'Amis or Pangcah
Native toTaiwan
Ethnicity200,000 'Amis people (2014)[1]
Native speakers
Unknown, but "much less" than the ethnic population[2]
Latin script
Language codes
ISO 639-3ami
Formosan languages 2008.png
Distribution of Amis language (purple)
Lang Status 80-VU.svg
Amis is classified as Vulnerable by the UNESCO Atlas of the World's Languages in Danger
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Amis (Sowal no 'Amis or Pangcah) is a Formosan language of the Amis (or Ami), an indigenous people living along the east coast of Taiwan. Currently the largest of the Formosan languages, it is spoken from Hualien in the north to Taitung in the south, with another population in the Hengchun Peninisula near the southern end of the island, though the northern varieties are considered to be separate languages.

Government services in counties where many Amis people live in Taiwan, such as the Hualien and Taitung railway stations, broadcast in Amis alongside Mandarin. However, few Amis under the age of 20 in 1995 spoke the language. It is not known how many of the 200,000 ethnic Amis speak the language, but overall a third of the aboriginal Taiwanese population do.


Amis is a dialect cluster. There are five dialects: Southern Amis, Tavalong-Vataan, Central Amis, Chengkung-Kwangshan, and Northern Amis (Nanshi Amis, which includes Nataoran).

Sakizaya is a moribund language spoken among the northernmost ethnic Amis but is mutually unintelligible with the Northern Amis dialect.


The following discussion covers the central dialect of Amis.[4]


Amis consonants
Labial Dental Alveolar Palatal Velar Epiglottal Glottal
Nasals m ŋ ⟨ng⟩
Plosives and
p t͡s ⟨c⟩ k ʡ ~ ʢ ⟨ʼ⟩ ʔ ⟨^⟩
Fricatives v ⟨f⟩ ð̪ ~ ɮ̪ ⟨d⟩ s ⟨s⟩ (ɣ) ⟨g⟩? ʜ ⟨x⟩? h ⟨h⟩?
Trill r ⟨r⟩
Lateral flap ɺ̠ ⟨l⟩
Approximants w ⟨w⟩ j ⟨y⟩

The voiceless plosives /p t k ʡ/ and the affricate /t͡s/ are released in clusters, so that cecay "one" is pronounced [t͡sᵊt͡saj]; as is /s/: sepat "four" is [sᵊpatʰ]. The glottal stop is an exception, frequently having no audible release in final position. The voiced fricatives, /v ɮ ɣ/ (the latter found only in loanwords) are devoiced to [f ɬ x] in utterance-final and sometimes initial position. /ɮ/ may be interdental or post-dental. The sibilants, /t͡s s/, are optionally palatalized ([t͡ɕ ɕ]) before /i/. /j/ does not occur in word-initial position. /ɺ/ is often post-alveolar, and in final position it is released: [ʡuʡuɺ̠ᵊ] "fog".

/ɮ/ shows dramatic dialectal variation. In Fengbin, a town in the center of Amis territory, it is pronounced as a central dental fricative, [ð̪], whereas in the town of Kangko, only 15 km (9.3 mi) away, it is a lateral [ɮ̪]. In Northern Amis, it is a plosive [d̪], which may be laxed to [ð̪] intervocalically. The epiglottals are also reported to have different pronunciations in the north, but the descriptions are contradictory. In Central Amis, /ʜ/ is always voiceless and /ʡ/ is often accompanied by vibrations that suggest it involves an epiglottal trill [ʢ]. Edmondson and Elsing report that these are true epiglottals initially and medially, but in utterance-final position they are epiglotto–pharyngeal.

Sakizaya, considered to be a separate language, contrasts a voiced /z/ with voiceless /s/.

In the practical orthography, /ts/ is written ⟨c⟩, /j/ ⟨y⟩, /ʡ/ ⟨'⟩, /ʔ/ ⟨^⟩, /ɮ/ ⟨d⟩, /ŋ/ ⟨ng⟩, and /ʜ/ ⟨x⟩.


Amis vowels
Front Central Back
Close i u
Mid (ə̆)
Open a

Amis has three common vowels, /i a u/. Despite the fact that a great deal of latitude is afforded by only needing to distinguish three vowels, Amis vowels stay close to their cardinal values, though there is more movement of /a/ and /u/ toward each other (tending to the [o] range) than there is in front-vowel space (in the [e] range).

A voiceless epenthetic schwa optionally breaks up consonant clusters, as noted above. However, there are a small number of words where a short schwa (written e) may be phonemic. However, no contrast involving the schwa is known, and if it is also epenthetic, then Amis has words with no phonemic vowels at all. Examples of this e are malmes "sad", pronounced [maɺə̆mːə̆s], and ’nem "six", pronounced [ʡnə̆m] or [ʡə̆nə̆m].

Examples of words

  • lotong: monkey/ape
  • fafoy: pig
  • wacu: dog
  • cecay: one
  • tosa: two
  • tolo: three
  • sepat: four
  • lima: five
  • 'enem: six
  • pito: seven
  • falo: eight
  • siwa: nine
  • polo': ten
Comparisons of Amis with English and other Austronesian languages
Amis English Tagalog Pangasinan Kapampangan Ilocano Javanese Sundanese Malay
cecay one isa sakey isa maysa siji hiji satu
tosa two dalawa dua adwa dua loro dua dua
tolo three tatlo talo atlo tallo telu tilu tiga
sepat four apat apat apat uppat papat opat empat
lima five lima lima lima lima lima lima lima
'enem six anim anem anam inem enem genep enam
pito seven pito pito pitu/pito pito pitu tujuh tujuh
falo eight walo walo walu/walo walo wolu delapan delapan
siwa nine siyam siyam siam siam sanga salapan sembilan
polo' ten sampu samplo apulu/apulo sangapulo sepuluh sapuluh sepuluh


Verbs in the Amis language have some inflections including existential clause, active voice, passive voice, disposal sentence, imperative mood, optative mood, and prohibitive mood.

Case markers

Cases are marked by case particles.

Neutral Nominative Accusative Genitive
Common o/u ko to no
Personal (singular) ci ci ci ... an ni
Personal (plural) ca ca ca ... an na


There are two word orders in Amis called "General" Word Order and "Special" Word Order.

Below are some examples of Amis sentence:

"General" Word Order Sentence I : Verb–subject

Verb Subject
Verb, Adjective, etc. Preposition for Subjects + Nouns

"General" Word Order Sentence II : Verb–subject–object

Verb Subject Object
Verb, Adjective, etc. Preposition for Subjects + Nouns Preposition for Objects + Nouns


Sing ’Olam (2011:300–301) lists the following Amis names for villages and towns in Hualien County and Taitung County of eastern Taiwan.



  1. ^ "Amis Remains Taiwan's Biggest Aboriginal Tribe at 37.1% of Total". Focus Taiwan. CNA. February 15, 2015.
  2. ^ "amis du Nord / North-Amis". Langues et civilisations à tradition orale (LACITO) (in French and English).
  3. ^; IANA language subtag registry; retrieved: 10 January 2019; publication date: 29 July 2009.
  4. ^ Maddieson & Wright 1995.