Amis language

Pangcah [paŋt͡saʜ]
Native to Taiwan
Ethnicity Ami
Native speakers
180,000 (2009)[1]
Language codes
ISO 639-3 ami
Glottolog amis1246[2]

(purple) Greater Ami
Amis language test of Wikipedia at Wikimedia Incubator

Amis is the Formosan language of the Amis (or Ami), an indigenous tribal people living along the east coast of Taiwan (see Taiwanese aborigines). Currently the largest of the Formosan languages, it is spoken from Hualien in the north to Taitung in the south, with another population near the southern end of the island, though the northern varieties are considered to be separate languages.

Government services in counties where many Amis people live in Taiwan such as the Hualien and Taitung train stations broadcast in Amis alongside Mandarin. However, few Amis under the age of 20 in 1995 spoke the language, and it is not known how many of the 138,000 ethnic Amis are speakers.


Amis is a dialect cluster. The northern varieties, Sakizaya and Nataoran, are divergent enough to be classified as separate languages. Within Amis proper, there are Tavalong-Vata'an, Middle, and Southern dialects, the latter including Malan and Hengchun Amis.


The following discussion covers the central dialect of Amis (Maddieson & Wright).


Labial Dental Alveolar Palatal Velar Epiglottal Glottal
Nasals m ŋ
Plosives and
p t͡s k ʡ ~ ʢ ʔ
Fricatives v ð̪ ~ ɮ̪ s (ɣ) ʜ h
Trill r
Lateral flap ɺ̠
Approximants w j

The voiceless plosives /p t k ʡ/ and the affricate /t͡s/ are released in clusters, so that cecay "one" is pronounced [t͡sᵊt͡saj]; as is /s/: sepat "four" is [sᵊpatʰ]. The glottal stop is an exception, frequently having no audible release in final position. The voiced fricatives, /v ɮ ɣ/ (the latter found only in loanwords) are devoiced to [f ɬ x] in utterance-final and sometimes initial position. /ɮ/ may be interdental or post-dental. The sibilants, /t͡s s/, are optionally palatalized ([t͡ɕ ɕ]) before /i/. /j/ does not occur in word-initial position. /ɺ/ is often post-alveolar, and in final position it is released: [ʡuʡuɺ̠ᵊ] "fog".

/ɮ/ shows dramatic dialectical variation. In Fengbin, a town in the center of Amis territory, it is pronounced as a central dental fricative, [ð̪], whereas in the town of Kangko, only 15 km away, it is a lateral [ɮ̪]. In Northern Amis, it is a plosive [d̪], which may be laxed to [ð̪] intervocalically. The epiglottals are also reported to have different pronunciations in the north, but the descriptions are contradictory. In Central Amis, /ʜ/ is always voiceless and /ʡ/ is often accompanied by vibrations that suggest it involves an epiglottal trill [ʢ]. Edmondson and Elsing report that these are true epiglottals initially and medially, but in utterance-final position they are epiglotto–pharyngeal.

Sakizaya, considered to be a separate language, contrasts a voiced /ɺ/ with voiceless /s/.

In the practical orthography, /ts/ is written c, /j/ y, /ʡ/ ', /ʔ/ ^, /ɮ/ d, /ŋ/ ng, and /ʜ/ x.


Front Central Back
Closed i u
Mid (ə̆)
Open a

Amis has three common vowels, /i a u/. Despite the fact that a great deal of latitude is afforded by only needing to distinguish three vowels, Amis vowels stay close to their cardinal values, though there is more movement of /a/ and /u/ toward each other (tending to the [o] range) than there is in front-vowel space (in the [e] range).

A voiceless epenthetic schwa optionally breaks up consonant clusters, as noted above. However, there are a small number of words where a short schwa (written e) may be phonemic. However, no contrast involving the schwa is known, and if it is also epenthetic, then Amis has words with no phonemic vowels at all. Examples of this e are malmes "sad", pronounced [maɺə̆mːə̆s], and ’nem "six", pronounced [ʡnə̆m] or [ʡə̆nə̆m].

Examples of words

  • lotong: monkey/ape
  • fafoy: pig
  • wacu: dog
  • pusi: cat
  • kudiwis: hare
  • cecay: one
  • tosa: two
  • tolo: three
  • sepat: four
  • lima: five
  • enem: six
  • pito: seven
  • falo: eight
  • siwa: nine
  • polo': ten


Verbs in the Amis language have some inflections including existential clause, active voice, passive voice, disposal sentence, imperative mood, optative mood, and prohibitive mood.

There are two word orders in Amis language, called "General" Word Order and "Special" Word Order.

Below are some examples of Amis sentence:

"General" Word Order Sentence I : Verb–subject

Verb Subject
Verb, Adjective, etc. ko (Preposition for Subjects)+Nouns


"General" Word Order Sentence II : Verb–subject–object

Verb Subject Object
Verb, Adjective, etc. ko (Preposition for Subjects)+Nouns to (Preposition for Objects)+Nouns



Sing ’Olam (2011:300-301) lists the following Amis names for villages and towns in Hualien County and Taitung County of eastern Taiwan.

  • Jialiwan 加里灣: Kaliyawan
  • Hualien 花蓮: Kalingko
  • Boboshe 薄薄社: Pokpok
  • Tianpu 田埔: Natawran
  • Taichang 太昌: Miyamay
  • Nanhua 南華: Mafuwakay
  • Geliu 歌柳: Keliw
  • Chinan 池南: Fanaw
  • Shoufeng 壽豐: Rinahem
  • Dongxing 東興: Cihafayan
  • Shanxing 山興: Cirakayan
  • Fenglin 鳳林: Cingaloan
  • Changqiao 長橋: Cirihan
  • Jialidong 加禮洞: Kalotongan
  • Matai’an 馬太鞍: Fata’an
  • Taibalang 太巴塱: Tafalong
  • Fengyuan 富源: Pa’ilasen
  • Qimei 奇美: Kiwit
  • Wurao 梧繞: ’Olaw
  • Hegang 鶴岡: ’Olalip
  • Ruiliang 瑞良: Fanaw
  • Wuhe 舞鶴: Ma’ifor
  • Lingya 苓雅 / Xiadewu 下德武: Lingacay / Satefo
  • Chunri 春日: Kohkoh
  • Lvfu 呂福: Mancelan
  • Gongqian 宮前: Makotaay
  • Dongchang 東昌: Lidaw
  • Lanliao 鹽寮: Tomay
  • Shuilian 水漣: Ciwidian
  • Yuemei 月眉: ’Apalo
  • Jiqi 磯崎: Karoroan
  • Xinshe 新社: Paterongan
  • Gongxia 宮下: Mararoong
  • Fengfu 豐富: Tingalaw
  • Baliwan 八里灣: Faliyol
  • Fengbin 豐濱: Fakong
  • Lide 立德: Kudic
  • Gangkou 港口: Makotaay
  • Jingpu 靜浦: Cawi’
  • Zhangyuan 樟原: Koladot
  • Dajulai 大俱來: Tapwaray
  • Zhenbing 真柄: Makrahay
  • Changguang 長光: Ciwkangan
  • Yongfu 永福: Mornos
  • Nanzhuhu 南竹湖: Pakara’ac
  • Baisang’an 白桑安: Pasongan
  • Jinnalujiao 僅那鹿角: Kinanoka
  • Wushibi 烏石鼻: Cidatayay
  • Danman 膽曼: Ta’man
  • Yiwan 宜灣: Sa’aniwan
  • Shanxia 山下: Tokar
  • Gaoliao 高寮: Takoliyaw
  • Yuli 玉里: Posko
  • Tiefen 鐵份: Afih
  • Lehe 樂合: Harawan
  • Antong 安通: Angcoh
  • Wanning 萬寧: Malingpo
  • Dongzhu 東竹: Talampo
  • Xuetian 學田: Mali^wang
  • Fengnan 豐南: Cilamitay
  • Chishang 池上: Fanaw
  • Taiyuan 泰源: Alapawan
  • Degao 德高: Takofan
  • Ruiyuan 瑞源: Fong
  • Luye 鹿野: Palayapay
  • Liji 利吉: Dikidiki
  • Kangle 康樂: Ining
  • Fengli 豐里: Arapanay
  • Bo’ai 博愛: Tomiyac
  • Zhongxiao 忠孝: Mararoong
  • Sanxiantai 三仙台: Pisirian
  • Chenggong 成功: Madawdaw
  • Zhongren 忠仁: Cilikesay
  • Heping 和平: Kahciday
  • Jiaping 嘉平: Kanalatip
  • Fengtian 豐田: Paongong
  • Duli 都歷: Torik
  • Xiaoma 小馬: Tera’
  • Dama 大馬: Fafukud
  • Luchang 隆昌: Kiningafar
  • Xingchang 興昌: Pa’anifong
  • Dulan 都蘭: ^Tolan
  • Jialulan 加路蘭: Karoroan
  • Malan 馬蘭: Falangaw
  • Taitung 台東: Posong
  • Madan 馬旦: Matang



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