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Kanakanavu language

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Native toTaiwan
RegionMaya Village, Namasia District, Kaohsiung City
Ethnicity360 (2020)[1]
Native speakers
4 (2012)[1]
Language codes
ISO 639-3xnb

Kanakanavu (also spelled Kanakanabu) is a Southern Tsouic language spoken by the Kanakanavu people, an indigenous people of Taiwan (see Taiwanese aborigines). It is a Formosan language of the Austronesian family.

The Kanakanavu live in the two villages of Manga and Takanua in Namasia District (formerly Sanmin Township), Kaohsiung.[2]

The language is moribund, with only 4 speakers (2012 census).[3]


The native Kanakanavu speakers were Taiwanese aboriginals living on the islands. Following the Dutch Colonial Period in the 17th century, Han-Chinese immigration began to dominate the islands population. The village of Takanua is a village assembled by Japanese rulers to relocate various aboriginal groups in order to establish easier dominion over these groups.[4]


There are 14 different consonant phonemes, containing only voiceless plosives within Kanakanavu. Adequate descriptions of liquid consonants become a challenge within Kanakanavu. It also contains 6 vowels plus diphthongs and triphthongs. Vowel length is often not clear if distinctive or not, as well as speakers pronouncing vowel phonemes with variance. As most Austronesian and Formosan languages, Kanakanavu has a CV syllable structure (where C = consonant, V = vowel). Very few, even simple words, contain less than three to four syllables.[5]


Kanakanavu consonants
Labial Alveolar Palatal Velar Glottal
Nasal m n ŋ ⟨ng⟩
Plosive p t k ʔ ⟨'⟩
Affricate ts ⟨c⟩
Fricative voiceless f s h
voiced v
Rhotic ɾ ⟨r⟩
Approximant w l j ⟨y⟩

Sounds /ts, s/ are heard as [tʃ, ʃ] when preceding /i/.[6]


Front Central Back
Close i ɨ~ʉ u
Mid e (ə) o
Open a


Kanakanavu is usually written with the Latin script. The following are often used to represent sounds in the language: A, C, E, I, K, L, M, N, Ng, O, P, R, S, T, U, Ʉ, V, ' /ʔ.

C represents the phoneme /c/.

L represents the phonemes /ɗ/ and /ɽ/.

P represents both /ɓ/ and /p/.

/ɫ/ is spelled as hl.


  1. ^ a b Kanakanavu at Ethnologue (25th ed., 2022) Closed access icon
  2. ^ Zeitoun, Elizabeth; Teng, Stacy F. (2016). "Reassessing the Position of Kanakanavu and Saaroa among the Formosan Languages" (PDF). Oceanic Linguistics. 55 (1): 162–198. doi:10.1353/ol.2016.0001. S2CID 148368774. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2021-05-04 – via www.ling.sinica.edu.tw.
  3. ^ "Did You Know Kanakanabu is Critically Endangered?". endangeredlanguages.com. Retrieved April 15, 2016.
  4. ^ "Ethnographic Setting". Kanakanavu: An Aboriginal Language on Taiwan. Archived from the original on 2016-09-20. Retrieved 2016-09-15.
  5. ^ "Phonology". Kanakanavu: An Aboriginal Language on Taiwan. Archived from the original on 2016-10-05. Retrieved 2016-09-26.
  6. ^ Wild, Ilka (2018). Voice and Transitivity in Kanakanavu. Universität Erfurt.

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