Pastors of the Truku tribe in an Aboriginal township in Hualien have sought to preserve the tribe's culture and language by publishing the nation's first Truku dictionary yesterday.
In 1999, six pastors in Sioulin Township (秀林) of Hualien County formed a team to write the nation's first Truku dictionary after realizing that the tribe's language could soon be lost if they didn't put efforts into its preservation, Jiru Haruq, a pastor at a local church and an author of the dictionary, said.
Although Sioulin only has about 15,000 inhabitants, it is one of the two major Truku regions in the country, with over 85 percent of the population in the area, according to the township's Web site.
In the past, the Truku tribe was considered a subtribe of Atayal because of their close connections, Sioulin Township Mayor Syu Shu-yin (許淑銀) said.
Although the writing of the dictionary only began in 1999, the research started in 1953.
"In 1953, Pisaw Yudaw, a pastor at a local church, began to translate the Bible into Truku," said Iyuq Ciyang, another author of the dictionary.
"After five years working on the translation, Pisaw built a lexicon of 3,000 Truku root words, which became the base for the dictionary," he added.
Words in Truku are created by adding prefix, postfix and midfix to root words. A root word can develop into as many as 40 words, Jiru explained.
Midfix is added into the middle of a root word by separating the root word.
Taking an example from the dictionary, hakawis a root word meaning "bridge" in Truku, hmhakaw becomes "bridge-building", mhakaw is a bridge builder, shakaw is the reason to build a bridge and hkagan is the location where the bridge is built.
"Verb tenses and different parts of speech are also constructed by adding prefixes, postfixes or midfixes to a rood word," Iyuq said.
"Culture and language are inseparable," Jiru said. "The wisdom of our ancestors and our history are alive in the Truku language."
Jiru gave an example of how the Truku language is closely connected to the tribe's collective memory.
"Preserving the language is preserving our culture, our customs, and our traditions," Jiru said.