Samoan is a rich language that remains the principal language of the people of Samoa. The Samoan language is exquisite and quite easy to learn and is similar to other languages in the pacific region. “Samoan is a branch of the Austronesian Language, formerly called Malayo-Polynesian language, one of the word’s largest language families, both in terms of numbers of languages-more than 700-and geographic spread-covering islands and some mainland areas from Madagascar in the west to Easter Island and Hawaii in the east” (Amerika Samoa). “The Austronesian language is divided into two branches: Formosan, the languages spoken by about 200,000 people in Taiwan; and Malayo-Polynesian, comprising the rest of the language in the Austronesian family” (Encarta Online). As a student finishing up his 2nd year of the Hawaiian Language, I was amazed to find several words in Pouliuli having the same meaning in Hawaiian. Therefore, this report will focus on the Samoan language; it’s rules, pronunciation, and the similarities and differences between the Samoan language and the Hawaiian language.
The Samoan language cannot be considered as strong language, and few letters of the alphabet are put to use. “D and B are never used; H, R, and K are of rare occurrence, which are found in words that have been introduced. All words have a vowel termination, and their etymological forms are constructed by the employment of particles attached to the roots, thereby forming agglutinative or polysynthetic words. The Samoan language is comprised of only fourteen letters-five vowels, A, E, I, O, U, and nine consonants, F, G, L, M, N, P, S, T, V, --H, K, and R only occurring in words of foreign origin” (Neffgen 3). The Samoan language now contains many introduced words, which have been distorted by added vowels or substituted consonants, in order for native speakers to articulate them.
Samoan vowels have long and short versions. The language is generally pronounced as in romantic languages such as Spanish and Italian. In print the long vowel sound is represented by the presence of a dash or macron over the vowel. Here is a chart on how to pronounce each vowel.
Vowel Long Short
A Bath But
E Eh Bet
I Feet Bit
O Raw Gone
U Pool Pew
Source: Samoan Sensation
“Samoan consonants are pronounced the same as in English, with the exception of G, which sounds like the NG as in song” (Samoan Sensation).
The Hawaiian language and Samoan language are quite similar because they both come from the same language family. While the Samoan language is comprised of fourteen letters, “the Hawaiian language is comprised of twelve letters-five vowels, A, E, I, O, U, and seven consonants, H, K, L, M, N, P, and W” (‘Ôlelo ‘Ôiwi 4). Both languages also use a glottal stop (‘), “a momentary check on the airstream caused by closing the glottis (the space between the vocal cords) and thereby stopping the vibration of the vocal cords. Upon release, there is a slight choke, or coughlike explosive sound” (Britannica Online). An example of a glottal stop is like the sound in the middle of uh-oh. Both languages also use Macrons in words, “which is a line used over vowels to indicate longer sound duration” (‘Ôlelo ‘Ôiwi 408). The main difference in both languages is the letters used. Since the Samoan language has two letters more than the Hawaiian language, the Hawaiian language uses K and H to replace the letters of the Samoan language.
While the Samoan language lacks prestige compared to the English language, it makes up for that by being one of the most beautiful languages to listen. That may be the reason why many people visit Samoa every year. It even lured me into researching more information about the language itself. In doing so I fell in love with the music of Samoa. Indeed the Samoan language is easy to learn due to it only has fourteen letters. The pronunciation is similar to the romantic languages and is quite similar to the Hawaiian language.
1. Cleeland, Hokulani. ‘Ôlelo ‘Ôiwi.
Hawai’i: ‘Aha Punana Leo, Inc, 1994
2. Neffgen, H. Grammar and Vocabulary of the Samoan Language.
New York: AMS press, 1978
3. Amerika Samoa. Samoan Language.
4. Encarta Online. Austronesian Languages
5. Samoan Sensation. Samoan Grammar
Word Count: 668