Kinaray-a is an Austronesian language spoken mainly in Antique Province in the Philippines. It is also spoken in Iloilo province, the south of Capiz Province, and certain villages in Mindanao that trace their roots to Antique Province or Kinaray-a-speaking areas of Iloilo and Capiz Provinces. Kinaray-a came from the word "iraya", equivalent to "ilaya" in Tagalog, which refers to a group of people residing in the mountain areas of the province, this comes from Sanskritlaya meaning abode as in Himalaya, while groups of people residing near the river delta are referred to as "ilawod" from the Hiligaynon word "lawod", originating from Proto-Austronesianlahud, which refers to a large body of water (sea, ocean, lake, or strait). However, Kinaray-a does not necessarily refer to the way or language spoken by the highlanders of Panay Island. Speakers of this language are called, "Karay-a."
Kinaray-a is also spoken in most parts of Iloilo and southern Capiz together with Hiligaynon. Most towns of these areas speak Kinaray-a while Hiligaynon is mostly spoken in Iloilo City itself. Due to regional proximity, media and television stations, Kinaray-a speakers can understand Hiligaynon 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, 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 of the Kinaray-a speakers have also Hiligaynon as their second language; that is why Cebuanos assumed that Kinaray-a words are Hiligaynon ones. In 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).
The Kinaray-a Alphabet
With “ә” 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, әә, Pp, Rr, Ss, Tt, Uu, Ww, and Yy. I placed “ә” after letter “o” because when ә was not yet in use, writers use letter “o” in place of "ә". 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, әә, 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.
Kinaray-a Schwa Vowel
In the book, “Karay-a Rice Tradition Revisited”, it introduced “ә”, 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 “ә”, 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.
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.
Vowel comparison of Kinaray-a, Hiligaynon and Tagalog cognates
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!)