Native toTaiwan
RegionSouthwestern, around present-day Tainan
Extinctend of 19th century; revitalization movement
  • Taivoan (arguably)
  • Makatao (arguably)
Language codes
ISO 639-3fos
Glottologsira1267  Sirayaic
nucl1578  Siraya
Formosan languages 2008.png
(pink) Siraya
Coordinates: 22°58′N 120°18′E / 22.967°N 120.300°E / 22.967; 120.300

Siraya is a Formosan language spoken until the end of the 19th century by the indigenous Siraya people of Taiwan, derived from Proto-Siraya. Some scholars believe Taivoan and Makatao are two dialects of Siraya, but now more evidence shows that they should be classified as separate languages.

Several Siraya communities have been involved in a Sirayan cultural and language revitalization movement for more than a decade. Through linguistic research and language teaching, the natives are 'awaking' their ancestors mother tongue that has been 'dormant' for a century. Today a group of Siraya children in Sinhua District of Tainan particularly in Kou-pei and Chiou Chen Lin area are able to speak and sing in the Siraya language.[1]


See also: Taivoan language

The Sirayaic languages were previously thought to include three languages or dialects:

However, more and more evidences have shown that Siraya, Taivoan, and Makatao are three different languages, rather than three dialects:

Documentary evidence

In "De Dagregisters van het Kasteel Zeelandia" written by the Dutch colonizers during 1629–1662, it was clearly said that when the Dutch people would like to speak to the chieftain of Cannacannavo (Kanakanavu), they needed to translate from Dutch to Sinckan (Siraya), from Sinckan to Tarroequan (possibly a Paiwan or a Rukai language), from Tarroequan to Taivoan, and from Taivoan to Cannacannavo.[2][3]

"...... in Cannacannavo: Aloelavaos tot welcken de vertolckinge in Sinccans, Tarrocquans en Tevorangs geschiede, weder voor een jaer aengenomen" — "De Dagregisters van het Kasteel Zeelandia", pp.6–8

Linguistic evidence

A comparison of numerals of Siraya, Taivoan (Tevorangh dialect), and Makatao (Kanapo dialect) with Proto-Austronesian language show the difference among the three Austronesian languages in southwestern Taiwan in the early 20th century:[4][5]

PAn Siraya (UM)

[note 1]

Siraya (Gospel)

[note 2]

Siraya (Kongana)

[note 3]

Taivoan (Tevorangh)

[note 4]

Makatao (Kanapo)

[note 5]

1 *asa sa-sat saat sasaat tsaha na-saad
2 *duSa sa-soa ruha duha ruha ra-ruha
3 *telu tu-turo turu turu tuhu ra-ruma
4 *Sepat pa-xpat xpat tapat paha' ra-sipat
5 *lima ri-rima rima tu-rima hima ra-lima
6 *enem ni-nam nom tu-num lom ra-hurum
7 *pitu pi-pito pitu pitu kito ra-pito
8 *walu kuxipat kuixpa pipa kipa ra-haru
9 *Siwa matuda matuda kuda matuha ra-siwa
10 *puluq keteang kitian keteng kaipien ra-kaitian

In 2009, Li (2009) further proved the relationship among the three languages, based on the latest linguistic observations below:[6]

Major differences among the Sirayaic languages
Siraya Taivoan Makatao PA
Sound change (1) r Ø~h r < *l
Sound change (2) l l n < *N
Sound change (3) s r, d r, d < *D, *d
Sound change (4) -k-
< *k
< *S
Morphological change
(suffices for future tense)
-ali -ah -ani

Based on the discovery, Li attempted two classification trees:[6]

1. Tree based on the number of phonological innovations

2. Tree based on the relative chronology of sound changes

Li (2009) considers the second tree (the one containing the Taivoan–Makatao group) to be the somewhat more likely one.[6]

Lee (2015) regards that, when Siraya was a lingua franca among at least eight indigenous communities in southwestern Taiwan plain, Taivoan people from Tevorangh, who has been proved to have their own language in "De Dagregisters van het Kasteel Zeelandia", might still need the translation service from Wanli, a neighbor community that shared common hunting field and also a militarily alliance with Tevorangh.[3]


Gospel of St. Matthew in Dutch, Sinckan, and English.[7] Original Dutch and Sinckan above is from 1661 by Daniel Gravius; English in small type was added in 1888 by Scottish missionary William Campbell.
Gospel of St. Matthew in Dutch, Sinckan, and English.[7] Original Dutch and Sinckan above is from 1661 by Daniel Gravius; English in small type was added in 1888 by Scottish missionary William Campbell.

The Siraya language entered the historical record in the early 17th century when traders from the Dutch East India Company, expelled from mainland China and Chinese waters, set up a stronghold on Taiwan at Fort Zeelandia, which was in the Siraya-speaking area. During the period of Dutch rule in Taiwan, Calvinist missionaries used Siraya and Babuza (also known as Favorlang) as contact languages. A translation of the Gospel of St. Matthew into Siraya (174 pages of Siraya and Dutch text, Gravius 1661)[8][9] and a catechism in Siraya (288 pages of Siraya and Dutch text, Gravius 1662)[10] were published, and have been subsequently republished.[11] The Dutch colony was driven out in 1661 by Ming loyalist refugees from China, and Taiwan was subsequently incorporated into the Qing Empire. During the period of Qing Dynasty rule, use of Siraya receded, but some Siraya language materials survive in the form of Siraya land contracts with Chinese translations, known as the Sinckan Manuscripts. The last records were lists of words made in the early 19th century.

The Tainan Ping-pu Siraya Association is compiling the first modern-day Siraya glossary. Publication is scheduled for November 2008.[needs update] A paper published in 2021 reports on a translation of the Gospel of St. John that had recently been identified by the author in the Royal Danish Library.[12]


The phonological system of Siraya is speculated by Adelaar (1997) to have the following phonemes.

Consonants (18–20 total)

b d nḡ[note 6]
p t k
m n ng
l, r
v z
[f] s x h
w y

Vowels (7 total)

Diphthongs (6 total)

Palatalization also occurs in many words.


Siraya auxiliaries constitute an open class and are placed at the head of the verb phrase (Adelaar 1997).


The Siraya personal pronouns below are from Adelaar (1997).

Siraya Personal Pronouns
Free Actor or
Topic Oblique
1st person singular ĭau -(m)au -koh ĭau-an
plural excl. ĭmi-an -(m)ian, -(m)iän -kame mian-än (mian-an)
incl. ĭmĭtta -(m)ĭtta, -(m)eta -kĭtta ĭmittä-n
2nd person singular ĭmhu -(m)uhu, -(m)oho -kow ĭmhu-an
plural ĭmumi -(m)umi (-)kamu ĭmumi-än (ĭmumi-an)
3rd person singular teni tĭn teni tĭni-än (tĭni-an)
plural ta neini nein neini neini-än (neini-an)

Function words

The list of function words below is sourced from Adelaar (1997).



Negation markers

Other words


The following list of Siraya verb affixes is from Adelaar (1997).


See also Proto-Austronesian language for a list of Proto-Austronesian verbal affixes.


Like Bunun and many other Formosan languages, Siraya has a rich set of verbal classifier prefixes.


Siraya has a base ten numeral system with the following forms:[11]

Siraya Numerals
Cardinal Ordinal
1 saat, sa-saat nawnamu
2 ruha, ru-ruha ka-ra-ruha
3 turu, tu-turu ka-ta-turu
4 xpat, pa-xpat ka-axpat
5 rima, ri-rima ka-ri-rima
6 nom, nə-nəm ka-annəm
7 pĭttu, pĭ-pĭttu ka-pa-pĭttu
8 kuixpa ka-kuixpa
9 matuda ka-matuda, ka-ma-matuda
10 saat kĭttiän ka-sasaat kĭttiän
Examples of higher numerals
12 saat kĭttiän äb ki ruha
14 saat kĭttiän äb ki pat
30 turu kĭttiän
60 nənnəm kĭttiän
99 matuda kĭttiän äb ki matuda
100 saat ka-ätux-an
4,000 xpat ka-tunnun-an
5,000 lima ka-tunnun-an


The Lord's Prayer

Raman-jan ka ito-tounnoun kow ki vullu-vullum;
Pakou-titik-auh ta nanang-oho,
Pa-irou-au ta pei-sasou-an- oho,
Paamt-au ta kamoei-en-hou, mama tou tounnoun ki vullum, k'ma-hynna tou Naei
Ph'ei -kame wae'i k'atta ki paoul-ian ka mamsing.
Atta-ral-a ki kaeu-itting-en-hou ymiaen-an, mama ka attaral-kame ta ymiaen ki kaeu-itting-'niaen
Ka inei-kame dmyllough tou repung-an, ra haoumi-ei-kame ki littou.
Ka a'mouhou ta pei-sasou-an, ta pei-lpoug-han, ta keirang-en ki kidi tou yhkaquan myd-darynnough,

See also


  1. ^ Based on the Siraya vocabulary found in the Utrecht Manuscript written in the 17th century.
  2. ^ Based on the Siraya vocabulary found in the Gospel of St. Matthew written in the 17th century.
  3. ^ Attested in Siraya's Kongana community in the early 20th century.
  4. ^ Attested among Tevorangh-Taivoan communities, including Siaolin, Alikuan, and Kahsianpoo, in the early 20th century.
  5. ^ Attested in Makatao's Kanapo community in the early 20th century.
  6. ^ The exact phonemic value of "nḡ," as it appears in Siraya language documents, is unknown.


  1. ^ Musu hapa Siraya Archived 2008-09-06 at the Wayback Machine (in Chinese)
  2. ^ De Dagregisters van het Kasteel Zeelandia, Taiwan: 1629–1662. ʼS-Gravenhage: M. Nijhoff. 1986.
  3. ^ a b Lee, Jui-Yuan (2015). From Single to Group: The Formation of Sideia in the 17th Century. Department of History: National Cheng Kung University.
  4. ^ Tsuchida, Shigeru; Yamada, Yukihiro; Moriguchi, Tsunekazu (1991). Linguistic Materials of the Formosan Sinicized Populations I: Siraya and Basai. Tokyo: The University of Tokyo Department of Linguistics.
  5. ^ Blust, Robert; Trussel, Stephen (2018-05-12). "The Austronesian Comparative Dictionary, web edition". Retrieved 2018-05-26.
  6. ^ a b c Li, Paul Jen-kuei (2009). "Linguistic Differences Among Siraya, Taivuan, and Makatau". In Adelaar, A; Pawley, A (eds.). Austronesian Historical Linguistics and Culture History: A Festschrift for Robert Blust. Pacific Linguistics 601. Canberra: Pacific Linguistics. pp. 399–409. hdl:1885/34582. ISBN 9780858836013.
  7. ^ Campbell & Gravius (1888), p. 1.
  8. ^ Gravius, Daniel (1661). Het heylige Euangelium Matthei en Johannis. Ofte Hagnau ka d'llig matiktik ka na sasoulat ti Mattheus ti Johannes appa. Amsterdam: Michiel Hartogh. OCLC 69326189.
  9. ^ Campbell, William; Gravius, Daniel (1888). The Gospel of St. Matthew in Formosan (Sinkang dialect) with corresponding versions in Dutch and English (in Siraya, Dutch, and English). London: Trubner. OCLC 844610148.
  10. ^ Gravius, Daniel (1661). Patar ki tna-'msing-an ki Christang ofte. 't Formulier des Christendoms. Amsterdam: Michiel Hartogh. OCLC 846467128.
  11. ^ a b Adelaar, K. A. (1997). "Grammar Notes on Siraya, An Extinct Formosan Language". Oceanic Linguistics. 36 (2): 362–397. doi:10.2307/3622990. JSTOR 3622990.
  12. ^ Joby, Christopher (2020). "A Recently Discovered Copy of a Translation of the Gospel of St. John in Siraya". Oceanic Linguistics. 59 (1–2): 212–231. doi:10.1353/ol.2020.0011. S2CID 234958672.

Further reading