Kwalia language

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Tayam, To'ong
Regionsouthern Awating (Nguxi Province, Nąnim Province)
Native speakers3,900  (2020)
Language family
Writing systemLetso-Terminian script
Official status
Official language innone
CWS codewkl
The location of the Kwalia-speaking area in Awating, viewed within Akulanen.

Kwalia, additionally known as Tayam and To'ong, is a language isolate spoken by about 3,900 people in southeastern Awating. The Kwalia-speaking area consists of about a dozen small villages within a subtropical valley stretching across Nguxi and Nąnim Provinces in Awating. It is the only recorded living non-Ngerupic language in Akulanen.

Classification and number of speakers

Kwalia has been proven to be a language isolate, unrelated to any other languages. There have been numerous controversies about its classification, stemming from prior lack of reliable information about the language. However, as the Kwalia-speaking area became more accessible and more recent data was obtained, the few scholars studying the language began to question their earlier classifications, and Kwalia remains yet to be conclusively classified; current scholarly consensus and data suggest that Kwalia is a language isolate. Kwalia is also unusual in that, despite Awating's repressive and hostile indigenous language policy, the language's vitality is stable and even vigorous; despite the small size of the speech community, many Kwalia are monolingual or speak little Awatese, rates of inter-generational transmission are very high, and the speakerbase generally lacks a negative attitude toward the language. Kwalia is spoken natively by about 3,900 people across several villages in Awating.

From when study of the language began in the early 1960s to about 2014, very little reliable data was available about the language, due to the relative inaccessibility and isolation of the Kwalia-speaking area as well as the small number of speakers. While the sparse data did suggest that it may have been an isolate, linguists at the time generally classified Kwali as a Ngerupic language, owing to a few shared areal features in common with the Ngerupic languages of Awating as well as some loanwords from neighboring languages. Some scholars have also claimed that Kwalia was invented by groups of rural bandits as a method of concealing information, citing its areally unusual phonology and grammar and lack of consensus about the language's origins.

Linguist Amang Řąziya Ngunrą Zahang has posited that Kwalia is related to the Ngigu language of southern coastal Awating, and therefore related to the Abugo languages of Lahan via an Umo-Abugo language macrofamily. Neither proposal has been accepted by mainstream academia.




Alveolar Palatal/
Velar Labialized
Nasal m n ɲ ŋ ŋʷ
Plosive t ʈ k ʔ
Fricative s ʂ h
Approximant/Tap ɭ


Front Back
Close i u
Oral open-mid ɛ ɔ
Nasal open-mid ɛ̃ ɔ̃
Open a


Morphology and syntax


Further reading