RegionNorthern Taiwan
Native speakers
86,000[1] (2008)[2]
Language codes
ISO 639-3tay
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.
Atayal is classified as Vulnerable by the UNESCO Atlas of the World's Languages in Danger
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The Atayal language is an Austronesian language 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.


This section needs expansion. You can help by adding to it. (December 2020)

Several works on the language, including several reference grammars, have been published. In 1980 an Atayal–English dictionary was published by Søren Egerod.[3] 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.[4]

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.[5][6]


Atayal dialects can be classified under two dialects groups: Squliq and C’uli’ (Ts’ole’).[7][8]

There are 7 Atayal dialects according to Goderich (2020).[9]

Goderich (2020:193) classifies the Atayal dialects as follows, and also reconstructs over 1,000 words for Proto-Atayal.[9]


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.[6] 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/).[11]

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⟩.


Mayrinax Atayal vowels
Front Central Back
High i u
Mid e ə o
Low a


Mayrinax Atayal consonants
Bilabial Alveolar Palatal Velar Uvular Pharyngeal Glottal
Plosive p t k q ʔ
Affricate ts ⟨c⟩
Fricative voiceless s x ħ ⟨h⟩
voiced β ɣ ⟨g⟩
Nasal m n ŋ
Trill r
Semivowel w j ⟨y⟩

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 [], 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).[12]

  1. Agent focus (AF)
  2. Patient focus (PF)
  3. Locative focus (LF)
  4. Instrumental/Beneficiary focus (IF/BF)

The following list of focus markers are used in Mayrinax Atayal.

Aspect markers include:[12]

Other verbal markers include:[12]

Dynamic and stative verbal prefixes run along a continuum. Here, they are listed from most dynamic to most stative.[12]

  1. m-, -um-
  2. ma1-, ø1
  3. ma-2
  4. ø2

Case markers

Mayrinax Atayal has an elaborate case marking system. The Mayrinax case markers below are sourced from Huang (2002).

Mayrinax Atayal Case Markers
Case Nominative Accusative Genitive/
Proper noun ʔiʔ ʔiʔ niʔ kiʔ
referential kuʔ ckuʔ nkuʔ
non-referential cuʔ naʔ

Wulai Atayal (a Squliq Atayal dialect spoken in Wulai District, New Taipei City) has a much simpler case-marking system (Huang 1995).

Wulai Atayal Case Markers
Case Nominative Instrumental Genitive Comitative Locative
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).

Wulai Atayal Personal Pronouns
Type of
Nominative Genitive Locative Neutral
1s. sakuʔ, kuʔ makuʔ, mu, kuʔ knan kuzing, kun
2s. suʔ suʔ sunan isuʔ
3s. nyaʔ hiyan hiyaʔ
1p. (incl.) taʔ taʔ itan itaʔ
1p. (excl.) sami myan sminan sami
2p. simu mamu smunan simu
3p. nhaʔ hgan hgaʔ
Mayrinax Atayal Personal Pronouns
Type of
Nominative Genitive Neutral
1s. cu, ciʔ mu, miʔ kuing
2s. suʔ, siʔ suʔ isuʔ
3s. niaʔ hiyaʔ
1p. (incl.) taʔ, tiʔ taʔ, tiʔ itaʔ
1p. (excl.) cami niam cami
2p. cimu mamu cimu
3p. nhaʔ nhaʔ


The following list of Mayrinax Atayal affixes is sourced from the Comparative Austronesian Dictionary (1995).

Verbal prefixes
Verbal infixes
Verbal suffixes
Nominal affixes

See also


  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. Retrieved 2020-06-04.
  2. ^ Atayal at Ethnologue (25th ed., 2022) Closed access icon
  3. ^ see Egerod (1980)
  4. ^ Yuehchen, Chien; Shinji, Sanada (2010-08-16). "Yilan Creole in Taiwan". Journal of Pidgin and Creole Languages. 25 (2): 350–357. doi:10.1075/jpcl.25.2.11yue. ISSN 0920-9034.
  5. ^ "Atayal and Sediq Added to Wikipedia's Languages". Taipei Times. 17 April 2020. Retrieved 18 April 2021.
  6. ^ a b "Indigenous Taiwanese Languages Now Available on Wikipedia". Language Magazine. 2021-04-29. Retrieved 2021-07-04.
  7. ^ Huang (1995), p. 261
  8. ^ Li (1980), p. 349
  9. ^ a b Goderich, Andre (郭育賢) (2020). Atayal phonology, reconstruction, and subgrouping (Ph.D. dissertation). Hsinchu: National Tsing Hua University.
  10. ^ Li, Paul Jen-kuei. 1981. Reconstruction of Proto-Atayalic phonology. Bulletin of the Institute of History and Philology, Academia Sinica 52: 235–301.
  11. ^ Rau (1992), pp. 22–23
  12. ^ a b c d Huang (2000b)


Mayrinax Atayal