|Ethnicity||86,000 Atayal people (2014)|
A map showing the distribution of the two major dialect groups of the Atayal language. The Atayal people reside in central and northern Taiwan, along the Hsuehshan mountains.
The Atayal language is spoken by the Atayal people of Taiwan. Squliq and C’uli’ (Ts’ole’) are two major dialects. Mayrinax and Pa’kuali’, two subdialects of C’uli’, are unique among Atayal dialects in having male and female register distinctions in their vocabulary.
Several works on the language, including several reference grammars, have been published. In 1980 an Atayal–English dictionary was published by Søren Egerod. The Bible has been translated into Atayal and was published in 2002.[by whom?] Atayal was one of the source languages of Yilan Creole Japanese.
In April 2020 an Atayal language Wikipedia was launched following efforts by Taiwan's Ministry of Education and National Chengchi University to promote the written use of Taiwan's Aboriginal languages.
Atayal dialects can be classified under two dialects groups: Squliq and C’uli’ (Ts’ole’).
The Atayal language is most commonly written in the Latin script; a standard orthography for the language was established by the Taiwanese government in 2005. In writing, ⟨ng⟩ represents the velar nasal /ŋ/, and the apostrophe ⟨'⟩ represents the glottal stop. In some literature, ⟨ḳ⟩ is used to represent /q/ and ⟨č š ž⟩ are used to represent /tʃ ʃ ʒ/.
In some dialects but not all, schwa /ə/ is frequently omitted in writing, resulting in long consonant clusters on the surface (e.g. pspngun /pəsəpəŋun/).
The pronunciation of certain letters differs from the IPA conventions. The letter ⟨b⟩ represents /β/, ⟨c⟩ is /ts/, ⟨g⟩ is /ɣ/, ⟨y⟩ is /j/, and ⟨z⟩ is /ʒ/.
Dialects differ slightly in their phonology. Presented below are the vowel and consonant inventories of Mayrinax Atayal (Huang 2000a). Orthographic conventions are added in ⟨angle brackets⟩.
Most of these sounds are also encountered in other Formosan languages, but the velar fricative [x] is a trade mark of Atayalic languages. This sound has restricted distribution, though, as it never occurs in word-initial position.
Even though some literature includes a glottal fricative in the consonant inventory, that phoneme is phonetically realized as a pharyngeal (Li 1980), which is true for Atayalic languages in general. The alveolar fricative (s) and affricate (ts) are palatalized before [i] and [j], rendering [ɕ] and [tɕ], respectively (Lu 2005), as in the Sinitic contact languages Mandarin Chinese and Taiwanese Hokkien.
Plngawan Atayal (a subdialect of Ci'uli') differs from this inventory in that it lacks a schwa (ə), and that there are two phonemic rhotics (Shih 2008).
Squliq Atayal has a voiced alveo-palatal fricative [z] (Li 1980), but Huang 2015 doubts its phonemicity, arguing that it is an allophone of [y].
Mayrinax Atayal (a Cʔuliʔ dialect spoken in Tai'an Township, Miaoli County) has a four-way focus system (Huang 2000b).
The following list of focus markers are used in Mayrinax Atayal.
Aspect markers include:
Other verbal markers include:
Dynamic and stative verbal prefixes run along a continuum. Here, they are listed from most dynamic to most stative.
Mayrinax Atayal has an elaborate case marking system. The Mayrinax case markers below are sourced from Huang (2002).
Wulai Atayal (a Squliq Atayal dialect spoken in Wulai District, New Taipei City) has a much simpler case-marking system (Huang 1995).
|Markers||quʔ||naʔ||naʔ, nquʔ||kiʔ||te, squʔ, sa|
The Mayrinax and Wulai Atayal personal pronouns below are sourced from Huang (1995). In both varieties, the nominative and genitive forms are bound while the neutral and locative ones are free (unbound).
|1s.||sakuʔ, kuʔ||makuʔ, mu, kuʔ||knan||kuzing, kun|
|1s.||cu, ciʔ||mu, miʔ||kuing|
|1p. (incl.)||taʔ, tiʔ||taʔ, tiʔ||itaʔ|
The following list of Mayrinax Atayal affixes is sourced from the Comparative Austronesian Dictionary (1995).