 'up from;' kalo nan, where we should say 'off.'

4. Adverb with goro where we should say 'across,' 'against,' 'about;' wolowolo goro, tatu goro (meeting), waliog goro.

5. Add to these, Complex Prepositions as they may be called, because though no part is a preposition the whole word has the use and form of one, as raveaglue, 'through.'

6. Also words in other use adverbs and verbs, as the case may be, but serving as prepositions: leas, 'instead of;' tataga, 'according to;' peten̈, 'close to.'

In both compound and complex prepositions one of the members of the composition has the transitive force, whether a preposition as alalan̈e, or an adverb as waliog, and the two parts are grammatically distinct. It is as reasonable and convenient, however, to write and treat them as one word, as the English words 'around,' 'among,' &c.

It should be remarked that whereas when a thing is spoken of, some of these compound prepositions, as avune, alalan̈e, may be called prepositions, as 'above,' 'below,' in English; yet when a person is spoken of, the compound word cannot be taken for a preposition, but its composition from a preposition and a substantive is too conspicuous to be mistaken. For example: It fell on a stone, me masu avune vat; but, A stone fell on me, o vat me masu avunak. In both cases a is the preposition, and vune or vunak an inflected vunai; but one may call avune a preposition, but could not possibly think avunak, avunama, avunana such.


There is little to be said of these parts of speech, which in most cases are naturally only verbs or nouns, substantive or adjective, used adverbially, and in Mota without any modification of form. It naturally also is the case that many adverbs have no visible connection with other forms, whatever their real origin may be. These latter are probably the adverbs of place and time rather than of manner. The foremost of these in conspicuous use are ma and at, conveying the idea of 'hitherward' and 'outward,' used continually to indicate direction of motion or of thought: thus, 'give,' le ma, le at, according as the giving is to be to or away from the speaker;—something that has always been here, me toga ran ma iake.

Place and time are generally conceived as the same; but there are special adverbs of time, as an̈aisa, 'hereafter;' anan̈aisa, 'heretofore;' an̈aisa? 'when?' anan̈aisa? 'when?' in past time; 'qarig or a qarig, 'to-day,' in present or future time; anaqarig, 'to-day,' in past; ananora, 'yesterday,' also nanora; arisa, 'the day after to-morrow;' anarisa, 'the day before yesterday.' In these there is evidently the local preposition a with a substantive. This is equally plain in avea, ivea, where, whither.

The particles ne and ke convey the idea in place or time of 'there,' and 'here,' and appear in the pronouns ike, ine, iloke, ilone, and these are adverbial particles: ilokenake, 'now;' iake, 'here;' iane, 'there;'[1]nake and nane being used to give definiteness of thought as well as of position.

The adverbs 'above,' 'below,' &c. are expressed by avunana, alalan̈ana, i.e. above it, below it, impersonally.

Adverbs of Number are the multiplicatives already mentioned—'once,' 'twice,' vaga or va-tuwale, vagarua, &c.

The notion of place occurs in one instance at least where manner is signified, in asking how? tama avea? 'like where,' instead of 'like what,' which, however, is also in use—tam o sava?

If the affirmative and negative are to be considered in this place, 'Yes' is expressed in words by we nun, a verb, 'true;' but also by exclamation and gesture. 'No,' is tagai, a substantive; 'not' is gate in the present and past, tete in the future.


The Conjunction used for ordinary connection is wa, which is simply equivalent to "and."

Nan̈ is a connective in narration, without any logical force. It may begin a narration, like "now" in English. Adversative Conjunctions are pa, nava, panava, each more strongly adversative than the other. Pa, is weak, and in very common use is separate only by a shade of meaning from wa. Nava is decided by 'but.' Panava, composed of the two others equals, 'notwithstanding.'

'If' is si; 'As' is tama. Prepositions and adverbs supply the place of other conjunctions.

When words are quoted, wa is always used before the quotation; and, often besides, si in the sense of 'that.' Thus, He said that he was coming, Ni me vet wa si ni we mule ma; or it may be, He said I am coming, Nan̈ neia wa, Na we mule at. If the words are directly or indirectly quoted, wa must be used; but if the quotation is direct there is no need of si.

When the conjunction "and" is used in English, there is commonly used in Mota a form which is not a conjunction, but requires notice in this place. Thus, I and my brother, tak tasik; Peter and John, Peter tana John; You and who besides? Tama isei mulan̈—and so on, tamam, tamiu, tara, &c.

This is evidently a substantive equivalent to fellow or companion, "my companion, my brother:" Peter went up, his companion John. Tak is a common appellative, like "mate."

This use is confined to persons, and to things which can naturally be regarded as going together, as fellows.


A Verb in Mota is a word used in a verbal form. There are indeed some words whose natural use is in a verbal form, some which having a special verbal termination are particularly verbs; but any word with which the verbal particles are used is so far forth a verb, whether substantive or adjective, or preposition, or adverb, or even article perhaps, in its more proper use.

Thus, Me qon̈ veta, "It is already night;"—qon̈ is a substantive. O ima me mantagai munina, "the house has become too small for us;" mantagai is an adjective. Ni me siwo ma, "He came down hither;"—siwo is an adverb. Nau te munia mum tamana, "I will be to him a father;"—mun, a preposition. O matava wa o ravrav me o qon̈ vagaruei, "The morning and the evening were the second day;"—o is the article, but perhaps here it is the clause o qon̈ vagaruei, which has become a verb.

On the other hand, words like nonom, 'think,' sua, 'paddle,' representing operations of the mind and body, are true verbs, and have to undergo an alteration to become substantives—nonomia, suava.

The prefixing or affixing of a syllable or letter of a certain character will make a verb with a special force out of a verb, or out of a word which may have been before either verb or substantive. Thus, esu, 'live' or 'life,' and vaeseu, 'make to live;' ron̈o, to be in a state as patient not agent, and ron̈otag, to hear or feel.

Before the consideration of special forms of verbs, comes that of the verbal particles which are the signs of a verb, and in which in so many cases the verbal force seems to reside.

The Verbal Particles.

It should be noted that this is a common characteristic of all Melanesian tongues to mark tense and mood ; in some others, but not in Mota, number and person, by particles coming before the Verb. In nothing is the variable character of the Melanesian speech more conspicuous than in the variation in the several dialects of these particles, with the universal employment of them.

In Mota these particles are we, me, te, qe, ta, ti, and they undergo no change to signify number or person. The use of ti is double, as it comes before or after the verb.

The Particles may be divided into temporal and modal. The temporal are we, me, te, ti; the modal are qe, ta, ti.

Temporal Particles.

The present is signified by we, the past by me, the future by te. This is not to be understood as if the time fixed by these particles is always the same as that which tenses in English would convey; but what is of the present time, or of the past, or of the future, as it comes before the speaker's mind is represented in speech accordingly by these particles.

We.—If I say, Nau we pute we raverave, "I am sitting writing," the particle we conveys completely the present time. If, in a narrative, I say that some one came in and saw me sitting and writing, Wa si sei me mule pata ma me ilo inau we pute we raverave, the particle me conveys the sense of past time in the person's coming in; but toe conveys the notion that what I was doing was present at the time spoken of. In this way a verb with we in Mota commonly stands in place of an adjective. Again, if two verbs are closely connected in a phrase which conveys something of a compound action, and not two successive stages in the action, if me or te mark the time as past or future for the first verb, the second will have we. Thus, "The Apostles bore witness," Ira Sala me gaganag we tira; "Ye shall bear witness," Kamiu te gaganag we tira.

When, however, successive actions are recounted, it is not enough to fix the time to be past or future at the beginning, and to go on with we, as if a particle conjunctive merely of one verb to another, and devoid of the sense of time. To relate the past in the present tense is common enough.

Me.—If I write that "I was sitting and writing," Si na me pute pute we raverave, the time is clearly marked by me as past; and, as before mentioned, in a narrative related as in the past, me will recur in each stage of the narration. But me is used when the mind of the speaker is looking back upon something, which perhaps has not occurred in fact, but is presupposed in view of its consequences: "If I were to do so I should die," Si na me ge tamaine, na me mate. So very often me is used with regard to the future, and in a strongly future sense; what is still in fact future being viewed as so certain, as to be spoken of as past. A boy asking leave to go and fish on a night when leave is given will say, Na me mule ilau, "I have gone to the beach," i. e. am going. To convey a strong notion of the past, me is hardly enough; but the complete perfect is shown by veta, 'already,' Ni me mate veta, "He is dead."

Te is the sign of the future, and distinctly conveys a future sense. It is common, however, to add an̈aisa, 'hereafter,' to mark a distinctly future meaning. Te is used to signify what is habitual in action, and can be regarded as certain to be done, in the way in which 'will' is used in English.

Ti.—The use of ti, in a temporal sense, is double, as it comes before or after the verb.

1. Before the verb it has the sense of immediate succession of one action upon another; or else of constant invariable action or condition. The notion of continuance is common to both uses. In a narrative, when the words of the person whose acts are narrated are given, it is most common to use ti, because of the speaking being in a manner part of the action, not a subsequent occurrence. In the same way, when a person goes and does something for which he goes, and in all cases of the kind; so that ti comes to be very much of a narrative particle, and divested to a great extent of the character of time. Invariable condition is expressed by ti, as of a house in regard to its position, ti taqa a pan matesala, stands beside the road;—A flower or fruit of its season, O gaviga ti tawaga alo rara, flowers in the winter: or its habit, O no paka ti nun saru, ti awisaga gaplot kel, A banian sheds its leaves and soon buds again.

2. After the verb, in its temporal use, ti throws the time a step farther back, makes a pluperfect of a perfect: "He has brought back the book he has been reading," Ni me la kel ma o book ni me vasvasago ti alolona. It is not that in English the pluperfect is always used where ti is thus used in Mota; but that the Mota sentence can probably be always translated with the English pluperfect to give the full sense.

The other modal use of ti is quite distinct from this; as is also another, in which after a verb or substantive it has the sense of still remaining, or yet: Mantagai ti, "There is still a little."

Modal Particles.

Qe.—This particle has no regard to time, but may very well be regarded as marking something like a subjunctive mood: "If I should see him I will tell him," Si na qe iloa na te gaganag munia apena.—"I will do so if it be possible," Na te ge mok sin qe lai. The use is most common with si, 'if,' but qe is used without it: Qe le we qoqo munsei te sike kel we qoqo nania, "Be much given to a man, much shall be required of him again."

Ta is hardly distinguishable in sense from qe, but may be thought perhaps to be more potential and optative than subjunctive. It is less frequently used with si, 'if,' Na ta iloa na te vava, "Supposing that I should see him, I will tell him." Or, Si na ta iloa, "If I should see him." When ta is used te will rather follow, when qe is used te or we: Si na qe maros na we ge, "If I like I do;" but Si na ta maros na te ge, "I shall if I like."

Ti, in what may be called its modal use, inasmuch as it has no reference to time, but indicates rather the manner of the action, follows the verb. Its sense is rather to moderate the force of the verb, in the way of mitigation or diminution. It is difficult in all cases to separate this use of ti from that in which it modifies time, or expresses the notion of something still remaining, but it is a distinct use. No word in English can translate it, but the word "just" gives a good deal of its meaning: Le ma ti, "Give it here, just give it here."

The Verb is used without any verbal particles:

1. In what may be called the Infinitive mood, in which it is in fact a substantive with a preposition or an article. Thus, "You came here to work," kamiu me mule ma si a maumawui.—Te rusagia ape non o manmawui, "He will be paid for his work."

2. In the Imperative: Ka mule ka gaganag, "Go and tell;" Ni mule, "Let him go;" Neira mule, Nina mule, "Let them, Let us go." The plural second person imperative is with tur, the dual second person ura, the trial tol. Thus, tur mule, "Go;" Ura mule, "You two go;" Tol mule, "You three."

3. In a subjoined clause: "I ordered him to go," Na me vareg ti munia si ni mule, "That he should go."—"I said that I would go," Na me vet si na mule.

4. In a negative sentence: "I don't wish," Na gate maros.— "I did not wish," Na gate maros.—"I shall not like it," Na tete maros ran. Except when qe and te are used, Sin qe tete maros, Ni ta tete maros, "Should he not be willing."

III. Verbs with special Verbal Forms.

These forms consist of either a prefix or affix to a word, which then can be used in no other than a verbal sense, e.g. esu, 'live' or 'life,' but vaesu, 'to save or heal;' mana, 'to influence or influence,' but manag, 'to enable.'

There are many words, as before said, which are verbs only, but without a special form as such. These also take, some of them, a special form with a change of sense: vava, 'to speak,' vavag, to speak against a person.


These are va and ma.

1. Va.—This is the form in Mota of a particle common to the Pacific languages, having the sense of 'make,' vaesu, 'to make live.' It is not used in the sense of originating anything, but of changing condition or character. This causative prefix is not in so frequent use in Mota as might be expected, the word for 'make,' ge or na, being very frequently used. It might be applied, however, to very many verbs and be intelligible.

2. Ma prefixed to an adverb makes a neuter verb; prefixed to a verb it makes a verb expressing condition. It is therefore a particle of condition, not of action; and a verb with ma has much of the sense of an adjective. It also answers to some extent the purpose of a passive. Wora is 'apart,' 'asunder,' mawora is 'parted,' 'sundered,' 'burst,' in a condition in which the thing is in parts. So malate, 'broken;' manoanoa, 'in fragments;' magesei, 'alone.' Lakalaka is 'to rejoice;' malakalaka, 'to be in a joyful state.' Masekeseke, 'light-hearted.' It is by no means meant that ma when the first syllable of a word is in all cases this prefix, but that there is a prefix to verbs having this force.


These are very numerous, consisting either of a single consonant or a syllable; and the general force of all is transitive, to make every verb to which they are applied definitely transitive in sense, though very often there may be no expressed object in the sentence.

Ron̈o is to be in a state of feeling or mind, a word never used by itself; but as ron̈o vivtig, to be in pain; ron̈o gavir, to suffer without complaint; ron̈o maul, to be enduring; ronotag is to hear or to feel. Vava, to speak; but vavag, to speak against some one;—vano, to go; vanogag, to go with some thing to convey.

This does not apply only to verbs which are neuter before the affix is made, but to active verbs also, the various affixes defining the transitive force in one direction or another; thus, koko is to cover over with the hand, as the face, or something to be protected; it requires goro before the object. Kokomag is to be careful about; Kokor, to keep, as a rule or a covenant is kept; kokos, as a net incloses fish. Nor does this apply only to words which without it are in use as verbs, though much most commonly. Matai, 'an eye:' the verb 'to eye' is matag.

These affixes cannot be assigned each of them its own force; there is indeed only one which differs from the rest in this as signifying "with," as much as if it were a preposition, and in being separable; and this affix vag is better considered by itself, particularly as vag also is applied in the same way as all the other affixes, and is then like the other inseparable. It may be said then that the particular force of the affix in each case can only be learnt by the consideration of each case as it occurs; the general force being that given above. The natives themselves do not recognise any special force in any particular affix, always excepting vag when it is separable.

It will be convenient to divide these affixes into those which consist (1) of a letter, (2) of a syllable:—

1. The most common form is with g, as already given— manag, matag, vavavag. The other consonants employed are in much less frequent use:

n, as sogon, to stow away; v as sogov to give freely, sogo, being to set out, as food; vanov, put; vano, go.

r, as kokor; vesager, to place above, to put on the fire or the table; va, sage, r, sage, up.

t, as wonot, to oppress; wono, close; mavat, to weigh upon; mava, heavy.

s, as kokos.

The affix when a syllable is either ag, gag, lag, mag, rag, sag, tag, vag, without any difference in sense, but with regard perhaps to euphony: Taleag, turn; tale, about; vanogag, to conduct; vano, to go;—saromag, to sheath a knife; saro to come in, as fish into a net;—vilerag, to distribute; vile, to take or bring;—porosag, to mock; poro, to mock;—ron̈otag, as above;—sirvag, to cut close, as grass; sir, to shave.

The separable affix vag is not the same as this last, but is equivalent to a preposition: mulevag, to go with a thing;—matevag o gopae tutusag, die with a fever; masvag o tapera, fall down with a plate. This vag can go as a preposition, not with the verb but separated from it, and with the substantive: mule raveaglue o tinesara vag o tapera, go through the courtyard with a basket.

The Adverbs reag and vitag are affixed to verbs, but are not affixes of the character here spoken of: mapreag, put a thing away; nomvitag, forgive, think off from.

Ga.—This is not an affix, but it is a termination very common with verbs which do the work of adjectives, and which denote quality; it is often also iga. In the great number of instances in which it occurs it is not possible to find the word without the termination; as aqaga, 'white;' turturuga, 'blue.' In many others the root is found in another combination; as ronoga, famous, on account of wealth; ronronotar, multitude of possessions. In some the termination is added to a word in common use; as, mamasa, dry; mamasaiga, parched.

Reciprocal Verbs.

Reciprocity is denoted by the prefix var, very neatly and effectively: Rara we varvava, They two are conversing, reciprocally speaking; Neira we varvuvus, They are beating one another; Si kamiu a vartapetape kamiu, That ye love one another.

Reflective Verbs.

A reflex action is conveyed by the use of the adverb kel, 'back.' I strike myself: Nau we vus kel nau, "I strike back myself."—"He strangled himself," Ni me ligo mate kelua.


Reduplication of substantives and verbs, adjectives and adverbs in a less degree, is very common and quite systematic in Mota.

Words are reduplicated in three ways:—

1. By the reduplication of the first consonant and vowel.

2. By the reduplication of the first close syllable.

3. By the reduplication of the whole word.

For example: pute, 'to sit,'—pupute, putpute, putepute. The force of these reduplications is as follows:—

1. Continuance, prolongation of the act: pupute, 'keep on sitting.' The reduplicated syllable may be repeated as often as the idea requires.

2. Intensification.—The force of the word is magnified, the notion is more forcibly expressed: putpute, 'to sit closely down, to squat;' siksike, 'to seek earnestly.' This form of reduplication is that which most naturally applies to adjectives, substantives and adverbs: manmantagai 'very small;' Gate panpanei! 'Oh, what hands! what big hands!' manmantag, 'very well indeed.'[2]

Though the first close syllable is taken (a consonant being taken from the next syllable very often to close it as putpute, from pu te), yet when no consonant is at hand for the purpose, or only r, two syllables are taken, or made by adding e. Thus, liwoa, 'great,' liwoliwoa; purei, 'unskilled,' purepurei.

3. Repetition.—The act done over and over again: putepute, to sit, get up, and sit again, and so on.

There are of course some words, as monosyllables, to which these rules do not exactly apply. In them, as indeed in all, the intonation of the voice does much to signify the notion conveyed to the reduplication.


There are two dialects in Mota, with a few words of the vocabulary quite distinct, as na and ge for 'do,' un and ima for 'drink.' The difference chiefly lies in the preference for u in one, and i in the other, as titin, 'hot,' or tutun. The Veverau or leeward side of the island, use the u, and pronounce g at the end of word as i,—savrai for savrag. They prefer w in many places to g, as tawur for tagir. In the termination of substantives the use of i or u is reversed in either dialect: qatui or gatiu, which in inflection gives naqatuk, naqatuma or naqatik, tima.

In the printed language, and in the form in which it is spoken by foreigners, the two dialects are now hopelessly confused. That of the leeward side, using u, is that which is best to follow,—at least in the main, as the best to connect with other dialects, and as giving more variety by the use of u and i, whether the other uses only i.

  1. ia is itself an adverb, though never occurring alone—aia = a, 'at,' and ia: The other world, o marama iloneia; that is ilone, 'that;' ia, 'there.'
  2. This form of reduplication is continually used to signify number: pispisui, ran̈ran̈oi, 'fingers,' 'legs.' There are many words also which, probably for euphony, do not take any other form of reduplication than this: ronronotag, valvalui, 'hear;' 'answer.'