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The Formosan languages are a geographic grouping comprising the languages of the indigenous peoples of Taiwan, all of which are
Austronesian Austronesian may refer to: *The Austronesian languages The Austronesian languages (, , , ) are a language family A language family is a group of language A language is a structured system of communication used by humans, based on spe ...
. They do not form a single subfamily of Austronesian but rather nine separate subfamilies. The Taiwanese indigenous peoples recognized by the government are about 2.3% of the island's population. However, only 35% speak their ancestral language, due to centuries of
language shift Language shift, also known as language transfer or language replacement or language assimilation, is the process whereby a speech community A speech community is a group of people who share a set of linguistic norms and expectations regarding t ...
. Of the approximately 26 languages of the Taiwanese indigenous peoples, at least ten are
extinct Extinction is the termination of a kind of organism In biology Biology is the natural science that studies life and living organisms, including their anatomy, physical structure, Biochemistry, chemical processes, Molecular biol ...
, another four (perhaps five) are moribund, and all others are to some degree endangered. The aboriginal languages of
Taiwan Taiwan, officially the Republic of China (ROC), is a country in East Asia East Asia is the eastern region of Asia Asia () is Earth's largest and most populous continent, located primarily in the Eastern Hemisphere, Eastern and N ...

Taiwan
have great significance in
historical linguistics Historical linguistics, also termed diachronic linguistics, is the scientific study of language change Language change is variation over time in a language A language is a structured system of communication used by humans, including s ...
since, in all likelihood, Taiwan is the place of origin of the entire Austronesian language family. According to American linguist
Robert Blust Robert A. Blust (born 1940, ) is a prominent linguist Linguistics is the scientific study of language A language is a structured system of communication Communication (from Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language bel ...
, the Formosan languages form nine of the ten principal branches of the family, while the one remaining principal branch,
Malayo-Polynesian The Malayo-Polynesian languages are a subgroup of the Austronesian languages, with approximately 385.5 million speakers. The Malayo-Polynesian languages are spoken by the Austronesian peoples outside of Taiwan, in the island nations of Southeast A ...

Malayo-Polynesian
, contains nearly 1,200 Austronesian languages found outside Taiwan. Although some other linguists disagree with some details of Blust's analysis, a broad consensus has coalesced around the conclusion that the Austronesian languages originated in Taiwan, and the theory has been strengthened by recent studies in human population genetics.


Recent history

All Formosan languages are slowly being replaced by the culturally dominant
Taiwanese Mandarin Taiwanese Mandarin or ''Guoyu'' ( zh, s=国语, t=國語, p=Guóyǔ, l=National Language, first=t) refers to any of the varieties of Mandarin Chinese Mandarin (; ) is a group of Sinitic languages, Sinitic (Chinese) languages natively spoken ...

Taiwanese Mandarin
. In recent decades the Taiwan government started an aboriginal reappreciation program that included the reintroduction of Formosan first languages in Taiwanese schools. However, the results of this initiative have been disappointing. In 2005, in order to help with the preservation of the languages of the indigenous people of Taiwan, the council established a Romanized writing system for all of Taiwan's aboriginal languages. The council has also helped with classes and language certification programs for members of the indigenous community and the non-Formosan Taiwanese to help the conservation movement.


Classification

Formosan languages form nine distinct branches of the Austronesian language family (with all other Malayo-Polynesian languages forming the tenth branch of the Austronesian).


List of languages

It is often difficult to decide where to draw the boundary between a language and a dialect, causing some minor disagreement among scholars regarding the inventory of Formosan languages. There is even more uncertainty regarding possible extinct or assimilated Formosan peoples. Frequently cited examples of Formosan languages are given below, but the list should not be considered exhaustive.


Living languages

* Although
Yami Yamuna The Yamuna (Hindustani language, Hindustani: ) is the second-largest tributary river of the Ganga by discharge and the longest tributary in List of major rivers of India, India. Originating from the Yamunotri Glacier at a height o ...
is geographically in Taiwan, it is not classified as Formosan in linguistics.


Extinct languages


Basic word order

Most Formosan languages display verb-initial word order (VSO (verb-subject-object) or VOS (verb-object-subject)) with the exception of some
Northern Formosan languages The Northern Formosan languages is a proposed grouping of Formosan languages The Formosan languages are the languages of the indigenous peoples of Taiwan, all of which are Austronesian. The Taiwanese indigenous peoples recognized by the gove ...
, such as Thao, Saisiyat, and Pazih, possibly from influence from Chinese. Li (1998) lists the
word order In linguistics Linguistics is the scientific study of language A language is a structured system of communication used by humans, including speech (spoken language), gestures (Signed language, sign language) and writing. Most languag ...
s of several Formosan languages. *Rukai: VSO, VOS *Tsou: VOS *Bunun: VSO *Atayal: VSO, VOS *Saisiyat: VS, SVO *Pazih: VOS, SVO *Thao: VSO, SVO *Amis: VOS, VSO *Kavalan: VOS *Puyuma: VSO *Paiwan: VSO, VOS


Sound changes

Tanan Rukai is the Formosan language with the largest number of phonemes with 23 consonants and 4 vowels containing length contrast, while Kanakanavu and Saaroa have the fewest phonemes with 13 consonants and 4 vowels.


Wolff

The tables below list the
Proto-Austronesian Proto-Austronesian (commonly abbreviated as PAN or PAn) is a proto-language In the tree model In historical linguistics Historical linguistics, also termed diachronic linguistics, is the scientific study of language change over time. ...
reflexes of individual languages given by Wolff (2010).


Blust

The following table lists reflexes of
Proto-Austronesian Proto-Austronesian (commonly abbreviated as PAN or PAn) is a proto-language In the tree model In historical linguistics Historical linguistics, also termed diachronic linguistics, is the scientific study of language change over time. ...
*j in various Formosan languages (Blust 2009:572). The following table lists reflexes of Proto-Austronesian *ʀ in various Formosan languages (Blust 2009:582).
Lenition In linguistics Linguistics is the scientific study of language A language is a structured system of communication used by humans, including speech (spoken language), gestures (Signed language, sign language) and writing. Most langua ...
patterns include (Blust 2009:604-605): * *b, *d in
Proto-Austronesian Proto-Austronesian (commonly abbreviated as PAN or PAn) is a proto-language In the tree model In historical linguistics Historical linguistics, also termed diachronic linguistics, is the scientific study of language change over time. ...
** *b > f, *d > c, r in Tsou ** *b > v, *d > d in Puyuma ** *b > v, *d > d, r in Paiwan ** *b > b, *d > r in Saisiyat ** *b > f, *d > s in Thao ** *b > v, *d > r in Yami (extra-Formosan)


Distributions


Gallery


Information

Li (2001) lists the geographical homelands for the following Formosan languages. * Tsou: southwestern parts of central Taiwan; Yushan (oral traditions) * Saisiyat and Kulon: somewhere between Tatu River and
Tachia River Dajia River () is the fifth-longest river in Taiwan located in the north-central of the island. It flows through Taichung City for 142 km. The sources of the Dajia are: Hsuehshan and Nanhu Mountain in the Central Mountain Range. The Dajia R ...
not far from the coast * Thao: Choshui River *Qauqaut: mid-stream of Takiri River (Liwuhsi in Chinese) * Siraya:
Chianan Plain Chianan or Jianan may refer to: Taiwan * Chianan PlainChianan or Jianan may refer to: Taiwan * Chianan Plain, largest plain in Taiwan * Chianan Irrigation, canals of Chianan Plain of Taiwan Han Dynasty *Jian'an, name for the period of rule (196 ...
s *Makatau: Pingtung * Bunun: Hsinyi (信義鄉) in
Nantou County Nantou County (; Hokkien Hokkien () is a Southern Min Southern Min (), Minnan (Mandarin Mandarin may refer to: * Mandarin (bureaucrat), a bureaucrat of Imperial China (the original meaning of the word) ** by extension, any senior govern ...
* Paiwan:
Ailiao River The Ailiao River () is a tributary of the Gaoping River in Taiwan. It flows through Kaohsiung City and Pingtung County for 68.5 km. See also *List of rivers in Taiwan References External links Ailiao River at Flickr
Rivers of Taiwan La ...
, near the foot of the mountains


See also

* Cognate sets for Formosan languages (Wiktionary) * Demographics of Taiwanese Aborigines *
Writing systems of Formosan languages The writing systems of the Formosan languages The Formosan languages are the languages of the indigenous peoples of Taiwan, all of which are Austronesian. The Taiwanese indigenous peoples recognized by the government are about 2.3% of the is ...
*
Personal pronoun systems of Formosan languages
Personal pronoun systems of Formosan languages
* Fossilized affixes in Austronesian languages *
Proto-Austronesian language Proto-Austronesian (commonly abbreviated as PAN or PAn) is a proto-language In the tree model In historical linguistics Historical linguistics, also termed diachronic linguistics, is the scientific study of language change over time. ...
*
Tsou language Tsou () is a divergent Austronesian language The Austronesian languages (, , , ) are a , widely spoken throughout , , the islands of the and (by ). There are also a number of speakers in . They are spoken by about 386 million people (4.9% o ...
for an example of the unusual phonotactics of the Formosan languages *
Sinckan Manuscripts The Sinkang Manuscripts (; also spelled ''Sinkang'' or ''Sinkan'') are a series of leases, mortgages, and other commerce contracts written in Sinckan, Taivoan, and Makatao; they are commonly referred to as the "fanzi contracts" (). Some are writ ...
* Naming customs of Taiwanese aborigines


References


Citations


Sources

* Blust, Robert A. 2009. ''The Austronesian Languages''. Canberra: Pacific Linguistics, Research School of Pacific and Asian Studies, Australian National University. , .


Further reading

*Blundell, David (2009), ''Austronesian Taiwan: Linguistics, History, Ethnology, Prehistory''. Taipei, Taiwan: SMC Publishing *Happart, G., & Hedhurst, W. H. (1840). ''Dictionary of the Favorlang dialect of the Formosan language''. Batavia: printed at Parapattan. *Li, Paul Jen-kuei (2004). "Basic Vocabulary for Formosan Languages and Dialects." In Li, Paul Jen-kuei. ''Selected Papers on Formosan Languages'', vol. 2. Taipei, Taiwan: Institute of Linguistics, Academia Sinica. * *Tsuchida, S. (2003). ''Kanakanavu texts (Austronesian Formosan)''. saka?: Endangered Languages of the Pacific Rim *Zeitoun, E. (2002). ''Nominalization in Formosan languages''. Taipei: Institute of Linguistics (Preparatory Office), Academia Sinica.


External links


Ogawa's Vocabulary of Formosan Dialects 小川尚義 (臺灣蕃語蒐録)





Yuánzhùmínzú yǔyán xiànshàng cídiǎn 原住民族語言線上詞典
– "Aboriginal language online dictionary" website of the Indigenous Languages Research and Development Foundation
Zú yǔ E lèyuán 族語E樂園
– Educational site maintained by Taiwan's Council of Indigenous Peoples *
T.A.I.W.A.N. – Taiwan-Austronesion Indigenous Words and Narrations
– English counterpart of Zú yǔ E lèyuán * Map
''Formosan Languages and Yami''
(PDF) {{DEFAULTSORT:Formosan Languages Austronesian languages Languages of Taiwan Endangered Austronesian languages