Nias language

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Nias
Li Niha
Native toIndonesia
RegionNias and Batu Islands, North Sumatra
EthnicityNias people
Native speakers
770,000 (2000 census)[1]
Latin
Language codes
ISO 639-2nia
ISO 639-3nia
Glottolognias1242[2]
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A Wikitongues video of spoken Nias

The Nias language is an Austronesian language spoken on Nias Island and the Batu Islands off the west coast of Sumatra in Indonesia. It is known as Li Niha by its native speakers. It belongs to the Northwest Sumatra–Barrier Islands subgroup which also includes Mentawai and the Batak languages.[1] It had about 770,000 speakers in 2000.[1] There are three main dialects: northern, central and southern.[3] It is an open-syllable language with the nonexistence of consonants in the ends of its syllables.

Dialects[edit]

A map of major languages spoken in northern Sumatra; Nias is represented by the blue shade and its ISO 639-3 code "nia"

The following dialects are distinguished in Ethnologue.

Cognate percentage among the dialects of Nias is about 80%.[4]

The northern variant is considered the prestige dialect. The only existing Bible translation is written in the northern dialect and is used by speakers of all dialects.[5]

Phonology[edit]

Nias has the following phonemes (sounds only found in the northern dialect are given in green, southern-only sounds are in red):[6][7]

Vowels
  Front Central Back
Close i u
Mid e ⟨ö⟩ ɤ o
Open a
Consonants
  Labial Labiodental Dental/
Alveolar
Palato-
alveolar
Palatal Velar Glottal
Stop/
Affricate
voiceless     t ⟨c⟩ [tʃ]   k ⟨'⟩ [ʔ]
voiced b   d ⟨z⟩ [dʒ]   ɡ  
prenasalized / trilled ⟨mb⟩ [ʙ]   ⟨ndr⟩ [dʳ]        
Fricative voiceless   f s     ⟨kh⟩ [x] h
voiced   v ⟨z⟩ [z]        
Nasal m   n     ⟨ng⟩ [ŋ]  
Approximant   ⟨ß⟩ [ʋ] l   ⟨y⟩ [j] w  
Trill     r        

Phonetic descriptions of the sounds traditionally written as <mb> and <ndr> greatly vary. Sundermann (1913) and Halawa et al. (1983) describe them as prenasalized stop [ᵐb] and prenasalized trilled stop [ⁿdʳ] for the northern dialect,[8][9] while Brown (2005) records them as trill [ʙ] and trilled stop [dʳ] for the southern dialect.[7] In an acoustic study of Nias dialects from three locations, Yoder (2010) shows a complex pattern of four phonetic realizations of <mb> and <ndr>: plain stop, prenasalized stop, stop with trilled release, stop with fricated release.[10][a]

The status of initial [ʔ] is not determined; there are no phonetic vowel-initial words in Nias.

Grammar[edit]

Nias has an ergative–absolutive alignment.[11] It is the only ergative–absolutive language in the world that has a "marked absolutive", which means that absolutive case is marked, whereas ergative case is unmarked.[12][13]

There are no adjectives in Nias, words with that function are taken by verbs.[14]

Pronouns[edit]

The following table lists the free and bound pronouns of Nias (green = only used in the northern dialect, red = only used in the southern dialect):[15][16][17]

Pronouns and pronominal affixes
  independent absolutive genitive ergative
realis
S = A
irrealis
1.sg. ya'o / ya'odo / ya'oto ndra'o(do) / ‑do / ndrao(to) -gu u- gu-
2.sg. ya'ugö ndra'ugö / ‑ö / ndraugö -u / ‑mö ö- gö-
3.sg. ya'ia ia / ya -nia i- ya-
1.pl.incl. ya'ita ita -da ta- da-
1.sg.excl. ya'aga ndra'aga / ‑ga -ma ma- ga-
2.pl. ya'ami ami / -mi -mi mi- gi-
3.pl. ya'ira ira -ra la- ndra-

Independent pronouns are used:

Ya'o

1SG.IND

zia'a

first.born:MUT

(southern dialect)[18]

 

Ya'o zia'a

1SG.IND first.born:MUT

'I am the first-born.'

  • as the P argument[b] of transitive verbs in dependent (including relative and nominalized) clauses

Andrehe'e

DIST

nasu

dog:MUT

si-usu

REL-bite

ya'o

1SG.IND

(southern dialect)[19]

 

Andrehe'e nasu si-usu ya'o

DIST dog:MUT REL-bite 1SG.IND

'That's the dog that bit me.'

  • following certain prepositions and ha "only"
  • in fronted (topicalized) position

Absolutive pronouns are used:

  • as the S argument of independent intrasitive and nominal clauses (in the southern dialect, only in realis mood)

Mofökhö

sick

ndra'o

1SG.ABS

(northern dialect)[20]

 

Mofökhö ndra'o

sick 1SG.ABS

'I am sick.'

  • as the P argument of transitive verbs in independent clauses

I-tegu

3SG.ERG-scold

ndra'o

1SG.ABS

ama-gu

father-1SG.GEN

(northern dialect)[21]

 

I-tegu ndra'o ama-gu

3SG.ERG-scold 1SG.ABS father-1SG.GEN

'My father scolds me.'

  • as the stimulus with intransitive verbs expresing emotions or states of mind

Ata'u

afraid

nasu

dog:MUT

ndrao

1SG.ABS

(southern dialect)[22]

 

Ata'u nasu ndrao

afraid dog:MUT 1SG.ABS

'The dog is afraid of me.'

Genitive pronouns are used:

  • as possessor, e.g. ama-gu "my father"
  • following certain prepositions, e.g. khö-gu "to me"
  • as the S argument in nominalized intransitive clauses

Löna

not

ahono

calm

ve-mörö-nia

NR:MUT-sleep-3SG.GEN

(southern dialect)[23]

 

Löna ahono ve-mörö-nia

not calm NR:MUT-sleep-3SG.GEN

'Her sleep was not restful.'

  • as the A argument in nominalized transitive clauses

La-faigi

3PL.ERG-see

vamaoso-ra

NR:MUT:IPF:raise-3PL.GEN

(southern dialect)[24]

 

La-faigi vamaoso-ra

3PL.ERG-see NR:MUT:IPF:raise-3PL.GEN

'They watched them raise [it].'

  • as the A argument in relative clauses with the P argument of a transitive verb as head

U-fake

1SG.ERG-use

zekhula

coconut:MUT

ni-rökhi-nia

PASS-grate-3SG.GEN

(southern dialect)[25]

 

U-fake zekhula ni-rökhi-nia

1SG.ERG-use coconut:MUT PASS-grate-3SG.GEN

'I used the coconut which she grated.'

Ergative (realis) pronouns are used:

  • as the A argument in independent transitive clauses (in the southern dialect, only in realis mood)

I-tataba

3SG.ERG-cut

geu

wood:MUT

(southern dialect)[26]

 

I-tataba geu

3SG.ERG-cut wood:MUT

'He cut up the wood.'

Irrealis pronouns are used in the southern dialect:

  • as the S argument in independent intransitive clauses in irrealis mood

Gu-möi

1SG.IRR-go

ba

LOC

fasa

market

mahemolu

tomorrow

(southern dialect)[27]

 

Gu-möi ba fasa mahemolu

1SG.IRR-go LOC market tomorrow

'I want to go to the market tomorrow.'

  • as the A argument in independent transitive clauses in irrealis mood

Gu-moturagö

1SG.IRR-IRR:tell.about

ndraugö

2SG.ABS

khö-ra

DAT-3PL.GEN

(southern dialect)[28]

 

Gu-moturagö ndraugö khö-ra

1SG.IRR-IRR:tell.about 2SG.ABS DAT-3PL.GEN

'I'm going to tell them about you.'

In he northern dialect, the irrealis pronouns are restricted to third person, and are employed in what Sundermann (1913) calls "jussive" mood.

Ya-mu-'ohe

3SG.JUSS-JUSS-bring

(northern dialect)[29]

 

Ya-mu-'ohe

3SG.JUSS-JUSS-bring

'He shall bring it.'

Noun case marking (mutation)[edit]

Case marking of nouns is indicated in Nias by mutation of the initial consonant. Several consonants are subject to mutation as shown in the table below. Where a word begins in a vowel, either n or g is added before the vowel; the choice of n or g is lexically conditioned. (For example, öri ~ nöri is 'village federation', öri ~ göri is 'bracelet'.)[30]

Initial mutations
Unmutated form Mutated form
f v
t d
s z
c
k g
b mb
d ndr
vowel n + vowel
g + vowel

Other consonants do not change.

Unmutated case[edit]

The unmutated case form is used in citation. It further appears in all functions described above for independent pronouns:

  • as the predicate in nominal clauses
  • as the P argument of transitive verbs in dependent (including relative and nominalized) clauses
  • following certain prepositions and ha "only"
  • in fronted (topicalized) position

Additionally, A arguments in independent transitive clauses appear in unmutated case, cross-referenced by the corresponding ergative or irrealis pronoun.

I-rino

3SG.ERG

vakhe

rice:MUT

ina-gu

mother-1SG.GEN

(southern dialect)[31]

 

I-rino vakhe ina-gu

3SG.ERG rice:MUT mother-1SG.GEN

'My mother cooked rice.'

Mutated case[edit]

The mutated case form of the noun corresponds in function to both the absolutive and the genitive pronouns:

  • as the S argument of independent intrasitive and nominal clauses

Mate

die

zibaya-nia

uncle:MUT-3SG.GEN

meneßi

yesterday

(southern dialect; unmutated: sibaya)[32]

 

Mate zibaya-nia meneßi

die uncle:MUT-3SG.GEN yesterday

'His uncle died yesterday.'

  • as the P argument of transitive verbs in independent clauses

I-rino

3SG.ERG

vakhe

rice:MUT

ina-gu

mother-1SG.GEN

(southern dialect; unmutated: fakhe)[31]

 

I-rino vakhe ina-gu

3SG.ERG rice:MUT mother-1SG.GEN

'My mother cooked rice.'

  • as the stimulus with intransitive verbs expresing emotions or states of mind
  • as possessor

omo

house

ga'a-gu

older.sibling:MUT-1SG.GEN

(southern dialect; unmutated: ka'a)[33]

 

omo ga'a-gu

house older.sibling:MUT-1SG.GEN

'my brother's house'

  • following certain prepositions
  • as the S argument in nominalized intransitive clauses
  • as the A argument in nominalized transitive clauses
  • as the A argument in relative clauses with the P argument of a transitive verb as head

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ "It seems that the variable character of the two phonemes is the only consistent feature that distinguishes them from the regular stops in the same places of articulation, and from the regular alveolar trill." (Yoder 2010, p. 1)
  2. ^ The terminology used here follows the conventions commonly used in linguistic typology: S for the subject of intransitive verbs; A for the subject of transitive verbs; P for the object of transitive verbs.

References[edit]

Citations[edit]

  1. ^ a b c Nias at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015)
  2. ^ Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2017). "Nias". Glottolog 3.0. Jena, Germany: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History.
  3. ^ Brown 1997, p. 395.
  4. ^ Nothofer 1986, p. 95.
  5. ^ Brown 2001, p. 8.
  6. ^ Sundermann 1913, pp. 5–6.
  7. ^ a b Brown 2005, p. 564.
  8. ^ Sundermann 1913, p. 6.
  9. ^ Halawa, Harefa & Silitonga 1983, p. 19, 21.
  10. ^ Yoder 2010, p. 1.
  11. ^ Brown 1997, pp. 398–399.
  12. ^ Comrie 2013.
  13. ^ Donohue 2008, p. 27.
  14. ^ Brown 2005, p. 566.
  15. ^ Brown 1997, p. 400.
  16. ^ Brown 2001, pp. 123–124.
  17. ^ Sundermann 1913, pp. 40–45, 65–66.
  18. ^ Brown 2001, p. 358.
  19. ^ Brown 2001, p. 413.
  20. ^ Sundermann 1913, p. 108.
  21. ^ Sundermann 1913, p. 97.
  22. ^ Brown 2001, p. 578.
  23. ^ Brown 2001, p. 315.
  24. ^ Brown 2001, p. 314.
  25. ^ Brown 2001, p. 420.
  26. ^ Brown 2001, p. 529.
  27. ^ Brown 2001, p. 153.
  28. ^ Brown 2001, p. 549.
  29. ^ Sundermann 1913, p. 81.
  30. ^ Brown 2005, p. 567.
  31. ^ a b Brown 2001, p. 537.
  32. ^ Brown 2001, p. 559.
  33. ^ Brown 2001, p. 348.

Bibliography[edit]

  • Brown, Lea (1997). "Nominal Mutation in Nias". In Odé, Cecilia; Wim Stokhof (eds.). Proceedings of the Seventh International Conference on Austronesian Linguistics. Amsterdam: Rodopi. ISBN 90-420-0253-0.
  • Brown, Lea (2001). Grammar of Nias Selatan (PhD Thesis). University of Sidney: Department of Linguistics.
  • Brown, Lea (2005). "Nias". In Adelaar, Alexander; Himmelmann, Nikolaus P. (eds.). The Austronesian Languages of Asia and Madagascar. London: Routledge. ISBN 0-7007-1286-0.
  • Comrie, Bernard (2013), "Alignment of Case Marking of Full Noun Phrases", in Dryer, Matthew S.; Haspelmath, Martin (eds.), The World Atlas of Language Structures Online, Leipzig: Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, retrieved 6 Jun 2019
  • Donohue, Mark (2008). "Semantic alignment systems: what's what, and what's not". In Donohue, Mark; Søren Wichmann (eds.). The Typology of Semantic Alignment. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  • Halawa, T.; Harefa, A.; Silitonga, M. (1983). Struktur Bahasa Nias (PDF). Jakarta: Pusat Pembinaan dan Pengembangan Bahasa, Departemen Pendidikan dan Kebudayaan. Retrieved 7 June 2019.
  • Nothofer, Bernd (1986). "The Barrier island languages in the Austronesian language family". In Paul Geraghty; Lois Carrington; Stephen A. Wurm (eds.). FOCAL II: Papers from the Fourth International Conference on Austronesian Linguistics. Canberra: Research School of Pacific and Asian Studies, Australian National University. pp. 89–107. doi:10.15144/PL-C94.87.
  • Sundermann, Heinrich (1913). Niassische Sprachlehre (in German). 's-Gravenhage: Martinus Nijhoff.
  • Yoder, Brendon (2010). "Prenasalization and trilled release of two consonants in Nias" (PDF). Work Papers of the Summer Institute of Linguistics, University of North Dakota Session. 50. Retrieved 7 June 2019.

External links[edit]