☺ sanua ☻

© Risto Kupsala
- 2007 -


Sanua is a constructed language made by Risto Kupsala. It is the product of several years of research, design and experimentation.

Sanua showcases:



Sanua has 5 vowels.

Letter Pronunciation
IPA symbol English equivalent
a [a] father
e [e] bet
i [i] beat
o [o] note
u [u] rude


Sanua has the following consonants:

Letter Pronunciation
IPA symbol English equivalent
b [b] bin
p [p] spin
ph [pʰ] pin
d [d] duck
t [t] stuck
th [tʰ] tuck
g [g] gill
k [k] skill
kh [kʰ] kill
h [h] or [x] hot or loch
l [l] long
m [m] milk
n [n] neon
ŋ [ŋ] long
f [f] fit
r [r]
j [j] hallelujah
v [v] or [w] vet or wet
s [s] sissy
z [z] zoo



Sanua's words are unchanging and the word order is free. It favors freedom of expression and avoids grammatical difficulties such as declension, conjugation, inflection and fixed syntax.

Meaning of expressions is interpreted from their content.

Word order scrambling

Very simple expressions consisting of only two-three words are easy to interpret regardless of their word order. For example all of the following expressions mean essentially the same thing.

papa suka supu.
papa supu suka.
supu papa suka.
supu suka papa.
Father likes soup

It is clear that it's father who likes the soup and not the other way round, because it is the most sensible interpretation. In general a good rule of thumb in interpreting and constructing expressions is that people are usually actors and things are usually patients.

It is necessary to clarify who is the actor and who is patient for example in cases where two or more people are involved. For example the following expression is ambiguous:

A character called Yoda had a peculiar way of speaking in the Star Wars films. He spoke English with scrambled word order, usually bringing the last part of sentences to the beginning and placing the main verb last. If you could decipher what Yoda was saying, then probably you will be able understand scrambled Sanua expressions as well.

If you want to sound as wise as Yoda, why don't you learn to speak Sanua!

Agree with you, the council does.
Your apprentice, Skywalker will be.


papa mama suka.
Father likes mother. or Mother likes father.

In such cases it is necessary to clarify the roles of the people. That is done by adding another verb, such as kare to do.

papa kare suka mama.
Father likes mother.

Even then word order scrambling is possible to a certain extent. That's because the expression consists of two sub-expressions. The meaning of the first sub-expression is defined, which makes it dominant.

papa kare.
kare papa.
Father does.

Whereas the meaning of the other sub-expression is ambiguous, which makes it subordinate to the dominant sub-expression.

suka mama.
mama suka.
Mother likes. or Mother is liked.

The dominant sub-expression clarifies the meaning of the subordinate sub-expression when they are put together.

papa kare suka mama.
Father does so that mother is liked. = Father likes mother.

The word order of the sub-expressions can be scrambled, and also the order of the subexpressions can be scrambled. The only restriction is that the contents of the sub-expressions cannot be mixed with each other.

papa kare mama suka.
suka mama papa kare.

Another way to clarify the roles of actor and patient is to make the patient concrete. I like your personality. = I like you.

The issue of transitivity/intransitivity can be largely neglected in Sanua. "akua bulu" = Water boils. "akua bulu mi" = I boil water.

phiŋko pula. = pula phiŋko.
red apple. / Apple is red.

papa khula pintu. = papa pintu khula. = pintu papa khula. = pintu khula papa.
Father opens the door.

je doku. = doku je.
S/he reads.

je kitabu doku. = je doku kitabu. = kitabu je doku.
S/he reads a book.

People can be turned into patients by referring to their physical features.

tu badan mi kanu.
I see you. (I see your body.)

Adding another verb often helps to interpret meanings.

pote mi tu kanu.
I can see you.

           pote mi tu  kanu.
Literally: can  I  you see.
Meaning:   I can see you.

In some sense this enables prepositions and postpositions.

           mi pasa tuka vasi.
Literally: I  go   exit house.
Meaning:   I exit house.
           mi pasa vasi  tuka.
Literally: I  go   house exit.
Meaning:   I exit house.

Free word order enables scrambling of sentence constituents. For example the following expressions mean essentially the same thing, regardless of their different word orders:

mane mi doku buku.
buku doku mi mane.
mi mane buku doku.
I read book tomorrow.

kua = what kua difang = what place = where kua moman = what time, when kua faso = what way, how na = that


ana child
baca language
balti bucket
buru bad
dukan shop, store
gana song; to sing
gari vehicle
gita guitar
goro cola nut
haha to laugh; laughter
kabine cabinet
kabu control
kafi enough
kamen stone
kanun law
kito prayer
kuanci relation, relationship
kuta dog
khuci happy; happiness
latci garbage, rubbish
latcu candle
leson lesson
lohu tiger
macete machete
macin machine
madu honey
mama mother, mum
man person, human being, man
moku mushroom
name name
nican mark, sign, signal
nuli slave
pan bread
papa father, dad
pate paste, pâté
peca profession
pesa money
poli glass
phanju friend
phifu skin
pure purée
ragu stew, ragoût
razon reason, intellect, sense
roman novel
sabun soap
safi clean
santhi health
seva service; to serve
soju to have, to possess
sori sorry!
supu soup
topi hat
totem totem
tufan storm
thema topic
thu spit; to spit
thuti land, earth, ground, soil
vaha oasis
vava baby
voda water
vodu voodoo
zetun olive


Voicing and aspiration

The choice of three sets of stops (voiceless unaspirated, voiceless aspirated and voiced unaspirated) is a rare one, perhaps even unpreceded, in the auxiliary language field. Therefore some justification is due.

The fact is that both aspiration and voicing are common phenomena, especially in Asia. Both of them are systematically present in most of the languages of the Indian subcontinent, Indochina and the Yangtze river delta, which are some of the most populous places in the world. In addition also Korean distinguishes voicing and aspiration rather clearly, though voiced stops are only allophones of voiceless unaspirated stops.

In Europe the Germanic languages, including English and German, distinguish voicing and aspiration, though aspirated and unaspirated voiced stops are not differentiated in writing. A similar situation exists in Turkish. In Africa several Bantu languages distinguish voicing and aspiration, most notably Zulu, Xhosa, coastal Swahili and certain dialects of Kongo.

Another point of view is that there are quite many languages with either only voicing distinction or only aspiration distinction. Taking the smallest common denominator would be a good compromise between all languages, but it would leave too few sounds to work with. On the other hand taking sides with either party would be unfair. Adopting both voicing and apiration distinctions is a fair compromise.

Free word order

The free word order system used in Sanua is rather unique in the IAL field. For example Rick Harrison writes in Proposed Guidelines for the Design of an Optimal International Auxiliary Language in chapter entitled Configurational or inflectional?: "should the roles of the verb’s arguments be indicated by word order or by overt markers (such as noun declension or “case tags”)?" Only these two alternatives are discussed in the article. Apparently the third alternative, indicating the roles of the verb's arguments by semantics, as is done in Sanua, did not occur to him.

As a construction Sanua's method is not very exceptional. For example the Indo-Iranian languages make heavy use of their equivalent of "kare" as does Japanese. However they are mainly SOV languages where the equivalent of "kare" is not bound to the subject as it is in Sanua.