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Sawai language

Native toIndonesia
RegionNorth Maluku province
Native speakers
12,000 (2000)[1]
  • Weda
  • Sawai
  • Kobe
  • Faya-Mafa
  • Messa-Dote
Language codes
ISO 639-3szw
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The Sawai language (also Weda) is a South Halmahera language of Austronesian stock spoken in Weda and Gane Timor districts of southern Halmahera, northern Maluku Province, Indonesia. There are approximately 12,000 speakers.


Below is description of the Kobe dialect of Sawai spoken in the villages of Lelilef Woyebulan and Kobe Peplis.


Sawai has 14 consonants:

  Labial Alveolar Palatal Velar
Stop p  b t  d   k  ɡ
Fricative f s    
Nasal m n   ŋ
Approximant central w   j  
lateral   l    


Sawai has 7 vowels:

  Front Back
High i u
High-Mid e o
Low-Mid ɛ ɔ
Low a


Sawai has the following syllable structure:



word gloss syllable type
/i/ 's/he/it' V
/in/ 'fish' VC
/wo/ 'alcoholic drink' CV
/npo/ 's/he/it gives' CCV
/kot/ 'magic statue' CVC
/nfan/ 's/he/it goes' CCVC


  1. ^ Sawai at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015)
  2. ^ Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2017). "Sawai". Glottolog 3.0. Jena, Germany: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History.


  • Burquest, Donald A.; & Laidig, Wyn D. (Eds.). (1992). Phonological studies in four languages of Maluku. The Summer Institute of Linguistics and the University of Texas at Arlington publications in linguistics (No. 108). Dallas: The Summer Institute of Linguistics, The University of Texas at Arlington, and Pattimura University. ISBN 0-88312-803-9.
  • Whistler, Ronald. (1992). Phonology of Sawai. In D. A. Burquest & W. D. Laidig (Eds.), Phonological studies in four languages of Maluku (pp. 7–32). Dallas: The Summer Institute of Linguistics, The University of Texas at Arlington, and Pattimura University.
  • Whistler, Ronald; & Whistler, Jacqui. (1995). Sawai: Introduction and wordlist. In D. T. Tryon (Ed.), Comparative Austronesian dictionary: An introduction to Austronesian studies (part 1: fascicle 1, pp. 659–65). Trends in linguistics, Documentation (No. 10). Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter.