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How-To Geek

GEEK TRIVIA

Which Language’s Alphabet Has The Least Number Of Letters?
English
Hawaiian
Rotakas
Inuit

Answer: Rotakas

Rotokas is a language spoken by few people and constructed of fewer letters. Estimated to be spoken by less than 4,000 people on the island of Bougainville, Papa New Guinea, the language has a Latin-based alphabet of only 12 letters which represent 11 phonemes. The letters are A E G I K O P R S T U V. The T and the S are both used to represent the /t/ phoneme (like the “t” sound in the English word “take”) and the S is used to create a silent blended /ts/ sound when the T would appear before an I; this is how the language has 12 letters but only 11 phonemes.

The Rotokas language, curiously, lacks any nasal phonetic constructions. However, when native Rotokas speakers imitate foreigners trying to speak Rotokas, they inflect their language with nasal phonemes to imitate the (typically) nasal-sound rich language the foreign speaker is coloring their attempt at the Rotokas language with.

Image courtesy of the estate of Irwin Firchow, a linguist who wrote a treatise on the Rotokas language