Cook Islands Language Week - Alphabet and Phrases

We’re halfway through 'Epetoma o te reo Māori Kūki 'Āirani: Cook Islands Language Week so with the help of our friends at the Ministry of Pacific Peoples (MPP) we have some basic facts about the Cook Islands language and alphabet, as well as some everyday phrases, everyone should know.



There are a number of distinct dialects: Aitutaki; Ātiu, Ma’uke, and Miti’āro; Mangaia; Manihiki and Rakahanga; Rarotongan; and Tongareva. The Pukapuka language is also spoken in the Cook Islands.


There are five vouvera (vowels): a, e, i, o, u


These have the same pronunciation as other Pacific languages, including te reo Māori (NZ Māori language).


Vouvera can be short or long (the long vowel sound is indicated with a macron).


a, e, i, o, u (as in the English: are, there, three or two)


ā, ē, ī, ō, ū (as in the English: father, egg, feet, thought, loot)


It is important that the short and long vowel sounds are used, as they distinguish between different words – eg. marama (moon) and mārama (daylight).


Te reo Māori Kuki ‘Āirani has nine main consonants:


ng, k, m, n, p, r, t, v and [’] (glottal stop)


The Tongarevan alphabet has two additional consonants: s and h; the Manihiki and Rakahanga dialects also have a f and h. Pukapuka is a more distinctive language, having the letters l, w, and y in its alphabet.


The consonants are pronounced like in English. The ‘ng’ blend is like the ‘nga’ sound in te reo Māori, or the ‘ng’ sound from the English word ‘song’.



How to greet people and say good bye in te reo Māori Kūki 'Āirani:


Kia orana koe - Greetings to you


Kia orana kōrua - Greetings to you two


Kia orana kōtou - Greetings to three or more people


Kia orana te ‘uipā’anga - Greetings to the meeting


Kia orana te au manu’iri - Greetings to guests/visitors


E no’o rā - Goodbye (to someone who is staying)


‘Aere rā - Goodbye (to someone who is going) or safe travels


And here are some fun, positive phrases!