Samoan language

Samoan (Gagana faʻa Sāmoa or Gagana Sāmoa; IPA: [ŋaˈŋana ˈsaːmʊa]) is the language of the Samoan Islands, comprising Samoa and the United States territory of American Samoa. It is an official language – alongside English – in both jurisdictions.

Samoan, a Polynesian language, is the first language for most of the Samoa Islands' population of about 246,000 people. With many Samoan people living in other countries, the total number of speakers worldwide is estimated at 510,000 in 2015. It is the third most widely spoken language in New Zealand, where more than 2% of the population – 86,000 people – were able to speak it as of 2013.[3]

The language is notable for the phonological differences between formal and informal speech as well as a ceremonial form used in Samoan oratory.

Gagana faʻa Sāmoa
Native toSamoan Islands
Native speakers
510,000 (2015)[1]
Latin (Samoan alphabet)
Samoan Braille
Official status
Official language in
 American Samoa
Language codes
ISO 639-1sm
ISO 639-2smo
ISO 639-3smo


Samoan is an analytic, isolating language and a member of the Austronesian family, and more specifically the Samoic branch of the Polynesian subphylum. It is closely related to other Polynesian languages with many shared cognate words such as aliʻi, ʻava, atua, tapu and numerals as well as in the name of gods in mythology.

Linguists differ somewhat on the way they classify Samoan in relation to the other Polynesian languages.[4] The "traditional" classification,[5] based on shared innovations in grammar and vocabulary, places Samoan with Tokelauan, the Polynesian outlier languages and the languages of Eastern Polynesia, which include Rapanui, Māori, Tahitian and Hawaiian. Nuclear Polynesian and Tongic (the languages of Tonga and Niue) are the major subdivisions of Polynesian under this analysis. A revision by Marck reinterpreted the relationships among Samoan and the outlier languages. In 2008 an analysis, of basic vocabulary only, from the Austronesian Basic Vocabulary Database is contradictory in that while in part it suggests that Tongan and Samoan form a subgroup,[6] the old subgroups Tongic and Nuclear Polynesian are still included in the classification search of the database itself.[7]

Geographic distribution

There are approximately 470,000 Samoan speakers worldwide, 50 per cent of whom live in the Samoan Islands.[8] Thereafter, the greatest concentration is in New Zealand, where people of Samoan ethnicity comprise the largest group after New Zealand European, Māori, and Chinese: the 2006 New Zealand census recorded 95,428 speakers of the Samoan language, and 141,103 people of Samoan ethnicity. Among ethnic Samoans in New Zealand, 70.5 percent (87,109 people) could speak Samoan. Samoan is the third most commonly spoken language in New Zealand after English and Māori.

Flag of Samoa
Flag for Samoa where it is the official language.
Samoa islands 2002
Samoa and American Samoan islands where Samoan is the official language.

The majority of Samoans in New Zealand (66.4 per cent) reside in the commercial capital, Auckland. Of those who speak Samoan, 67.4 percent live in Auckland, and 70.4 percent of people who are both of Samoan ethnicity and Samoan speakers live in that city.

According to the Australian census of 2006, there were 38,525 speakers of Samoan in Australia, and 39,992 people of Samoan ancestry.

US Census 2010 shows more than 180,000 Samoans reside in the United States, which is triple the number of people living in American Samoa, while slightly less than the estimated population of the island nation of Samoa – 193,000, as of July 2011.

Samoan Language Week (Vaiaso o le Gagana Sāmoa) is an annual celebration of the language in New Zealand supported by the government[9] and various organisations including UNESCO. Samoan Language Week was started in Australia for the first time in 2010.[10]


The Samoa alphabet consists of 14 letters, with another three letters (H, K, R) used in loan words. The ʻ (koma liliu or ʻokina) is used for the glottal stop.

Aa, Āā Ee, Ēē Ii, Īī Oo, Ōō Uu, Ūū Ff Gg Ll Mm Nn Pp Ss Tt Vv (Hh) (Kk) (Rr)
/a/, /aː/ /ɛ/, /eː/ /ɪ/, /iː/ /o/, /ɔː/ /ʊ, w/, /uː/ /f/ /ŋ/ /l, ɾ/ /m/ /n, ŋ/ /p/ /s/ /t, k/ /v/ (/h/) (/k/) (/ɾ/) /ʔ/


Vowel length is phonemic in Samoan; all five vowels also have a long form denoted by the macron.[11] For example, tama means child or boy, while tamā means father.


Short Long
Front Back Front Back
Close i u
Mid e o
Open a

Diphthongs are /au ao ai ae ei ou ue/.

The combination of u followed by a vowel in some words creates the sound of the English w, a letter not part of the Samoan alphabet, as in uaua (artery, tendon).

/a/ is reduced to [ə] in only a few words, such as mate or maliu 'dead', vave 'be quick'.


In formal Samoan, used for example in news broadcasts or sermons, the consonants /t n ŋ/ are used. In colloquial Samoan, however, /n ŋ/ merge as [ŋ] and /t/ is pronounced [k].[12]

The glottal stop /ʔ/ is phonemic in Samoan. The presence or absence of the glottal stop affects the meaning of words otherwise spelled the same,[11] e.g. mai = from, originate from; maʻi = sickness, illness.[13]

/l/ is pronounced as a flap [ɾ] following a back vowel (/a, o, u/) and preceding an /i/; otherwise it is [l]. /s/ is less sibilant (hissing) than in English. /ɾ h/ are found in loan words.

Labial Alveolar Velar Glottal
Nasal m (n) ŋ  
Plosive p (t) k ʔ
Fricative f v s   (h)
Lateral   l    
Rhotic   (r)    

The consonants in parentheses are only present in loanwords and formal Samoan.[14]

Foreign words

Loanwords from English and other languages have been adapted to Samoan phonology:[15]

/k/ is retained in some instances (Christ = "Keriso", club = "kalapu", coffee = "kofe"), and has become [t] in rare instances (such as "se totini", from the English "stocking").

/ɹ/ becomes [ɾ] in some instances (e.g. Christ = "Keriso", January = "Ianuari", number = "numera"), and [l] in others (January = "Ianuali", herring = "elegi").

/d/ becomes [t] (David = "Tavita", diamond = "taimane").

/g/ becomes [k] in some cases (gas = "kesi"), while /tʃ/, /ʃ/ and /dʒ/ usually become [s] (Charles = "Salesi", Charlotte = "Salata", James = "Semisi").

/h/ is retained at the beginning of some proper names (Herod = "Herota"), but in some cases becomes an 's' (hammer = "samala"), and is omitted in others (herring = "elegi", half-caste = "afakasi")

/z/ becomes [s] (Zachariah = "Sakaria")

/w/ becomes [v] (William = "Viliamu")

/b/ becomes [p] (Britain = "Peretania", butter = "pata")


Stress generally falls on the penultimate mora; that is, on the last syllable if that contains a long vowel or diphthong or on the second-last syllable otherwise. There are exceptions though, with many words ending in a long vowel taking the accent on the ultima; as ma'elega, zealous; ʻonā, to be intoxicated; faigatā, difficult.

Verbs formed from nouns ending in a, and meaning to abound in, have properly two aʻs, as puaa (puaʻaa), pona, tagata, but are written with one.

In speaking of a place at some distance, the accent is placed on the last syllable; as ʻO loʻo i Safotu, he is at Safotu. The same thing is done in referring to a family; as Sa Muliaga, the family of Muliaga, the term Sa referring to a wide extended family of clan with a common ancestor. So most words ending in ga, not a sign of a noun, as tigā, puapuaga, pologa, faʻataga and aga. So also all words ending in a diphthong, as mamau, mafai, avai.[15]

In speaking the voice is raised, and the emphasis falls on the last word in each sentence.

When a word receives an addition by means of an affixed particle, the accent is shifted forward; as alofa, love; alofága, loving, or showing love; alofagía, beloved.

Reduplicated words have two accents; as palapala, mud; segisegi, twilight. Compound words may have even three or four, according to the number of words and affixes of which the compound word is composed; as tofátumoánaíná, to be engulfed.

The articles le and se are unaccented. When used to form a pronoun or participle, le and se are contractions for le e, se e, and so are accented; as ʻO le ona le mea, the owner, literally the (person) whose (is) the thing, instead of O le e ona le mea. The sign of the nominative ʻo, the prepositions o, a, i, e, and the euphonic particles i and te, are unaccented; as ʻO maua, ma te o atu ia te oe, we two will go to you.

Ina, the sign of the imperative, is accented on the ultima; ína, the sign of the subjunctive, on the penultima. The preposition is accented on the ultima, the pronoun ia on the penultima.[15]


Samoan syllable structure is (C)V, where V may be long or a diphthong. A sequence VV may occur only in derived forms and compound words; within roots, only the initial syllable may be of the form V. Metathesis of consonants is frequent, such as manu for namu 'scent', lavaʻau for valaʻau 'to call', but vowels may not be mixed up in this way.

Every syllable ends in a vowel. No syllable consists of more than three sounds, one consonant and two vowels, the two vowels making a diphthong; as fai, mai, tau. Roots are sometimes monosyllabic, but mostly disyllabic or a word consisting of two syllables. Polysyllabic words are nearly all derived or compound words; as nofogatā from nofo (sit, seat) and gatā, difficult of access; taʻigaafi, from taʻi, to attend, and afi, fire, the hearth, making to attend to the fire; talafaʻasolopito, ("history") stories placed in order, faletalimalo, ("communal house") house for receiving guests.[15]



Personal pronouns

Like many Austronesian languages, Samoan has separate words for inclusive and exclusive we, and distinguishes singular, dual, and plural. The root for the inclusive pronoun may occur in the singular, in which case it indicates emotional involvement on the part of the speaker.

singular dual plural
First person exclusive a‘u , ‘ou mā‘ua, mā mātou
First person inclusive tā‘ua, tā tātou
Second person ‘oe, ‘e ‘oulua ‘outou, tou
Third person ia / na lā‘ua lātou

In formal speech, fuller forms of the roots mā-, tā-, and lā- are ‘imā-, ‘itā-, and ‘ilā-.


The definite article is le: ʻo le Atua, God; indefinite e.g., ʻo le matai o Pai, (the) chief (named) Pai. It is sometimes used where English would require the indefinite article: Ua tu mai le vaʻa, a canoe appears. The article se is always a singular indefinite (ta mai se laʻau = cut me a stick), while "ni" is the plural indefinite ("ta mai ni laʻau" = cut me some sticks). The article "le" is omitted before plural nouns: ʻO le tagata, the person; ʻO tagata, people.[15]


Names of natural objects, such as men, trees and animals, are mostly primitive nouns, e.g.ʻO le la, the sun; ʻo le tagata, the person; ʻo le talo, the taro; ʻo le iʻa, the fish; also manufactured articles, such as matau, an axe, vaʻa, canoe, tao, spear, fale, house, etc.[15]

Some nouns are derived from verbs by the addition of either ga, saga, taga, maga, or ʻaga: such as tuli, to chase; tuliga, chasing; luluʻu, to fill the hand; luʻutaga, a handful; feanu, to spit; anusaga, spittle; tanu, to bury; tanulia, the part buried. These verbal nouns have an active participial meaning; e.g. ʻO le faiga o le fale, the building of the house. Often they refer to the persons acting, in which case they govern the next noun in the genitive with a; ʻO le faiga a fale, contracted into ʻo le faiga fale, those who build the house, the builders. In some cases verbal nouns refer to either persons or things done by them: ʻO le faiga a talo, the getting of taro, or the party getting the taro, or the taro itself which has been got. The context in such cases decides the meaning. Sometimes place is indicated by the termination; such as tofā, to sleep; tofāga, a sleeping-place, a bed. ʻO le taʻelega is either the bathing-place or the party of bathers. The first would take o after it to govern the next noun, ʻO le taʻelega o le nuʻu, the bathing-place of the village; the latter would be followed by a, ʻO le taʻelega a teine, the bathing-place of the girls.

Sometimes such nouns have a passive meaning, such as being acted upon; ʻO le taomaga a lau, the thatch that has been pressed; ʻo le faupuʻega a maʻa, the heap of stones, that is, the stones which have been heaped up. Those nouns which take ʻaga are rare, except on Tutuila; gataʻaga, the end; ʻamataʻaga, the beginning; olaʻaga, lifetime; misaʻaga, quarrelling. Sometimes the addition of ga makes the signification intensive; such as ua and timu, rain; uaga and timuga, continued pouring (of rain).

The simple form of the verb is sometimes used as a noun: tatalo, to pray; ʻo le tatalo, a prayer; poto, to be wise; ʻo le poto, wisdom.

The reciprocal form of the verb is often used as a noun; e.g. ʻO le fealofani, ʻo femisaiga, quarrellings (from misa), feʻumaiga; E lelei le fealofani, mutual love is good.

A few diminutives are made by reduplication, e.g. paʻapaʻa, small crabs; pulepule, small shells; liilii, ripples; 'ili'ili, small stones.

Adjectives are made into abstract nouns by adding an article or pronoun; e.g. lelei, good; ʻo le lelei, goodness; silisili, excellent or best; ʻo lona lea silisili, that is his excellence or that is his best.

Many verbs may become participle-nouns by adding ga; as sau, come, sauga; e.g. ʻO lona sauga muamua , his first coming; mau” to mauga, ʻO le mauga muamua, the first dwelling.


Gender is sometimes expressed by distinct names:

ʻO le matai, a chief.

ʻO le tamāloa, a man.

ʻO le tama, a boy.

ʻO le poʻa, a male animal.

ʻO le toeaʻina, an elderly man.

sole, colloquial male label.

ʻO le tamaitaʻi, a lady.

ʻO le fafine, a woman.

ʻO le teine, a girl.

ʻO le manu fafine, a female animal.

ʻO le loʻomatua, an elderly woman.

suga, funa, colloquial female label.

When no distinct name exists, the gender of animals is known by adding poʻa and fafine respectively. The gender of some few plants is distinguished by tane and fafine, as in ʻo le esi tane; ʻo le esi fafine. No other names of objects have any mark of gender.[15]


The singular number is known by the article with the noun; e.g. ʻo le tama, a boy.

Properly there is no dual. It is expressed by omitting the article and adding numbers e lua for things e.g. e toʻalua teine, two girls, for persons; or ʻo fale e lua, two houses; ʻo tagata e toʻalua, two persons; or ʻo lāʻua, them/those two (people).

The plural is known by:

  1. the omission of the article; ʻo ʻulu, breadfruits.
  2. particles denoting multitude, as ʻau, vao, mou, and moíu, and such plural is emphatic; ʻo le ʻau iʻa, a shoal of fishes; ʻo le vao tagata, a forest of men, i.e., a great company; ʻo le mou mea, a great number of things; ʻo le motu o tagata, a crowd of people. These particles cannot be used indiscriminately; motu could not be used with fish, nor ʻau with men.
  3. lengthening, or more correctly doubling, a vowel in the word; tuafāfine, instead of tuafafine, sisters of a brother. This method is rare.[15]

Plurality is also expressed by internal reduplication in Samoan verbs (-CV- infix), by which the root or stem of a word, or part of it, is repeated.

    savali 'Walk' (singular) sāvavali 'Walking' (plural) (sā-va-vali)
    alofa 'Love' (singular) ālolofa 'Loving' (plural) (a-lo-lofa) (Moravcsik 1978, Broselow and McCarthy 1984)
    le tamāloa 'the man' (singular)[15] tamāloloa 'men' (plural) (tamā-lo-loa)


Possessive relations are indicated by the particles a or o. Possessive pronouns also have a-forms and o-forms: lou, lau, lona, lana, lo and la matou, etc. Writers in the 1800s like Platt were unable to understand the underlying principles governing the use of the two forms: "There is no general rule which will apply to every case. The governing noun decides which should be used; thus ʻO le poto ʻo le tufuga fai fale, "the wisdom of the builder"; ʻO le amio a le tama, "the conduct of the boy"; ʻupu o fāgogo, "words of fāgogo" (a form of narrated and sung storytelling); but ʻupu a tagata, "words of men". Pratt instead gives a rote list of uses and exceptions:

O is used with:

  1. Nouns denoting parts of the body; fofoga o le aliʻi, eyes of the chief. So of hands, legs, hair, etc.; except the beard, which takes a, lana ʻava; but a chief's is lona soesa. Different terms and words apply to chiefs and people of rank and status according to the 'polite' variant of the Samoan language, similar to the 'polite' variant in the Japanese language.
  2. The mind and its affections; ʻo le toʻasa o le aliʻi, the wrath of the chief. So of the will, desire, love, fear, etc.; ʻO le manaʻo o le nuʻu, the desire of the land; ʻO le mataʻu o le tama, the fear of the boy.
  3. Houses, and all their parts; canoes, land, country, trees, plantations; thus, pou o le fale, posts of the house; lona fanua, lona naʻu, etc.
  4. People, relations, slaves; ʻo ona tagata, his people; ʻo le faletua o le aliʻi, the chief's wife. So also of a son, daughter, father, etc. Exceptions; Tane, husband; ava, wife (of a common man), and children, which take a; lana, ava, ma, ana, fānau.
  5. Garments, etc., if for use; ona ʻofu. Except when spoken of as property, riches, things laid up in store.

A is used with:

  1. Words denoting conduct, custom, etc.; amio, masani, tu.
  2. Language, words, speeches; gagana, upu, fetalaiga, afioga; ʻO le upu a le tama.
  3. Property of every kind. Except garments, etc., for use.
  4. Those who serve, animals, men killed and carried off in war; lana tagata.
  5. Food of every kind.
  6. Weapons and implements, as clubs, knives, swords, bows, cups, tattooing instruments, etc. Except spears, axes, and ʻoso (the stick used for planting taro), which take o.
  7. Work; as lana galuega. Except faiva, which takes o.

Some words take either a or o; as manatu, taofi, ʻO se tali a Matautu, an answer given by Matautu; ʻo se tali ʻo Matautu, an answer given to Matautu.


  1. Nouns denoting the vessel and its contents do not take the particle between them: ʻo le ʻato talo, a basket of taro; ʻo le fale oloa, a house of property, shop, or store-house.
  2. Nouns denoting the material of which a thing is made: ʻO le tupe auro, a coin of gold; ʻo le vaʻa ifi, a canoe of teak.
  3. Nouns indicating members of the body are rather compounded with other nouns instead of being followed by a possessive particle: ʻO le mataivi, an eye of bone; ʻo le isu vaʻa, a nose of a canoe; ʻo le gutu sumu, a mouth of the sumu (type of fish); ʻo le loto alofa, a heart of love.
  4. Many other nouns are compounded in the same way: ʻO le apaau tane, the male wing; ʻo le pito pou, the end of the post.
  5. The country or town of a person omits the particle: ʻO le tagata Sāmoa, a man or person of Samoa.
  6. Nouns ending in a, lengthen (or double) that letter before other nouns in the possessive form: ʻO le sua susu; ʻo le maga ala, or maga a ala, a branch road.
  7. The sign of the possessive is not used between a town and its proper name, but the topic marker 'o is repeated; thus putting the two in apposition: ʻO le ʻaʻai ʻo Matautu, the commons of Matautu.


Some adjectives are primitive, as umi, long; poto, wise. Some are formed from nouns by the addition of a, meaning "covered with" or "infested with"; thus, ʻeleʻele, dirt; ʻeleʻelea, dirty; palapala, mud; palapalā, muddy.

Others are formed by doubling the noun; as pona, a knot; ponapona, knotty; fatu, a stone; fatufatu, stony.

Others are formed by prefixing faʻa to the noun; as ʻo le tu fa'asāmoa, Samoan custom or fa'amatai.

Like ly in English, the faʻa often expresses similitude; ʻo le amio faʻapuaʻa, behave like a pig (literally).

In one or two cases a is prefixed; as apulupulu, sticky, from pulu, resin; avanoa, open; from and noa.

Verbs are also used as adjectives: ʻo le ala faigatā, a difficult road; ʻo le vai tafe, a river, flowing water; ʻo le laʻau ola, a live tree; also the passive: ʻo le aliʻi mātaʻutia.

Ma is the prefix of condition, sae, to tear; masae, torn; as, ʻO le iʻe masae, torn cloth; Goto, to sink; magoto, sunk; ʻo le vaʻa magoto, a sunken canoe.

A kind of compound adjective is formed by the union of a noun with an adjective; as ʻo le tagata lima mālosi, a strong man, literally, the stronghanded man; ʻo le tagata loto vaivai, a weak-spirited man.

Nouns denoting the materials out of which things are made are used as adjectives: ʻo le mama auro, a gold ring; ʻo le fale maʻa, a stone house. Or they may be reckoned as nouns in the genitive.

Adjectives expressive of colours are mostly reduplicated words; as sinasina or paʻepaʻe (white); uliuli (black); samasama (yellow); ʻenaʻena (brown); mumu (red), etc.; but when they follow a noun they are usually found in their simple form; as ʻo le ʻie sina, white cloth; ʻo le puaʻa uli, a black pig. The plural is sometimes distinguished by doubling the first syllable; as sina, white; plural, sisina; tele, great; pl. tetele. In compound words the first syllable of the root is doubled; as maualuga, high; pl. maualuluga. Occasionally the reciprocal form is used as a plural; as lele, flying; ʻo manu felelei, flying creatures, birds.

Comparison is generally effected by using two adjectives, both in the positive state; thus e lelei lenei, ʻa e leaga lena, this is good – but that is bad, not in itself, but in comparison with the other; e umi lenei, a e puupuu lena, this is long, that is short.

The superlative is formed by the addition of an adverb, such as matuā, tasi, sili, silisiliʻese aʻiaʻi, naʻuā; as ʻua lelei tasi, it alone is good – that is, nothing equals it. ʻUa matuā silisili ona lelei, it is very exceedingly good; ʻua tele naʻuā, it is very great. Silisili ese, highest, ese, differing from all others.

Naua has often the meaning of "too much"; ua tele naua, it is greater than is required.


Sentences have different types of word order and the four most commonly used are verb–subject–object (VSO), verb–object–subject (VOS), subject–verb–object (SVO) and object–verb–subject (OVS).[11][16][17]

For example:- The girl went to the house. (SVO); girl (subject), went (verb), house (object).

Samoan word order;

  • (VSO)

Sa alu le teine ʻi le fale.; sa alu (verb), teine (subject), fale (object).


  • (VOS)

Sa alu ʻi le fale le teine.


  • (OVS)

Le fale sa alu ʻi ai le teine.


  • (SVO)

Le teine sa alu ʻi le fale.



A phrase or clause can be made negative by the addition of a particle, a morpheme usually meaning ‘not’. There are two common negative particles in Samoan, and leʻi (sometimes also written as lei). has the allomorphs [le:] or [le] (Mosel & Hovdhaugen, 1992, pp. 142, 375).[18] should not be confused for le, the specific singular article, which indicates that the noun phrase refers to one particular entity (Mosel & Hovdhaugen, 1992, pp. 259). and lei negate declarative and interrogative sentences, but do not negate imperative sentences. Negative imperative verbs are discussed later in this entry. (meaning “not”) can be combined with all tense-aspect-mood particles (or 'TAM' particles), except those that are optative and subjunctive, such as neʻi, seʻi, and ʻia (Mosel & Hovdhaugen, 1992, pp. 375).

A negative particle may mark a negative verbal clause, as seen in the example below (from Mosel & Hovdhaugen, 1992, pp. 56).

‘Ua fiafia le tama

PERF not happy ART boy

'The boy is unhappy.'

In this example of a negated declarative sentence, it can be seen that, in Samoan, there is no equivalent gloss for 'unhappy'. The negative particle modifies the verbal clause to form something like “not happy” instead.

The meaning of leʻi differs slightly from that of lē. Leʻi indicates that an event or state has not been actualised yet, or for the time being, but is expected to become so. Therefore, leʻi is often translated as “not yet” rather than simply “not”. Leʻi is usually only combined with the general TAM particle e or te. See the example below (from Mosel & Hovdhaugen, 1992, pp. 376).

E lei tea Tutuila ae amata le pele

GENR {not yet} part Tutuila but begin ART card-playing

'The playing of cards started already before we left Tutuila.'

The above example (2) demonstrates the common usage of leʻi to mean “not yet”. In some cases, leʻi simply means “no, not at all”, expressing the concept that an event that had been expected to happen or had been thought to have happened, did not occur after all (Mosel & Hovdhaugen, 1992, pp. 479).

There is a particle, faʻa=, that acts as a causative, as well being as the most common prefix in the Samoan language. This particle can be attached to nearly all nouns and non-ergative verbs. When attached to negated verb phrases, faʻa= means having the qualities of or being similar to whatever is denoted by the basic stem or phrase. It is often combined with the negative particle (or its allomorphs) to form the construction faʻa=lē=. Prefixing Faʻa=lē= onto a verb provides a polite way to say a negative phrase. Mosel & Hovdhaugen (1992, pp. 175–179) state that these particles provide three ways to express negative evaluations that vary on a scale of politeness, as demonstrated below:

(3) leaga lē lelei fa‘a=lē=lelei
"bad" "not good" “like=not=good”
less polite more polite

Position of negation in sentences

In Samoan, particles modifying sentences usually take the first place in the sentence, with the exception of the question particle ʻea. The particles forming a category are not always mutually exclusive: for instance, while two negative particles cannot be combined, certain prepositions can occur together. Additionally, negative prenuclear particles will follow the preverbal pronoun or the TAM particle (Mosel & Hovdhaugen, 1992, pp. 140).

In the following examples from Mosel & Hovdhaugen (1992, pp. 331), the negative particles follow the TAM particle te (Example 1: e) or the preverbal pronoun (Example 2: ʻou).

E lelei

GENR not good

'It is not good.'

ʻOu te alu i Apia

1sg GENR not go LD Apia

'I don't go to Apia.'

In both examples, the negative particle is in the second position, after the preverbal pronoun and/or the TAM particle. In Example 2, there is both a preverbal pronoun (‘ou) AND a TAM particle following it (te). This demonstrates that the negative particle must always follow these two types of preceding particles in the sentence, even if they are both present.

Verbs exempt from negation

There are two existential verbs in Samoan: iai, “to exist, be present” and the negative equivalent leai [leái] or [le:ái], “to not exist, be absent”. They differ from all other Samoan verbs in at least one respect: they cannot be negated by a negative particle. Mosel & Hovdhaugen (1992, pp.114) suggest that this originates in the etymology of these verbs: the negative existential verb leai is probably derived from (“not”) and ai (ANAPH, “not there”). It seems that the inclusion of negation in the verb itself disallows the negative particle from the sentence structure.

See the example from Mosel & Hovdhaugen (1992, pp.56) in the sentence below:

E leai ni taavale, aua e lei oo atu i ai ala taavale

GENR {not exist} ART(NSP.PL) car because GENR {not yet} reach DIR LD ANAPH road(SP.PL) car

'There were not any cars, because the roads did not reach there.'

In this example, the existential verb leai has been used to indicate the absence of something (that is, the cars) rather than using a negative particle. However, a negative particle (lei) has been used in the second clause, modifying the verbal clause to create the phrase “the roads did NOT reach there”, with the emphasis on the absence of the roads in that area.

According to Mosel & Hovdhaugen (1992, pp. 480–481) the only TAM particles that appear with leai are ʻua and e or te. This means that leai acts as if non-existence is a general fact, rather than linking it to a specific point in time. When another verb follows leai within the same verb phrase, it functions as a more emphatic negation meaning something like “not at all”. This is demonstrated in the following example:

E leai gāoi Sina

GENR {not exist} move Sina

'Sina didn't move at all.'

Here, the addition of leai to the verb gāoi “to move” makes the statement more emphatic: not only did Sina not move, she did not move at all.

Negative imperative verbs

There are two negative imperative verbs, ʻaua and sōia. ʻAua should not be confused with aua, which means "because". These negative imperative verbs can be used independently of negative particles; as the negation is in the verb itself, an extra particle is not required. ʻAua means “don’t do, should not do” and is employed to express commands in both direct and indirect speech. What should not be done is indicated by a verbal complement clause, as seen in the example below (Mosel & Hovdhaugen, 1992, pp. 482).

‘Aua e te fa‘asāunoa 'i mea=ola

Don't GENR torture LD thing=life(SP.PL)

'Do not torture animals.'

As discussed above, this sentence does not require a negative particle, because the negative imperative verb is sufficient. Alternatively, sōia means that ‘one should stop doing something one has already started’ (Mosel & Hovdhaugen, 1992, pp. 483). As with ʻaua, what should not be done is indicated by a verbal complement. In direct speech, sōia is either used in the imperative without any TAM particle or in the optative marked by seiʻi (Mosel & Hovdhaugen, 1992, pp.483).

See the example below with sōia as the negative imperative:

Mandy-Jane! sōia e te faitala!

Mandy-Jane stop 2sg GENR gossip

'Mandy-Jane! Stop gossiping!'

This works differently from ʻaua, although they are both imperative. It can be seen here that sōia means something like “cease what you are doing immediately” while ʻaua means “don’t do that action" (in a general sense).

Negation of existential clauses

The noun phrase forming an existential clause is introduced by a preposition: ʻo or naʻo, meaning “only”. An existential clause is negated with a complex clause: Mosel & Hovdhaugen (1992, pp. 500–501) state that 'the existential clause functions as the argument of a verbal predicate formed by a TAM particle and the negative particle (“not”)'. An example of this can be seen in the example below, where the preposition o precedes the negative particle .

Aua foi, {o le a} le o Niu Sila, le o le Kolisi o Samoa a o le ta=mea ma le auli...

Because also, FUT not PRES New Zealand not PRES ART college POSS Samoa but PRES ART beat=thing and ART ironing

'There will be no New Zealand, no Samoan college [for me to go to if I do not pass the exam], but [only] washing and ironing [at home]....'

This complex sentence has several examples of negation where the negative particle lē is combined with the preposition o in order to negate an existential clause ("there will be no...").


Formal versus colloquial register

The language has a polite or formal variant used in oratory and ceremony as well as in communication with elders, guests, people of rank and strangers.[17]

The consonant system of colloquial Samoan ("casual Samoan", or "tautala leaga" as it is known) is slightly different from the literary language ("proper Samoan", or "tautala lelei"), and is referred to as K speech or K style.[11] In colloquial speech, defined as taking place in casual social situations among intimates or in the home among familiars of equivalent social rank, /t/ is sometimes pronounced [k] and /n/ has merged with /ŋ/ as [ŋ]. Additionally, /l/ is pronounced [ɾ] following a back vowel (/a, o, u/) and preceding an /i/. /s/ is less sibilant than in English, and /h/ and /r/ are found only in borrowings, with /s/ and /l/ sometimes being substituted for them.

Therefore, in colloquial Samoan speech, common consonant replacements occur such as:[11][17]

t is pronounced ktama (child, boy) is pronounced kama; tautala ("to speak") is pronounced kaukala; tulāfale ("orator", "talking chief") is pronounced kulāfale.

n is pronounced ngfono ("meeting", "assembly") is pronounced fongo; ono (the numeral "six") is pronounced ongo; māʻona ("satisfied", "full") is pronounced māʻonga.

Oratorical register

Historically and culturally, an important form of the Samoan language is oratory, a ceremonial language sometimes referred to in publications as 'chiefly language', or gagana fa'aaloalo ("dignified language")[19] which incorporates classical Samoan terms and prose as well as a different set of vocabulary, which is tied to the roles of orator chiefs (tulāfale) and 'speechmaking' (failāuga) that remains part of the culture's continuing indigenous matai system of governance and social organization. The gagana fa'aaloalo (polite speech) register is used by lower-ranking people to address people of higher status, such as their family matai chief, government officials, or clergy. It is also the formal register used among chiefs during ceremonial occasions and social rites such as funerals, weddings, chiefly title bestowals and village council meetings. It is not common for entire conversations to be held in chiefly register, instead the "dignified language" is mainly employed when making formal introductions between individuals, opening and concluding formal meetings, and executing ceremonial tasks (such as the Samoa 'ava ceremony). It is also considered proper to use the "polite" language when praying. Untitled people (those without matai chief titles) who are unfamiliar with each other will often greet each other in chiefly register as a common courtesy, while familiar individuals frequently use chiefly addresses in jest (as in humorously addressing friends with "talofa lava lau afioga" – "respectful greetings your highness" – instead of the more colloquial "malo sole!" – "hey man!").

Examples of "polite" word variants according to social rank:

English Common term In relation to a "High Chief" In relation to a "Talking Chief" In relation to a "Tufuga" artisan/builder
house fale māota laoa apisā
wife to'alua, avā faletua, masiofo tausi meana'i
dog maile ta'ifau 'uli
you 'oe lau susuga, lau afioga lau tofā mataisau, agaiotupu
welcome, greeting tālofa, mālo susu mai, afio mai maliu mai, sosopo mai
to sit nofo afio alāla
to eat 'ai tausami, talisua, talialo taumafa
to drink inu taute taumafa
to bathe tā'ele 'au'au, fa'amalu, penapena fa'amalu, 'au'au
pillow, headrest 'ali lalago āluga
grave, tomb tu'ugamau, tia loa, lagi, lagomau, 'oli'olisaga alālafagamau
kava 'ava agatonu, fanua, uta, lupesina, lātasi agatonu, fanua, uta, lupesina, lātasi
garden, plantation fa'ato'aga fa'ele'eleaga velevelega
to meet, to receive a guest feiloa'i fesilafa'i fetapa'i
speech, sermon lauga malelega, saunoaga, tuleiga, tānoa fetalaiga, lafolafoga, moe, tu'u
to die oti, mate, maliu tu'umalo usufono
to look, to see va'ai silasila, silafaga māimoa taga'i

Another polite form of speech in "polite" Samoan includes terms and phrases of self-abasement that are used by the speaker in order to show respect and flatter the listener. For example when praising the child of another woman, a mother might politely refer to her own children as "ui" (literally, "piglets"); in order to emphasize the beauty of a fine tapa cloth, the presenter might refer to it as a simple "vala" (plain cloth); the weaver of an especially fine mat might call it "launiu" (coconut leaf) or "lā" (sail cloth) in order to not appear boastful. Overshadowing the dignity or prestige of higher-ranking individuals is a grave offense in Samoan culture, so words are chosen very carefully to express individual feelings in a way that acknowledges relative statuses within social hierarchy.


Encounters with Europeans began in the 1700s, followed by the era of colonialism in the Pacific. Samoan was only a spoken language until the early to mid-1800s when Christian missionaries began documenting the spoken language for religious texts and introducing the Latin script for writing. In 1834, an orthography of the language was distributed by the London Missionary Society, which also set up a printing press by 1839. The first complete Bible (Tusi Pa'ia, Sacred Book) in Samoan was completed and published in 1862.[20]

The first problem that faced the missionaries in Polynesia was that of learning the language of the island, which they intended to convert to Christianity. The second was that of identifying the sounds in the local languages with the symbols employed in their own languages to establish alphabets for recording the spelling of native words. Having established more-or-less satisfactory alphabets and spelling, teaching the indigenous people how to write and read their own language was next necessary. A printing press, with the alphabet keys used only English, was part of the mission equipment, and it was possible not only to translate and write out portions of the Bible scriptures, and hymns in the local language but also to print them for use as texts in teaching. Thus, the missionaries introduced writing for the first time within Polynesia, were the first printers and established the first schools in villages.[21]


The alphabet proper consists of only 14 letters: 5 vowels, a e i o u, and 9 consonants, f g l m n p s t v. In addition, there are two diacritics. A macron (fa'amamafa) indicates the five long vowels, ā ē ī ō ū, as in manu 'animal', mānu 'float, afloat', and a reversed apostrophe, ʻ (koma liliu or ʻokina), indicates the glottal stop, as in many other Polynesian languages. The ʻ (ʻokina) is often replaced by ' (apostrophe) in modern usage.[22] The additional letters h, k, r are used in foreign loanwords, apart from the single interjection puke(ta)! 'gotcha!'; although the sound [k] is found in native words in colloquial speech, it is spelled t. The letter g represents a velar nasal, as in the English word sing, rather than a voiced velar stop, as in the English go. Thus, the correct pronunciation of Pago Pago is not Pay-go Pay-go but Pah-ngo Pah-ngo.

The first grammar and dictionary of the Samoan language, A Grammar and Dictionary of the Samoan Language, with English and Samoan Vocabulary, was written by Reverend George Pratt in 1862.[15] Pratt's valuable Samoan dictionary records many old words of special interest, specialist terminology, archaic words and names in Samoan tradition. It contains sections on Samoan proverbs and poetry, and an extensive grammatical sketch.[23] Pratt was a missionary for the London Missionary Society and lived for 40 years in Matautu on the island of Savai'i.



The cardinal numerals are:

Numeral Samoan English
0 noa, selo (English loanword) zero
1 tasi one
2 lua two
3 tolu three
4 fa four
5 lima five
6 ono six
7 fitu seven
8 valu eight
9 iva nine
10 sefulu ten
11 sefulu ma le tasi, sefulu tasi eleven
12 sefulu ma le lua, sefulu lua twelve
20 luafulu, lua sefulu twenty
30 tolugafulu, tolu sefulu thirty
40 fagafulu, fa sefulu forty
50 limagafulu, lima sefulu fifty
60 onogafulu, ono sefulu sixty
70 fitugafulu, fitu sefulu seventy
80 valugafulu, valu sefulu eighty
90 ivagafulu, iva sefulu ninety
100 selau, lau one hundred
200 lua lau, lua selau two hundred
300 tolugalau, tolu selau three hundred
1000 afe one thousand
2000 lua afe two thousand
10,000 mano, sefulu afe ten thousand
100,000 Selau afe one hundred thousand
1,000,000 miliona (English loan word) one million

The term mano was an utmost limit until the adoption of loan words like miliona (million) and piliona (billion). Otherwise, quantities beyond mano were referred to as manomano or ilu; that is, innumerable.[15]

The prefix fa'a is also used to indicate the number of times. For example; fa'atolu – three times. Or fa'afia? – how many times?

The prefix "lona" or "le" indicates sequential numbering, as in "lona lua" (second), lona tolu (third), "le fa" (fourth); "muamua" or "ulua'i" denote "first". Familial sequence was denoted with terms such as ulumatua ("eldest"), ui'i ("youngest"), and ogatotonu ("middle child"); first and last born were also deemed honorifically, pa le manava ("opening the womb") and pupuni le manava ("sealing the womb"), respectively.

To denote the number of persons, the term to'a is used. For example; E to'afitu tagata e o i le pasi. Seven people are going/travelling by bus.

The suffix "lau" is used when formally counting fish, in reference to the customary plaiting of fish in leaves ("lau") before cooking. For example: "tolu lau" – three fishes

There are also formal prefixes or suffixes used in the chiefly register when counting different species of fish, taro, yams, bananas, chickens, pigs, and other foodstuffs.

Similarities to other Austronesian languages

Despite the geographical distance, there are many shared words between different Austronesian languages. Below is a list of examples from 4 other Malayo-Polynesian languages: Tongan, Hawaiian, Ma'anyan, Malay. Note the presence of IPA(key) where available.


Language preservation

Though it is not the primary language of a number of nations outside of Samoa, there is an effort by the descendants of Samoans to learn the native language of their ancestors and to better understand their origins and history. Much like any language, a shift is occurring in the way words are spoken and pronounced, especially as Samoans further integrate with other languages. Unfortunately, most looking to learn Samoan are forced to turn to written materials instead of living examples. To preserve the language, linguists must use diacritical marks. Without them, the actual pronunciations of words quickly become altered and lost.[29] The marks are commonly found before, under and above letters in words and are especially helpful for students and non-native speakers to realize the difference the vowels and glottal stops can make in the pronunciation of words.

Examples include:


with marking

Meaning Samoan

without marking

sa‘u (one of) my sau (one of) your
mo‘u (for) me mou (for) you
lo‘u my lou your

Below is another example of a sentence with and without diacritical marks from the Samoan Bible (O le tusi paia, o le Feagaiga Tuai ma le Feagaiga fou lea) [1]:

[Original] Faauta, ua e le foai mai ia te au ...

[With diacritics] Fa'auta 'ua 'e lē fōa'i mai iā te a'u ...

Sign with diacritic mark for Hauʻula elementary school in Hawaii

Samoan diacritical marks may seem confusing at first due to the way the language shifts based on context. Also, the mixed use of diacritical marks in literature and even within the same publication can surprise non-native speakers. This is evident in the Bible translation created by early missionaries and Reverend George Pratt which features markings in some words and not others. Part of it was due to the need to save time on the writing and typesetting and to use the markings as a guideline.[29] Much like the Bible helped improve literacy and understanding of the language throughout Samoan communities, written works continue to be important in much the same way today.

The use of the diacritical marks are not only prevalent in Samoan but also other proto-Polynesian languages, such as Hawaiian, where similar pronunciation losses exist. Since native speakers understand how a word should be pronounced without the markings, words are commonly written and accepted with the markings absent. To prevent the loss of correct pronunciations, however, language preservation groups and the Samoan and Hawaiian governments, are taking measure to include diacritical markings in signage, television programs, school materials and printed media.[30][31]

See also


  1. ^ Samoan at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015)
  2. ^ Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2017). "Samoan". Glottolog 3.0. Jena, Germany: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History.
  3. ^ "2013 Census totals by topic". Statistics New Zealand. Archived from the original on 13 December 2013. Retrieved 11 December 2013.
  4. ^ "Language Materials Project, Samoan". University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). Retrieved 17 July 2010.
  5. ^ "Ethnologue Report for Polynesian". Retrieved 11 September 2011.
  6. ^ "Austronesian Basic Vocabulary Database figure template" (PDF). Retrieved 11 September 2011.
  7. ^ "Classification search of the Austronesian Basic Vocabulary Database". Retrieved 11 September 2011.
  8. ^ Lewis, M. Paul (ed.), 2009. "Samoan". Ethnologue: Languages of the World, Sixteenth edition. Dallas, Tex.: SIL International.
  9. ^ "Motions; Samoan Language Week – Recognition". New Zealand Parliament. Retrieved 10 July 2010.
  10. ^ "Samoan Language Week on its way". Human Rights Commission of New Zealand. Archived from the original on 16 November 2010. Retrieved 10 July 2010.
  11. ^ a b c d e Hunkin, Galumalemana Afeleti (2009). Gagana Sāmoa: A Samoan Language Coursebook. University of Hawaii Press. pp. 103–105. ISBN 0-8248-3131-4. Retrieved 10 July 2010.
  12. ^ A somewhat similar situation is found in Hawaiian, where /k/ is the reflex of *t and has merged with *n.
  13. ^ The glottal stop is often represented by an apostrophe in recent publications, and is referred to as the koma liliu (inverted comma).
  14. ^
  15. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k Pratt, George (1984) [1893]. A Grammar and Dictionary of the Samoan Language, with English and Samoan vocabulary (3rd and revised ed.). Papakura, New Zealand: R. McMillan. ISBN 0-908712-09-X. Retrieved 14 March 2010.
  16. ^ Philips, Susan Urmston; Susan Steele; Christine Tanz (1987). Language, gender, and sex in comparative perspective. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 978-0-521-33807-3. Retrieved 3 January 2011.
  17. ^ a b c Ochs, Elinor (1988). Culture and language development. CUP Archive. p. 56. ISBN 0-521-34894-3. Retrieved 18 August 2010.
  18. ^ Mosel, Ulrike; Hovdhaugen, Even (1992). Samoan Reference Grammar. Oslo, Norway: Scandinavian University Press : Institute for Comparative Research in Human Culture. pp. 56, 114, 140–142, 175–179, 259, 331, 375–376, 479–483, 500–501.
  19. ^ Beedham, Christopher (2005). Language and meaning: the structural creation of reality. John Benjamins Publishing Company. p. 140. ISBN 90-272-1564-2.
  20. ^ Hunkin, Alfred; Penny Griffith; Lagi Sipeli; Jean Mitaera (1997). Book and Print Culture in New Zealand. Wellington, NZ: Victoria University Press. p. 250. ISBN 978-0-86473-331-3. Retrieved 22 July 2010.
  21. ^ Hiroa, Te Rangi (1945). An Introduction to Polynesian Anthropology. NZETC, Victoria University of Wellington. Honolulu: Kraus Reprint Co. p. 28. Retrieved 17 July 2010.
  22. ^ Hunkin, Galumalemana Afeleti (2009). Gagana Sāmoa: A Samoan Language Coursebook. University of Hawaii Press. p. xiii. ISBN 0-8248-3131-4. Retrieved 17 July 2010.
  23. ^ Pawley, Andrew (1984). "Foreward (sic)". In George Pratt (ed.). A Grammar and Dictionary of the Samoan Language, with English and Samoan vocabulary (3rd and revised ed.). Papakura, New Zealand: R. McMillan. ISBN 0-908712-09-X. Retrieved 14 March 2010.
  24. ^ Arabic loanword from صِفر
  25. ^ Dutch loanword
  26. ^ "The Number System of Tongan". Retrieved 26 July 2017.
  27. ^ "Hawaiian numbers". Retrieved 26 July 2017.
  28. ^ "HAWAIIAN NUMBERS". Retrieved 26 July 2017.
  29. ^ a b Tualaulelei, Eseta Magaui; Mayer, Fepuleai Lasei John; Hunkin, Galumalemana A. (5 June 2015). "Diacritical Marks and the Samoan Language". The Contemporary Pacific. 27 (1): 183–207. doi:10.1353/cp.2015.0007. ISSN 1527-9464.
  30. ^ "Samoa Language Center In Hawai'i Receives Multi-Year Grant | Pacific Islands Report". Retrieved 29 July 2017.
  31. ^ "Samoa government makes moves to preserve language". Radio New Zealand. 29 January 2014. Retrieved 29 July 2017.


  • An Account of Samoan History up to 1918 by Teo Tuvale, NZ Licence CC-BY-SA 3.0, Retrieved 8 March 2010.
  • Broselow, Ellen; and McCarthy, John J. (1984). A theory of internal reduplication. The linguistic review, 3, 25–88.
  • Churchward, Spencer. 1951. A Samoan Grammar, 2nd ed. rev. and enl. Melbourne: Spectator Publishing Company.
  • Milner, G.B. 1993, 1966. Samoan Dictionary. Polynesian Press. ISBN 0-908597-12-6
  • Mosel, Ulrike and Even Hovdhaugen, 1992. Samoan reference grammar. Oslo: Scandinavian University Press/Institute for Comparative Research in Human Culture.
  • Mosel, La'i Ulrike and Ainslie So'o. Say it in Samoan. Pacific Linguistics D88. Canberra: ANU.
  • Payne, Thomas E. 1997. Describing morphosyntax: a guide for field linguists. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-521-58224-5.

External links

American Samoa national football team

The American Samoa national football team (Samoan: Au soka Amerika Sāmoa) represents American Samoa in association football and is controlled by the Football Federation American Samoa, the governing body of the sport in the territory. American Samoa's home ground is Veterans Memorial Stadium in Pago Pago and their head coach is Larry Mana'o.


Atua are the gods and spirits of the Polynesian peoples such as the Māori or the Hawaiians. The Polynesian word literally means power or strength and so the concept is similar to that of mana. Today, it is also used for the monotheistic conception of God. Especially powerful atua included:

Rongo – god of agriculture and peace

Tane – the creator of all living things such as animals, birds and trees

Tangaroa – god of the sea

Tu – the god of war

Whiro – god of darkness and evilIn Samoa, where atua means "god" in the Samoan language, traditional tattooing was based on the doctrine of tutelary spirits. There is also a district on the island of Upolu in Samoa called Atua.

In other Austronesian cultures, cognates of atua include the Polynesian aitu, Micronesian aniti, Bunun hanitu, Filipino and Tao anito, and Malaysian and Indonesian hantu or antu.

Bibliography of American Samoa

This is an English language bibliography of American Samoa and its geography, history, inhabitants, culture, biota, etc.American Samoa ( (listen); Samoan: Amerika Sāmoa; also Amelika Sāmoa or Sāmoa Amelika) is an unincorporated territory of the United States located in the South Pacific Ocean, southeast of the sovereign state of Samoa (formerly known as Western Samoa).

Cinema of Samoa

Samoa's first ever feature film, The Orator (O Le Tulafale), was released in 2011. Shot and set in Samoa, in the Samoan language, it features a Samoan cast. It was produced with financial support from the Samoan government, in the hopes of showcasing Samoan culture to an international audience, and of promoting Samoa as a tourist destination.Prior to this, Samoa had only produced short films. Tusi Tamasese, the writer and director of The Orator, had previously written and directed short film Sacred Spaces (Va Tapuia), which was screened in 2010 at the New Zealand International Film Festival, then at the ImagineNative International Film Festival in Toronto, and the Hawaii International Film Festival.Samoa has only one cinema, the Magik cinema, owned by Maposua Rudolf Keil. The screening of films there is subject to censorship, and foreign films may be banned, in accordance with the Film Act 1978, for undermining the Christian faith of viewers. Both The Da Vinci Code and Milk have been banned from screening in Samoa's cinema, the latter for being "inappropriate and contradictory to Christian beliefs and Samoan culture."


In Polynesian mythology, Hawaiki (also rendered as "Avaiki" (Society Islands), "Savai'i", (Samoa), "Havai’i" (Reo Tahiti)) is the original home of the Polynesians, before dispersal across Polynesia. It also features as the underworld in many Māori stories.

Anne Salmond states Havai'i is the old name for Raiatea, the homeland of the Māori. When James Cook first sighted New Zealand in 1769, he had Tupaia on board, a Raiatean navigator and linguist. Cook's arrival seemed to be a confirmation of a prophecy by Toiroa, a priest from Mahia. At Tolaga Bay, Tupaia conversed with the priest, tohunga, associated with the school of learning located there, called Te Rawheoro. The priest asked about the Maori homelands, 'Rangiatea' (Ra'iatea), 'Hawaiki' (Havai'i, the ancient name for Ra'iatea), and 'Tawhiti' (Tahiti).

Human Rights Protection Party

The Human Rights Protection Party (HRPP, Samoan: Vaega Faaupufai e Puipuia Aia Tatau a Tagata) is a Samoan political party. It has dominated Samoan party politics since 1982.

Va'ai Kolone and Tofilau Eti Alesana co-founded the party in May 1979 in opposition to the government of Tupuola Efi. It has governed the country since first winning power in 1982, except for a brief period in 1986 and 1987 when internal differences forced it into coalition.

The two founders of the early party, Kolone and Alesana, both became Prime Ministers of Samoa.

Prime Minister Tuila'epa Sailele Malielegaoi has led the party since 1998.

In the legislative elections of 4 March 2001, the party won 45.1% of popular votes and 23 out of 49 seats. During the elections on 2 April 2006, it won 35 of the 49 seats.

In the 2011 election held on March 4, the party won 36 out of 49 seats, thus retaining the majority. According to the U.S. State Department in their 2010 human rights report published on April 8, 2011, the Human Rights Protection Party remains the only officially recognized party in the Legislative Assembly of Samoa (the Fono).

The Human Rights Protection Party retained power by winning the 2016 general election.


A lavalava, also known as an 'ie, short for 'ie lavalava, is an article of daily clothing traditionally worn by Polynesians and other Oceanic peoples. It consists of a single rectangular cloth worn as a skirt. The term lavalava is both singular and plural in the Samoan language.


A marae (in New Zealand Māori, Cook Islands Māori, Tahitian), malaʻe (in Tongan), meʻae (in Marquesan), and malae (in Samoan) is a communal or sacred place that serves religious and social purposes in Polynesian societies. In all these languages, the term also means "cleared, free of weeds, trees, etc". Marae generally consist of an area of cleared land roughly rectangular (the marae itself), bordered with stones or wooden posts (called au in Tahitian and Cook Islands Māori) perhaps with paepae (terraces) which were traditionally used for ceremonial purposes; and in some cases, a central stone ahu or a'u. In the Rapa Nui culture of Easter Island, the term ahu has become a synonym for the whole marae complex.

In some modern Polynesian societies, notably that of the Māori of Aotearoa New Zealand, the marae is still a vital part of everyday life. In tropical Polynesia, most marae were destroyed or abandoned with the arrival of Christianity in the 19th century, and some have become an attraction for tourists or archaeologists. Nevertheless, the place where these marae were built are still considered tapu (sacred) in most of these cultures.


Māhū ('in the middle') in Kanaka Maoli (Hawaiian) and Maohi (Tahitian) cultures are third gender persons with traditional spiritual and social roles within the culture, similar to Tongan fakaleiti and Samoan fa'afafine, Kāne (men) who have sexual relationships with men are Aikāne.

In the pre-colonial history of Hawai'i, Māhū were notable priests and healers, although much of this history was elided through the intervention of missionaries. The first published description of mahu occurs in Captain William Bligh's logbook of the Bounty, which stopped in Tahiti where he was introduced to a member of a “class of people very common in Otaheitie called Mahoo... who although I was certain was a man, had great marks of effeminacy about him.”A surviving monument to this history is the four so-called "wizard" stones in Waikiki, which commemorated four important Māhū healer priests from the early history of Hawaii. Hawaiian historian Mary Kawena Pukui mentions twelve male supernatural beings called papa pae māhū, said to be "hermaphrodite" healers from Kahiki, the ancient homeland of Hawaiians. Mahu is somewhat misleadingly defined in Pukui and Ebert's Hawaiian dictionary as “n. Homosexual, of either sex; hermaphrodite.” The assumption of same-sex behavior reflects the conflation of gender and sexuality that was common at that time ( the term “transgender” was not coined until 1965), while the hypothesis of biological mosaicism may have arisen from the use of the word hermaphrodite to mean “an individual which has the attributes of both male and female” prior to its more modern meaning of a biological hybrid or intersex individual.

According to present-day māhū kumu hula Kaua'i Iki:

Māhū were particularly respected as teachers, usually of hula dance and chant. In pre-contact times māhū performed the roles of goddesses in hula dances that took place in temples which were off-limits to women. Māhū were also valued as the keepers of cultural traditions, such as the passing down of genealogies. Traditionally parents would ask māhū to name their children.

When painter Paul Gauguin first came to Tahiti he was thought to be a māhū, due to his flamboyant manner of dress for the times. His 1893 painting Papa Moe depicts a māhū drinking from a small waterfall.Missionaries to Hawai'i introduced homophobic and transphobic biblical laws to the islands in the 1820s; under their influence Hawai'i's first anti-sodomy law was passed in 1850. These laws led to the social stigmatization of the māhū in Hawai'i. Beginning in the mid-1960s the Honolulu City Council required trans-women to wear a badge identifying themselves as male. In American artist George Biddle's Tahitian Journal (1920–1922) he writes about several māhū friends in Tahiti, of their role in native Tahitian society, and of the persecution of a māhū friend Naipu, who fled Tahiti due to colonial French laws that sent māhū and homosexuals to hard labor in prison in New Caledonia. Rae rae is a social category of māhū that came into use in Tahiti in the 1960s, although it is criticized by some māhū as an abject reference to sex work.

During World War II, māhū and gender variant peoples of the South Pacific were encountered by American men and women in the U.S. military and helped influence the beginnings of gay liberation. Māhū and fa'afafine of Samoa and other queer cultures of the Pacific began organizing from the 1980s, as māhū and queer Pacific Islanders were beginning to receive international recognition in various fields.

In the early 2000s, the word mahuwahine was coined within the māhū community: māhū (in the middle) + wahine (woman), similar to Samoan fa'a (the way of) + fafine (woman/wife).

Notable contemporary māhū, or mahuwahine, include activist and kumu hula Hinaleimoana Kwai Kong Wong-Kalu, kumu hula Kaumakaiwa Kanaka'ole, and kumu hula Kaua'i Iki; and within the wider māhū LGBT community, historian Noenoe Silva, activist Ku‘u-mealoha Gomes, singer and painter Bobby Holcomb, and singer Kealii Reichel.


Part of Hawaiian culture, ʻohana means family (in an extended sense of the term, including blood-related, adoptive or intentional). The concept emphasizes that families are bound together and members must cooperate and remember one another. The term is similar in meaning and usage to the New Zealand Māori term whānau, and its cognate in Māori is kōhanga, meaning "nest".

In Hawaiian, the word ʻohana begins with an ʻokina, indicating a glottal stop. The root word ʻohā refers to the root or corm of the kalo, or taro plant (the staple "staff of life" in Hawaii), which Kanaka Maoli consider to be their cosmological ancestor.

Orders, decorations, and medals of Samoa

The Honours and Awards System of Samoa has its basis in the Merit Act 1992/1993 and the Honours and Awards Act 1999. From 1914 to 1962, Samoa was governed as the Western Samoa Trust Territory by the United Kingdom and New Zealand. During this time, awards of the British honours system were made to select individuals. For example, the first Prime Minister of Samoa, Fiame Mata'afa Faumuina Mulinu'u II was made a Commander of the Order of the British Empire and Le Mamea Matatumua Ata, a framer of the constitution of Samoa, was made an Officer of the Order of the British Empire on the New Zealand list in the 1960 Birthday Honours.Established by the act of 1992 and reaffirmed by the act of 1999, the Honours and Awards Committee is a part of the Ministry of the Prime Minister and Cabinet Office. The committee is responsible for considering those who may be eligible for awards or honorary awards and recommending those deemed worthy of awards to the Cabinet. The committee also reviews those who are prior award recipients and may recommend the granting of subsequent higher awards where deemed appropriate.


The Pe'a is the popular name of the traditional male tatau (tattoo) of Samoa, also known as the malofie, a term used in the Samoan language chiefly vocabulary and "respect" register (gagana fa'aaloalo).

Samoa national football team

The Samoa national association football team (Samoan: Sāmoa soka au) represents Samoa in association football and is controlled by the Football Federation Samoa, the governing body for football in Samoa. Samoa's home ground is Toleafoa J.S Blatter Soccer Stadium in Apia. It was known as the Western Samoa national football team until 1997. Samoa is a part of the FIFA Goal project.

Samoan Braille

Samoan Braille is the braille alphabet of the Samoan language. It is a subset of the basic braille alphabet,

supplemented by an additional letter ⠰ to mark long vowels:

Unlike print Samoan, which has a special letter ʻokina for the glottal stop, Samoan Braille uses the apostrophe ⠈, which behaves as punctuation rather than as a consonant. (See Hawaiian Braille, which has a similar setup.)

Samoan Braille has an unusual punctuation mark, a reduplication sign ⠙. This is used to indicate that a word is reduplicated, as in ⠎⠑⠛⠊⠙ segisegi "twilight".

Samoan tālā

The tālā is the currency of Samoa. It is divided into 100 sene. The terms tālā and sene are the equivalents or transliteration of the English words dollar and cent, in the Samoan language.

The tālā was introduced on 10 July 1967, following the country's political independence from New Zealand in 1962. Until that time, Samoa had used the pound, with coins from New Zealand and its own banknotes. The tālā replaced the pound at a rate of 2 tālā = 1 pound and was, therefore, equal to the New Zealand dollar. The tālā remained equal to the New Zealand dollar until 1975.

The symbol WS$ is still used for the tālā, representing the country's previous name Western Samoa, used up to 1997, when the word Western was officially removed and the country became known as just Samoa. Therefore, the symbol SAT, ST and T appear to be in use as well.

Sometimes figures are written with the dollar sign in front, followed by "tālā". e.g. $100 tālā.The Samoan currency is issued and regulated by the Central Bank of Samoa.


Samoans or Samoan people (Samoan: tagata Sāmoa), are a Polynesian ethnic group native to the Samoan Islands, an archipelago in Polynesia, who speak the Samoan language. The group's home islands are politically and geographically divided between the Independent State of Samoa and American Samoa, an unincorporated territory of the United States of America. Though divided by government, the culture and language remain the same.

The Samoan people and culture form a vital link and stepping stone in the formation and spread of Polynesian culture, language and religion throughout Eastern Polynesia.Polynesian trade, religion, war, and colonialism are important markers within Polynesian culture that are almost certainly rooted in the Samoan culture. Samoa's colonial history, with the kingdom of Tonga, Fiji and French Polynesia form the basis of modern Polynesian culture.

Sina and the Eel

Sina and the Eel is a myth of origins in Samoan mythology, which explains the origins of the first coconut tree.In the Samoan language the legend is called Sina ma le Tuna. Tuna is the Samoan word for 'eel'.The story is also well known throughout Polynesia including Tonga, Fiji and Māori in New Zealand.Different versions of the legend are told in different countries in Oceania. The coconut tree (Cocos nucifera) has many uses and is an important source of food. It is also used for making coconut oil, baskets, sennit rope used in traditional Samoan house building, weaving and for the building of small traditional houses or fale. The dried meat of the coconut or copra has been an important export product and a source of income throughout the Pacific.

The legend of Sina and the Eel is associated with other figures in Polynesian mythology such as Hina, Tinilau, Tagaloa and Nafanua.

Sina is also the name of various female figures in Polynesian mythology. The word sina also means 'white' or silver haired (grey haired in age) in the Samoan language. There is also an old Samoan song called Soufuna Sina based on a Sina legend.

Tā moko

Tā moko is the permanent marking of the face and body as traditionally practised by Māori, the indigenous people of New Zealand.

Captain James Cook wrote in 1769:

The marks in general are spirals drawn with great nicety and even elegance. One side corresponds with the other. The marks on the body resemble foliage in old chased ornaments, convolutions of filigree work, but in these they have such a luxury of forms that of a hundred which at first appeared exactly the same no two were formed alike on close examination.

Tohunga-tā-moko (tattooists) were considered tapu, or inviolable and sacred.


The ʻokina, also called by several other names, is a unicameral consonant letter used within the Latin script to mark the phonemic glottal stop, as it is used in many Polynesian languages.

Samoan Tongan Hawaiian Ma'anyan Malay
Hello alofa, talofa mālō e lelei aloha
Sky lagi : /laŋi/ langi lani : /lani/ langit langit
North Wind toʻelau tokelau koʻolau
Zero noa, selo : /nɵʊə/ noa 'ole kosong, sifar,[24] nol[25]
One tasi : /ˈ taha 'ekahi isa satu
Two lua : /luwɔ/ ua 'elua ru'eh dua
Three tolu : /ˈ tolu : /ˈ 'ekolu telu tiga
Four fa : /faː/ fa : /faː/ 'ehā epat empat
Five lima : /lima/ nima 'elima dime lima
Six ono : /ˈ /ˈ 'eono enem enam
Seven fitu : /ˈfi.tu/ fitu 'ehiku pitu tujuh
Eight valu : /vəlu/ valu 'ewalu, 'awalu walu (de)lapan
Nine iva : /ˈiva/ hiva 'eiwa, iwa, 'aiwa suey sembilan
Ten sefulu : /sɛfɵlɵ/ hongofulu 'umi sapuluh sepuluh
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