Paiwan variants can be divided into the following dialect zones (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.
Tjuaqatsiɬay (Kachirai) – southernmost dialect
A2 – central
B1 – northernmost
B2 – northwestern
Tjaɬakavus (Chalaabus, Lai-yi)
B3 – east-central
B4 – eastern
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)
Sagaran (Ravar-Vuculj mixture)
Raxekerek branch (west)
Raxekerek branch (east)
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.
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.
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 Pronoun
Paiwan has three construction markers, which are also known as relational particles (Ferrell 1982:13).
a – shows equational relationship; personal sing. = ti, personal plural = tia
nua – shows genitive / partitive relationship; personal sing. = ni, personal plural = nia
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):
nu-sawni: soon, in a little while (future)
ka-sawni: a little while ago
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).