Kavalan is no longer spoken in its original area. As of 1930, it was used only as a home language. As of 1987, it was still spoken in Atayal territories. In 2000, this language was still reported to be spoken by 24 speakers but considered moribund.
These speech communities in eastern Taiwan were named after older settlements from the north, such as Kariawan, Sahut, and Tamayan, where the Kavalan people originally migrated from. Modern-day Kavalan speakers are surrounded by the Amis.
Kavalan nouns and verbs are distinguished by the lack of /a/ in the first syllable (nouns) or presence of /a/ (verbs). Kavalan syllables take on the structure (C)(C)V(C)(C) (Li 2006:5). Kavalan is also one of two Formosan languages to have geminating consonants.
Kavalan affixes include:
m- (agent focus)
-um-/-m- (agent focus)
-in/-n- as variants of ni- (patient)
-a (irrealis patient-focus marker)
-an (locative-focus marker, nominalizer)
-i (imperative, patient focus)
Unlike many other Formosan languages, there is no *-en suffix.
Kavalan, like most other Formosan and Philippine languages, has many case markers.
Oblique: ta, tu
Genitive: na, ni
Locative: sa, ta- -an
Types of focus in Kavalan include (Li 2006:26-27):
The Kavalan case markers below are from Li (2006:27).
Kavalan Case Markers
sa, ta- -an
The Kavalan Personal pronouns below are from Li (2006:30).
Kavalan Personal Pronouns
Type of Pronoun
zata, -ta, -kita
The Kavalan affixes below are from Li (2006:14-24).
i-: stative, having to do with location
kar-: rapid motion; defective, not perfect
ki-, qi-: pluck, pidl
kin-: number of humans
luq(e)-: bumpy, rough (used with stative verbs)
m-, -m-, mu-, -u-, -um-: agent-focus
ma-, m-: stative
maq-: where from
mar-: sine kind of shape
mi-: discharge something from the body
mri-: settle down; to shrink, huddle up
mrim-: a division of (a numeral)
nan-: two people (kinship); distributive numeral
ni-, n-, -in-, -n-: past, perfective
pa-: causative (used with active verbs)
pa- -an: agentive
pa-ti: personal marker for the dead
paq-, paqa-: causative (used with stative verbs)
paq-: get on (a boat)
pa-qi-: cause to become
pat-: make a change
pi-: put into, put away; do something to protect a body part; every (time)
qa-: immediate future; ride, take (means of transportation)
qa- -an: place of/for
qaRu-: become, transform into; transformable into
qi-: pick, gather, get
qna-: nominaizer (used with stative verbs; -an is used with active verbs)
Ra-: to transform into
Ra-CV-: light color of
Ri-: catch, get
Ru-: just now; for the first time
sa-: have the event (natural phenomena); do, make, produce, have; secrete (body fluid); tool
saqa-: ordinal (numeral)
si-: wear, own, possess
sia-: go towards (place/direction); go to the side (often euphemistic for urinating/defecating)
^Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2017). "Kavalan". Glottolog 3.0. Jena, Germany: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History.
^Perrault, Nicolas; Farrell, Maxwell J.; Davies, T. Jonathan (2017). "Tongues on the EDGE: language preservation priorities based on threat and lexical distinctiveness". Royal Society Open Science. doi:10.1098/rsos.171218.