Tonga's first monolingual dictionary was launched in Nuku'alofa yesterday, where the completed volume was handed over to Her Royal Highness, Princess Siu'ilikutapu Kalaniuvalu Fotofili by the New Zealand High Commissioner, Her Excellency Christine Bogle.
The work of compiling the dictionary and overseeing Tongan words defined in the Tongan language was carried out by Tongan academic, Dr. Melenaite Taumoefolau of the University of Auckland.
The project was funded by the New Zealand Government in partnership with the Ministry of Education, Women's Affairs and Culture.
According to former Director and former Interim Minister of Education, Paula Sunia Bloomfield, he was told by the then Crown Prince, now the King of Tonga, His Majesty King George the V, in the early years of the new millennium, to begin the work to produce an all Tongan dictionary.
Dr. Taumoefolau was assisted by several Tongan teachers who, working from the word list of Churchward's previous dictionary as a basis, researched and wrote down the meaning of Tongan words and terms to form the dictionary.
In giving background information to the project, the Director, Dr. Viliami Fukofuka thanked the guest of Honour, Her Royal Highness, Princess Siu'ilikutapu Kalaniuvalu Fotofili for her gracious presence at the event.
The Director stated that it is appropriate that the Fale ‘o Ha'a Moheofo be present in this joyous and historic occasion, because the Fale ‘o Ha'a Moheofo is at the heart and epicenter of Tongan Culture, and it is only fitting that the Princess receive the completed work on the nation's first all Tongan dictionary.
In receiving the dictionary, the Princess said, "I am delighted to be here in this history making occasion, not only for the Department of Education, but more importantly for the Tongan language as a whole.
I believe that this monolingual Tongan dictionary has been strategically timed, for I have heard, I am sure Melenaite has heard, of Tongans speaking firstly in Tongan, same sentence in English and the end of the same sentence in Tongan again. I am one of them."
"And I was just wondering," the Princess continued, "what my late father Prince Tu'ipelehake would have thought as he was a classic orator, in every sense of the word. So, as one of those people aforementioned, I really welcome this important communication tool, for maintaining the high standard of the Tongan language in the twenty first century."
In concluding her remarks, Her Royal Highness, Princess Siu'ilikutapu said, "And so Hon. Minister, and the Department of Education, Culture and Women's Affairs, I congratulate you and all who have contributed to this monolingual Tongan dictionary, and may God bless the Kingdom of Tonga."
The Minister for Education, Women's Affairs and Culture, Hon. Rev. Dr. Tevita Hala Palefau thanked Her Royal Highness for being present at the launch, and representing His Majesty King George the Vth, who had the vision that Tonga should have her own monolingual dictionary.
Dr. Palefau extended his deep and heartfelt appreciation to High Commissioner Bogle and the New Zealand Government for "the overwhelming support that has been accorded towards the development and completion of the monolingual dictionary for Tonga."
The Hon. Minister took the opportunity, "within the framework of the International year of the Repproachment of Culture, to thank you, Your Excellency for supporting our efforts to celebrate the year with the launching of the monolingual dictionary."
The Minister, Hon. Rev. Tevita Hala Palefau concluded that, "no doubt this occasion will be recognized locally and globally as a fulfillment of Tongan commitment to international agreed goals to promote linguistic and cultural diversity."
The Director, Dr. Fukofuka, said that 5,000 copies of the dictionary have been printed with 1,000 in hardcover, and 4,000 copies in softcover. All the expenses associated with the project from 2004-2009 was funded by the New Zealand Government, and the printing was covered by the Government of Tonga.
The Director gladly announced that the New Zealand Government has given a further amount to print more copies, to be used at the primary school level up to the form 2 level.
It is estimated that there are about 10,000 children at these levels, and according to Dr. Fukofuka, the amount that New Zealand had given will be more than enough to print another 10,000 copies of the revised edition of Tonga's first monolingual dictionary.
By Sitiveni Finau and issued by Ministry of Information and Communications, 2010