Fiji Hindi

Not to be confused with Hindustani language or Hindi languages.
Fiji Hindi
फिजी बात Fiji Baat
Native to Fiji, with significant minorities within Canada, Australia, New Zealand, United Kingdom, Ireland, and the United States of America
Ethnicity Indo-Fijians and their diaspora
Native speakers
400,000 in Fiji (2001)[1]
Devanagari, Kaithi, Latin script, Perso-Arabic script, Devanagari Braille, Urdu Braille, English Braille
Signed Hindi
Official status
Official language in
Language codes
ISO 639-3 hif
Glottolog fiji1242[2]

Fiji Hindi or Fijian Hindi, known locally as "Hindustani", is an Indo-Aryan language spoken by most Fijian citizens of Indian descent, though a small number speak other languages at home.[1] It is an Eastern Hindi language that has been subject to considerable influence by Awadhi, Bhojpuri and other Bihari languages. It has also borrowed a large number of words from the Fijian and English languages. A large number of words, unique to Fiji Hindi, have been created to cater for the new environment that Indo-Fijians now live in. First-generation Indians in Fiji, who used the language as a lingua franca in Fiji, referred to it as Fiji Baat, "Fiji talk". It is closely related to Caribbean Hindustani and the Hindustani spoken in Mauritius and South Africa.


Indian indentured labourers, speaking different regional languages, initially came to Fiji mainly from districts of eastern Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, North-West Frontier and South India such as from Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

Over time, a distinct Indo-Aryan language with an Eastern Hindi substratum developed in Fiji, combining elements of the Hindi languages spoken in these areas with native Fijian, Urdu, Arabic, English, and Tamil words. Fiji Hindi therefore diverged significantly from the Hindi languages of the Indian subcontinent. The development of Fiji Hindi was accelerated by the need for labourers speaking different languages to work together and by the practice of leaving young children in early versions of day-care centers during working hours. Percy Wright, who lived in Fiji during the indenture period, wrote:

Indian children born in Fiji will have a mixed language; there are many different dialects amongst the Indian population, and of course much intercourse with the Fijians. The children pick up a little of each language, and do not know which is the one originally spoken by their parents.

Other writers, including Burton[4] (1914) and Lenwood[5] (1917), made similar observations. By the late 1920s all Fiji Indian children born in Fiji learned Fiji Hindi, which became the common language in Fiji of North and South Indians alike.[6]


Later, approximately 15,000 Indian indentured labourers, who were mainly speakers of Dravidian languages (Tamil, Telugu and Malayalam), were brought from South India. By this time Fiji Hindi was well established as the lingua franca of Indo-Fijians and the Southern Indian labourers had to learn it to communicate with the more numerous Northern Indians and their European overseers. After the end of the indenture system, Indians who spoke Gujarati and Punjabi arrived in Fiji as free immigrants. A few Indo-Fijians speak Tamil, Telugu and Gujarati at home, but all are fluently conversant and able to communicate using Fiji Hindi. The census reports of 1956 and 1966 shows the extent to which Fiji Hindi (referred to as 'Hindustani' in the census) was being spoken in Indo-Fijian households.

Language Number of households in 1956 Number of households in 1966
Fijian Hindustani 17,164 30,726
Hindi 3,644783
Tamil 1,498 999
Urdu 1,233 534
Gujarati 830 930
Telugu 797 301
Punjabi 468 175
Malayalam 134 47
Other 90 359

Fiji Hindi is also understood and even spoken by Indigenous Fijians in areas of Fiji where there are large Indo-Fijian communities. Following the recent political upheaval in Fiji, a large number of Indo-Fijians have emigrated to Australia, New Zealand, Canada and the United States, where they have largely maintained their traditional Indo-Fijian culture, language, and religion.

Some writers have begun to use Fiji Hindi, until very recently a spoken language only, as a literary language. The Bible has now been translated into Fiji Hindi, and the University of the South Pacific has recently begun offering courses in the language. Fiji Hindi is written using both the Latin script and the Devanagari script.

A Fiji Hindi movie has also been produced depicting Indo-Fijian life and is based on a play by local playwright, Raymond Pillai.[7]


The phonemes of Fiji Hindi are very similar to Indian Hindi, but there are some important distinctions. As in Bhojpuri and Hindi spoken in rural India - Bihar and Eastern Uttar Pradesh - the consonant "sh" is replaced with "s" (for example, saadi instead of shaadi) and "v" replaced with "b" (for example, bid-es instead of videsh). There is also a tendency to ignore the differences between the consonants "ph" and "f" (In Fiji Hindi a fruit is fal instead of phal) and between "j" and "z" (In Fiji Hindi land is jameen instead of zameen). The consonant "n" is used in Fiji Hindi for the nasal sounds "ṅ", "ñ" and "ṇ" in Indian Hindi. These features are common in the Eastern Hindi dialects.[8] Some other characteristics of Fiji Hindi which is similar to Bhojpuri are:




In Fiji Hindi verb forms have been influenced by a number of Indian Hindi dialects. First and second person forms of verbs in Fiji Hindi are the same, there is no gender distinction and number distinction is only in the third person past tense. The use of the first and second person imperfective suffixes -taa, -at are of Awadhi origin, while the third person imperfective suffix -e is of Bhojpuri origin. The third person perfective suffixes (for transitive verbs) -is and -in are also derived from Awadhi. The third person definite future suffix -ii is found in both Awadhi and Bhojpuri. The influence of Urdu, which was widely used in the urban areas of Eastern India in the late 19th century, is evident in the first and second person perfective suffix -aa and the first and second person future siffix -ega. The origin of the imperative suffix -o can be traced to the Magahi dialect, spoken in the Gaya and Patna districts, which provided a sizeable proportion of the first indentured labourers from Northern India to Fiji. Fiji Hindi has developed its own polite imperative suffix -naa. The suffix -be, from Bhojpuri, is used in Fiji Hindi in emphatic sentences. Another suffix originating from Awadhi is -it, but is at present going out of use.

Grammatical features

Fijian loan words

Indo-Fijians now use native Fijian words for those things that were not found in their ancestral India but which existed in Fiji. These include most fish names and root crops. For example, kanade for mullet (fish) and kumaala for sweet potato or yam. Other examples are:

Fiji Hindi in Latin ScriptFiji Hindi in Devanagari Script Fijian origin Meaning
nangona नंगोना yaqonakava
tabale तबाले tavale wife's brother
bilo बिलोbilocup made of coconut, used to drink kava

Words derived from English

Many English words have also been borrowed into Fiji Hindi with sound changes to fit the Indo-Fijian pronunciation. For example, hutel in Fiji Hindi is borrowed from hotel in English. Some words borrowed from English have a specialised meaning, for example, garaund in Fiji Hindi means a playing field, geng in Fiji Hindi means a "work gang", particularly a cane-cutting gang in the sugar cane growing districts and tichaa in Fiji Hindi specifically means a female teacher. There are also unique Fijian Hindi words created from English words, for example, kantaap means cane-top.

Semantic shifts from Indian languages to Fiji Hindi

Many words of Hindi/Urdu/Hindustani origin have shifted meaning in Fiji Hindi. These are due to either innovations in Fiji or continued use of the old meaning in Fiji Hindi when the word is either not used in Indian Hindi anymore or has evolved a different meaning altogether.[10] Some examples are:

Fiji Hindi word Fiji Hindi meaning Original Hindustani meaning
baade flood flooding
bekaar bad, not good, useless unemployed, nothing to do, or useless
bhagao elope abduct
bigha acre 1 bigha = 1600 square yards or 0.1338 hectare or 0.3306-acre (1,338 m2)
bihaan tomorrow tomorrow morning (Bhojpuri)
Bombaiyaa Marathi/Gujaratis (Indians) from city of Mumbai
fokatiyaa useless bankrupt
gapliegossip, idle talk, chit chat
jaati race caste
jhaap shed temporarily built shed
jorfast, quickforce, strength, exertion
juluum beautiful tyranny, difficulty, amazing (Hindustani zalim, meaning "cruel", is metaphorically used for a beautiful object of affection)
kalyesterdayyesterday or tomorrow
kamaanii small spear (for prawns) wire, spring
khassimale goatcastrated animal
konchi what from kaun cheez literally meaning what thing or what stuff
maalik god employer/owner or god
Mandaraaji South Indian original word, Madraasi, meant "from Madras (or Tamil Nadu)"
palla door shutter
Punjabi Sikh native of Punjab, whether Hindu, Muslim or Sikh

Semantic shift from English to Fiji Hindi

Many words of English origin have shifted meaning in Fiji Hindi.

English word Fiji Hindi meaning
purse wallet
theatre cinema
teacher female teacher
enginelocomotive (in addition to usual vehicle/boat engines)
pipetap (faucet) (in addition to artificially made tubes)
cabbageChinese cabbage or bok choy
seteverything is ok (used as a statement or question)
rightok (used as a statement)


Though broadly based on standard Hindi, counting in Fiji Hindi reflects a number of cross-language and dialectal influences picked up in the past 125 years.

The pronunciation for numbers between one and ten show slight inflections, seemingly inspired by eastern Hindi dialects such as Bhojpuri. The number two, consequently, is do (दो) in standard Hindi, while in Fiji Hindi it is dui (दुइ), just as it is in Bhojpuri. Similarly, the number six in standard Hindi is chhe (छे) while in Fiji Hindi it is pronounced as chhah (छह).

Words for numbers between 10 and 99 present a significant difference between standard and Fiji Hindi. While, as in other north Indian languages, words for numbers in standard Hindustani are formed by mentioning units first and then multiples of ten, Fiji Hindi reverses the order and mentions the tens multiple first and the units next, as is the practice in many European and South-Indian languages. That is to say, while 'twenty-one' in Indian Hindi is 'ikkiis' (इक्कीस), an internal sandhi of 'ek aur biis', or 'one-and-twenty', in Fiji Hindi it would reverse the order, and simply be 'biis aur ek' (बिस और एक), without any additional morphophonological alteration. Similarly, while the number thirty-seven in standard Hindi is 'saintiis' (सैंतीस), for 'saat aur tiis' or 'seven-and-thirty', the number would be तिस और सात, 'tiis aur saat', or 'thirty-and-seven' in Fiji Hindi.

Additionally, powers of ten beyond ten-thousand, lakh (100,000) and karor (10 million) are not used in Fiji Hindi.

Number in EnglishNumber in Standard Hindi Devanagri Script Number in Standard Hindi Roman Script Number in Fiji Hindi Roman Script
twenty-oneइक्कीसikkiisbis aur ek
twenty-twoबाईसbaaiisbis aur dui
twenty-threeतेईसteiisbis aur teen
thirty-oneइकत्तीसikatiistiis aur ek
thirty-twoबत्तीसbattiistiis aur dui
thirty-threeतैंतीसtaintiistiis aur teen
forty-oneइकतालीसekatalischaalis aur ek
forty-twoबयालीसbayaalischaalis aur dui
forty-threeतैंतालीसtaintaalischaalis aur teen

Spread overseas

Main article: Fiji Indian diaspora

With political upheavals in Fiji beginning with the first military coup in 1987, large numbers of Indo-Fijians have since migrated overseas and at present there are significant communities of Indo-Fijian expatriates in Australia, New Zealand, Canada and the United States. Smaller communities also reside on other Pacific Islands and Britain. The last census in each of the countries where Fiji Hindi is spoken (counting Indo-Fijians who were born in Fiji) provides the following figures:

Country Number of Fiji born Indo-Fijians
Fiji 313,798[11]
New Zealand 27,882[12]
Australia 27,542[13]
United States 24,345[14]
Canada 22,770[15]
Tonga 310[16]


See also


  1. 1 2 Fiji Hindi at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015)
  2. Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin; Bank, Sebastian, eds. (2016). "Fiji Hindi". Glottolog 2.7. Jena: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History.
  3. Wright, Percey (1910). Seventy-two years in Australia and the South Pacific. Sydney: Mitchell Library.
  4. Burton, John W. (1910). The Fiji of Today. London: Charles H. Kelly.
  5. Lenwood, F. (1917). Pastels from the Pacific. London: Oxford University Press.
  6. Hands, W. J. (1929). Polynesia. Westminster: Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts.
  7. "Fiji Hindi film set to be released soon". Fijilive. 9 February 2007. Retrieved 10 July 2007.
  8. Barz, Richard K.; Jeff Siegel (1988). Language transplanted: the development of overseas Hindi. Wiesbaden: OttoHarrassowitz. p. 127. ISBN 3-447-02872-6.
  9. South Asian bilingualism: Hindi and Bhojpuri
  10. Barz, Richard; Jeff Siegel (1988). Language Transplanted: The Development of Overseas Hindi. Wiesbaden: Otto Harrassowitz. ISBN 3-447-02872-6.
  11. Fiji - 2007 census
  12. New Zealand - 2006 census
  13. Australian Government - 2006 census
  14. United States - 2000 census
  15. Migration Facts Stats and Maps
  16. Tonga census 2006


Fiji Hindi edition of Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Fiji Hindi test of Wiktionary at Wikimedia Incubator
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