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Sonsorolese language
RAMARI DONGOSARO

 Written and compiled by Danko Taborosi, with assistance of
Laura Ierago, Junior Aquino, Lucy Pedro,
Isaac Theodore, Severy Tirso and Philip Tirso

1. Introduction

 

            Sonsorolese is one of two indigenous languages spoken in remote southwestern islands of the Republic of Palau. It is the language of Sonsorol, Pulo Anna, and Merir islands. The language spoken on Tobi island, 200 km further away, is closely related to Sonsorolese but distinct. Despite geographic proximity and political association with Palau, both Sonsorolese and Tobian are not at all related to Palauan language. Instead, they are the westernmost parts of the so-called Trukic continuum of dialects/languages, and are related to and partly intelligible with Woleaian, and to a lesser extent other languages spoken in Yap State (Outer Islands) and Chuuk State of the Federated States of Micronesia.

            In its now much depopulated home islands, Sonsorolese is spoken by about 60 people (~30 on Sonsorol, ~10 on Pulo Anna, ~3 on Merir). In Palau's main town, Koror, where many islanders have migrated for economic reasons, at least 300 people speak the language. Most of them live in Echang village, not far from downtown Koror. It appears that most speakers are completely bilingual in Palauan, or English, which is preferred by young people. In fact, young Sonsorolese are reported to speak their native language with much English admixtures. Consequently, their speech is very different from Sonsorolese of the elder generation, in which there are currently less than 20 speakers over 60 years old.

            Thanks to the federal organization of Palau, Sonsorolese language has an official language status in the state of Sonsorol. It is occasionally used in that state's internal communications (e.g., announcements, invitations), although official documents are written in English[1].

 

2. Dialects

 

            The language is spoken differently on Sonsorol, Pulo Anna and Merir, and the three represent distinct dialects. There is very little information regarding the specific differences, but it appears that they are more apparent in phonology (pronunciation) than in syntax. For example, Sonsorolese sounds 'f', 'v' and 'd' are all merged into 'd' (pronounced as 'th' in 'this') in Pulo Annian dialect[2]. This slower-paced Pulo Annian dialect can still be heard on occasion[3], whereas Merir speech has all but disappeared[4].   The quite distinct language of Tobi island is sometimes treated as a dialect of Sonsorolese, with which it is rapidly merging. Because most of Sonsorolese and less-numerous Tobian community members co-reside, mix and intermarry in Echang village in Koror, Tobian language has come to resemble Sonsorolese. People report that Tobian used to be not clearly intelligible to Sonsorolese speakers in the past, but has become perfectly clear.

 

3. Orthography and Pronunciation

             Sonsorolese is mostly a spoken language. People do occasionally write it, but they do so according to their own personal preferences. The sounds of the language are probably most similar to Tobian and Woleaian. Some idiosyncrasies include the pronunciation of 'd', which is standard at the beginning of words but more like English 'th' within words; 'r' is pronounced as in Spanish, not English; and most importantly, 'l' is always pronounced with tongue touching the back roof of the mouth and sounds something like a mixture of 'g' and 'l'. For that reason, some Sonsorolese prefer to spell their 'l's as 'gl'. As in Woleaian, silent vowels are common at the end of Sonsorolese words. For example, in 'Dongosaro', the native name for Sonsorol island, the final 'o' is not pronounced. In order to pronounce Sonsorolese words and phrases listed in this book it would be the best to consult native speakers.

            So far, the only documents written in Sonsorolese are the Constitution of Sonsorol State and certain parts of the Bible[5]. The former can be considered as standard for writing of Sonsorolese, although no clear rules exist. This may change in the future, as a dictionary is currently being prepared by Sonsorolese community leaders[6]. They are in need of a trained linguist to assist with their efforts.

           

4. Words and phrases

 

Greetings, goodbyes and civilities 

Good morning.
Good day.
Good afternoon.
Good evening.
Excuse me.
What are you doing? [to one person]
What are you doing? [to more people]
Come.
Come here.
Let's go.
Goodbye.
See you later.
See you tomorrow.
Take care.
I will come again.
Thank you.
Thank you very much.
Sit down.
Please.
Wait.
Eat.
Could you help me?
Yes.
No.
Sorry.
I am very sorry.
Never mind.

Emaho nimarieri.
Emaho laari.
Emaho rotoiet.
Emaho nifahafi.
Itilou.
Ho feita?
Hau feita?
Bito.
Bito iha.
Ngaraho.
Hoda buou.
Edowa werimilir.
Didowa para kakane fanganihis waradu.
Haka lihi podumu.
Idowa para wehitafari.
Haparu ma hatawahi.
Haparu ma hatawahi dewa.
Mato tiwo.
Mo.
Wetimo.
Mangau.
Esuya hobe tapangiei?
Ungo.
Naweri.
Tawahi.
Itawahi dewa.
Hotowai hamahowa.

           

Pronouns

I/me
you
he/she
we/us
they/them
my/mine
your/yours
his/hers
ours
theirs

ngangu
her
iiye
his
iil
yai
yamu
yar
yas
yael

  

Meeting people

What is your name?
My name is ...
Nice to meet you.
How are you?
I'm fine.
This [person] is ...
Where are you from?
I am from ... [place name]
I am ... [occupation/religion/etc.]
I am not ... [occupation/religion/etc.]
Are you ... [occupation/religion/etc.]?
Japan
Palau
USA
artist
doctor
fisherman(woman)
office worker
pilot
sailor/traveler
student
teacher
writer
What is your religion?
Catholic
not religious
How old are you?
How old is your son/daughter?
I am ... years old.
My son is ... years old.
My daughter is ... years old.

Meta itomu?
Itei ...
Emaho ba dimori welifangani.
Howeya meta?
Imaho sahu.
Merer ...
Her saori iiya?
Ngangu saori ...
Ngangu ...
Tei ngangu la ...
Her la ...?
Sapan
Panou
Mariken
artist
tahota
lei deiraho
lei fitehi ri ireni office
lei hataliri wayari
lei waiya
riweisi school
sensei
lei faruforu
Meta yamu moumou?
Katolik
etaol yai moumou
Fitou madirapamu?
Fitou madirapari raumu mare/faifir?
Ngangu ... madirapai.
Marer ... madirapar.
Faifirer ... madirapar.

                                    

  Family

Are you married?
I am married.
I am single.
Do you have a boyfriend/girlfriend?
Yes, I have.
No, I don't.
How many children do you have?
I don't have any children.
How many siblings do you have?
I don't have any siblings.
adult
boy
child
children
daughter
father
friend
girl
grandfather
grandmother
husband
mother
sibling/cousin of opposite sex
sibling/cousin of same sex
son
two sons/daughters
wife

Ho lili?
Ilili.
Ngangu itei lili.
Ewol saori wamu?
Ungo, ewol.
Naweri, etaol.
Fitemaru raumu.
Etaol rai.
Fitemaru meyangamu/budumu?
Etaol meyangai/bidii ma bidii.
tarapar yalemat
mare
rai
riweisi
rai faifire
mere tamai
mere yai wari bidi
faifire
mere tamai
mere direi
mere lii
mere direi
meyangai
bidii
rai mare
liemaru rai mare/faifire
mere lii

[-i ending in the words above and all nouns is for first person singular possesive; change to -mu, -r, -s, -el for other persons; e.g., tamai=my father, tamamu=your father,  tamar=his/her father, tamas=our father, tamael=their father]

                 

Feelings and opinions

I am happy.
I am not happy.
Are you happy?
I am sorry.
I am grateful.
This is good.
This is not good.
It is beautiful.
It is not beautiful.
Is it beautiful?
angry
beautiful
cold
dangerous
delicious
dirty
fast
happy
healthy
heavy
hot
hungry
in pain
interesting
lonely
sad
sick
sleepy
slow
strange
thirsty
tired
wonderful
worried
What do you like/want?
Do you like ... [n.]?
I don't like ... [n.]
I like ... [n.]
animals
Sonsorolese food
dancing
fishing
music
reading
sailing
snorkeling
swimming
Really?
Amazing!
Maybe.

Emaho tipei.
Etai maho tipei.
Emaho tipomu?
Imori tamau dewa.
Ihaparu dewaho.
Merer emaho.
Mere etamau.
Emaho dewa.
Etai maho.
Emaho mere?
dong
emaho
fou
ehamatahutohu
e nnau
e pporu
matangatang
emaho tipar
etai hamatahi [=not sick]
esau
besi
dung
pali
e hamasari
hara demanaho [lit. alone]
tamau faringorungon
hamatahi
hatoru
e sawasawa
e mouduraho
ebesi farubom
hasih
emaho
fangiengi
Meta ho masariya?
Ho masariya ...?
Itamasariya ...
Imasariya ...
maru
mangauri Dongosaro
baluhu
dairaho
singini
hapauhu ri pepa
talahi
tutu
yaf
Hatodu?
Halulud!                                                         Emara haitina.

                    

Photos

Is it OK if I take a picture?
Could you take a picture?
Give me your name and address

Emaho sahu na ibeka yaunga?
Esuya hobeka yaunga?
Hariei itomu ma yamu address.

           

Language problems

Sonsorolese language
English language
Please speak in Sonsorolese.
I don't speak Sonsorolese.
Do you understand Sonsorolese?
Is there anyone who speaks English?
How do you say that in Sonsorolese?
Please write it in Sonsorolese?
Could you please repeat that?
Could you speak more slowly?
Do you understand?
I understand.
I don't understand.
What is this?
What does this mean?

ramari Dongosaro
ramari Mariken
Ebe suya ba hobe ramari Dongosaro.
Itei hae ramari Dongosaro.
Ho hura ramari Dongosaro?
Ewol yalemat ra eramari Mariken?
Eweya meta yamu tapa mena ramari
Ebe suya hobe faruya ramari Dongosaro?
Ebe suya hobe para tapa mena?
Ebe suya hobe tomatot yamu tapa?
Ho hura nifar?
Ihura nifar.
Itahura nifar.
Meta mere?
Meta nifari mere?

                                  

Orientation, transportation, sleep

Where are you going?
I'm going to ...
I'd like to go to ...
How much is it to go to ...?
How can I get to ...?
Where is the ... ?
church
house of the chief
house
meeting house
school
store
toilet
village
Sonsorol island
Pulo Anna island
Merir island
Fanna island [uninhabited;N. of Sonsorol]
Koror
Is it far?
Is it near?
Can I walk there?
Is there another way to get there?

When does the next ship arrive?
When does the ship leave?
Where does the next ship go to?
small canoe with paddles
sailing canoe
ship

I am looking for a place to sleep.
sleeping mat
How much does it cost for ... [period]?
I'll stay for ... [time period].
Can I camp somewhere here?
Who should I ask for permission to camp

What?
Who?
Why?
How?
When?
Where?
Where from?
Where to?
Hobe ra iya?
Ibe ra ...
Imasari na ibera ...
Meta paruyeni na dibera ...?
Efeita yai raho ...?
Iiya ...?
iglesia
imeri tamoru
im
fare
sukur
stowa
im hapar / benjo
wotawot
Dongosaro
Puro
Melieli
Fana
Haoror
Etawa?
Ehalep?
Esuya ibe para ihirar?
Ewol para deyau yara edara ihirar?

Wangaet ebe para bitiwo wafaruya?
Wangaet ebe suya wafaruya?
Ebera iiya wafaruya rar?
uwa fatur
warifaruya
wafaruya [
wa=something that moves, floats and faruya=island]
Ikup burukara ibe madulu irang.
sob
Fitepou paruyen na ...?
Ibe mire ...
Esuya na ibe mire ihar?
here? Itou na ibe hadiya ba ibe mire iha?

Meta.
Itou?
Nga bwa?
E feita?
Ingaet?
I ya?
Ma i ya?
E bwera i ya?

                        

Food

I'd like some local food.
I don't eat meat.
Can I get some ... please?
Imasari mangau mangau ri faruya.
Itei hae hosaos fitiho ri moru.
Esuya ibeka harai ...?

[for non countable nouns (incl. meat and fish) change harai to tariyei,
for liquids (incl. coconut) change to rumei]

apple
banana
beef
betel nut
bread
breadfruit
canned meat
chicken
coconut
coconut milk
coffee
eel, saltwater
egg
fish
food
ice
juice
land crab
mango
milk
octopus
oranges
pandanus
papaya
pork
pumpkin
rice
shrimp
sweet potatoes
tapioca
taro
tea
tuba
turtle
water
yams

halifato
fadolo
fitihori harabau
buu
farawo
usuhae
yautoni tini
hayang
rutouya
yalonguri wanu
kofi
rabuto saro
sahai
iha
mangau
ais
jius
lahumu
manga
milk
hit
huluhulu
fas
babai
peihi
pamuhen
raes
rihotofis
tumuso
dioka
woto
ti
hasi
woru
saru
yam

                                   

Health

I am sick.
I am not feeling well.
I need a doctor.
I need medicine.
I have been injured.
I need to be evacuated.
ankle
arms
back
bellybutton
breast
cheeks
chest
chin
ears
eyebrow
eyes
face
feet
fingers
forehead
hair
hands
head
legs
lips
mouth
neck
nose
stomach
teeth
toes
tongue
waist
wrist
Ihamatahi.
Etai maho woripodu.
Imasari habauhu tahota.
Imasari uru tafeya.
Ipali.
Imasari ibe ra spitar.
meseri hub
pau
taluhu
buto
tut
tapa
mataringorungoru
yate
taring
fatu
mataringorungoru
wawo
hub
hatu
mango
sim
pau
faduhu
hub
matari yawa / turi yawa
yawa
uye
bautu
diya
ngii
haturi hub
yarari hara
puw
meseri pou


Numbers and time

1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
11
20
30
40
50
60
70
80
90
100
200
300
500
1000
How many?
How much?

morning
noon
afternoon
evening
night
yesterday
today
tomorrow
birthday
holiday
Christmas
now
soon
recently
last month
this month
next month
year
week
one night
two nights
one week
two weeks
rainy season
dry season
deo
luwou
doruw
fauw
rimouwa
worouwa
fuduwa
waruwa
tiwouwa
deih
deih ma deo
liyeih
dorih
faih
rimeih
woroih
fidih
warih
tiwoih
dobuhuya
liyebuhuya
dorubuhuya
rimebuhuya
da ngaladi
Fitou?
Fitepou?

nimariyeri
rotoiet
rahoriyaro
nifahafi
nibongi
rarowa
lanei
waradu
lani fadari yalemat
lani tai fitehi
lani fadari Tamoru
meihira
emori halep
etosu miriyarai
malam ae ebangi
malam ae
malam ara ebe bito
madirap
sane
dobongi
liyobongi
deo sane
luoua sane
riwarangi ri tamau lari
riwarangiri maho lari

 

Nature and weather

beach
currents
high tide
island/land
low tide
ocean/saltwater
path
reef
rock
sand
water
waves

hot
sunny
typhoon
rain
wind
cold
sky
clouds
rainbow
sunrise
sunset
wori piya
maiya
bulo
faruya
mmat
tati
yar
yaurung
fadu
piye
saru
rawo

e besi
e kkal yaro
palada ri yengi
uut
yangi
halifou
rangi
mani rengi / hosou
lahim
tahase ri yaro
torori yaro

 

Sea and land animals

coral
crab
dolphin
dugong
eel
fish
giant clam
jellyfish
lobster
octopus
oyster
sea crocodile
sea cucumber
sea turtle
shark
shrimp
whale

cat
dog
lizard
mouse
bird
bat
mosquito
gecko
butterfly
snail
woso malu
lahum
huyesihi
lado peihi
rabuto saro
ih
kim
mweri matao
ula
hit
perih
rabaye
peri peri
woru
pahowa
rihatofisi
lado

busi
pirisi
ramalowa
hesi
maru
warih
ramu
uder
hiyehiye
umane

 

Dress and tools

skirt
hat
pants
shorts
lava lava
sandals
shirt
shoes

basket
fish hooker
fishing net
fishing pole
knife
machete
paddle
uferi huberi faifire
polung
uferi huberi mare
uferi huberi mare moso
weriya
zori/susu
uferi podu
susu

haraisi
hau
uho
bau
uwadei
uwadei tap
fatur

 

[1]Interview with Ms. Laura Ierago, former governor of Sonsorol State; March, 2007.
[2]Information kindly provided by Sachiko Oda-Tanaka, School of Culture-Information, Sugiyama Jogakuen University.
[3]The number of speakers now must be very few, down from 50 estimated in 1975 by Oda, S. (1977). The syntax of Pulo Annian. Ph.D. dissertation, University of Hawai'i.
[4]Reported extinct by Sakiyama, O. (2003). Endangered Languages of the Pacific Region. In: Sakiyama O. (ed.), Studies of Minority Languages in the Western Pacific Rim. (Endangered Languages of the Pacific Rim Publications Series C-006, Faculty of Informatics, Osaka Gakuin University: Osaka, Japan): 93-103.
[5]Some notes on spelling and alphabet can also be found in [Capell, 1969 #105].
[6]Former Governor of Sonsorol State, Ms. Laura Ierago is one of the project leaders.

 


 

If you find any mistakes whatsoever or have any comments, suggestions or additions, please email:
Danko Taborosi
taborosi@islandresearch.org
c/o
Island Research & Education Initiative
www.islandresearch.org