There are three social dialects: one for talking to the king, one for chiefs and nobles, and one for the common people."Talking chiefs" are among the few who know all three dialects; they mediate in official ceremonies and in encounters between the king, the nobility, and the commoners.The 1875 constitution recognizes only his royal line.In 1900, the British granted Tonga's request for protectorate status.Most of the islands are raised coral islands, some are volcanic, and a few are atolls. The population was 97,784 according to the 1996 census.Coral beaches lined with palm trees and emerald lagoons with luxuriant tropical vegetation are characteristic features. Since 1891, the growth rate has increased steadily, peaking in the 1950s and 1960s.Now Tongans are concentrated in villages and small towns.
Tongans were fierce warriors and skilled navigators whose outrigger canoes could carry up to two hundred people.A spirit of independence and pride was nurtured during the long reign of Queen Salote (1918–1965), who led the nation into the twentieth century, paying special attention to preserving its heritage.Because of her vision, Tongan culture is an integral part of the school curriculum.In 1970, all powers were restored to the Tongan monarchy.The British protectorate shielded Tonga from other colonizing powers.