Piwakawaka Mini Te Mära Reo ~ The Language Garden


The kauri, whose name has Proto Nuclear Polynesian origins, can live for over a thousand years and reach heights of over 50 metres. One of the most famous of these trees still living is Täne Mähuta, in the Waipoua Forest, Northland, which would have been well over a thousand years old when the first Polynesian explorers encountered it and other trees of this species.

Young kauri, Agathis Australis (Stage 8)

Kauri foliage
Detail of foliage, showing early spring growth.

Have a look at the material in the right-hand column before setting out for Eastern Polynesia. This will be much your longest voyage yet -- over 2,000 kilometres of open water to the Society Islands which will be your new home The name "Tahiti" also means "Distant, Far Away", and this is surely no coincidence!.

Then, when you are ready, you can move on to the next phase, about 40 metres on foot, 2,400 km by sea (if you can stay on course all the way), or instantly by pressing the link below. But before you do that, think about why you would want to make such a journey pretty much in an open boat, albeit a large one and the fastest one around for long-range travel anywhere in the world at the time. It was once thought that population pressure was giving the Austronesians itchy feet, but, once they started pushing out into the uninhabited areas of the Pacific the archeological evidence does not support such a view. On the larger islands there seem still to have been plenty of resources to support much larger populations when each exodus began. So while a desire to get away from the crowd may have been a factor, especially after long sojourns in Tonga and again in Samoa (probably around a thousand years in all), an even stronger motivation is suggested by both the myths and the archaeologist Patrick Kirch (On the Road of the Winds) -- the ambition of younger brothers and heads of junior lineages to strike out on their own and found independent dynasties in which they will be the ariki in the highly stratified social structure which Austronesian peoples retained wherever they settled down. So if you are the oldest and most senior person around, most of the time you have little reason to consider sailing into the unknown, but if you are chafed by the demands of subservience to your senior relatives, the far horizon may hold great promise!

To go on to Stage 9 (Proto Eastern Polynesian -- 2,500 km away), click here!

To return to Stage 7 (Proto Polynesian, a mere 1,000 km back west), click here.


"Time travel walk" - Stage 8

Proto Nuclear Polynesian (about 2,000 years ago)

We are now dealing with serious distances, even allowing for the fact that the Austronesian explorers of the Pacific had the most advanced vessels for sustained long-haul voyaging anywhere in the world at this time. The original voyage from Taiwan to the Philippines would have traversed about 500 kilometers of open ocean, which was probably longer than most subsequent direct voyages (because of the presence of many intermediate islands at each stage) until the push south and east from the Solomons. From the islands of Vanuatu to Fiji would have involved travel across about 1,000 km of open ocean, with similar distances having to be sailed between Fiji and Samoa and over 700 km from Fiji to Tonga, and from Tonga to Samoa. It is not surprising therefore that after a few hundred years as populationd increased and contact between indivuals from the different island groups diminished that a new distinctive Austronesian language, labelled for convenience Proto Nuclear Polynesian, was developed in and around Samoa, while Tonga and Niue developed their own distinctive idioms.

The plant name representing the Proto Nuclear Polynesian stage is borne by the kauri. This particular one is within a couple of metres of the mämämangi which represented the previous, Proto-Polynesian stage. It's one of about 45 in the garden (you will already have seen many of them in the course of your journey), and has yet to be liberated from the nurse trees which are now impeding its progress, but it is a kauri nonetheless. There are pictures of its more prosperous brothers and sisters in the pages linked below.

The word kauri is thought to have been a coinage from the fusion of the Proto Polynesian words *kau, from Proto Malayo Polynesian *kayu, "tree", and *quli "black". The Samoan reflex of this word refers to the Samoan ebony,Diospyros samoensis, not closely related botanically to the New Zealand Kauri, but also an important tree symbolically and economically. You can read more about the kauri tree itself and the history of its name in the pages linked below.

*Kauli (Proto-Polynesian form)

Kauri (Modern Mäori)

Proceeding to Stage 9

The route on foot to the next stage is to go further along the path you are on, and keep left around the edge the grove, and head towards the plastic covered hothouse which will reveal itself.


Take the little path to your right, and Site 9 lies just ahead -- sometimes it looks like a clotheseline just beyond the plastic covered bamboo structure on your left. From mid-summer to autumn, however, it will look different, as will be revealed when you get there!


To get there in cyberspace, at any season of the year, press the link at the bottom of the lefthand column.



Hue flower

Te Mära Reo, c/o Benton Family Trust, "Tumanako", RD 1, Taupiri, Waikato 3791, Aotearoa / New Zealand
Creative Commons LicenseThis work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 3.0 New Zealand License.