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A phonemic approach to the naming process : onomatopoeic names

Audio courtesy of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology - MACAULAY Library

The art of Naming
How Polynesian words can help build identity

is one of the most stable Polynesian words


= bird ; biped



*Phonemization is the adaptation of a sound or a word to the phonological system of a language, as in fale (Sāmoa) > fare (Tahiti) > hale  (Hawai'i) > 'are (Rūrutu)

MISI  Aplonis tabuensis - Polynesian Starling

NĒNĒ  Branta Sandvicensis - Hawaiian Goose

MOHO  Porzana Tabuensis - Spotless Crake

KŪKUPA  Ptilinopus Rarotongensis - Cook Islands Fruit-Dove

ONOMATOPOEIA: No, this is not a Polynesian word!
An onomatopoeia is the creation and use of words which include sounds that are similar to the noises that the words refer to.

Human voices, animal sounds, shocks, etc. very often make up entire verbs or whole nouns to identify animals, motions and actions in one given language phonological system.

Onomatopoeias are extremely frequent in Polynesian languages as animal species' names very often mimick the sounds the animals make.

Herewith is a selection of onomatopoeic bird species' names found throughout Polynesia with their audio illustration.

Regional name variants exist for one same bird:
The Spotless Crake is called Kotokoto on Rapa, Mo'omo'o on Mangaia, Moho in Tonga or Meho on Tahiti.
The call of the animal is perceptible in all of these regional name variants.

The KŪKUPA example

Likewise, one same bird name can designate other regional birds:
The Kūkupa is the Ptilinopus Rarotongensis on Rarotonga, the Hemiphaga Novaeseelandiae on Aotearoa or the Ptilinopus Dupetithouarsii Viridior on 'Ua Pou.

Their calls are very similar, hence the same onomatopoeia.

The Tahitian phonemization* of the sounds that these different kūkupa birds produce is 'Ū'UPA, which is again another bird.

TĪTĪ   Pterodroma Nigripennis - Black-winged Petrel

RIRORIRO   Gerygone Igata - Gray Gerygone

RURU   Ninox Novaeseelandiae - Morepork

KŌKĪ   Prosopeia tabuensis - Maroon Shining Parrot


KULUKULU   Ptilinopus porphyraceus - Crimson-crowned Fruit-Dove

KIU   Tringa Incana - Wandering Tattler

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