The changing face of the Samoa language
The arrival of missionaries and foreign representatives to Samoa in the mid-18th and early 19th centuries amplified the Samoan language and cultural contact with western civilisation.
The arrival of missionaries and consuls, foreign diplomats, to Samoa in the mid-18th and early 19th centuries amplified the Samoan language and cultural contact with Western civilisation.
How did these contacts change let Gagana Samoa or the Samoan language?
Le'ausālilō Lupematasila Fata Au'afa Sadat Muaiava, a lecturer in the Samoan Studies programme at Va'aomanu Pasifika, Victoria University, is completing his PhD in Pacific Studies and his thesis examines text-based changes to the Samoan language between 1906-2014.
Le'ausālilō spoke to Moera Tuilaepa-Taylor about some of his research.
LE'AUSĀLILŌ MUAIAVA: A lot of our words, and remember the Bible, was translated to Samoa, a lot of our words used now are from the Bible, even from the consuls occupation of Samoa but for the consuls, it's more the systems and the ideas and introduced, which we adopted and what we did, our ancestors, they tried to find words and they compounded those words where as the Bible most of the words introduced by the Bible and the missionaries were transliterated rather than compounded or finding and using existing words to create new words, interesting dynamics.
MOERA TUILAEPA-TAYLOR: Prior to the Christians arriving, there was no written language. It was all oral?
LM: It was all oral but then how do we define a written language, I guess. I think for us, Samoans and the Pacific in general, we had our own form, our languages were written, it's just not in the Western form of writing, but we had our languages written in our thoughts, oratory and all of that. So Western form, yes, not written in that form, but written in our own form."
MTT: That sounds like quite an amazing feat, considering that the missionaries came and there was no written language and to just be able to work together to piece it all together.
LM: A very big feat, for example, so the missionaries worked with our ancestors, the elders to be able to translate but that's the influence of Christianity in Samoa, where it was well received and where our ancestors and our people went beyond to be able to translate the Bible, so that whole transformation conversion process was rapid.
MTT: I enjoyed the bit about "Samoanising" words, that term you used as a way for the language to able to survive and get stronger in the future.
LM: Yeah, like I mentioned, it's a very powerful concept, Samoanising words, in fact, I feel without it, the language may contract, it may not survive without the Samoanising concept, so I think it's a strength for the Samoan language as our language was able to accommodate foreign words, using the syllable structure, the consonant-vowel-structure where as most foreign words - use consonants together but that Samoanising concept, we insert the vowel in-between those to make it a Samoan word, so very powerful concept, very powerful tool, that we have to expand the Samoan language, keep it alive and survive.
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