Paiwan language

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Vinuculjan, Pinayuanan
Native toTaiwan
Ethnicity96,000 Paiwan (2014)[1]
Native speakers
15,000 (2008)[2]
Latin script (Paiwan alphabet)
Official status
Official language in
Language codes
ISO 639-3pwn
Distribution of Paiwan language (dark green, south)
Paiwan is classified as Vulnerable by the UNESCO Atlas of the World's Languages in Danger
This article contains IPA phonetic symbols. Without proper rendering support, you may see question marks, boxes, or other symbols instead of Unicode characters. For an introductory guide on IPA symbols, see Help:IPA.

Paiwan is a native language of Taiwan, spoken by the Paiwan, a Taiwanese indigenous people. Paiwan is a Formosan language of the Austronesian language family. It is also one of the national languages of Taiwan.[3]


Paiwan variants are seen divided into the following dialect zones by(Ferrell 1982:4–6).

  • A1 – southern and central
    • Kuɬaɬau (Kulalao) – used in Ferrell's 1982 Paiwan Dictionary due to its widespread intelligibility and preservation of various phonemic distinctions; also spoken in Tjuabar Village, Taitung County, where Tjariḍik and "Tjuabar" (closely related to Tjavuaɬi) are also spoken.
    • Kapaiwanan (Su-Paiwan)
    • Tjuaqatsiɬay (Kachirai) – southernmost dialect
  • A2 – central
    • ɬarəkrək (Riki-riki)
    • Patjavaɬ (Ta-niao-wan)
  • B1 – northernmost
    • Tjukuvuɬ (Tokubun)
    • Kaviangan (Kapiyan)
  • B2 – northwestern
    • Tjaɬakavus (Chalaabus, Lai-yi)
    • Makazayazaya (Ma-chia)
  • B3 – east-central
    • Tjariḍik (Charilik)
  • B4 – eastern
    • Tjavuaɬi (Taimali)
    • Tjakuvukuvuɬ (Naibon, Chaoboobol)

This classification were though be corrected by Cheng 2016 as below: Note: A village unnoted of Vuculj/Ravar is by default placed under Vuculj here.

  • Paridrayan group (Ravar)
    • Paridrayan /pariɖajan/
    • Tjailjaking
    • Tineljepan
    • Cavak
    • Tjukuvulj
  • Timur group
    • Timur
    • Tavatavang
    • Vuljulju
    • Sagaran (Ravar-Vuculj mixture)
  • Makazayazaya branch
    • 'ulaljuc
    • Idra
    • Masilidj
    • Makazayazaya
    • Paljulj
    • Kazangiljan
    • Masisi
    • Kazazaljan
    • 'apedang
    • Kaviyangan
    • Puljetji
    • Tjuaqau
  • Eastern branch
    • Paumeli
    • Tjulitjulik
    • Viljauljaulj
    • Kaljataran
    • Ka'aluan
    • Tjua'au
    • Sapulju
    • Kingku
    • Djumulj
    • Tjukuvulj
  • Tjagaraus branch
    • Payuan
    • Padain
    • Piuma
  • Raxekerek branch (west)
    • Raxekerek
    • Kinaximan
    • Tjevecekadan
  • Raxekerek branch (east)
    • Tjahiljik
    • Tjacuqu
    • Tjatjigelj
    • Tjaqup
    • Rahepaq
    • Kaljapitj
    • Qeceljing
    • Pacavalj
    • Kuvaxeng
    • Utjaqas
    • Ljupetj
  • Tjala'avus branch
    • Tjalja'avus
    • Calasiv
    • Tjana'asia
    • Pucunug
    • Vungalid
    • Pailjus


Kuljaljau Paiwan has 23–24 consonants (/h/ is found only in loanwords, and /ʔ/ is uncommon) and 4 vowels (Ferrell 1982:7). Unlike many other Formosan languages that have merged many Proto-Austronesian phonemes, Paiwan preserves most Proto-Austronesian phonemes and is thus highly important for reconstruction purposes.

The four Paiwan vowels are /i ə a u/. /ə/ is written e in the literature.

Kuljaljau (Kuɬaɬau) Paiwan consonants
Labial Alveolar Retroflex Palatal Velar Uvular Glottal
Nasal m n ŋ
Plosive voiceless p t c k q ʔ
voiced b d ɖ ɟ ɡ
Affricate ts
Fricative voiceless s (h)
voiced v z
Trill r
Approximant w l ʎ j
Central Paiwan consonants[4]
Labial Alveolar Retroflex Palatal Velar Uvular Glottal
Nasal m n ŋ ⟨ng⟩
Plosive voiceless p t c ⟨tj⟩ k q ⟨q⟩ ʔ ⟨ʼ⟩
voiced b d ɖ ⟨dr⟩ ɟ ⟨dj⟩ ɡ
Affricate ts ~ ⟨c⟩
Fricative voiceless s (h)
voiced v z
Rhotic r ~ ɣ ⟨r⟩
Approximant ʋ ⟨w⟩ ɭ ⟨l⟩ ʎ ⟨lj, ɬ⟩ j ⟨y⟩

In Northern Paiwan the palatal consonants have been lost, though this is recent and a few conservative speakers maintain them as allophonic variants (not as distinct phonemes). /ʔ/ is robust, unlike in other Paiwan dialects where its status is uncertain, as it derives from *q.

Northern Paiwan (Sandimen) consonants[4]
Labial Alveolar Retroflex Palatal Velar Glottal
Nasal m n ŋ
Plosive voiceless p t k ʔ
voiced b d ɖ ɡ
Affricate ts
Fricative voiceless s (h)
voiced v z
Approximant w l ~ ʎ ɭ j
Southern Paiwan (Mudan) consonants[4]
Labial Alveolar Retroflex Palatal Velar Uvular Glottal
Nasal m n ŋ
Plosive voiceless p t c k q ʔ
voiced b d ɖ ɟ ɡ
Affricate ts
Fricative voiceless s (h)
voiced v z ɣ ~ r
Approximant w ɭ ʎ j

Younger speakers tend to pronounce /ʎ/ as [l]. Fricative [ɣ] is characteristic of Mudan village; elsewhere is Southern Paiwan it tends to be a trill [r], though it still varies [r ~ ɣ ~ ʁ ~ h]. Word-initial *k has become /ʔ/.



The Paiwan personal pronouns below are from Ferrell (1982:14).

Paiwan Personal Pronouns
Type of
Equational Genitive Non-Eq., Non-Gen.
1s. -aken, ti-aken ku-, ni-aken tjanu-aken
2s. -sun, ti-sun su-, ni-sun tjanu-sun
3s. ti-madju ni-madju tjai-madju
1p. (incl.) -itjen, ti-tjen tja-, ni-tjen tjanu-itjen
1p. (excl.) -amen, ti-amen nia-, ni-amen tjanu-amen
2p. -mun, ti-mun nu-, ni-mun tjanu-mun
3p. ti-a-madju ni-a-madju tjai-a-madju

Function words[edit]

Paiwan has three construction markers, which are also known as relational particles (Ferrell 1982:13).

  1. a – shows equational relationship; personal sing. = ti, personal plural = tia
  2. nua – shows genitive / partitive relationship; personal sing. = ni, personal plural = nia
  3. tua – shows that the relationship is neither equational nor genitive; personal sing. = *tjai, personal plural = tjaia

Other words include:

  • i – be at, in (place)
  • nu – if when
  • na – already (definitely) done/doing or have become
  • uri – definite future negative marker
  • uri – definite future marker
  • ɬa – emphasis, setting apart

Affixed adverbials include (Ferrell 1982:14):

  • -tiaw
    • nu-tiaw: tomorrow
    • ka-tiaw: yesterday
  • -sawni
    • nu-sawni: soon, in a little while (future)
    • ka-sawni: a little while ago
  • -ngida
    • nu-ngida: when? (future)
    • ka-ngida: when? (past)

Interjections include (Ferrell 1982:12):

  • ui – yes
  • ini- no (not do)
  • neka – no, not (not exist)
  • ai – oh! (surprise, wonder)
  • ai ḍivá – alas!
  • uá – oh! (surprise, taken aback)
  • ai ḍaḍá – ouch! (pain)


Paiwan verbs have 4 types of focus (Ferrell 1982:30).

  1. Agent/Actor
  2. Object/Goal/Patient
  3. Referent: spatial/temporal locus, indirect object, beneficiary
  4. Instrument/Cause/Motivation/Origin

The following verbal affixes are used to express varying degrees of volition or intent, and are arranged below from highest to lowest intention (Ferrell 1982:37).

  1. ki- (intentional)
  2. pa- (intentional)
  3. -m- (volitionally ambiguous)
  4. si- (volitionally ambiguous)
  5. ma- (non-intentional)
  6. se- (non-intentional)

Paiwan verbs can also take on the following non-derivational suffixes (Ferrell 1982:13).

  • -anga: "certainly," "truly doing"
  • -angata: "definitely" (emphatic)
  • -anga: "still, yet, continuing to"


The Paiwan affixes below are from the Kulalao dialect unless stated otherwise, and are sourced from Ferrell (1982:15–27).

  • ka-: used as an inchoative marker with some stems; past marker
  • ka- -an: principal, main
  • kaɬa- -an: time/place characterized by something
  • ma-ka-: go past, via; having finished
  • pa-ka-: go/cause to go by way of (something/place)
  • ka-si-: come from
  • ken(e)-: eat, drink, consume
  • ki-: get, obtain
  • ku-: my; I (as agent of non-agent focus verb)
  • ɬa-: belonging to a given [plant/animal] category
  • ɬe-: to go in the direction of
  • ɬia-: (have) come to be in/at
  • li-: have quality of
  • ma-: be affected by, be in condition of (involuntary)
  • mare-: having reciprocal relationship
  • mare-ka-: in some general category
  • maɬe-: number of persons
  • me-: agent marker usually involving change of status (used with certain verbs)
  • mere-: be gigantic, super-
  • mi-: agent marker that is usually intransitive (used with certain verbs)
  • mi- -an: pretend, claim
  • mu-: agent marker (certain verbs)
  • ka-na- -anga: every
  • pa-: to cause to be/occur
  • pe-: emerge, come into view
  • pi-: put in/on; do something to
  • pu-: have or produce; acquire
  • pu- -an: place where something is put or kept
  • ma-pu-: do nothing except ...
  • ra-: having to do with
  • r-m-a-: do at/during
  • r-m-a- -an: do at/in
  • sa-: wish to; go to, in direction of; have odor, quality, flavor of
  • pa-sa-: transfer something to; nearly, be on point of doing
  • ki-sa-: use, utilize, employ
  • na-sa-: perhaps, most likely is
  • san(e)-: construct, work on/in
  • ki-sane(e)-: become/act as; one who acts as
  • ru-: do frequently/habitually; have many of
  • se-: people of (village/nation); have quality of; occur suddenly/unexpectedly/unintentionally
  • s-ar-e-: be in state/condition of (involuntary)
  • si-: be instrument/cause/beneficiary of; instrument focus marker; belonging to certain time in past
  • ma-si-: carry, transport
  • su-: your; you (agent of non-agent focus verb); leave, remove, desist from
  • ki-su-: remove or have removed from oneself
  • ta-: past marker
  • tu-: similar to, like
  • ma-ru-: be dissimilar but of same size
  • tja-: our, we (inclusive); more, to a greater extent, further
  • ki-tja-: take along for use
  • tjaɬa- -an: most, -est
  • tjara-: be definitely
  • tjaɬu-: reach/extend as far as
  • tjari-: furthest, utmost
  • tja-u-: to have just done
  • tje-: choose to do at/from
  • ka-tje- -an: containing
  • tji-: used mainly in plant/animal species names (non-Kulalao frozen affix)
  • tji-a-: be/remain at
  • tju-: do/use separately; be/do at certain place
  • m-uri-: search for
  • -aɬ-, -al-, -ar-: having sound or quality of; involving use of; non-Kulalao
  • -ar-: do indiscriminately, on all sides; non-Kulalao
  • -m-: agent or actor; -n- following /p/, /b/, /v/, /m/; m- before vowel-initial words
  • -in-: perfective marker, action already begun or accomplished, object or product of past action; in- before vowel-initial words
  • -an: specific location in time/space; specific one/type; referent focus
  • -en: object/goal of action; object focus
  • -aw, -ay: projected or intended action, referent focus
  • -u: agent focus (most subordinate clauses); most peremptory imperative
  • -i: object focus (most subordinate clauses); polite imperative
  • -ɬ: things in sequence; groupings; durations of time

The following affixes are from the Tjuabar dialect of Paiwan, spoken in the northwest areas of Paiwan-occupied territory (Comparative Austronesian Dictionary 1995).

  • -aḷ-, -aly- 'tiny things'
  • -in- 'things made from plant roots'
  • -an 'place' (always used with another affix)
  • mar(ə)- 'a pair of' (used for humans only)
  • pu- 'rich'
  • ḳay- 'vegetation'
  • sə- 'inhabitants'
  • cua- 'name of a tribe'
  • -aŋa 'already done'
  • ka- 'to complete'
  • kə- 'to do something oneself'
  • ki- 'to do something to oneself'
  • kisu- 'to get rid of'
  • kicu- 'to do something separately'
  • maCa- 'to do something reciprocally' (where C indicates the initial consonant of the stem)
  • mə- 'to experience, to be something'
  • pa- 'to cause someone to do something'
  • pu- 'to produce, to get something'
  • sa- 'to be willing to do something'
  • calyu- 'to arrive at'
  • ma- 'being'
  • na- 'with the quality of'
  • səcalyi- 'very'
  • ca- 'more than'


  1. ^ "Amis Remains Taiwan's Biggest Aboriginal Tribe at 37.1% of Total". Focus Taiwan. CNA. February 15, 2015. Archived from the original on 2015-02-16.
  2. ^ Paiwan at Ethnologue (25th ed., 2022) closed access
  3. ^ a b Yuánzhùmínzú yǔyán fāzhǎn fǎ 原住民族語言發展法 [Indigenous Languages Development Act] (PDF) (in Chinese) – via Lìfayuan quanqiu falu zixun wang
  4. ^ a b c Chen, Chun-mei (2006). A Comparative Study on Formosan Phonology: Paiwan and Budai Rukai (PDF) (Ph.D. thesis). The University of Texas at Austin. hdl:2152/3758.


External links[edit]