Samoan is a Polynesian language spoken mainly in Western Samoa and American Samoa, and also in New Zealand, Australia and the USA. In 2015 there were 169,000 speakers of Samoan in Samoa, and there were 49,600 Samoan speakers in American Samoa. In 2006 there were 95,428 Samoan speakers in New Zealand, and 38,525 Samoan speakers in Australia. According to the 2010 US Census, there are 180,000 Samoans in the USA, about 64,000 of whom speak Samoan [source].
Samoan is an official language in both Samoa and American Samoa, along with English. It is closely related Wallisian, Rarotongan and Tongan. Samoan is the language of instruction in primary schools in Samoa, and is used alongside English in secondary schools and colleges. It is also used in government, business, relgiion and in the media.
Samoan has two speech registers: colloquial Samoan, or tautala leaga ("casual speech"), and formal Samoan, or gagana fa‘aaloalo ("polite language"). There are many differences in vocabulary between these registers, and some differences in pronunciation. Formal Somoan is used with people of higher rank, elders, guests and strangers, and in literature. Colloquial Samoan is used with family and friends.
Ways of writing Samoan with the Latin alphabet were developed by Western missionaries in the 19th century. Religious texts in Samoan started to appear from 1839, distributed by the London Missionary Society. A complete Samoan translation of the Bible was published in 1862. A grammar of Samoan was published in the same year.
Hear the Samoan alphabet:
O tagata soifua uma ua saoloto lo latou fananau mai, ma e tutusa o latou tulaga aloaia faapea a latou aia tatau. Ua faaeeina atu i a latou le mafaufau lelei ma le loto fuatiaifo ma e tatau ona faatino le agaga faauso i le va o le tasi i le isi.
All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They
are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another
in a spirit of brotherhood.
(Article 1 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights)
A Grammar and Dictionary of the Samoan Language, with English and Samoan vocabulary
Page last modified: 23.04.21
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