The government is planning to launch a six-year "indigenous language revitalization plan" aimed at conserving and revitalizing Aboriginal tongues, the Council of Indigenous Peoples said yesterday.
Under the plan, to begin next year, efforts will be made to help convert indigenous spoken languages into written form, said Wang Chiou-i
Wang said it would take immense public resources to collect and preserve the languages, some of which are on the brink of extinction, before transforming them into dictionaries or digital archives.
Only by transforming the languages into written texts and digital archives can the languages be preserved for generations to come, he said.
Taiwan has the largest number of languages associated with the Austronesian-language group, which underwent the widest physical dispersion of any language family prior to European colonial expansion to the Americas, Wang said.
Austronesian languages are spoken from the island of Madagascar off the east coast of Africa, all the way to isolated Easter Island (Rapa Nui) and extending to Taiwan, Vietnam, Northern Australia, New Zealand and most of the Melanesian and Polynesian islands.
The existence of more than 20 different Austronesian languages on a single island -- Taiwan -- is a rarity in history and philology, he added.
It is hoped that after the six-year language revitalization plan is carried out, Taiwan will turn out to be a stronghold of Austronesian language research and development and a paradigm of native language development, Wang said.
The six-year plan includes measures to regenerate indigenous languages, enact relevant statutes, set up a promotional agency to compile dictionaries and language teaching materials, train teachers, create language immersion programs, use high-technology teaching tools, establish a certification system for language proficiency and encourage the learning of traditional and contemporary folk songs.
Taiwan's Aborigines are considered the northernmost Austronesian people. The government currently divides them into 13 major mountain tribes and 10 Pingpu groups.
While elements of the languages and cultures of the mountain tribes have been maintained, most of the native languages of the Pingpu people have died out and no traces remain.
Among the mountain Aborigines, the Saisiat and the Atayal are believed to have migrated to Taiwan some 3,000 years ago.
The 13 major mountain tribal groups are the Amis, Atayal, Bunun, Kavalan, Paiwan, Puyuma, Rukai, Saisiat, Sakizaya, Thao, Truku, Tsou and Tao.
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