Samoa - Orientation

Identification. There is no generally agreed upon explanation of the meaning of the name "Sāmoa." According to one Samoan version, the name is compounded of "Sā," meaning "tribe, people of," and "Moa," which means "chicken," referring to the "family" of the Tui Manu'a, the highest-ranking titleholder of eastern (American) Samoa. Another proposal suggests that linguistic evidence points to the meaning of Samoa as "people of the ocean or deep sea."

Location. The Samoan Archipelago (about 3,000 square kilometers in land area) lies in western Polynesia in the Central Pacific, from 13° to 15°S to 173°W. The Manu'a group (Ta' ū, Ofu, and Olosega), Tutuila, and 'Aunu'u comprise the Territory of American Samoa; 'Upolu, Manono, Apolima, and Savai'i make up the Independent State of Western Samoa. The islands are of volcanic origin. Beyond the coastal plains, the mountain ranges rise steeply to a maximum of 1,859 meters on Savai'i. The climate is tropical with abundant rainfall. Humidity averages 80 percent. The average monthly temperature ranges from 22° to 30° C.

Demography. In 1980, the Samoan population was about 188,000 (American Samoa: 32,000; Western Samoa: 156,000). In the middle of the nineteenth century, the aboriginal population of Western Samoa was estimated at 35,000; the aboriginal population of Tutuila was estimated at 3,900 in 1865. The Samoan Islands are the home of the largest concentration of full-blooded Polynesians in the world. Today, many Samoans live and work abroad, mainly in New Zealand, Australia, Hawaii, and California.

Linguistic Affiliation. The Samoan language belongs to the Polynesian Group of Austronesian languages. There are no dialects; except for minor local variants the same language is spoken on all the Samoan Islands.

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