Part 3 - What, How Many
a. teraa? what?
Teraa, 'what', may be used directly before inanimate nouns that is, nouns which are things, but not people:
|Teraa te b'ai aanne?|
what the thing that?
|What is that thing?|
|Teraa te rongorongo?|
what the news
|What's the news?|
When questioning an action, before a verb, teraa is used with a relative pronoun:
|Teraa ae e karaoia nakoim?|
what that he do-it to-you
|What did he do to you?|
(This is preferable to a similar construction without the relative pronoun:
|*E karaoa teraa nakoim?|
he do what to-you)
b. raa? what, which?
Raa, 'what, which', is always used following a noun (unless followed by a possessive suffix, below), and can be used with people as well as with things:
|Ko tangira to boki raa?|
you want the book which
|Which book do you want?|
|Te aomata raa?|
the person which
When used with the possessive suffixes, raa questions 'what relationship' (The hyphen is used here only for illustration.):
|What relation is that man to you?|
|Raa-n te auti?|
its-what the house
|What (which) part of the house? |
It can also be translated by 'how':
long (time), duration
When questioning 'what kind of things', baikara is used:
|Baikara aika ko tangiri?|
what-things that you want
|What sort of things do you want?|
(In the singular, this would be te b'ai teraa or te b'ai raa.)
c. iraua? how many?
This will be dealt with in more detail in the section on numeral classifiers, for ira-ua takes different numeral classifiers according to the things questioned. The most common use is with the general classifier, -ua:
|Iraua am ririki?|
how-many your years
|How old are you?|
how-many your-same sex siblings
|How many brothers (sisters) have you?|
d. Notes on asking 'What?'
Like English and many languages, Kiribati has a number of expressions to use when something wasn't heard, all translating roughly as 'What?':
|Teraa ae ko taku?||(what which you said?)|
|Teraa am taeka?||(what your words?)|
| || |
|E kangaa?||(it how?)|
|E aera?||(it done-how?)|
You may hear variations on these as well. They are all more or less interchangeable.
e. Notes on asking 'the how many-th?'
While iraua asks the question 'how many?', sometimes it is necessary to ask for 'the how many-th?'. English uses a variety of ways to achieve this. After a race we might ask a runner 'what number did you come in?'. For days of the week, we ask 'what day is today?'. For selecting from a row of objects we might merely ask 'which one?'. Kiribati uses one construction for all of these cases, the question word ira- plus its appropriate classifier, and the ordinal prefix, ka-, meaning roughly '-th'. (Hyphens are for clarification only, not used in normal writing.):
|Te ka-ira-man ngkoe? |
the how-many-th you
|What number are you?|
|Te ka-ira-bong aei?|
the how-many-th-day this?
|What day is today?|
|Te ka-ira-ua to bai aanne? |
the how-many-th that thing
|Which one (of the series) is that?|
(see the lessons on ordinals and classifiers for further information)