Sinama’s most Popular Letters in the Alphabet

Why would someone possibly want to know which letters are used most in Sinama? They might be a linguist. They might be a statistician. Best of all, they might be a literacy teacher.

Teaching Sama Literacy

We’ve been working through a Sama Reading Primer created by a Department of Education workshop in Zamboanga. We have to come up with words that are easily described by a picture in order to teach children reading. It is a little frustrating to be limited to only a few letters (a, i, m, l, k) as we were introducing the letter “s”. Sasak (fence), is an easy word to illustrate. What adjective or verb goes well with Sasak? The best we could come up with was sasak kalas which means “the pink fence”. One letter we are really missing is the hamsa’ also called the baris. I became interested to know which letters are used most frequently in Central Sinama. I went home and searched through a rather large Sinama text corpus I have. If I’ve peaked your interest at all, here are the top 15 most productive letters in Sinama:
1) a 26%
2) n 8.3%
3) i 7.7%
4) m 5.5%
5) u 5.2%
6) s 5.0%
7) ‘ 4.8%
8) k 4.4%
9) t 3.8%
10) l 3.8%
11) b 3.5%
12) p 3.0%
13) y 2.9%
14) g 2.6%
15) h 2.3%

A few notes on our findings on the Sinama Alphabet

The letter “a” is clearly the most used letter in Central Sinama. It would be interesting to see if this were true for Southern Sinama since there is no a- prefix on Southern Sinama adjectives. It is also possible that “n” & “m” could lose their importance in other Sinama languages since the first letter of many verbs turns to “n”, “m”, or “ng” when adding the aN- affix.

The baris or hamsa’ is the 7th most popular letter in Central Sinama. This is most likely because it has two functions. It represents both the central vowel and glottal stop. We highly recommend writing the glottal stop where it exists between two vowels as in “ina’an” or “pa’in” in order to avoid the confusion that occurs when differentiating between their truncated sounds and the sound of a vowel glide such as “ai” or “au”.

Not satisfied with just 15 letters?

Here is the rest:

16) ng 1.9%
17) o 1.7%
18) d 1.7%
19) e 1.6%
20) w .95%
21) r .94%
22) ā .75%
23) – .49%
24) j .44%
25) ō .25%
26) ū .25%
27) ē .12%
28) ī .07%

Ai tabissalanu? Feel free to comment.

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