Diacritical Marks and the Samoan Language

Tualaulelei, Eseta Magaui
Mayer, Fepuleai Lasei John
Hunkin, Galumalemana A
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University of Hawai‘i Press
Center for Pacific Islands Studies
The issue of diacritical marks in the Samoan orthography has long been a contentious one, and it is almost four decades now since the last serious attempt was made to review and reconcile the competing guidelines for their use. This article is aimed at promoting a better understanding of the function and use of diacritical marks (the glottal stop and the macron) in written Samoan, as the use of diacritics has important educational implications for students in introductory Samoan-language classes and in early reading programs in bilingual classes. It presents the historical context of the use of these symbols, their treatment in educational materials, and the contemporary situation in which inconsistency prevails. Using historical and linguistic analysis, it investigates how the use of diacritics became so variable and why some Samoan-language users do not consider them to be significant symbols. The article argues that diacritics should be used in the Samoan language, particularly for academic settings, and offers recommendations for teachers to assist with the Samoan language–learning classroom. Our key motivation is that the future of the Samoan language relies heavily on its transmission to younger generations, and for this we need an unambiguous, consistent orthography.
Samoan language, diacritics, glottal stop, Pacific linguistics, Samoan history, orthography
Tualaulelei, E. M., Mayer, F. L. J., and Hunkin, G. A. 2015. Diacritical Marks and the Samoan Language. The Contemporary Pacific 27 (1): 183-207.
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