The official languages of the Cook Islands are English and Cook Islands Māori (including Pukapukan). Cook Islands Māori, also known as Rarotongan, is an Eastern Polynesian language which is part of the Austronesian linguistic family. The Māori alphabet consists of ten consonants (h, k, m, n, ng, p, r, t, w, wh) and five vowels (a, e, i, o, u). Two consonants are digraphs which are made up of two letters that form one sound. Cook Islands Māori is an indigenous language with several dialects including Penrhyn, Rakahanga-Manihiki, Atiu, Mitiaro, Mauke, Aitutaki, and Mangaian.

About 83.4% of residents living on the Cook Islands speak English. Some 76.2% speak Cook Islands Māori, while another 8.3% are fluent in another language. According to figures from 2011 the total number of Māori speakers in the Cook Islands is 13,620 which translates to 96% of the ethnic population. Pukapukan is a regional language which developed on the northern island of Pukapuka. Known by many inhabitants as "te leo Wale" or “the language of Home” Pukapukan is spoken by about 450 people.

Common phrases in Cook Islands Māori include “Kia Orana” meaning “Hello” or “Welcome” and “Meitaki ma'ata” which translates to, “Thank you very much”. Useful words in this indigenous language include “Ae” which signifies “Yes” and “Kare” meaning “No”. The ocean is called “Moana” while the moon is referred to as “Marama”. Water can be translated to “Vai” while the word for “Happy” is “Mataora”.

Minority languages spoken on the Cook Islands include a number of local Māori dialects such as Penrhyn. This particular Polynesian language is spoken by about 200 people mostly in the Northern Cook Islands. Like many local languages Penrhyn is considered to be in danger of dying out. Atiu or Enuamanu is spoken by residents of the Southern Cook Islands. Pukapukan is also a minority language primarily spoken on the island of Pukapuka (also known as Danger Island).

This page was last modified on May 1st, 2018

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