Northwest Solomonic


Torau is one of three languages in the Mono-Uruavan subgroup of the Northwest Solomonic subgroup of Oceanic languages. It is spoken in three villages on the east coast of Bougainville: Rorovana (split into the subvillages of Amata Geesi ('Big Village', also known as Rorovana 1) and Sivilnai (known as Rorovana 2)), Vito, and Tarara. Ethnologue gives a figure of 605 speakers in 1963. Today there are about 1200 speakers, including 500-600 in Amata Geesi, 400-500 in Sivilnai, and about one hundred each in Vito and Tarara.

The ancestors of the Torau moved from Alu in the Shortland Islands to mainland Bougainville in the mid 19th century, and the Torau were formerly in several other locations on Bougainville. McAdam, the Kieta Patrol Officer in the mid 1920s identified Torau as spoken in Rorovana, Vito, Tarara and Labelai (McAdam 1926), and the name Torau itself is also the name of a location at the southern end of Bougainville which oral history indicates was the first settling point on the mainland for the Torau people.

A project to document and investigate Torau is currently underway by Bill Palmer, who carried out fieldwork in Rorovana in 2006 and 2007.


A corpus of Torau texts were collected by Bill Palmer in Rorovana village in 2006 and 2007. Audio and interlinearlized transcripts of selected texts are available below. Earlier tape recordings were made locally in the 1980s of two speakers. These have been digitised and will also be made available soon.

Torau texts

Torau ways (speaker Joseph Sirinai) audio transcription
Torau migration story (speaker Herman Lawman Lovinau) audio transcription
World War II story (speaker Joseph Aleale)

audio 2 3 4

Komakomasa Enelela story (speaker Raymond Pira) audio transcription
Oseoseloloana story (speaker Marina Mauku) audio transcription
Flying Fox and Sea Eagle story (speaker Thomas Kokoito) audio transcription
Sugiaiworo story (speaker Rose Narie) audio transcription
Tapi Samasama story (speaker Marina Mauku) audio transcription
Kokonibaka story (Francis Tiotorau (left, under the puputu tree)) audio transcription
Canoe making story (speaker Michael Binawata) audio transcription
Tuna fishing story (speaker Joseph Sirinai) audio transcription
Garden making story (speaker Marina Mauku) audio transcription


A dictionary of Torau (Palmer, Bill (2007) Torau dictionary) is available here.


The grammar of Torau is currently being investigated by Bill Palmer. A draft paper on aspect, modality, tense and reduplication in the Torau verb complex may be veiwed here.

Prior to the current work, the only material on Torau grammar was a three page set of grammatical notes published by a German missionary in 1912:

Rausch, Peter (1912) 'Die Sprache von Südost-Bougainville, Deutsche Salomoninseln.' Section D: 'Die Torau-Sprache.' Anthropos 7:983-985.

Bill Palmer 2007