Tayam language

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Tayam
bwèsèn
Pronunciation[βʷə̀sə̀ŋ]
Regionsouthern Awating (Nguxi Province, Nąnim Province)
EthnicityTayam
Native speakers3,900  (2020)
Language family
Writing systemLetso-Terminian script (rarely)
Tayam script (attempted)
Official status
Official language innone
CWS codeytm
TayamLocation.png
The location of the Tayam-speaking area in Awating, viewed within Akulanen.

Tayam is a language isolate spoken by about 3,900 people in southeastern Awating. The Tayam-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

Tayam 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 Tayam-speaking area became more accessible and more recent data was obtained, the few scholars studying the language began to question their earlier classifications, and Tayam remains yet to be conclusively classified; current scholarly consensus and data suggest that Tayam is a language isolate. Tayam 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 Tayam 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. Tayam 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 Tayam-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 Tayam 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 Tayam 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 Tayam 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.

Phonology

Phonemes

Bilabial Alveolar Palatal Labiovelar Velar Glottal
Ploaive plain p t k ʔ
labialized
Fricative plain β s h
labialized βʷ
Nasal ŋ
Approximant j w

Vowels

Front Central Back
Close í ì ú ù
Mid ə́ ə̀
Open ɑ́ ɑ̀

Phonotactics

Morphology and syntax

Vocabulary

Further reading