Karay-a language

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

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
Native speakers
433,000 (2005)[1]
Official status
Official language in
Regional language in the Philippines
Regulated byKomisyon sa Wikang Filipino
Language codes
ISO 639-3krj
Area where Karay-a is spoken

It is one of the Bisayan languages, mainly along with Aklanon/Malaynon, Capiznon and Hiligaynon.


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

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 Karay-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 José 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 Karay-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 Karay-a language has the schwa sound, traditionally represented with the letter ə, but the Ortograpíyang Pambansâ (National Orthography), released in 2014 by the Komisyon sa Wikang Filipino, instead recommends it to be written with ë. In 2018, the Komisyon clarified,[3]

Harmonization is not compulsory for older users of the language or individual organizations; it is specifically aimed at helping the Department of Education and teachers to teach any of the native languages. Other organizations are free to adopt their own stylebook in their own publications.


The following are the Kinaray-a vowels: Aa, Ee, Əə (Ëë in the national 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 "ə/ë" as maləm-ə/malëm-ëk nga I (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.


The book "Karay-a Rice Tradition Revisited" introduced "ə", the International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA) symbol for the schwa, also used in the Azeri alphabet, to represent the Kinaray-a schwa. The Kinaray-a schwa is a toneless neutral vowel, that could be stressed or unstressed, and 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 recommended that ə be graphemically represented by Ëë, and has required its use in government-published teaching material.[3]


There are 15 consonants in the Kinaray-a language. They are b, k, d, g, h, l, m, n, ŋ, p, s, t, w, r and y. They are pronounced the same way as in English but a little bit lighter than their English equivalents. An exception is the letter "ɾ" 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 loanwords, the consonants c, f, j, q, x, and z don’t appear in Kinaray-a words. If foreign words do not have 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 "j" nor to substitute the letters "o" or "u" for the consonant "w". Transforming the consonants "w" and "j" into a vowel creates an additional syllable.

The consonant ng

The consonant "ŋ" 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 "ŋ" sound is familiar to the English speaker. It can be found in words such as: clang, bring, throng, rung, and singer, etc. As a letter in Karay-a, it is pronounced "ŋa", with the same "ŋ" sound that the English word "singer" has.



Close iə~ɨu
Mid e~ɛo
Open a

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. Vowels /i/ and /u/ can also be shortened as [ɪ, ʊ].[4] /u/ is sometimes interchanged with /ə/ where some speakers say suba (river) while others say səba.


Consonant phonemes
Labial Alveolar Palatal Velar Glottal
Nasal m n ŋ
Stop pb td kɡ ʔ
Fricative s h
Approximant l j w
Flap ɾ

For example:

Vowel comparison of Kinaray-a, Hiligaynon and Tagalog cognates
English Karay-a Hiligaynon Tagalog
mine akən akon akin
dark madələm madulom madilim
food pagkaən 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 cognacy between Kinaray-a, Malay and Tagalog
Karay-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 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 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.
  • Happy - Sadya
  • Thank you - Salamat

See also


  1. Karay-a at Ethnologue (21st ed., 2018)
  2. Kinaray-a — English Dictionary Compiled by: Vicente C. Pangantihon
  3. https://www.pna.gov.ph/articles/1052580
  4. Limpiada, Aimee (2015). The Phonology of Kinaray-a as Spoken in Antique. Philippine Normal University.
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