Fiji and the Fijians: The Islands and Their Inhabitants
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The information contained in this volume is the result of the patient and intelligent research of the Rev. Thomas Williams, of Adelaide, during his thirteen years' residence as a Wesleyan Missionary in Fiji. Some additions have been made of facts which have transpired since Rev. Williams gathered and arranged the fruit of his own personal observations and inquiries.
As to the spelling and pronunciation of Fijian words some few remarks are necessary. The general practice has hitherto been to represent - often very imperfectly - the sounds of the Fijian by English vowels. Captain Cook used this method with all Polynesian words; but in his time, the Oceanic languages had not been reduced to a written form. Now that this has been effected in many instances, the practice just named must necessarily lead to misconception and confusion.
The Missionaries who have given to these languages a fixed orthography, have wisely adopted the Roman alphabet, and a system of vowels having the Italian power, which met the requirements of the case far better than the almost exceptional sounds of the English vowels.
As regards the consonants, the Missionaries found that the Fijian did not require all the characters used by ourselves : some of these were therefore rejected, while some were employed where we have recourse to a clumsy combination. Thus, for instance, that have taken the unnecessary C to express the soft dental Th.
There are no sounds in the Fijian peculiar to itself; but it has characteristic compound consonants. These are Mb, Nd, Ng and Ng-g. That is to say, the b is never pronounced without m preceeding; the d never without n, and so on.
In this work, therefore, -
1. The vowels in Fijian words have the Italian pronunciation: a, as in father; e, as in rest; i, as in machine; o, as in chore; u, as oo in pool. All the vowels are sounded.
2. The consonants have the same power as in English; except the following: c represents th, as in that; B - mb; D - nd; G - ng; Q - ng-g. Thus Cama is pronounced thama; Bole - mbole; Dalo - ndalo; Gaga - nganga; Qia - nggia.
3. In proper names only these peculiar combinations have, throughout the book, been represented by their English equivalents. Thus Bau is spelt Mbau; and the name of its King, Cakobau, is written Thakombau.
For further information on these points, the reader is referred to the Chapter on Language, for which he is indebted to the Rev. John Dury Geden, of Didsbury.
This work also owed much to Miss Elizabeth Farmer, whose clever pencil has prepared most of the engravings which embellish its pages.
G. S. R.
London, November, 1858.