Ramari Dongosaro
Native toPalau
RegionPalau: originally Sonsorol state (all three inhabited islands Sonsorol, Pulo Ana and Merir)
Native speakers
400 (2007)[1]
Latin script
Official status
Official language in
Language codes
ISO 639-3sov
Sonsorolese is classified as Severely Endangered by the UNESCO Atlas of the World's Languages in Danger
Approximate location where Sonsorolese is spoken
Approximate location where Sonsorolese is spoken
Coordinates: 5°20′N 132°13′E / 5.33°N 132.22°E / 5.33; 132.22

Sonsorolese is a Micronesian language spoken in Palau, originally on the islands composing the state of Sonsorol, and spreading through migration elsewhere in the country. It is very close to Tobian.



Sonsorolese is mostly spoken in the Palau archipelago, particularly in Sonsorol, Pulo Ana, and the Merir Islands.[2] It is one of two indigenous languages spoken in the area.


There are about 360 speakers spread out across 60 islands. Most speakers of Sonsorol are bilingual, with their second language being English.[3] The language is an official language for the areas where it is spoken. It is usually used for the state's internal communications, like announcements and invitations.[4] Some closely related languages of Sonsorol are Ulithian, Woleaian, and Satawalese. The language is part of the Austronesian language family. Most of the population have migrated from the islands of the Sonsorol state to Palau's main town, Koror and Echang village.[4] The reasons are various, including economic and environmental. Young Sonsorolese speakers use a mixture of Palauan, English and Sonsorolese, what is called Echangese and is different from what the elder generation speaks.[4] There are currently less than 20 speakers over 60 years old.[4]

Geographic distribution




In Sonsorolese, there are 19 consonants. These consonants are: /p/, /b/, /t/, /d/, /c/, /k/, /g/, /m/, /n/, /f/, /v/, /j/, /x/, /ɣ/, /r/, /w/, /s/, /ŋ/, and /ʟʲ/.[5]

IPA chart Sonsorolese consonants
Labial Dental-Alveolar Palatal Velar
Nasal m n ŋ
Plosive p b t d c k g
Fricative f v s j x ɣ
Continuant w r ʟʲ


Sonsorolese has five vowels: /a/, /e/, /i/, /o/, and /u/. There are also diphthongs, including /ae/, /ai/, /ao/, and /au/. An example of the diphthong /ae/ is mae, which means "breadfruit".[5]

Voiceless vowels

Voiceless vowels occur in three contexts: “as finals, after a consonant, after a full, generally long vowel, and before a consonant, when they are acoustically similar to falling diphthongs, after non-final consonants a furtive /i/ or /u/ produces palatalization or velarisation (respectively) of the consonants".[5][clarification needed]

Orthography and pronunciation

Sonsorolese is primarily a spoken language. Many of the sounds are like those in Tobian and Woleaian. A couple of dialects include the pronunciation of d, which is common at the beginning of words and similar to [ð]; r is pronounced as in Spanish; also, l is always pronounced with tongue touching the back roof of the mouth and sounds something like a combination of the [ɡ] and [l] sounds. For that reason, some Sonsorolese prefer to spell their els as ⟨ɡl⟩. As in Woleaian, voiceless vowels are usually found at the end of Sonsorolese words. For example, in Dongosaro, the native name for Sonsorol island, the final -o is voiceless.[4]

Written documents in Sonsorolese include the Constitution of Sonsorol State and certain parts of the Bible.[4] However, there seems to be a confusion regarding the Bible since there seems not to be a distinction between Tobian and Sonsorolese.[citation needed]



There is full reduplication in the Sonsorol language. E.g. 'orange' = hulu, 'oranges' = huluhulu.


The numeral system of Sonsorolese is base-10. The numeral system can go up to 1,000, which is "da ngaladi".[3]



  1. ^ Sonsorolese at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015) (subscription required)
  2. ^ "Sonsorol". Ethnologue. Archived from the original on 1 December 2016. Retrieved 15 March 2019.
  3. ^ a b "Language". Archived from the original on 14 March 2007. Retrieved 15 January 2022.
  4. ^ a b c d e f "Language". Retrieved 24 January 2020.
  5. ^ a b c Capell 1969.
  6. ^ "Sonsorolese (Ramari Dongosaro)". Omniglot. Retrieved 25 April 2022.

Further reading