Language facts sheet by Niklas Jonsson
©1997-2000 POLLI & Niklas Jonsson
A bibliography of works refered to in this file may be found in the
Polynesian Literature List.
Country/territory where spoken
SMY (Grimes 1996: Ethnologue);
SAM (Biggs 1971)
Austronesian, Malayo-Polynesian, Central-Eastern Malayo-Polynesian, Eastern
Malayo-Polynesian, Oceanic, Central-Eastern Oceanic, Remote Oceanic, Central
Pacific, Eastern Fiji-Polynesian, Polynesian, Nuclear Polynesian, Samoic-Outlier,
Samoan has no significant dialect variations, but there are important register-based
distinctions in the phonology. Varieties include colloquial speech
(tautala leaga) and formal speech (tautala lelei). Many words also have two
forms, a basic one used in both colloquial and formal speech, and polite one
used in conversation with people of high rank.
Samoan speaking population
172,400 in the Samoan Islands (out of which 140,000 in Western Samoa (1987) and
32,400 in American Samoa); 15,000 in Hawaii; 90,000 on USA west coast; 50,000 in
New Zealand; possibly 300 to 1,000 in Fiji; some in Australia; some in Tokelau;
8 in Sweden (1998); 328,000 total or more.
Status of language
Official language in Western Samoa.
Samoan is used in newspapers, radio and TV.
A, E, I, O, U, ', F, G, L, M, N, P, S, T, V , H, K, R. The sounds represented by the letters H, K and
R are mainly used in words of foreign origin. R is pronounced somewhat like the English R rather than the flapped R found in other Polynesian languages. In colloquial speech N is pronounced like G (nasal velar), and T is pronounced like K.
Word order typology
70% lexical similarity with East Uvean, 67% with Rarotongan, 66% with Tongan,
62% with Tuamotuan.
Data last updated
14 November 1998
SELECTED BIBLIOGRAPHY - SAMOAN
1991 . A simplified dictionary of modern Samoan. Auckland.
1986. A lexicon of foreign laon-words in the Samoan language
CHURCHWARD, CLERK MAXWELL.
1934. Relative pronouns in Samoan (in: Journal of the
Polynesian Society, vol 43, p 192-7)
1926. A Samoan grammar. Melbourne. Spectator
1951 (2nd edition). A Samoan grammar. Melbourne. Spectator
1984. Languages of Asia and the Pacific (contains info on Samoan, including useful short vocabularies). North Ryde, Australia. Angus & Robertson Publications
1985. A sketch of Samoan grammar
1987. From the land of Nafua: Samoan oral texts in
transcription with translation, notes and vocabylary
1988. Gagana Samoa: A Samoan Language Coursebook
1974 (?). Grammar level 1, 2 & 3: Fa'a-Samoa
JOHNSON, A./HARMON, L.
1970. Let's speak Samoan. Auckland. The church of Jesus
Christ of latter day saints
1997. Det polynesiska verbmorfemet -Cia; om dess funktion i samoanska [The Polynesian verbal morpheme -Cia; its function in Samoan] (B.A. thesis). Uppsala. Uppsala University, Department of linguistics
1999. Some grammatical properties of Samoan kin terms (M.A. thesis). Stockholm. University of Stockholm, Department of linguistics
1957. 'O le tulipe uliuli (translation from Dumas, A. The black
1958. 'O le motu o 'oloa (translation from Stevenson, R.L. Treasure
1958. 'O 'oloa a Solomona (translation from Rider Haggard, H. King
1962. Teach yorself Samoan. London. English Universities Press Ltd
1973 (3rd impression with corrections). Teach yorself Samoan
1961. The Samoan vocabulary of respect (in: Journal of the Royal
Anthropological Institute of Great Britain and Ireland)
1962. Active, passive or perfective in Samoan: a fresh appraisal to
the problem (in: Journal of the Polynesian Society, vol 71, p 151-61)
1966. Samoan dictionary (Samoan-English, English-Samoan)
1973. It is aspect (not voice) which is marked in Samoan (in:
Oceanic Linguistics, vol 12, p 621-39)
MISSIONARY TRAINING CENTER.
1984. Samoan for missionaries. Salt Lake City. The
church of Jesus Christ of latter day saints
MOSEL, ULRIKE/HOVDHAUGEN, EVEN.
1993. Samoan Reference Grammar
1918. Grammar and vocabulary of the Samoan language (togehter with
remarks on some of the points of similarity between the Samoan, Tahitian
and Maori languages)
1982. Ergativity and word order in Samoan child language (in: Language, vol 58, pp 646-671).
1961. A scheme for describing Samoan grammar (in: Te Reo, vol 4,
1962. The person-markers in Samoa (in: Te Reo, vol 5, p 52-6)
1966. Samoan phrase structure (in: Anthropological linguistics,
vol 8, no 5)
1893. Grammar and dictionary of the Samoan language
1911 edition. Grammar and dictionary of the Samoan language
1960 (4th edition, revised and enlarged by Newell, J.E.). Grammar and dictionary
of the Samoan language. Malua. Malua Printing Press
1984 edition. Grammar and dictionary of the Samoan language. Papakura. R. McMillan
SCHULTZ, E. (translated into English by Brother Herman)
1985 (1965). Samoan proverbial expressions (original title: Sprichwörtliche Redensarten der Samoaner). Auckland / Suva. Polynesian Press / Institute of Pacific Studies, University of the South Pacific
1974. Samoan language and customs (thesis). Chicago. University of
1896. Samoanische Texte (Texts in Samoan). Berlin. Veröffentlichungen aus dem Königlichen Museum für Völkerkunde
1855-1970. The Bible
1846-1982. New Testament
1836-1847. Portions of the Bible
[YEARLY LITERARY JOURNAL].
1979-. Moana. Apia. USP Center