The Austronesian language of Samoa. It is very similar to other Polynesian languages.

The alphabet consists of A E I O U F G L M N P S T V in that order. When they number things in order they write (a) (e) (i) etc. as Europeans would write (a) (b) (c). There is also the superscript stroke as in Savai'i, the name of the main island. Other letters may occur in borrowed words.

  • G is a velar nasal as in English 'singing'. It often occurs initially, as in galue 'work'.
  • N is often pronounced as G. For such speakers, this is a very rare instance in phonetics of a language having a velar but not a dental or alveolar nasal.
  • S in Samoan corresponds to H in some other Polynesian languages, e.g. Savai'i = Hawai'i = Maori Hawaiki.
  • T is generally pronounced K, except in very formal speech such as sermons or ceremonial greeting speeches. This is a recent innovation. It is however considered improper for Europeans to use K: they should use the normal T sound.
  • V in Samoan corresponds to W in some other Polynesian languages.
  • The open quote ' (called koma liliu 'turned comma', better known by the Hawaiian name 'okina) marks a weak glottal stop. It derives from proto-Polynesian /k/. Initially it indicates that the following vowel is short.*
  • Vowels can be long or short. In penultimate position they are normally long and stressed; elsewhere this may be marked by a macron. All syllables are open, that is they end with a vowel. Vowel sequences are common.

Verbs are marked for passive and intensive among other forms. The intensive is formed by reduplication. The passive is formed by a prefix that is usually -ia with or without a preceding consonant. This consonant is not predictable. It dates from a time when final consonants occurred in Austronesian. For example, inu 'drink' has the passive inumia, and is related to the Indonesian word minum 'drink'.

The possessive form of a noun is marked by a particle. As in Polynesian generally, nouns fall into two classes, those using a and those using o. No overall rule of classification can be given.

A common prefix is fa'a- 'in the manner of', as in fa'a-Samoa, the Samoan style of doing things, or fa'afafine, living as a woman.

* The koma liliu is variously printed as an ordinary apostrophe (close quote) and a vertical stroke (the ' of a non-smart quote), but I have been convinced by posts on the sci.lang newsgroup that it should best be an open quote, as in Hawaiian.

Sa*mo"an (?), a.

Of or pertaining to the Samoan Islands (formerly called Navigators' Islands) in the South Pacific Ocean, or their inhabitants.



An inhabitant of the Samoan Islands.


© Webster 1913.

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