Karay-a language

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Hamtikanon, Hiniraya, Antiqueño, Binisaya nga Karay-a, Bisaya nga Kinaray-a
Native toPhilippines
RegionAntique, southern-inland Iloilo, southern part of Guimaras, southern Aklan, Occidental Mindoro particularly in Ilin Island, western Capiz, and a few parts of SOCCSKSARGEN
EthnicityKaray-a people
Native speakers
(380,000 cited 1994 estimates, only from Antique)[1]
Official status
Official language in
Regional language in the Philippines
Regulated byKomisyon sa Wikang Filipino
Language codes
ISO 639-3krj
Kinaray-a language map.png
Area where Karay-a is spoken

The Karay-a language, or Kinaray-a (Karay-a + the infix -in-) (ISO: krj), is an Austronesian regional language spoken by the Karay-a people, mainly in Antique in the Philippines, Iloilo and other provinces on the island of Panay, as well as portions of the SOCCSKSARGEN region in Mindanao. It is one of the Bisayan languages, mainly along with Aklanon/Malaynon, Capiznon and Hiligaynon. As of 2015, there is an estimated 1,200,000 speakers of Kinaray-a with almost half of them are from Antique and Iloilo provinces.


Other native names for the language are Hamtikanon, Hinaraya, Binisaya nga Karay-a and Bisaya nga Kinaray-a.


Kinaray-a is spoken mainly in Antique. It is also spoken in Iloilo province mainly in the city of Passi, in the municipalities of Alimodian, San Joaquin, Lambunao, Calinog, Leon, Miag-ao, Pavia, Badiangan, San Miguel, Guimbal, San Enrique, Tigbauan, Igbaras, Leganes, Pototan, Bingawan, San Rafael, Mina, Zarraga, Oton, Santa Barbara, Cabatuan, Janiuay, Maasin, New Lucena, Dueñas, Dingle, and Tubungan, the south of Capiz such as Tapaz, Jamindan, Dumalag, and Dumarao, and certain villages in Mindanao – especially in the SOCCSKSARGEN region by citizens who trace their roots to Antique or to Karay-a-speaking areas of inland Iloilo and Capiz (particularly the province of Sultan Kudarat). Inhabitants of most towns across the latter areas speak Kinaray-a while Hiligaynon is predominant around coastal areas particularly in Iloilo. It is also spoken in Iloilo City by a minority and parts of Aklan province, as well as Guimaras.

Intelligibility with Hiligaynon[edit]

Due to geographic proximity and mass media Kinaray-a-speakers can understand Hiligaynon (also known as Ilonggo) speakers. However, only Hiligaynon speakers who reside in Kinaray-a-speaking areas can understand the language. Those who come from other areas, like Negros islanders, have difficulty in understanding the language, only 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, branches of the Bisayan languages. However, some Karay-a also know Hiligaynon as their second language. To some extent, there is an intermediate dialect of Hiligaynon and Kinaray-a being spoken in Mindanao, mainly in Sultan Kudarat province.


There has not been any actual linguistic 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 Janiuay, Santa Barbara, and nearby towns. Two highly accented dialects of Kinaray-a can be heard in Anini-y and Dao in Antique and San Joaquin, Leon, and Tubungan 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 sayëd/kadë (ugly) and rangga/gëba (defective).


With "/ə/" as a vowel and the vowels "/e/" and "/u/" introduced by influence of the Spanish language, 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. 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.

With the release of the Tagalist Ortograpíyang Pambansâ (National Orthography) in 2014 by the Komisyon sa Wikang Filipino, the schwa sound in Karay-a and other Philippine languages such as Mëranaw are to use the ë.


The following are the Kinaray-a vowels: Aa, Ee, Əə (Ëë in the Tagalist orthography), Ii, Oo, and Uu. As a rule, there are as many syllables as there are vowels. Except for the vowel Əə/Ëë, 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 "ë" as "malëm-ëk" 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 "ë" 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, also used in the Azeri alphabet, 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 Əə, any word with a schwa vowel sound can be written as pronounced. The Komisyon sa Wikang Filipino has since mandated that ə be graphemically represented by Ëë.


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 foreign loan 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[edit]

The consonant "ng" is a single letter in Karay-a and in all other indigenous Philippine languages. In the old Romanized Karay-a cursive, a line is placed above both letters of "ng" with one long wavy stroke ("n͠g") to denote that it is a single letter, distinct from "n"+"g". Older speakers today still use the long tilde but the younger generation don't bother with it. Besides, for those unfamiliar with the language, they 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, and singer, etc. The technique is not to pronounce the word with a hard "g", such as the English word "finger" has. As a letter in Karay-a, it is pronounced "nga", with the same "ng" sound that the English word "singer" has.



/e/ (uncommon - mostly "I" below)
/o/ (uncommon - mostly "U" below)
/ə/ written as "ë" in Filipino Orthography

The vowels /e/ and /o/ are used mostly in non-Kinaray-a words. Both aforementioned sounds from the same words in other (mostly non-Bisayan) 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 sëba.[needs IPA]

For example:

Vowel comparison of Kinaray-a, Hiligaynon and Tagalog cognates
English Kinaray-a Hiligaynon Tagalog
mine akën akon akin
dark madëlëm madulom madilim
food pagkaën pagkaon pagkain
head ulu ulu ulo
ball bula bula bola
animal sapat, hayëp sapat hayop
plant tanëm tanom pananim, halaman
six anëm anom anim




Noun cognacy 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
makəl mushroom jamur mushroom kabuti mushroom
kahig foot kaki foot paa to scrape (ground)


1st person singular ako takën nakën, ko akën kanakën
2nd person singular ikaw, kaw timo nimo, mo imo kanimo
3rd person singular - tana nana, na ana kanana, kana
1st person plural inclusive kita tatën natën, ta atën kanatën
1st person plural exclusive kami tamën namën amën kanamën
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 anëm 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[edit]

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 pangaën 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 takën kamaan./ Waay takën kamaan (Or simply: Maan a./ Ambay a./ Ilam a. -informal, usually an annoyed expression)
  • Let's go! - Panaw/Halin ta rën!/Dali rën! (usually for hurrying up companions)
  • Come together. - Iririmaw kita./ imaw kita./ Iribhanay kita./ Iririmaw tatən
  • Why? - Manhaw/Wanhaw? (or: Andët haw/aw?)/ Insa haw?/ Insaw?(informal)
  • I love you. -Ginagugma ta (i)kaw./ palangga ta (i)kaw.
  • 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)/ Amo ka di-a.
  • How much? - Tag pira?
  • Yes. - hə-əd.(Ho-ud)/ (h)ə-əd
  • No. - Bukut./Bëkët.(Bëkën)/Indi
  • Because. - Bangëd.
  • Because of you. - Bangëd kanimo or Tëngëd kanimo.
  • About you. - Nahanungëd kanimo or Parti kanimo.
  • You know. - Man-an mo. (or: Man-an mo man.)
  • Hurry! - Dasiga!(lit. Fast!) or Dali-a! (lit. Hurry!)
  • Again. - Liwan/Liwat/Riwan/Liwan. (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[edit]


  1. ^ Karay-a at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015)
  2. ^ Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2017). "Kinaray-A". Glottolog 3.0. Jena, Germany: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History.
  3. ^ Kinaray-a — English Dictionary Compiled by: Vicente C. Pangantihon
  4. ^ native speaker

External links[edit]