Interesting Things to Note in Austronesian Languages

At the start of this year I started to have a certain craving to learn some Austronesian Languages. We’re not only talking about Malay and Indonesian, but also languages of the Polynesian and Micronesian Islands like Gagana Samoa, Niuean and the like. There were some nice observations I made when studying some of these (I’m doing Samoan, Hawaiian, Maori, Tokelauan and Niuean. Not all simultaneously, of course) and I’m going to write them right here:

1. Sibilants, and the lack of them

Hawaiian and Maori have one thing in common regarding their phonology – the lack of a sibilant consonant, you know, the ssss sound and the zzzz sound. Some Austronesian languages lack such sibilant consonants, and the two listed are just among the most commonly spoken ones.

2. Two styles of speech

Gagana Samoa has this unique system of informal and formal speech, as the consonants used differ between speech styles. Such differences include usage of K in informal speech and T in formal speech, N in informal speech and G (pronounced ng) in formal speech and L in informal speech instead of R. What I do know at this stage is that Samoan is the most spoken language with such a bizarre speech style system, based on formalities.

3. CV(V)(V) syllables

Many Polynesian languages have this kind of syllable structure, for example, the Samoan word for New Zealand is Niu Sila and in Maori it is Aotearoa.

 

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