Bunun language

The Bunun language (Chinese: 布農語) is spoken by the Bunun people of Taiwan. It is one of the Formosan languages, a geographic group of Austronesian languages, and is subdivided in five dialects: Isbukun, Takbunuaz, Takivatan, Takibaka and Takituduh. Isbukun, the dominant dialect, is mainly spoken in the south of Taiwan. Takbunuaz and Takivatan are mainly spoken in the center of the country. Takibaka and Takituduh both are northern dialects. A sixth dialect, Takipulan, became extinct in the 1970s.

The Saaroa and Kanakanabu, two smaller minority groups who share their territory with an Isbukun Bunun group, have also adopted Bunun as their vernacular.

Native toTaiwan
EthnicityBunun people
Native speakers
38,000 (2002)[1]
  • Isbukun
  • North–Central (Takitudu–Takbanua)
Official status
Recognised minority
language in
Language codes
ISO 639-3bnn
Formosan languages 2008
(medium green, center) Bunun


Li (1988) splits the Bunun dialects into 3 main branches — Northern, Central, and Isbukun (also classified as Southern Bunun).[3] Isbukun, the prestige dialect, is also the most divergent dialect. The most conservative dialects are spoken in the north.

  • Proto-Bunun
    • Isbukun
    • North-Central
      • Northern
        • Takituduh
        • Takibakha
      • Central
        • Takbanua
        • Takivatan

Bunun was originally spoken in and around Sinyi Township (Xinyi) in Nantou County (De Busser 2009:63). From the 17th century onwards, the Bunun people expanded towards the south and east, absorbing other ethnic groups such as the Saaroa, Kanakanabu, and Thao. Bunun is spoken in an area stretching from Ren-ai Township in Nantou in the north to Yan-ping Township in Taitung in the south. Isbukun is distributed throughout Nantou, Taitung, and Kaohsiung. Takbanuað is spoken in Nantou and southern Hualien County. Takivatan is spoken in Nantou and central Hualien. Both Takituduh and Takibakha are spoken in Nantou.



Consonant inventory
  Bilabial Labio-
Dental Alveolar Velar Uvular Glottal
Plosive p           t   k   q   ʔ  
Implosive   ɓ           ɗ            
Fricative       v   ð s       χ   h  
Nasal   m           n   ŋ        
Approximant               l            

Orthographic notes:

  • /ɓ ɗ/ are usually represented as ⟨b⟩, ⟨d⟩.
  • /ð/ is represented as ⟨z⟩, /ŋ/ as ⟨ng⟩, /ʔ/ as ⟨'⟩, and /dʒ/ as ⟨j⟩.


  • The glides /j w/ exist, but are derived from the underlying vowels /i u/ to meet the requirements that syllables must have onset consonants. They are therefore not part of the consonant inventory.
  • The dental fricative /ð/ is actually interdental (/ð̟/).
  • In the Isbukun dialect, /χ/ often occurs in final or post-consonantal position and /h/ in initial and intervocalic position, whereas other dialects have /q/ in both of these positions.
  • While Isbukun drops the intervocalic glottal stops (/ʔ/) found in other dialects, /ʔ/ also occurs where /h/ occurs in other dialects. (For example, the Isbukun word [mapais] bitter is [mapaʔis] in other dialects; the Isbukun word [luʔum] 'cloud' is [luhum] in other dialects.)
  • The alveolar affricate /dʒ/ occurs in the Taitung variety of Isbukun, usually represented in other dialects as /t/.[4]


Vowel inventory
Front Central Back
High i u
Mid e
Low a


  • /e/ does not occur in Isbukun.



Bunun is a verb-initial language and has an Austronesian alignment system or focus system. This means that Bunun clauses do not have a nominative–accusative or absolutive–ergative alignment, but that arguments of a clause are ordered according to which participant in the event described by the verb is 'in focus'. In Bunun, four distinct roles can be in focus:

  • the agent: the person or thing that is doing the action or achieving/maintaining a state;
  • the undergoer: the person or thing that is somehow participating in the action without being an agent; there are three kinds of undergoers:
    • patients: persons or things to whom an action is done or an event happens
    • instruments: things (sometimes persons) which are used to perform an action
    • beneficiaries (also called recipients): the persons (sometimes things) for whom an action is done or for whom an event happens
  • the locative participant: the location where an action takes place; in languages with a Philippine-style voice system, spatial location is often at the same level in a clause as agents and patients, rather than being an adverbial clause, like in English (see [5] for a discussion of location in Tagalog).

Which argument is in focus is indicated on the verb by a combination of prefixes and suffixes .[6]

  • a verb in agent focus is often unmarked, but can get the prefix ma- or - more rarely - pa- or ka-
  • a verb in undergoer focus gets a suffix -un
  • a verb locative focus gets a suffix -an

Many other languages with a focus system have different marking for patients, instruments and beneficiaries, but this is not the case in Bunun. The focussed argument in a Bunun clause will normally always occur immediately after the verb (e.g. in an actor-focus clause, the agent will appear before any other participant) and is in the Isbukun dialect marked with a post-nominal marker a.[6]

Bunun has a very large class of auxiliary verbs. Concepts that are expressed by auxiliaries include:

  • negation (ni 'be not' and uka 'have not')
  • modality and volition (e.g. maqtu 'can, be allowed')
  • relative time (e.g. ngausang 'first, beforehand', qanaqtung 'be finished')
  • comparison (maszang 'the same, similarly')
  • question words (e.g. via 'why?')
  • sometimes numerals (e.g. tatini '(be) alone, (be) only one')

In fact, Bunun auxiliaries express all sorts of concepts that in English would be expressed by adverbial phrases, with the exception of time and place, which are normally expressed with adverbial phrases.

Word classes

Takivatan Bunun has the following word classes (De Busser 2009:189). (Note: Words in open classes can be compounded, whereas those in closed classes cannot.)

Open classes
  1. Nouns
  2. Verbs
  3. Adjectives
Closed classes
  1. Demonstratives
  2. Anaphoric pronouns
  3. Personal pronouns
  4. Numerals
  5. Place words
  6. Time words
  7. Manner words
  8. Question words
  9. Auxiliaries


Bunun is morphologically agglutinative language and has a very elaborate set of derivational affixes (more than 200, which are mostly prefixes), most of which derive verbs from other word classes.[7] Some of these prefixes are special in that they do not only occur in the verb they derive, but are also foreshadowed on a preceding auxiliary. These are called lexical prefixes[8] or anticipatory prefixes[9] and only occur in Bunun and a small number of other Formosan languages.

Below are some Takivatan Bunun verbal prefixes from De Busser (2009).

Takivatan Bunun verbal prefixes
Type of prefix Neutral Causative Accusative
Movement from mu- pu- ku-
Dynamic event ma- pa- ka-
Stative event ma- / mi- pi- ka- / ki-
Inchoative event min- pin- kin-

In short:

  • Movement from: Cu-
  • Dynamic event: Ca-
  • Stative event: Ci-
  • Inchoative event: Cin-
  • Neutral: mV-
  • Causative: pV-
  • Accusative: kV-

A more complete list of Bunun affixes from De Busser (2009) is given below.

  • agent focus (AF):
  • undergoer focus (UF): -un (also used as a nominalizer)
  • locative focus (LF): -an (also used as a nominalizer)
Tense-aspect-mood (TAM) affixes
  • na- irrealis (futurity, consequence, volition, imperatives). This is also the least bound TAM prefix.
  • -aŋ progressive (progressive aspect, simultaneity, expressing wishes/optative usage)
  • -in perfective (completion, resultative meaning, change of state, anteriority)
  • -in- past/resultative (past, past/present contrast)
  • -i- past infix which occurs only occasionally
Participant cross-reference
  • -Ø agent
  • -un patient
  • -an locative
  • is- instrumental
  • ki- beneficiary
Locative prefixes
  • Stationary ‘at, in’: i-
  • Itinerary ‘arrive at’: atan-, pan-, pana-
  • Allative ‘to’: mu-, mun-
  • Terminative ‘until’: sau-
  • Directional ‘toward, in the direction of’: tan-, tana-
  • Viative ‘along, following’: malan-
  • Perlative ‘through, into’: tauna-, tuna-, tun-
  • Ablative ‘from’: maisna-, maina-, maisi-, taka-
Event-type prefixes
  • ma- Marks dynamic events
  • ma- Marks stative events
  • mi- Marks stative negative events
  • a- Unproductive stative prefix
  • paŋka- Marks material properties (stative)
  • min- Marks result states (transformational)
  • pain- Participatory; marks group actions
  • pa- causative of dynamic verb
  • pi- causative of stative verb
  • pu- cause to go towards
Classification of events
  • mis- burning events
  • tin- shock events
  • pala- splitting events
  • pasi- separating events
  • kat- grasping events
Patient-incorporating prefixes
  • bit- 'lightning'
  • kun- 'wear'
  • malas- 'speak'
  • maqu- 'use'
  • muda- 'walk'
  • pas- 'spit'
  • qu- 'drink'
  • sa- 'see'
  • tal- 'wash'
  • tapu- 'have trait'
  • tastu- 'belong'
  • taus-/tus- 'give birth'
  • tin- 'harvest'
  • tum- 'drive'
  • pu- verbalizer: 'to hunt for'
  • maqu- verbalizer: 'to use'
  • malas- verbalizer: 'to speak'


Takivatan Bunun personal pronoun roots are (De Busser 2009:453):

  • 1s: -ak-
  • 2s: -su-
  • 3s: -is-
  • 1p (incl.): -at-
  • 1p (excl.): -ðam-
  • 2p: -(a)mu-
  • 3p: -in-

The tables of Takivatan Bunun personal pronouns below are sourced from De Busser (2009:441).

Takivatan Bunun Personal Pronouns
Type of
Root Foc. Agent
Non-Foc. Agent
Neutral Foc. Agent Locative Possessive
1s. -ak- -(ʔ)ak -(ʔ)uk ðaku, nak sak, saikin ðakuʔan inak, ainak, nak
2s. -su- -(ʔ)as - suʔu, su - suʔuʔan isu, su
1p. (incl.) -at- - - mita ʔata, inʔata mitaʔan imita
1p. (excl.) -ðam- -(ʔ)am - ðami, nam ðamu, sam ðamiʔan inam, nam
2p. -(a)mu- -(ʔ)am - muʔu, mu amu muʔuʔan imu, mu
Takivatan Bunun
Third-Person Personal Pronouns
Singular Plural
[Root] -is- -in-
Proximal isti inti
Medial istun intun
Distal ista inta

Iskubun Bunun personal pronouns are somewhat different (De Busser 2009:454).

Iskubun Bunun Personal Pronouns
Type of
Agent Undergoer Possessive
1s. saikin, -ik ðaku, -ku inak, nak
2s. kasu, -as su isu, su
3s. saia saiʤa isaiʤa, saiʤa
1p. (incl.) kata, -ta mita imita
1p. (excl.) kaimin, -im ðami inam
2p. kamu, -am mu imu
3p. naia inaiʤa naiʤa


Takivatan Bunun has the following demonstrative roots and affixes (De Busser 2009:454):

Demonstrative suffixes
  1. Proximal: -i
  2. Medial: -un
  3. Distal: -a
Demonstrative roots
  1. aip-: singular
  2. aiŋk-: vague plural
  3. aint-: paucal
  4. ait-: inclusive generic
Demonstrative prefixes
  1. Ø-: visible
  2. n-: not visible
Place words
  1. ʔiti here
  2. ʔitun there (medial)
  3. ʔita there (distal)

Function words

  • sia anaphoric marker, "aforementioned"; also used as a hesitation marker
  • tu attributive marker
  • duma "others"
  • itu honorific marker

Takivatan Bunun also has definitive markers.

Takivatan Bunun
Definiteness Markers
Singular Plural
Proximal -ti -ki
Medial -tun -kun
Distal -ta -ka


  1. ^ Bunun at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015)
  2. ^ Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2017). "Bunun". Glottolog 3.0. Jena, Germany: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History.
  3. ^ Li, Paul Jen-kuei. 1988. A Comparative Study of Bunun Dialects. In Li, Paul Jen-kuei, 2004, Selected Papers on Formosan Languages. Taipei, Taiwan: Institute of Linguistics, Academia Sinica.
  4. ^ De Busser, Rik. Introduction to the Bunun language (Languages of Taiwan, 2011), pp. 7-8.
  5. ^ Schachter & Otanes 1972
  6. ^ a b Zeitoun 2000
  7. ^ Lin & al. 2001
  8. ^ Nojima 1996
  9. ^ Adelaar 2004


  • Adelaar, K. Alexander. 2004. The coming and going of ‘lexical prefixes’ in Siraya. Language and Linguistics/語言暨語言學 5(2): 333-361.
  • De Busser, Rik. 2009. Towards a Grammar of Takivatan: Selected Topics. PhD dissertation at the Research Centre for Linguistic Typology, La Trobe University, Melbourne, Australia.
  • Jeng, Heng-hsiung. 1977. Topic and Focus in Bunun. Taipei: Academia Sinica.
  • Nojima, Motoyasu. 1996. Lexical prefixes of Bunun verbs. Gengo Kenkyu: Journal of the Linguistic Society of Japan 110: 1-27.
  • Li, Paul Jen-Kuei. 1988. A comparative study of Bunun dialects. Bulletin of the Institute of History and Philology, Academia Sinica 59(2): 479-508.
  • Schachter, Paul and Fe T. Otanes. 1972. Tagalog Reference Grammar. Berkeley: University of California Press.
  • 齊莉莎 (Zeitoun, Elizabeth). 2000. 布農語參考語法. Taipei:遠流/YLib.
  • 林太 (Lin Tai), 曾思奇 (Zeng Si-Qi), 李文甦 (Li Wen-Su) and 卜袞 (Bukun). 2001. Isbukun.布農語構詞法研究. Taipei: 讀冊文化/Du-Ce Wen-Hua.
  • Anu Ispalidav. 2014. 布農族語讀本:認識郡群布農族語. Taipei: Shitu Publishing House 使徒出版社.

External links

Austronesian languages

The Austronesian languages are a language family that is widely dispersed throughout Maritime Southeast Asia, Madagascar and the islands of the Pacific Ocean, with a few members in continental Asia. Austronesian languages are spoken by about 386 million people (4.9%), making it the fifth-largest language family by number of speakers. Major Austronesian languages with the highest number of speakers are Malay (Indonesian and Malaysian), Javanese, and Filipino (Tagalog). The family contains 1,257 languages, which is the second most of any language family.Similarities between the languages spoken in the Malay Archipelago and the Pacific Ocean were first observed in 1706 by the Dutch scholar Adriaan Reland. In the 19th century, researchers (e.g. Wilhelm von Humboldt, Herman van der Tuuk)

started to apply the comparative method to the Austronesian languages, but the first comprehensive and extensive study on the phonological history of the Austronesian language family including a reconstruction of Proto-Austronesian lexicon was made by the German linguist Otto Dempwolff. The term Austronesian itself was coined by Wilhelm Schmidt (German austronesisch, based on Latin auster "south wind" and Greek νῆσος "island"). The family is aptly named, as the vast majority of Austronesian languages are spoken on islands: only a few languages, such as Malay and the Chamic languages, are indigenous to mainland Asia. Many Austronesian languages have very few speakers, but the major Austronesian languages are spoken by tens of millions of people and one Austronesian language, Malay (including both Indonesian and Malaysian variants), is spoken by 250 million people, making it the 8th most spoken language in the world. Approximately twenty Austronesian languages are official in their respective countries (see the list of major and official Austronesian languages).

Different sources count languages differently, but Austronesian and Niger–Congo are the two largest language families in the world by the number of languages they contain, each having roughly one-fifth of the total languages counted in the world. The geographical span of Austronesian was the largest of any language family before the spread of Indo-European in the colonial period, ranging from Madagascar off the southeastern coast of Africa to Easter Island in the eastern Pacific. Hawaiian, Rapa Nui, and Malagasy (spoken on Madagascar) are the geographic outliers of the Austronesian family.

According to Robert Blust (1999), Austronesian is divided in several primary branches, all but one of which are found exclusively on Taiwan. The Formosan languages of Taiwan are grouped into as many as nine first-order subgroups of Austronesian. All Austronesian languages spoken outside Taiwan (including its offshore Yami language) belong to the Malayo-Polynesian branch, sometimes called Extra-Formosan.

Most Austronesian languages lack a long history of written attestation, making the feat of reconstructing earlier stages – up to distant Proto-Austronesian – all the more remarkable. The oldest inscription in the Cham language, the Đông Yên Châu inscription, but with the influence of Indo-European languages, dated to the mid-6th century AD at the latest, is also the first attestation of any Austronesian language.

Bible translations into the languages of Taiwan

The Bible translations into the languages of Taiwan are into Taiwanese, Hakka, Amis, and other languages of Taiwan.


Bunun can refer to:、

the Bunun people

the Bunun language

Bunun people

The Bunun (Chinese: 布農; pinyin: Bùnóng), also historically known as the Vonum, are a Taiwanese indigenous people and are best known for their sophisticated polyphonic vocal music. They speak the Bunun language. Unlike other aboriginal peoples in Taiwan, the Bunun are widely dispersed across the island's central mountain ranges. In the year 2000, the Bunun numbered 41,038. This was approximately 8% of Taiwan's total indigenous population, making them the fourth-largest indigenous group. They have five distinct communities: the Takbunuaz, the Takituduh, the Takibaka, the Takivatan, and the Isbukun.

Chiaming Lake

The Chiaming Lake (Chinese: 嘉明湖; pinyin: Jiāmíng Hú) is a lake in Haiduan Township, Taitung County, Taiwan. It is the second highest lake area in Taiwan.

List of endangered languages in Asia

An endangered language is a language that is at risk of falling out of use, generally because it has few surviving speakers. If it loses all of its native speakers, it becomes an extinct language. A language may be endangered in one area but show signs of revitalisation in another, as with the Irish language.

The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization defines five levels of language endangerment between "safe" (not endangered) and "extinct":

Vulnerable - "most children speak the language, but it may be restricted to certain domains (e.g., home)"

Definitely endangered - "children no longer learn the language as mother tongue in the home"

Severely endangered - "language is spoken by grandparents and older generations; while the parent generation may understand it, they do not speak it to children or among themselves"

Critically endangered - "the youngest speakers are grandparents and older, and they speak the language partially and infrequently"

Extinct - "there are no speakers left; included in the Atlas if presumably extinct since the 1950s"The list below includes the findings from the third edition of Atlas of the World's Languages in Danger (2010; formerly the Red Book of Endangered Languages), as well as the online edition of the aforementioned publication, both published by UNESCO.

List of endangered languages in China

An endangered language is a language that it is at risk of falling out of use, generally because it has few surviving speakers. If it loses all of its native speakers, it becomes an extinct language. UNESCO defines four levels of language endangerment between "safe" (not endangered) and "extinct":


Definitely endangered

Severely endangered

Critically endangered

Namaxia District

Namaxia District (Tsou language: Namasia; Chinese: 那瑪夏區; Hanyu Pinyin: Nàmǎxià Qū; Tongyong Pinyin: Nàmǎsià Cyu; Wade–Giles: Na4-ma3-hsia4 Ch'ü1), formerly Sanmin Township (三民鄉; Sānmín Xiāng), is a mountain indigenous district located in the northeastern part of Kaohsiung, Taiwan. It is the second largest district in Kaohsiung after Taoyuan District.

The population of the township is mainly the indigenous Bunun, Kanakanavu and Saaroa peoples. The modern-day population of the Kanakanavu people live in the two villages of Manga and Takanua (Zeitoun & Teng 2014).

Saaroa language

Saaroa or Hla’alua is a Southern Tsouic language is spoken by the Saaroa (Hla'alua) people, an indigenous people of Taiwan. It is a Formosan language of the Austronesian family.

The Saaroa live in the two villages of Taoyuan and Kaochung in Taoyuan District (Taoyuan Township), Kaohsiung City, Taiwan (Zeitoun & Teng 2014).

With fewer than 10 native speakers and an ethnic population of 400 people, Saaroa is considered critically endangered. Even among native speakers of the language, they use primarily Mandarin or Bunun in their daily lives. There is no longer an active speech community for Saaroa.

Stylotermes halumicus

Stylotermes halumicus is a species of termite in the Isoptera family Stylotermitidae.

Thao people

The Thao/Ngan (Chinese: 邵族; pinyin: Shào zú) are a small group of Taiwanese aborigines who have lived near Sun Moon Lake (Lake Candidius) in central Taiwan for at least a century, and probably since the time of the Qing dynasty. In the year 2000 the Thao/Ngan people numbered only 281, making them the smallest of all of the recognized aboriginals in Taiwan (a number of aboriginal peoples, both smaller and larger than the Thao in population, remain unrecognized by the Taiwanese governing authorities).They are the smallest of the Taiwanese aborigine group in terms of population and the smallest ethnic group in Taiwan. Despite their small group size, the Thao/Ngan have retained their customs, beliefs and traditional culture and language until now, though they have been assimilated into mainstream Chinese culture as well. Most of the members of this ethnic group work today as menial workers, cooks and vendors in the tourism industry at Sun Moon Lake. The Chi-Chi earthquake of 1999 damaged or destroyed 80% of the houses of the Thao/Ngan and made many of them lose employment.

Voiceless dental and alveolar lateral fricatives

Not to be confused with the Voiceless alveolar lateral affricate, the Tibetan lh as in Lhasa

The voiceless alveolar lateral fricative is a type of consonantal sound, used in some spoken languages. The symbol in the International Phonetic Alphabet that represents voiceless dental, alveolar, and postalveolar lateral fricatives is [ɬ], and the equivalent X-SAMPA symbol is [K]. The symbol [ɬ] is called "belted l" and should not be confused with "l with tilde", [ɫ], which transcribes a different sound, the velarized alveolar lateral approximant. It should also be distinguished from a voiceless alveolar lateral approximant, although the fricative is sometimes incorrectly described as a "voiceless l", a description fitting only of the approximant.

Several Welsh names beginning with this sound (e.g. Llwyd /ɬʊɨd/, Llywelyn /ɬəˈwɛlɨn/) have been borrowed into English, where they either retain the Welsh ⟨ll⟩ spelling but are pronounced with an /l/ (Lloyd, Llewellyn), or are substituted with ⟨fl⟩ (pronounced /fl/) (Floyd, Fluellen).

Other languages
Northern Formosan
East Formosan
Southern Formosan

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