Tobian Language Project   
Language in Use

Documenting Ramari Hatohobei, the Tobian language
a nuclear Micronesian language belonging to the Oceanic subgroup of the Austronesian language family    

HRELP Endangered Languages Documentation Programme    SOAS    Arcadia

The Tobian Language Deposit in the Endangered Languages Archive:

The ELDP Endangered Languages Documentation Programme ( awarded a small grant in 2012 to support Peter and Barbara Black’s work on documenting ramari Hatohobei. Peter and Barbara thank ELDP and HOPE Hatohobei Organization for People & the Environment which administered this grant.

Tobian (Ramari Hatohobei) (ISO 639-3: tox) is the language of Tobi, one of the Southwest Islands of the Republic of Palau, a Micronesian nation in the western Pacific.  Severely endangered, Tobian is currently spoken by approximately 150 people.  Tobian and the dialects of Sonsorol, Merir, and Pulo Anna, the other three Southwest Islands, are closely related to the languages spoken in the outer islands of Yap and Chuuk.  Intensive work was done with elderly Tobian speakers to document their language through collection of vocabulary, stories, poems, and songs in their relevant socio-cultural context before it is lost.

The grant proposal can be found at
The project's deposit page in the Endangered Languages Archive can be found at

Contents included in the Tobian Language Deposit are listed here: Overview of Deposit
Full metadata for the contents of the Tobian Language Deposit are listed here: 0295 Project Metadata

Project Details:

  1. 1. Tobian Language Use Survey, February 2009: In February 2009, a series of structured interviews with native Tobian speakers was conducted using a questionnaire to guide the discussions. The survey revealed a high degree of multilingualism and commitment to the preservation and growth of Tobian.

    2. Another aspect of the overall effort to document and preserve Tobian involves working with the Quackenbush word list. In 1968, E.M. Quackenbush reported his database of almost 600 words from each of 17 dialects (including Tobian) that form the chain of related languages described in his Ph.D. dissertation, From Sonsorol to Truk: A dialect chain (University of Michigan, 1968).

    Working with the Quackenbush word list is designed to map and try to understand the changes that have taken place in Tobian over the last 40 years. To begin we have started collecting the same Tobian words in 2009-2012 from a speaker of "Old Tobian" and from a speaker of modern Tobian. Tobian Language 1968-2014: background information on the Quackenbush word project.

    Quackenbush Word List: 1968-2014 Tobian words as collected by E.M. Quackenbush and as collected in 2009, 2010, 2012, and 2013 by Peter W. Black and Barbara W. Black working with Isauro Andrew, Nemecio Andrew, and Sisma Andrew who provided spelling, pronunciation, and occasional emendations.

     3.   Project Research Report March 2015
     4.   Project Research Report September 2014
     5.   Project Research Report May 2014
     6.   Tobian Translation of May 2014 report
     7.   Project Research Report December 2013
     8.   Project Research Report November 2013
     9 .  Project Research Report August 2012
    10.  Project Research Report February 2010
    11.  Project Research Report February 2009

12. Work continues on many aspects of documenting Ramari Hatohobei:

Vasiliki Vita, Chelsea Pedro, Lincy Marino: Preliminary Phonological Analysis of Ramari Hatohobei: A Standardisation Project for Tobian and Sonsorolese, February 2022
Vasiliki Vita, Chelsea Pedro: Preliminary orthographic design for Ramari Dongosaro, SOAS Working Papers in Linguistics, Volume 20 (2021): 26-48
Vasiliki Vita: Prosodic Patterns in Ramari Hatohobei, MA dissertation for Language Documentation and Description, SOAS University of London, September 2020
van den Berg, Esther: Linguistic Sketch of Hatohobeian and Sonsorolese: a study of phonology and morphology, 2014

Updated: Jully 25, 2023