A Look at the Sakao Language

Method and Conclusion. See here.

Results. A ratings system was designed in terms of how difficult it would be for an English-language speaker to learn the language. In the case of English, English was judged according to how hard it would be for a non-English speaker to learn the language. Speaking, reading and writing were all considered.

Ratings: Languages are rated 1-6, easiest to hardest. 1 = easiest, 2 = moderately easy to average, 3 = average to moderately difficult, 4 = very difficult, 5 = extremely difficult, 6 = most difficult of all. Ratings are impressionistic.

Time needed. Time needed for an English language speaker to learn the language “reasonably well”: Level 1 languages = 3 months-1 year. Level 2 languages = 6 months-1 year. Level 3 languages = 1-2 years. Level 4 languages = 2 years. Level 5 languages = 3-4 years, but some may take longer. Level 6 languages = more than 4 years.

This post will look at the Sakao language in terms of how difficult it would be for an English speaker to learn it.

Austronesian
Malayo-Polynesian
Central-Eastern Malayo-Polynesian
Eastern Malayo-Polynesian
Oceanic
Southern Oceanic
Northern Vanuatu
East Santo
North

Sakao is a very strange langauge spoken by 4,000 people in Vanuatu.  It is a polysynthetic Austronesian language, which is very weird. It allows extreme consonant clusters. Sakao has an incredible seven degrees of deixis. The language has an amazing four persons: singular, dual, paucal and plural. The neighboring language Tomoko has singular, dual, trial and plural. The trial form is very odd. Sakao’s paucal derived from Tomato’s trial:

jørðœl
“they, from three to ten”

jørðœl løn
the five of them” (Literally, “they three, five”)

All nouns are always in the singular except for kinship forms and demonstratives, which only display the plural:

ðjœɣ – “my mother/aunt” -> rðjœɣ – “my aunts”

walðyɣ – “my child” -> raalðyɣ – “my children”

It has a number of nouns that are said to be “inalienably possessed”, that is, whenever they occur, they must be possessed by some possessor. These often take highly irregular inflections:

Sakao 	  English
œsɨŋœ-ɣ   "my mouth"
œsɨŋœ-m   "thy mouth"
ɔsɨŋɔ-n   "his/her/its mouth"
œsœŋ-...  "...'s mouth"	

uly-ɣ 	  "my hair"
uly-m 	  "thy hair"
ulœ-n 	  "his/her/its hair"
nøl-...   "...'s hair"

Here, “mouth” is either œsɨŋœ-, ɔsɨŋɔ- or œsœŋ-, and “hair” is either uly-, ulœ- or nøl-

Sakao, strangely enough, may not even have syllables in the way that we normally think of them. If it does have syllables at all, they would appear to be at least a vowel optionally surrounded by any number of consonants.

i (V)
“thou”

Mhɛrtpr.
(CCVCCCC)
“Having sung and stopped singing, thou kept silent.”

Sakao has a suffix -in that makes an intransitive verb transitive and makes a transitive verb ditransitive. Ditransitive verbs can take two arguments – a direct object and an instrumental.

Mɨjilɨn amas ara./Mɨjilɨn ara amas.
He kills the pig with the club”/”He kills with the club the pig.”

Sakao polysynthesis allows compound verbs, each one having its own instrument or object:

Mɔssɔnɛshɔβrɨn aða ɛðɛ.
He-shooting-fish-kept-on-walking with-a-bow the-sea.”
“He walked along the sea shooting the fish with a bow.”

Sakao gets a 5 rating, extremely hard to learn.

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Filed under Applied, Austro-Tai, Austronesian, Language Families, Language Learning, Linguistics, Malayo-Polynesian

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