The Info List - Formosan Languages

--- Advertisement ---

The Formosan languages
Formosan languages
are the languages of the indigenous peoples of Taiwan. Taiwanese aborigines
Taiwanese aborigines
(those recognized by the government) currently comprise about 2.3% of the island's population. However, far fewer can still speak their ancestral language, after centuries of language shift. Of the approximately 26 languages of the Taiwanese aborigines, at least ten are extinct, another four (perhaps five) are moribund,[2][3] and several others are to some degree endangered. The aboriginal languages of Taiwan
have significance in historical linguistics, since in all likelihood Taiwan
was the place of origin of the entire Austronesian
language family. According to linguist Robert Blust, the Formosan languages
Formosan languages
form nine of the ten principal branches of the Austronesian
language family,[4] while the one remaining principal branch contains nearly 1,200 Malayo-Polynesian languages found outside Taiwan.[5] Although linguists disagree with some details of Blust's analysis, a broad consensus has coalesced around the conclusion that the Austronesian languages
Austronesian languages
originated in Taiwan.[6] This theory has been strengthened by recent studies in human population genetics, supporting also the matrilineal nature of the migration.[7]


1 Recent history 2 Classification 3 List of languages

3.1 Living languages 3.2 Extinct languages

4 Syntax 5 Sound changes

5.1 Wolff 5.2 Blust

6 Distributions 7 See also 8 References

8.1 Citations 8.2 Source

9 Further reading 10 External links

Recent history[edit] Main article: Taiwanese aborigines All Formosan languages
Formosan languages
are slowly being replaced by the culturally dominant Mandarin. In recent decades the Republic of China
Republic of China
government started an aboriginal reappreciation program that included the reintroduction of Formosan first language in Taiwanese schools. However, the results of this initiative have been disappointing.[8] In 2005, in order to preserve the language of the indigenous people of Taiwan, the council established a Romanized writing system for all Taiwan's aboriginal languages. The council has also helped with classes and language certification programs for members of the indigenous community and the Han Chinese
Han Chinese
to help the conservation movement.[9] Classification[edit] Main article: Austronesian languages
Austronesian languages
§ Classification Formosan languages
Formosan languages
form nine distinct branches of the Austronesian language family (with all other Malayo-Polynesian languages
Malayo-Polynesian languages
forming the tenth branch of the Austronesian).[10] List of languages[edit] 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 many extinct or assimilated Formosan peoples, since our knowledge of these is often sketchy at best. Frequently cited examples of Formosan languages
Formosan languages
are given below, but the list should not be considered exhaustive. Living languages[edit]

Language No. of dialects Dialects Notes

Amis 5 'Amisay a Pangcah, Siwkolan, Pasawalian, Farangaw, Palidaw

Atayal 6 Squliq, Skikun, Ts'ole', Ci'uli, Mayrinax, Plngawan high dialect diversity, sometimes considered separate languages

Bunun 5 Takitudu, Takibakha, Takivatan, Takbanuaz, Isbukun high dialect diversity

Kanakanabu 1


Kavalan 1

listed in some sources[2] as moribund, though further analysis may show otherwise[11]

Paiwan 4 Eastern, Northern, Central, Southern

Puyuma 4 Puyuma, Katratripul, Ulivelivek, Kasavakan

Rukai 6 Ngudradrekay, Taromak Drekay, Teldreka, Thakongadavane, 'Oponoho

Saaroa 1


Saisiyat 1

Sakizaya 1

Seediq 3 Tgdaya, Toda, (Truku)

Thao 1


Truku 1

Tsou 1

Yami 1

also called Tao

Note that Yami language
Yami language
is geographically in Taiwan, but not classified as Formosan in linguistics

Extinct languages[edit]

Basay Ketagalan Taokas Babuza Favorlang Papora Hoanya Taivoan Makatao Pazeh Siraya

Syntax[edit] Most Formosan languages
Formosan languages
display verb-initial syntax (VSO (verb-subject-object) or VOS (verb-object-subject) with the exception of some Northern Formosan languages, such as Thao, Saisiyat, and Pazih, possibly from influence from Chinese. Li (1998) lists the word orders of several Formosan languages.[12]

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[edit] Tanan Rukai is the Formosan language with the largest number of phonemes with 23 consonants and 4 vowels containing length contrast, while Kanakanabu and Saaroa have the least number of phonemes with 13 consonants and 4 vowels (Blust 2009:165). Wolff[edit] The tables below list the Proto- Austronesian
reflexes of individual languages given in John Wolff's Proto- Austronesian
phonology with glossary (2010).[13]

PAn reflexes in Northwest Formosan languages

Proto-Austronesian Pazih Saisiat Thao Atayalic

*p p p p p

*t t, s t, s, ʃ t, θ t, c (s)

*c z [dz] h t x, h

*k k k k k

*q Ø ʔ q q, ʔ

*b b b f b-

*d d r s r

*j d r s r

*g k-, -z- [dz], -t k-, -z- [ð], -z [ð] k-, -ð-, -ð k-[14]

*ɣ x l [ḷ] (> Ø in Tonghœʔ) ɬ ɣ, r, Ø

*m m m m m

*n n n n n

*ŋ ŋ ŋ n ŋ

*s s ʃ ʃ s

*h h h Ø h

*l r l [ḷ] (> Ø in Tonghœʔ) r l

*ɬ l ɬ ð l

*w w w w w

*y y y y y

PAn reflexes in non-Northwest Formosan languages

Proto-Austronesian Saaroa Kanakanavu Rukai Bunun Amis Kavalan Puyuma Paiwan

*p p p p p p p p p

*t t, c t, c t, c t t t t, ʈ tj [č], ts [c]

*c s, Ø c θ, s, Ø c ([s] in Central & South) c s s t

*k k k k k k k, q k k

*q Ø ʔ Ø q (x in Ishbukun) ɦ Ø ɦ q

*b v v [β] b b f b v [β] v

*d s c ḍ d r z d, z dj [j], z

*j s c d d r z d, z dj [j], z

*g k-, -ɬ- k-, -l-, -l g k-, -Ø-, -Ø k-, -n-, -n k-, -n-, -n h-, -d-, -d g-, -d-, -d

*ɣ r r r, Ø l l [ḷ] ɣ r Ø

*m m m m m m m m m

*n n n n n n n n n

*ŋ ŋ ŋ ŋ ŋ ŋ ŋ ŋ ŋ

*s Ø s s s s Ø Ø s

*h Ø Ø Ø Ø h Ø Ø Ø

*l Ø Ø, l ñ h-, -Ø-, -Ø l [ḷ] r, ɣ l [ḷ] l

*ɬ ɬ n ɬ n ɬ n ɬ ɬ

*w Ø Ø v v w w w w

*y ɬ l ð ð y y y y

PAn reflexes in Malayo-Polynesian languages

Proto-Austronesian Tagalog Chamorro Malay Old Javanese

*p p f p p

*t t t t t

*c s s s s

*k k h k k

*q ʔ ʔ h h

*b b p b, -p b, w

*d d-, -l-, -d h d, -t ḍ, r

*j d-, -l-, -d ch j, -t d

*g k-, -l-, -d Ø d-, -r-, -r g-, -r-, -r

*ɣ g g r Ø

*m m m m m

*n n n n n

*ŋ ŋ ŋ ŋ ŋ

*s h Ø h h

*h Ø Ø Ø Ø

*l l l l l

*ɬ n ñ, n, l l-/ñ-, -ñ-/-n-, -n n

*w w w Ø, w w

*y y y y y

Blust[edit] The following table lists reflexes of Proto- Austronesian
*j in various Formosan languages
Formosan languages
(Blust 2009:572).

Reflexes of Proto- Austronesian

Language Reflex

Tsou Ø

Kanakanabu l

Saaroa ɬ (-ɬ- only)

Puyuma d

Paiwan d

Bunun Ø

Atayal r (in Squliq), g (sporadic), s (sporadic)

Sediq y (-y- only), c (-c only)

Pazeh z ([dz]) (-z- only), d (-d only)

Saisiyat z ([ð])

Thao z ([ð])

Amis n

Kavalan n

Siraya n

The following table lists reflexes of Proto- Austronesian
*ʀ in various Formosan languages
Formosan languages
(Blust 2009:582).

Reflexes of Proto- Austronesian

Language Reflex

Paiwan Ø

Bunun l

Kavalan ʀ (contrastive uvular rhotic)

Basay l

Amis l

Atayal g; r (before /i/)

Sediq r

Pazeh x

Taokas l

Thao lh (voiceless lateral)

Saisiyat L (retroflex flap)

Bashiic (extra-Formosan) y

Lenition patterns include (Blust 2009:604-605):

*b, *d in Proto-Austronesian

*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)


The Formosan languages 

The Formosan languages, per Blust (1999) 

The Formosan languages, per Li (2008) 

The Formosan languages, per the Austronesian
Basic Vocabulary Database (Greenhill, Blust & Gray 2008). 

The Formosan languages, per Ross (2009) 

Li (2001) lists the geographical homelands for the following Formosan languages.[15]

Tsou: southwestern parts of central Taiwan; Yushan (oral traditions) Saisiyat and Kulon: somewhere between Tatu River
Tatu River
and Tachia River
Tachia River
not far from the coast Thao: Choshui
River Qauqaut: mid-stream of Takiri River (Liwuhsi in Chinese) Siraya: Chianan Plains Makatau: Pingtung Bunun: Hsinyi (信義鄉) in Nantou County Paiwan: Ailiao River, near the foot of the mountains

See also[edit]

Swadesh lists for Formosan languages
Formosan languages
(Wiktionary) Demographics of Taiwanese Aborigines Personal pronoun systems of Formosan languages Fossilized affixes in Austronesian
languages Proto- Austronesian
language Tsou language
Tsou language
for an example of the unusual phonotactics of the Formosan languages Sinckan Manuscripts Naming customs of Taiwanese aborigines

References[edit] Citations[edit]

^ "臺灣原住民平埔族群百年分類史系列地圖 (A history of the classification of Plains Taiwanese tribes over the past century)". blog.xuite.net. Retrieved 2017-03-04.  ^ a b Zeitoun, Elizabeth; Yu, Ching-Hua (1 July 2005). "The Formosan Language Archive: Linguistic Analysis and Language Processing". International Journal of Computational Linguistics and Chinese Language Processing. 10 (2): 167–200.  ^ Li, Paul Jen-kuei; Tsuchida, Shigeru (2006). Kavalan Dictionary (in English and Chinese). Taipei: Institute of Linguistics, Academia Sinica. ISBN 9789860069938.  ^ Blust, Robert (1999). Zeitoun, Elizabeth; Li, Jen-kuei, eds. "Subgrouping, circularity and extinction: some issues in Austronesian comparative linguistics". Selected papers from the Eighth International Conference on Austronesian
Linguistics. Taipei: Academia Sinica. ISBN 9789576716324.  ^ Diamond, Jared M. (17 February 2000). "Taiwan's gift to the world". Nature. 403 (6771): 709–710. doi:10.1038/35001685. PMID 10693781.  ^ Fox, James (19–20 August 2004). Current Developments in Comparative Austronesian
Studies. Symposium Austronesia, Pascasarjana Linguististik dan Kajian Budaya Universitas Udayana. ANU Research Publications. Bali. OCLC 677432806.  ^ Trejaut, Jean A; Kivisild, Toomas; Loo, Jun Hun; Lee, Chien Liang; He, Chun Lin; Hsu, Chia Jung; Li, Zheng Yuan; Lin, Marie; Penny, David (5 July 2005). "Traces of Archaic Mitochondrial Lineages Persist in Austronesian-Speaking Formosan Populations". PLoS Biology. 3 (8): e247. doi:10.1371/journal.pbio.0030247. PMC 1166350 . PMID 15984912.  ^ Huteson, Greg. (2003). Sociolinguistic survey report for the Tona and Maga dialects of the Rukai Language. SIL Electronic Survey Reports 2003-012, Dallas, TX: SIL International. ^ http://www.galdu.org/web/?odas=4584&giella1=eng ^ Blust, Robert (2013). "The Austronesian
languages: Revised Edition". Asia-Pacific Linguistics. 8: 30–31. Retrieved 13 January 2017.  ^ Li & Tsuchida (2006). ^ Li, Paul Jen-kuei. 1998. "台灣南島語言 [The Austronesian Languages of Taiwan]." In Li, Paul Jen-kuei. 2004. Selected Papers on Formosan Languages. Taipei, Taiwan: Institute of Linguistics, Academia Sinica. ^ Wolff, John U. 2010. Proto- Austronesian
phonology with glossary. Ithaca, NY: Cornell Southeast Asia Program Publications. ^ There are several outcomes of *g as onset or coda of the final syllable. ^ Li, Paul Jen-kuei. 2001. "The Dispersal of the Formosan Aborigines in Taiwan." Languages and Linguistics 2.1:271-278, 2001.


Blust, Robert A. 2009. The Austronesian
Languages. Canberra: Pacific Linguistics, Research School of Pacific and Asian Studies, Australian National University. ISBN 0-85883-602-5, ISBN 978-0-85883-602-0.

Further reading[edit]

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. Mackay, G. L. (1893). Chinese Romanized dictionary of the Formosan vernacular. Shanghai: Presbyterian Mission Press. OCLC 47246037.  Tsuchida, S. (2003). Kanakanavu texts ( Austronesian
Formosan). [Osaka?: Endangered Languages of the Pacific Rim]. Zeitoun, E. (2002). Nominalization in Formosan languages. Taipei: Institute of Linguistics (Preparatory Office), Academia Sinica.

External links[edit]

Ogawa's Vocabulary of Formosan Dialects 小川尚義 (臺灣蕃語蒐録) Academia Sinica's Formosan Language Archive project Linguistics and Formosan Languages Map: Formosan Languages and Yami (PDF)

v t e

Formosan languages




Tsou Kanakanabu Saaroa

Northern Formosan


Atayal Seediq

Northwest Formosan

Saisiyat Pazeh † Kulon † Thao Babuza † Favorlang †

East Formosan

Ketagalan † Basay † Kavalan Amis Sakizaya Siraya † Taivoan † Nataoran


Puyuma Paiwan Bunun

Bold indicates languages with more than 1 million speakers ? indicates classification dispute † indica