NZTC International Word of the Week: araboianabanaba

Date
Jun
12
20150612

NZTC International Word of the Week: araboianabanaba

The word araboianabanaba is just one of around 170 terms used in the language of Kiribati (formerly known as Gilbertese) to describe the fruit of various species of the pandanus tree.

According to Wikipedia there are 750 accepted species of the palm-like Pandanus tree, growing mainly in Polynesia and Micronesia.  At the time of publication of the Gilbertese-English Dictionary by Hiram Bingham in 1908, the lexicographer had been able to identify different terms used in the then Gilbert Islands for the fruit of some 170 species of these trees. Just a few examples are: aramarieta, arabikeruru, arakatokinano, arateberu.

Little is wasted in the use of this plant, which provides materials for housing, textiles, traditional fine mats, sails, food, medication, fishing, and cultural and religious practices in countries of the Pacific.

In the language of Kiribati there is a special suffix (-un or -ung) used in counting pandanus fruit. Thus, the number three (ten) is tenua for counting things in general. For three baskets the word used is tenikora, and for counting trees, fish-hooks and sections of land, it is tenikai. To specifically indicate three pandanus fruit, the word used is tenun. Similarly, four pandanus fruit can be described as aun, and five as nimaun. There were over 80 such numerical classifiers for different categories of objects in Gilbertese, not all of which are used commonly in te taetae ni Kiribati, or the Kiribati language of today.