Karay-a language

Hamtikanon, Hiniraya, Binisaya nga Karay-a, Bisaya nga Kinaray-a
Native to Philippines
Region Western Visayas (Antique, some parts of inland Iloilo and southern Guimaras, southern Aklan and southwestern Capiz) and SOCCSKSARGEN (mainly in Sultan Kudarat)
Ethnicity Karay-a people
Native speakers
380,000 (1994)[1]
Official status
Official language in
Regional language in the Philippines
Regulated by Komisyon sa Wikang Filipino
Language codes
ISO 639-3 krj
Glottolog kina1250[2]

Area where Karay-a is spoken

The Karay-a language, 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 as well as Iloilo and other provinces on the island of Panay. It is one of the Visayan languages, mainly along with Aklanon/Malaynon, Capiznon and Hiligaynon.


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 nga Kinaray-a.


Kinaray-a is 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, Tigbauan, Leganes, Pototan, Bingawan, Zarraga, Oton, Santa Barbara, Cabatuan, Janiuay, Maasin, New Lucena, Dueñas, Dingle, Tubungan, and other municipalities located near Antique, the south of Capiz such as Tapaz, Jamindan, Dumalag, and Dumarao, certain villages in Mindanao, especially in SOCCSKSARGEN region 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 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 the southern half of Guimaras.

Intelligibility with Hiligaynon

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, 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, language subgroups (Visayan). 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, 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 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. The Spaniards placed "ə" after letter "o" because when ә was not yet in use, writers used the 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.

With the release of the Ortograpíyang Pambansâ (National Orthography) in 2014, the schwa sound in Karay-a and other Philippine Languages including Mëranaw, uses the Patuldók na E (umlaut e), Ëë.


The following are the Kinaray-a vowels: Aa, Ee, Ëë, Ii, Oo, and Uu. As a rule, there are as many syllables as there are vowels. Except for the vowel ë, 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, 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 "ë", 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 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 to denote that it is a single letter, distinct from "n͠g". 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-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 sëba.

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 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 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

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.)

See also


  1. Karay-a at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015)
  2. Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin; Bank, Sebastian, eds. (2016). "Kinaray-A". Glottolog 2.7. Jena: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History.
  3. Kinaray-a — English Dictionary Compiled by: Vicente C. Pangantihon

External links

Karay-a language test of Wikipedia at Wikimedia Incubator
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