Formosan languages

The Formosan languages are a geographic grouping comprising the languages of the indigenous peoples of Taiwan, all of which are Austronesian. They do not form a single subfamily of Austronesian but rather nine separate subfamilies. The Taiwanese indigenous peoples recognized by the government are about 2.3% of the island's population. However, only 35% speak their ancestral language, due to centuries of language shift.[2] Of the approximately 26 languages of the Taiwanese indigenous peoples, at least ten are extinct, another four (perhaps five) are moribund,[3][4] and all others are to some degree endangered.

EthnicityTaiwanese aborigines (Formosan people)
Linguistic classificationAustronesian
  • Formosan
ISO 639-5fox
Families of Formosan languages before Chinese colonization, per Blust (1999). Malayo-Polynesian (red) may lie within Eastern Formosan (purple). The white section is unattested; some maps fill it in with Luiyang, Kulon or as generic 'Ketagalan'.[1]

The aboriginal languages of Taiwan have great significance in historical linguistics since, in all likelihood, Taiwan is the place of origin of the entire Austronesian language family. According to American linguist Robert Blust, the Formosan languages form nine of the ten principal branches of the family,[5] while the one remaining principal branch, Malayo-Polynesian, contains nearly 1,200 Austronesian languages found outside Taiwan.[6] Although some other linguists disagree with some details of Blust's analysis, a broad consensus has coalesced around the conclusion that the Austronesian languages originated in Taiwan,[7] and the theory has been strengthened by recent studies in human population genetics.[8]

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