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Karay-a language


Karay-a language

Native to Philippines
Region Antique province, some parts of inland Iloilo, Aklan, and Capiz
Ethnicity Karay-a people
Native speakers
380,000 (1994)[1]
Official status
Official language in
Regional language in the Philippines
Regulated by Commission on the Filipino Language
Language codes
ISO 639-3 krj
Glottolog kina1250[2]
Area where Karay-a is spoken

The Karay-a language, or Kinaray-a, is an Austronesian language spoken by the Karay-a people, mainly in Antique Province in the Philippines. It is one of the Visayan languages.


  • Name 1
  • Location 2
  • Intelligibility with Hiligaynon 3
  • Dialects 4
    • Differences 4.1
  • Alphabet 5
    • Vowels 5.1
      • Schwa 5.1.1
    • Consonants 5.2
      • The consonant ng 5.2.1
  • Phonology 6
    • Vowels 6.1
    • Consonants 6.2
  • Grammar 7
    • Nouns 7.1
    • Pronouns 7.2
  • Numbers 8
  • See also 9
  • References 10
  • External links 11


The word karay-a comes from the word iraya "mountain dwellers", from Sanskrit laya "abode" (as in Himalaya). Other native names for the language are Hamtikanon, Hiniraya, Binisaya nga Karay-a and Bisaya.


Karay-a is spoken in Iloilo province, the south of Capiz Province, certain villages in Mindanao that trace their roots to Antique or to Kinaray-a-speaking areas of inland Iloilo and Capiz. Inhabitants of most towns across the latter areas speak Karay-a while Hiligaynon is predominant around coastal areas particularly in Iloilo.

Intelligibility with Hiligaynon

Due to geographic proximity and mass media Karay-a-speakers can understand Hiligaynon speakers. However, only Hiligaynon speakers who reside in Karay-a-speaking areas can understand the language. Those who come from other areas, like Negros, have difficulty in understanding the language, if they can at all.

It is a misconception among some Hiligaynon speakers that Kinaray-a is a dialect of Hiligaynon; the reality is that the two belong to two different, but related, language subgroups. However, some Karay-a have also Hiligaynon as their second language. To some extent, there is an intermediate dialect of Hiligaynon and Kinaray-a being spoken in Mindanao.


There has not been any actual study on the dialects of Kinaray-a. Speakers both of Kinaray-a and Hiligaynon would however admit to hearing the differences in the ways by which Kinaray-a speakers from different towns speak. Differences in vocabulary can also observed between and among the dialects.

The differences and the degrees by which the dialects differ from each other depend largely on the area's proximity to another different language-speaking area. Thus, in Antique, there are, on the northern parts, varieties that are similar to Aklanon, the language of Aklan, its neighbor on the north. On the south, in Iloilo towns on the other hand, the dialects closely resemble that of the standard Kinaray-a spoken in San Jose de Buenavista, lowland Sibalom and Hamtic. A distinct dialect of Kinaray-a is spoken in central Iloilo where a lot of Hiligaynon loanwords are used and some Kinaray-a words are pronounced harder as in "rigya" or "ja" (here) of southern Iloilo and San Jose de Buenavista area as compared to "giya" of Cabatuan and nearby towns. Two highly accented dialects of Kinaray-a can be heard in Anini-y and Dao in Antique and Tigbauan, Leon, and Alimodian in Iloilo.


Some dialects differ only on consonant preference like y vs h. e.g. bayi/bahi (girl) or l vs r e.g. wala/wara. Some have distinct differences like sayəd/kadə (ugly) and rangga/gəba (defective).


With “ə” as a vowel and the vowels “e” and “u” introduced by the Spaniards to “enrich” the indigenous Philippine languages, the following are the Kinaray-a letters in their suggested alphabetical order: Aa, Bb, Kk, Dd, Ee, Gg, Hh, Ii, Ll, Mm, Nn, NG ng, Oo, Əə, Pp, Rr, Ss, Tt, Uu, Ww, and Yy. I placed “ə” after letter “o” because when ә was not yet in use, writers use letter “o” in place of "ə". This results to a wrong translation and interpretation of the word especially if there are words with the same spelling and words that are cognates. The suggested alphabetical order follows that of the Roman alphabet. Philippine indigenous scripts presumably including Kinaray-a are syllabic. There is no record on the order of precedence of the syllables. Even the Tagalog Baybayin that the Spaniards used in writing the first book published in the Philippines, did not define the order of precedence of the syllabic script. It was only when the alphabet was Romanized that the alphabetical order was established.


The following are the Kinaray-a vowels: Aa, Ee, Ii, Oo, Əə, and Uu. As a rule, there are as many syllables as there are vowels. Except for the vowel ə, all other vowels are pronounced like any Filipino vowel letters are pronounced. Vowel letters when combined do not create a different vowel sound. Each vowel indicates a separate syllable. There are as many vowels as there are syllables. It is a common error to equate the vowel "i" with the consonant "y" and vice versa. For example, the word "balunggay" is spelled by some as "balunggai" or "kambyo" as "kambio". Also an error is equating "o" with "w" especially if it comes after letter "a". "lanaw" becomes lanao or tuáw become tuao. On the other hand, letter "w" is equated with letter "u" as in rweda written as rueda or pwede written as puede. They are erroneous since they violate the basic rule that Kinaray-a vowels do not combine with another vowel to form a new sound. The vowels “e” and “u” introduced by the Spaniards are interchangeable with the vowels “i” and “o”, respectively. The Karay-as call the vowel “e” as “maləm-ək” nga “i” (the soft “i”). The vowel “e” is also used mostly on appropriated foreign words written in Kinaray-a with Kinaray-a affixes. The vowel “u” is called matig-a nga “o” (the hard “o”). Hence, when a syllable with a vowel is pronounced lightly, the vowel “i” is substituted with the vowel “e”. The opposite rule applies to the vowel “u”. The practice however, is not the norm. What is more controlling for using either the vowels “i” and “o” or the introduced vowels “e” and “u” is what appears to the Karay-as pleasing to their eyes and ears. When in doubt on what vowel to use, it is always safe to use the indigenous vowels. The introduced “ә” vowel has no substitute. It will always be used since many Kinaray-a words have a schwa vowel sound.


In the book, “Karay-a Rice Tradition Revisited”, it introduced “ə”, the International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA) symbol for the schwa, to represent the Kinaray-a vowel with a schwa sound. The Kinaray-a schwa could be stressed or unstressed. It has a toneless neutral vowel sound. It is not necessarily a mid-central vowel. It maybe found in the beginning of a word or at the end. Its quality depends on the adjacent consonants. With “ə”, any word with a schwa vowel sound can be written as pronounced. This holds true for any Philippine indigenous languages with schwa vowel sound in it.


There are 15 consonants in the Kinaray-a language. They are Bb, Kk, Dd, Gg, Hh, Ll, Mm, Nn, NG ng, Pp, Rr, Ss, Tt, Ww, and Yy. They are pronounced the same way as in English but a little bit lighter than their English equivalents. An exception is the letter “r” which is prevalent in Kinaray-a. It is sounded by flicking the tip of the tongue against the back of the upper front teeth and rolled a bit. Likewise the letters g, w, and y are also pronounced a bit harder as a terminal letter of a word with a grave accent mark. Except for appropriated foreign words, the consonants c, f, j, q, x, and z don’t appear in Kinaray-a words. If foreign words are without Kinaray-a equivalent, they are either written as is, or written as pronounced using the Kinaray-a alphabet. A Kinaray-a consonant does not transform itself into a vowel. It is not right to substitute letters “e” or “i”, for the consonant “y” nor to substitute the letters “o” or “u” for the consonant “w”. It must be borne in mind that there are as many syllables in a word as there are vowels. Transforming the consonants “w” and “y” into a vowel creates an additional syllable.

The consonant ng

The consonant “ng” is a single letter in Kinaray-a and in all other indigenous Philippine languages. In the old Romanized Kinaray-a cursive, a line is placed above “ng” to denote that it is a single letter as in "n͠g". Old speakers today still use the symbol but the present generation found no use for it. Besides, those unfamiliar with the language, mistake it for the Spanish "ñ". The “ng” sound is familiar to the English speaker. It can be found in words such as: clang, bring, throng, rung, etc. The technique is not to pronounce the word with a hard “g”. As a letter in the Kinaray-a, it is pronounced "nga".



/e/ (uncommon - mostly "I" below)
/o/ (uncommon - mostly "U" below)

The vowels /e/ and /o/ are used mostly in non-Kinaray-a words. Both aforementioned sounds from the same words in other (mostly non-Visayan) Filipino languages are often pronounced as /i/ and /u/, respectively. /u/ is sometimes interchanged with /ə/ where some speakers say suba (river) while others say səba.

For example:

Vowel comparison of Kinaray-a, Hiligaynon and Tagalog cognates
English Kinaray-a Hiligaynon Tagalog
mine akәn akon akin
dark madәlәm madulom madilim
food pagkaәn pagkaon pagkain
head ulu ulu ulo
ball bula bula bola
animal sapat, hayəp sapat hayop
plant tanəm tanom pananim, halaman
six anəm anom anim




Noun cognancy between Kinaray-a, Malay and Tagalog
Kinaray-a English meaning Malay English meaning Tagalog English meaning
ayam, ido dog ayam / anjing chicken / dog manok / aso chicken / dog
bayi, bahi female, woman wanita / bayi female, woman / baby babae female, woman
bosong abdomen pusar / pusat navel / central puson / pusod stomach / navel, core
kutî cat kucing cat kuting kitten
damog fodder umpan / (pa)dang fodder / pasture kumpay / damo fodder / pasture, grass
yawâ demon setan / awa demon / accusation demonyo / awa demon / pity
makul mushroom jamur mushroom kabuti mushroom
kahig foot kaki foot paa to scrape (ground)


1st person singular ako takən nakən, ko akən kanakən
2nd person singular ikaw, kaw timo nimo, mo imo kanimo
3rd person singular - tana nana, na ana kanana, kana
1st person plural inclusive kita tatən natən, ta atən kanatən
1st person plural exclusive kami tamən namən amən kanamən
2nd person plural kamo tinyo ninyo, nyo inyo kaninyo
3rd person plural sanda tanda nanda anda kananda


Number Kinaray-a Malay Tagalog
1 isara/sara satu isa
2 darwa dua dalawa
3 tatlo tiga tatlo
4 apat empat apat
5 lima lima lima
6 anəm enam anim
7 pito tujuh pito
8 walo lapan walo
9 siyam sembilan siyam
10 pulû (se)puluh sampu
11 napulû kag sara/ unsi (from Spanish) (se)belas labing-isa / onse (from Spanish)
50 kalim-an/singkwenta (from Spanish) lima puluh limampu /singkwenta (from Spanish)
100 sangkagatos/sanggatos se ratus isang daan
1,000 sangkalibo/sanglibo se ribu isang libo
100,000 sangka gatos ka libo se ratus ribu isang daang libo
500,000 lima ka gatos ka libo lima ratus ribu lima daang libo
1,000,000 sangka milyon satu juta isang milyon

—== Common expressions ==

Saying "Diin kaw maagto?" (Literally, Where are you going?) is common way to greet people. You don't need to answer the question directly. The usual answer is an action like "Maninda." (Literally, To buy something on the market.) instead of "Sa tinda." (Literally, To the market.)

  • Are you eating well? - Mayad man pangaən mo?
  • Good. - Mayad.
  • How are you feeling? - Musta bay pamatyagan mo? or: Ano bay pamatyag mo? (What do you feel?)
  • I don't know. - Wara takən kamaan. (Or simply: Maan a. -informal, usually an annoyed expression)
  • Let's go! - Panaw/Halin ta rən!/Dali rən! (usually for hurrying up companions)
  • Come together. - Iririmaw kita./ imaw kita
  • Why? - Manhaw/Wanhaw? (or: Andət haw/aw?)/Naga
  • I love you. -Gihugma takaw./ palangga ko ikaw
  • My love/sweetheart. -Palangga ko.
  • What is your name? - Ano ngaran mo?
  • Good morning! - Mayad nga aga!
  • Good afternoon! - Mayad nga hapon!
  • Good evening! - Mayad nga gabiʔi!
  • That one. - Amo kara. (Or simply: Ra/Ra ay.)(or: Amo ran)
  • How much? - Tag pira?
  • Yes. - həʔəd.(Ho-ud)/ (h)əʔəd
  • No. - Bukut./Bəkət.(Bəkən)/Indi
  • Because. - Bangəd.
  • Because of you. - Bangəd kanimo or Təngəd kanimo.
  • About you. - Nahanungəd kanimo.
  • You know. - Man-an mo. (or: Man-an mo man.)
  • Hurry! - Dasiga!(lit. Fast!) or Dali-a! (lit. Hurry!)
  • Again. - Liwan/Liwat/Riwan. (or: Uman (Again) / Umana (Command to repeat).)
  • Do you speak English? - Kamaan kaw maghambal kang Inglis? or Kama-an kaw mag-Inglis?
  • It is fun to live. - Sadya mabuhi/Sadya ang mabuhi.

See also


  1. ^ Karay-a at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015)
  2. ^ Nordhoff, Sebastian; Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2013). "Kinaray-A".  
  3. ^ Kinaray-a — English Dictionary Compiled by: Vicente C. Pangantihon

External links

  • Kinaray-a Dictionary
  • Kinaray-a
  • Kinaray-a Dictionary: Preserving the Kinaray-a Language
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