Tua and Atua

Akua, atua, makua, matua, and tuan all share the same root word–tua. Tua in Proto-Austronesian meant something akin to some one of an older generation or within a community leadership role. In SE Asia tua became tuan which means lord or noble. In Melanesia (including Western Indonesia) tua became matua which became headman, clan leader, main pole of a house, lead canoe, or parent (depending the language). In Polynesia, tua became both atua and matua. This makes perfect sense since ancestors were deified. Then in Hawaiian atua and matua became akua and makua.

The Role of Language in the Thought Process

For most people, the use of words and language itself is unquestioned. We do not realize how language and words itself can shape perceptions and the thought process and in turn shapes our culture. This is one of the factors that people do not consider in depth when discussing Austronesian linguistics. In general, people will say “oh that word sounds like our word” then dismiss it not seeing the relevance. Other times people try to link words together from far removed languages and claim there is a relationship.

First, when examining a relationship between languages, linguists do not simply compare words. They examine concepts, structures, grammar and pronunciation of languages and dialects. Understanding the concepts (both implied and inferred) is as important as understanding the word itself because words represent the verbal communication of ideas.