Native toTaiwan
Native speakers
4,750 (2002)[1]
  • Taai
  • Tungho
Language codes
ISO 639-3xsy
Saisiyat, Pazeh, and Kulon (pink, northwest). Some Chinese-language sources designate the white area in the northwest as a Kulon area, as opposed to the small pink circle on this map.[2]

Saisiyat (sometimes spelled Saisiat) is the language of the Saisiyat, a Taiwanese indigenous people. It is a Formosan language of the Austronesian family. It has approximately 4,750 speakers.


The language area of Saisiyat is small, situated in the northwest of the country between the Hakka Chinese and Atayal regions in the mountains (Wufeng, Hsinchu; Nanchuang and Shitan, Miaoli).

There are two main dialects: Ta'ai (North Saisiyat) and Tungho (South Saisiyat). Ta'ai is spoken in Hsinchu and Tungho is spoken in Miao-Li.

Kulon, an extinct Formosan language, is closely related to Saisiyat but is considered by Taiwanese linguist Paul Jen-kuei Li to be a separate language.


Today, one thousand Saisiyat people do not use the Saisiyat language. Many young people use Hakka or Atayal instead, and few children speak Saisiyat. Hakka Chinese speakers, Atayal speakers and Saisiyat speakers live more or less together. Many Saisiyat are able to speak Saisiyat, Hakka, Atayal, Mandarin, and, sometimes, Min Nan as well. Although Saisiyat has a relatively large number of speakers, the language is endangered.




Consonant inventory
Labial Alveolar Post-alveolar Dorsal Glottal
Nasal m n ŋ
Plosive p t k ʔ
Fricative s z ʃ h
Approximant w l ɭ j
Trill r

Orthographic notes:


  Front Central Back
Close i    
Close-mid     o
Mid   ə  
Open-mid œ    
Open æ ä  



Although it also allows for verb-initial constructions,[5] Saisiyat is a strongly subject-initial language (i.e., SVO), and is shifting to an accusative language, while it still has many features of split ergativity (Hsieh & Huang 2006:91). Pazeh and Thao, also Northern Formosan languages, are the only other Formosan languages that allow for SVO constructions.

Saisiyat's case-marking system distinguishes between personal and common nouns (Hsieh & Huang 2006:93).

Saisiyat case markers
Type of
Nominative Accusative Genitive Dative Possessive Locative
Personal Ø, hi hi ni 'an-a 'ini' kan, kala
Common Ø, ka ka noka 'an noka-a no ray


Saisiyat has an elaborate pronominal system (Hsieh & Huang 2006:93).

Saisiyat personal pronouns
Type of
Nominative Accusative Genitive Dative Possessive Locative
1s. yako/yao yakin/'iyakin ma'an 'iniman 'amana'a kanman
2s. So'o 'iso'on niSo 'iniSo 'anso'o'a kanSo
3s. sia hisia nisia 'inisia 'ansiaa kansia
1p. (incl.) 'ita 'inimita mita' 'inimita' 'anmita'a kan'ita
1p. (excl.) yami 'iniya'om niya'om 'iniya'om 'anya'oma kanyami
2p. moyo 'inimon nimon 'inimon 'anmoyoa kanmoyo
3p. lasia hilasia nasia 'inilasia 'anlasiaa kanlasia


The following are verbal prefixes in Saisiyat (Hsieh & Huang 2006:93).

Saisiyat Focus System
Type of Focus I II
Agent Focus (AF) m-, -om-, ma-, Ø    Ø   
Patient Focus (PF) -en    -i   
Locative Focus (LF) -an
Referential Focus (RF) si-, sik- -ani

Saisiyat verbs can be nominalized in the following ways.[6]

Nominalization in Saisiyat
Lexical nominalization Syntactic nominalization Temporal/Aspectual
Agent ka-ma-V ka-pa-V Habitual, Future
Patient ka-V-en, V-in- ka-V-en, V-in- Future (for ka-V-en), Perfective (for V-in-)
Location ka-V-an ka-V-an Future
Instrument ka-V, Ca-V (reduplication) ka-V, Ca-V (reduplication) Future



  1. ^ Saisiyat at Ethnologue (19th ed., 2016)
  2. ^ "Táiwān yuánzhùmín píngpǔ zúqún bǎinián fēnlèi shǐ xìliè dìtú" 臺灣原住民平埔族群百年分類史系列地圖 [A History of the Classification of Plains Taiwanese Tribes Over the Past Century]. (in Chinese). 2009-08-06. Retrieved 2017-03-04.
  3. ^ "Saisiyat (SaySiyat)". Omniglot.
  4. ^ Jiang, Wenyu; I, Chang-Liao; Chiang, Fang-Mei (2006). "The Prosodic Realization of Negation in Saisiyat and English" (PDF). Oceanic Linguistics. 45 (1): 110–132. doi:10.1353/ol.2006.0007. JSTOR 4499949. S2CID 144937416.
  5. ^ Li, Paul Jen-kuei (2004) [1998]. 台灣南島語言 [The Austronesian Languages of Taiwan]. In Li, Paul Jen-kuei (ed.). Selected Papers on Formosan Languages. Taipei, Taiwan: Institute of Linguistics, Academia Sinica.
  6. ^ Yeh, Marie Mei-li (n.d.), Nominalization in Saisiyat, Hsinchu, Taiwan: National Hsinchu University of Education

Works cited

Further reading