Sa or Saa language is an Austronesian language spoken in southern Pentecost Island, Vanuatu. It had an estimated 2,500 speakers in the year 2000.
Sa has numerous dialects, with no well-established names or boundaries. At a meeting in 2008, speakers recognised four main dialects, with sub-dialectal variation and mixing of dialects in some areas.
The two central dialects are relatively similar to one another and are generally understood by all Sa speakers. Most writing and research in Sa has been in one of these dialects:
There are also two outlying dialects, which are highly distinctive and difficult for speakers of other dialects to understand:
The distinctive speech of villages such as Bunlap, Bay Barrier (Ranon) and Wanur appears to comprise mixtures of neighbouring dialects.
People in southern Pentecost remember the existence of additional dialects that are now extinct.
The consonants of Sa include b, d, g, h, k, l, m, n, ng (as in English "singer"), p, r, s, t, and w. In most dialects there is also j (occasionally written "ts"), which is apparently an allophone of t found before the vowels i and u although speakers regard it separately. Most speakers also use labiovelar bw, mw and pw, although from some speakers of outlying dialects these are indistinguishable from normal b, m and p. In addition to these consonants, the northern dialect has a bilabial f. In this dialect s may be pronounced like English sh.
As a general rule, clusters of consonants do not occur within a syllable. Word roots may begin with a pair of consonants, but in speech the first of these consonants is usually either dropped or attached to the final syllable of the preceding word.
In addition to the five standard vowels (a, e, i, o and u), Sa is generally believed[by whom?] to have additional mid-high vowels ê (intermediate between e and i) and ô (intermediate between o and u). Not all authors have recognised these extra vowels, but they have been accepted by local teachers of vernacular literacy and are used in the Bible Society's recent Gospel translations. Vowels are distinguished for length, with long vowels (aa, ee, etc.) often occurring where a consonant has historically been lost. Vowels can occur alone or in various combinations.
Stress is normally on the penultimate syllable of a word. However, syllables that end with a consonant or a long vowel take stress in precedence to other syllables.
|High||i iː||u uː|
|Mid-High||(e eː)||(o oː)|
|Mid||e̞ e̞ː||o̞ o̞ː|
Basic word order in Sa is subject–verb–object.
Personal pronouns are distinguished by person and number. They are not distinguished by gender. With one exception, subject and object pronouns are identical.
The singular and plural pronouns are as follows:
("o" in subject position)
In addition, there are dual pronouns (referring to two people), which incorporate the particle kô, and paucal pronouns (referring to a small number of people), which incorporate the particle têl or pat.
Nouns in Sa are not preceded by articles. Plurality is indicated by placing the pronoun êr ("them") or a number after the noun.
Nouns may be either free, or directly possessed. Directly possessed nouns are followed either by a suffix or a noun indicating whom an item belongs to. For example:
The possessive suffixes are as follows:
Possession may also be indicated by the use of the word na- "of" (or a- in the case of food items), followed either by a possessive suffix or the name of the possessor:
A verb may be transformed into a noun by the addition of a nominalising suffix -an:
Modifiers generally come after a noun:
Verbs in Sa are usually (though not always) preceded by verb markers indicating the tense, aspect and mood of the action.
In positive statements the marker is typically m-, ma-, mwa-, me- or a variant (depending on the dialect, the verb and the environment). Past and present tense are not explicitly distinguished:
In negative statements this marker is replaced with taa- or a variant:
These markers may be combined with a future marker t or te:
In the imperative, the future marker occurs without any other marker:
Hypothetical statements include a particle po:
Completed actions are indicated using tê:
The subject can be omitted from a sentence, as in the second example below:
Transitive and intransitive verb forms are distinguished, with transitive verbs often followed by nê:
Verbs in Sa can be linked together in a variety of serial verb constructions.
|English||Sa - central dialects
(Panngi, Ranwas, Bunlap)
|Sa - northern dialect
|Sa - southern dialect|
|Where are you going?||O metea bê?||O mfa be?||O metea be?|
|I'm going to...||Nê metea...||Nê mfa...||Nê metea...|
|Where have you come from?||O mamra bê?||O mamra be?||O mamra be?|
|I've come from...||Nê mamra...||Nê mamra...||Nê mamra...|
|What's your name?||Sêm be sê?||Sêm be sê?||Hêm be hê?|
|My name is...||Sêk be...||Sêk be...||Hêk be...|
|How much? / How many?||Beês?||Befês?||Beêh?|
|It's just fine||I mbetô nga||I mbetô nga||I mbetu nga|