Girish Mahajan (Editor)

Nias language

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Native to  Indonesia
ISO 639-2  nia
Glottolog  nias1242
Native speakers  770,000 (2000 census)
ISO 639-3  nia
Writing system  Latin script
Region  Nias and Batu Islands, North Sumatra
Language family  Austronesian languages, Malayo-Sumbawan languages

The Nias language is an Austronesian language spoken on Nias Island and the Batu Islands off the west coast of Sumatra in Indonesia. It is known as Li Niha by its native speakers. It belongs to the Northwest Sumatran subgroup which also includes Mentawai and the Batak languages. It had about 770,000 speakers in 2000. There are three main dialects: northern, central and southern.



The following dialects are distinguished in Ethnologue.

  • Northern dialect: particularly the Gunungsitoli variety, Alasa and Lahewa area.
  • South dialect: South Nias, Gomo Area, Telukdalam Area and Batu Islands
  • Central dialect: Sirombu and Mandrehe areas, particularly in West Nias.
  • Phonology

    The southern dialect of Nias has the following phonemes:

    The status of initial [ʔ] is not determined; there are no phonetic vowel-initial words in Nias. Northern Nias has /ŋ/ but not /c/; in addition, /z/ is pronounced [z].


    Nias has an ergative–absolutive alignment. Unusually, it appears to be the absolutive (mutated) case which is marked, against the near-universal tendency to mark the ergative.

    There are no adjectives in Nias, with that function taken by verbs.

    Nias shows consonant mutation at the beginning of nouns and some other classes of words to show grammatical case. Several consonants are subject to mutation as shown in the table below. Where a word begins in a vowel, either n or g is added before the vowel; the choice of n or g is lexically conditioned. (For example, öri ~ nöri is 'village federation', öri ~ göri is 'bracelet'.)

    Other consonants do not change.

    The unmutated form is used in citation. The mutated form only occurs on the first noun in a noun phrase (that is, not after a conjunction like 'and'). It is used for:

  • absolutive case (with a transitive verb, only in a main clause; with an intransitive verb, also in dependent clauses)
  • possessor (nouns only; pronouns take a genitive case)
  • object of most prepositions (pronouns take the genitive)
  • both arguments of some experiencer verbs, such as:
  • 'The monkey is afraid of the child'

    Besides being the citation form, the unmutated form is used for:

  • ergative case
  • both arguments (A and P) in a dependent transitive clause
  • predicate nominal (with a copula)
  • with löna 'to not exist'
  • after some prepositions (such as faoma 'with (instrumental)')
  • topic
  • References

    Nias language Wikipedia

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