Kiribati phonology

Daniel Long dlong at
Fri Mar 22 04:05:58 UTC 2002

I have a question about Kiribati phonology and have limited resources
here so perhaps some of you could help me.

Some of you may remember that I am researching the language contact
situation on the Bonin Islands between various European and Oceanic
languages and Japanese.  I am trying to determine if a certain Bonin
Island settler 100 years may have been from Kiribati.  He was called
Kopepe or Bill Boles (Bows).  Japanees records say he was from
"Nonotsu", but old informants today remember hearing from their elders
he was from Buka (Bougainville).

My question revolves around whether "Nonotsu" could be "Nonouti" and the
question is tied up with Japanese phonology and script (which I
understand) and Kiribati phonology (which I do not understand).  I
understand that Kiribati has complementary distribution of the phoneme
/t/ with [s] before /i/ and /u/.  My question is basically this:  If the
man was from Nonouti in the Gilbert Islands, then why did the Japanese
not write "Nonosu" or "Nonousu".  Where did this /t/ come from?  Come
the local pronunciation of the island's name have been [nonouti] or
[nonoutu] a hundred years ago?  I understand that "southern dialects" of
Kiribatese have phonetic [t] in all environments.  Does this include

I have tried to keep this short, but I can supply more information if

Danny Long
Daniel Long, Associate Professor     tel  +81-426-77-2184
Japanese Language and Literature Dept.    fax  +81-426-77-2140
Tokyo Metropolitan University
1-1 Minami Osawa, Hachioji-shi, Tokyo  192-0397 Japan
mailto:dlong at

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