Ngutanese language

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tāyai ngutāyai
Pronunciation[ˈtaː.jai̯ ŋuˈtaː.jai̯]
Created byUnleashy
Spoken natively inNgutan
EthnicityNgutanese people
Native speakers23,000,000  (2017)
Language family
  • Ngutanese
Early forms:
Old Ngutan
  • Ngutanese
Official status
Official language inNgutan
Regulated byNgutanese Language Institute
CWS codengu

Ngutanese (tāyai ngutāyai, pronounced [ˈtaː.jai̯ ŋuˈtaː.jai̯]) is an Ngutanic language and an official language of Ngutan. Ngutanese is one of the two living members of the Ngutanic branch of Upper Borosan languages. Written examples of Old Ngutanese are attested from the 12th century and onwards.

It is spoken in Western Upper Boroso in Ngutan, with 23 million native speakers. Ngutanese is the #th most spoken language in the world by number of native speakers and #th by total number of speakers. In Ngutan, ??% of men and women speak Ngutanese natively, and the literacy rate is around ??%.

Ngutanese is rather agglutinative, with fusional tendencies. It utilizes a peculiar alignment system called the Ngutanese alignment and has a relatively simple phonological system with few phonemes.


The language is natively known as Ngutāyai, meaning roughly people's speech.



Linguistic classification

Ngutanese is surrounded by the Upper-Borosan languages, but is a language isolate.


Ngutanese has many dialects, mostly varying in phonology and usage of verbs. The main dialectic divide is the North–South divide, in which the Southern dialects usually eschew vowel length, evidentiality particles and drop final nasal consonants, leaving heavy nasalization in its wake; meanwhile, the Northern dialects are slightly more conservative, preserving vowel length and evidentiality, but weakening intervocalic stop consonants, such as /p t k/ becoming [b d g].

Southern dialects

The Southern dialects are spoken in and around the regions of Ongaipoa, Kōyan, Sayaisa and Yōka, with the variant spoken in Yōka having the greatest difference to Standard Ngutanese. The main change binding the Southern dialects together is the total loss of vowel length, making many words homophones. Additionally, in the vernacular language, evidentiality particles are lost in all but the Ongaipoa dialect. However, due to mass media diffusion of the dialect spoken in Nāwongu, Ngutan's capital, which does not drop evidentiality particles, evidentiality particles have been dropped less and less by younger people.

All Southern dialects also drop final nasal consonants, leaving nasalization in the last vowel.

Northern dialects

The Northern dialects are spoken in and around the regions of Tarukanopai, Pāureimo, Nēamū and, interestingly, in the island region of Yunaipoa, which is usually considered to be a Southern region and not a Northern one. Northern dialects are usually conservative, having only few divergences from Standard Ngutanese. The main difference is that /p t k/ between vowels is always lenited to [b d g], making the Northern dialects have a very different feel compared to the Southern dialects.


Ngutanese also experiences heavy diglossia due to schools teaching a highly formal and constrained form of Ngutanese compared to the Ngutanese spoken in daily life by most Ngutanese people. The school-taught variant is mostly used in formal circumstances and writing, with the other, vernacular form, being the one spoken in most other circumstances.



Bilabial Alveolar Post-alveolar Palatal Labiovelar Velar Glottal
Nasal m n ŋ
Plosive p t k
Fricative s̞¹ [ɕ̞]²
Affricate [t͡ɕ]⁴
Approximant j w
Flap or tap ɾ

¹very slightly fricated only

²before /i/, allophone of /s̞/

³after /h/, vowels get nasalized

⁴before /i/, allophone of /t/


Front Back
Close i i: u u:
Close-mid e e: o o:
Open a a:


ei̯: ei̯ au̯: au̯ ai̯: ai̯ ui̯: ui̯ eu̯: eu̯ ou̯: ou̯ oi̯: oi̯


Syllable Structure

(C)V(N), being: C = any consonant V = any vowel/diphthong N = any nasal

Note that <ng> /ŋ/ is considered a single consonant, not two. The N coda can only happen word-finally.

Stress information

Stress isn't phonemic, but there's a slight stress on the last syllable that has a long vowel; if there is no long vowel, the stress is on the penultimate syllable.


Ngutāyai is syllable-timed.


Romanization of Ngutanese is rather straightforward due to its simple phonology. The romanisation follows the phoneme principle, with each letter representing a single distinctive phoneme in most cases. However, allophony is not transcribed.

The following table describes each letter, with its glyph, spelling, and pronunciation.

Glyphs Spelling Pronunciation
A, a ā /aː/
E, e ē /eː/
H, h aho /ˈa.ho/
I, i ī /iː/
K, k ako /ˈa.ko/
M, m amo /ˈ
N, n ano /ˈ
Ng, ng ango /ˈa.ŋo/
O, o ō /oː/
P, p apo /ˈa.po/
R, r aro /ˈa.ɾo/
S, s aso /ˈ
T, t ato /ˈ
U, u ū /uː/
W, w awo /ˈa.wo/
Y, y ayo /ˈ

Grammar and syntax