Archive for the ‘Taiwan’ Category

Languages with only one speaker

28 April 2013

According to “World’s 18 most endangered spoken languages,” there were 18 languages listed in the UNESCO Atlas of Endangered Languages with only one speaker in April 2010. (Thanks to LoL for the link to this article.)

According to the Atlas, there are now 19, but in many cases, the Ethnologue has different information. The languages listed in the Atlas with only one speaker are (by continent):


1. Bikya (byb) – the Ethnologue says there are no speakers

2. Bishuo (bwh) – the Ethnologue says there are no speakers


3. Pazeh (uun) – the Ethnologue says there are no speakers

North America

4. Patwin (pwi)

5. Tolowa (tol)

6. Wintu-Nomlaki, or Wintu (wnw) – the Ethnologue says there are no known native speakers

Oceanian, including Indonesia

7. Dampelas (dms)

8. Lae, or Aribwatsa (laz) – the Ethnologue says there are no speakers

9. Laua (luf) – the Ethnologue says there are no speakers

10. Volow (mlv) – the Ethnologue lists this and Dagmel as dialects, each with one speaker

11. Yarawi, or Suena (sue) – the Ethnologue says there are 3,600 speakers

South America (other than Brazil)

12. Chaná – it appears to not be listed in the Ethnologue (gqn appears to be different); (qs1 – Linguist List code)

13. Pémono, or Mapoyo-Yabarana (pev)

14. Taushiro (trr)

15. Tinigua (tit) – the Ethnologue says there are two speakers

16. Yaghan, or Yagán (yag)


17. Apiaká (api)

18. Diahói, or Parintintín (pah)

19. Kaixána, or Kawishana – it appears to not be listed in the Ethnologue; (qsw – Linguist List code)

Language education funding cut in Taiwan

26 April 2013

According to “DPP lawmakers riled by language funding cuts,” funding has been cut for Hoklo, Hakka and aboriginal languages.

The dominant language of Taiwan is Mandarin (cmn), the official language of China. That is followed by Hoklo (Taiwanese Hokkien (nan)) and Hakka Chinese (hak), both of which are spoken on the Chinese mainland as well.

It appears that of 21 Austronesian languages in Taiwan, 17 are still spoken and four are silent.

Dictionaries for Taiwan Languages

7 March 2011

According to a posting on the “News Ticker” of Taiwan Today, two languages have been added to the online dictionaries of indigenous languages of Taiwan. The post says that the languages are those spoken by the Sakizaya and Sediq (Seediq) peoples.

According to Wikipedia, the language of the Sakizaya is classified as a dialect of Northern Amis (ais), though it diverges significantly from other dialects and could be considered a separate language. The Seediq language (trv) has a citation in the Ethnologue as having 20,000 speakers as of 2008.

The online dictionary (Google Translate to English) site, which is in Chinese, appears to have glossaries for at least eight languages.

Call to Preserve Languages in Taiwan

2 March 2011

When Paul Jen-kuei Li studied linguistics at the University of Hawaii in the late 1960s, Austronesian (tree) was not a family many linguists chose to work on. But Li performed field work in Vanuatu (then the New Hebrides) followed by work on a Micronesian language.

When he returned home to Taiwan, he focused on the indigenous languages, a task made difficult by poor transportation and communication conditions. Many times, he traveled alone into the mountains to record tribal speakers.

His efforts include collaboration with Shigeru Tsuchida to produce Kavalan and Pazih dictionaries. His paper “The Internal Relationships of Formosan Languages” is available from a link on the Ethnologue.

Li was awarded honorary membership in the Linguistic Society of America in 2008 among other awards. He calls on the government and people of Taiwan to step up efforts to protect Taiwan’s aboriginal languages. He notes that because language is the essence of a culture, that culture and its knowledge depend on the language being kept alive.

Today, about 14 indigenous languages remain in Taiwan.

Much of the information in this blog post is from the article “Linguist urges preservation of Taiwan’s Austronesian languages” on the Taiwan Today Website.

Language Policy and Aboriginal Languages of Taiwan

10 April 2007

It’s somewhat confusing, but according to Monsters and Critics,

“Under the revised Language Development Bill, Taiwan will stop defining Mandarin Chinese, the lingua franca of China, as the ‘national language.’

Instead, it will list Mandarin Chinese, Taiwanese, Hakka and Taiwan’s aboriginal tongues as its national languages, Chiu Chuang-liang, director of the cabinet’s council for Cultural Planning and Development, said.

It seems that Mandarin Chinese is being demoted from _the_ national language to _a_ national language. While such a move doubtlessly has international political ramifications, it also means greater recognition of the local peoples.

The number of languages in Taiwan appears to be dependent on the person counting, with the article citing “about a dozen tribes”, Travel in Taiwan counting nine mountain tribes, and Taiwan Tribes counting 13. The latter, moreover, with its tribal breakdown and count of 21 languages, makes it clear that it is the ethnic complexity causing the disparity in numbers. Wikipedia counts 25 tribes with only 14 living languages. Ethnologue gives 22 living languages including three Chinese varieties, Japanese, and Taiwan Sign Language, plus four extinct languages.

Also, check out the excellent ethnic map of Taiwan provided by Philip Diller.