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Han language

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Han language
Pronunciation /haɴ.ɡan/
Region Han archipelago; Guam; North Mariana islands; Palau; Micronesia; Han ethnic enclaves in Sierra
Native speakers
approx. 147,500,000+ (globally) (est.2017)
L2 – ~14,500,000
Hanzi (mainly); Zhuyin (ruby script); Latin alphabet (rarely/historically); Baybayin (historically)
Signed Han
Official status
Official language in
Flag of Hani.svg Great Han Empire (official)
Flag of Sierra.svg Sierra (co-official)
Regulated by International Order on the Han language
Language codes
ISO 639-1 hn
ISO 639-3

Standard Han (呂宋的言, tr. Lusongjian; ['d͡ʒjän]) is the national language of Hani, being the most spoke variety of Han, and being the tenth-most spoken language by native speakers and the eleventh-most spoken language including L2 speakers. It is an Austronesian language, albeit heavily influenced by the Sinitic languages, most notably Hokkien and Cantonese, with Han vocabulary being significantly influenced by Spanish and Mandarin.

Standard Han and the rest of its regional varieties have been analyzed as an ergative-absolute language displaying an agglutinative morphology, utilizing affixation, including a variety of suffixes, circumfixes, and prefixes, to inflect and display information. While the word order is relatively free barring a few rules, the standardized word order is SVO (subject-verb-object) as in Chinese, with infinitives often placed at sentence-final position. Sentence structure is typically topic-comment, and since there is no topic marker, the topic is always placed at the beginning of the sentence. As it is a null-subject language, the subject is often omitted and instead indicate through context. It is a largely moraic language, with simplified phonotactics in comparison to English. Each syllable is typically comprises only of two phonemes: a consonant or a vowel, with consonant clusters not permitted. However, final nasals and approximants are possible, with several final syllables devoiced to yield final consonant allophones (such as [su] becoming /s/).

Standard Han is based on the Han varieties of Manila and the surrounding area, spoken by approximately half of the Han population. It is ultimately derived from Old Tagalog, which is a descendant of proto-Austronesian, thus making Han part of the Austronesian languages.Historically, it experienced areal contact with the Sinitic languages and the Japonic languages, with Hokkien and Cantonese eventually directly influencing it as a superstratum due to Chinese settlement. The Great Han Consonant Shift was marked by the palatization of plosives preceding /i/, devoicing and spirantization of final plosives, and general moraicization. Grammar was not affected, though morphology and syntax changed significantly.

The official global regulatory body of the Han language is the International Order on the Han language, which regulates its the proper usage. The Han language is written primarily in Han Hanzi, a conservative logographic script based upon Chinese characters. However, its usage is tweaked to fit the grammatical complexity of Han.




The earliest form of Han was called Old Tagalog; which had developed from a branch of Central Hannic. Early Tagalog was part of a dialect continuum that stretched from Northeast Nando to the southern half of Beido. The earliest attested document featuring the language was the Chuunju Copperplate Inscript, which written using the Baybayin script; which in-turn ultimately derives from the Brahmic scripts introduced from India. By the thirteenth century, through a series of conquests and settlement, Old Tagalog became the dominant language of southern Beido. Starting in the early sixteenth and ending in the mid-seventeenth centuries, basic syntax was reorganized to a topicalized verb-medial order (from a standard subject-prominent verb-initial order), and many infixes became prefixation; results of areal contact with the various Sinitic languages and Early Modern Japanese.

Great Han Phonetic Shift

In the eighteenth century, Sinitic languages gained official recognition, with Mandarin (based on the Nanjing dialect) becoming the official language of administration, whilst Hokkien emerged as the lingua franca of the islands, both exerting significant influence on the phonology of Old Tagalog. The usage of Baybayin was banned in-favour of Classical Chinese, though a vernacular script utilizing Hanzi characters was developed and standardized in 1740 under the reign of the Zhenmu Empress.

However, the imperial decree had only standardized changes that had started earlier, in the mid-seveteenth century. During this period, many consonant endings were either dropped or converted into separate syllables via paragoge. Other notable changes were the palatization of plosives and the unpacking of archaic diphthongs. It also marked the shift of a language that utilized stress to distinguish homonyms, to one that utilized tone, as when the ending consonants were altered, the preceding vowels developing tone distinctions. Final plosives, fricatives, and approximants having bouncing, falling, and rising pitch registers respectively.

List of phonemic changes


  • initial /p/ fuses with /h/
    • unless it precedes rounded vowels (/o/, /u/, /ə)
  • final /p/ turns into fricative, turns into /ɸ/ followed by /u/
  • if intervocalic, turns into /d͡ʒ/
  • medial /l/ fuses with /r/
  • final /l/ is dropped
  • initial /s/ is palatized into /ʃ/
    • if precedes /i/ and /ɪ/
  • final /s/ is voiced, turns into /z/ followed by /u/
  • final /m/ fuses with /n/
  • palatized into /ʃ/
  • palatized into ɸ
  • initial and medial /t/
    • if precedes /u/ turns into voiceless affricate /ts/
    • if precedes /i/ and /ɪ/ palatized into /t͡ʃ/
  • final /t/ is dropped
  • if placed intervocalically, /t/ becomes a double consonant
  • palatizes into /t͡ʃ/ unless it precedes /u/
  • initial /d/
    • if precedes /u/, /i/, and /ɪ/, palatizes into /d͡ʒ/
  • final /d/ is dropped
  • initial /ŋ/ is glottalized and spirantized into /h/
  • medial /ŋ/ fuses with /ɴ/
    • if succeeded by vowel, turns into consonant cluster /ɴʔ/
  • final /ŋ/ is dropped if word is monosyllabic
  • if placed intervocalically, /h/ affricatizes into /d͡ʒ/
  • turns into /g/ followed by /u/
  • turns into /k/ followed by /u/
  • if placed intervocalically, turns into /g/


  • unpacked into /a.ɪ/
  • unpacked into /o.ɪ/
  • fuses with /o.ɪ/
  • fuses with /i/

Modern Han



Monophthongs /a/,  /ɛ/,  /i/,  /ɪ/,  /o/,  /u/,
Diphthongs /ja/,  /jɛ/,  /jo/,  /ju/,  /wa/,  /wɛ/,  /wo/,  /wu/


Bilabial Dental
Velar Uvular Glottal
Nasal m n ɲ ŋ ɴ
Plosive voiceless p (p̚) t (t̚) k (k̚) ʔ
voiced b d g
Affricate Sibilant voiceless t͡s t͡ʃ (t͡ɕ)
voiced d͡z d͡ʒ (d͡ʑ)
Non-sibilant voiceless
Fricative Sibilant voiceless s ʃ (ɕ) h
voiced ʒ (ʑ)
Non-sibilant voiceless f (ɸ)
Approximant l, ɾ (r) j w


There are five main phonological constraints:

  • all syllables have a nucleus
  • the onset is optional and while typically comprised of a single consonant, it can have a maximum of two consonants: a plosive or an affricate, followed by an approximant
  • the nucleus is obligatory, and must always be a syllabic vowel
  • the coda is optional, and can only consist of nasals, lateral approximants, and unvoiced obstruents (which are realized as unreleased stops)
  • the only word-final consonants permitted are nasals and lateral approximants


Word order

Word order is free, as long as the sentence is verb-medial (although the infinitive verb is always placed last, rendering such sentences verb-final). It is also a topic-prominent language, with the topic being typically placed at the beginning of a sentence. It is also a head-initial language, meaning the head of a phrase precedes its complement.



Verbs are morphologically complex, and are inflected with affixes (a variety of circumfixes, prefixes, and suffixes) based on focus and tense. The thematic role (agent, patient, or oblique) of the noun is directly-influenced by verb inflection, determining the verb argument's ergativity. However, the verb inflection can also be used on adjectives and nouns themselves.

There are three main patient-focus affixes, which are typically used in transitive sentences and indicate an ergative voice;

  • -in is used for objects that are moved towards the agent, objects that are permanently changed, and objects that are thought of
  • i- is used for objects which undergo a change of state
  • -an is used for items undergoing a surface change

There are three agent-focus affixes, which are typically used in intransitive sentences and indicate an accusative voice;

  • un- is externally-directed actions
  • mag- is used for internally-directed actions
  • ma is used for a few verb roots that are semantically intransitive

There are four other focus affixes

  • the locative focus refers to the location or direction of an action or the area affected by the action
  • the benefactive focus refers to the beneficiary of an action
  • the instrumental focus refers to the means by which an action is performed
  • the reasonal focus refers to the cause or reason why an action is performed

Below is a chart of the main verbal affixes, which consist of prefixes, circumfixes suffixes (with infixes in Old Tagalog becoming prefixes). In the chart, CV stands for the reduplicated first syllable of a root verb, which is usually the first consonant and the first vowel of the word. ~ stands for the root verb and indicates a circumfix.

  Past Present Future (contemplative) Infinitive
Agent focus I un- un-CV CV un-
Agent focus II naga- nag-V mag-V maga-
Agent focus III na- na-CV ma-CV ma-
Patient focus I in- in-V CV-in -in
Patient focus II ini- in-V i-CV i-
Patient focus III in~an inV~an CV~an -an
Locative focus in~an inV~an CV~an -an
Benefactive focus ini- in-V i-CV i-
Instrumental focus ijina- ijina-CV ija-CV ija-
Reasonal trigger igina- igina-CV iga-CV iga-



Nouns are inflected by the enclitic particles that mark for case, which are mostly prepositional.

common ya-
personal shi-
common nan-
personal ni-
Genitive common nanh (-nh)
personal -ni
Instrumental -han (-an)



Personal pronouns are categorised into three cases; the ergative case, the absolutive case, and the oblique case (it can either be used as a dative or locative). Personal pronouns can also be classified based on viewpoint. Possessiveness is not regarded as its own distinct case. However, the dative form of a pronoun coupled with the personal genitive marker ni (contrasting with its common form no) indicates it. As pronouns are not inflected based on gender, pronouns are gender-neutral and may be used to refer to both a male or a female.

  Absolutive Ergative
First person
First person
First person
(plural inclusive)
First person
(plural exclusive)
Second person
Second person
Third person
Third person


Demonstrative pronouns are categorized into four cases, with the genitive case functioning similarly to the possessive case of personal pronouns.

  Ergative Genitive Dative Locative
Nearest to speaker
(this, here)
itto nitto tchitto nanchitto
Near speaker and addressee
(this, here)
itto nitto tchitto nanchitto
Nearest addressee
(that, there)
yan yan jan nanjan
(that, there)
iyan iyan nantsun nantsun




Han uses particles to convey different nuances in meaning, most of which are unbound;

  • na - conjoins adjective and noun
  • na - now, already
  • ha - still, else, in addition, yet
  • kajì - even, even if, even though
  • ni and nani - marks personal names that are not the focus of the sentence; indicates possession.
  • shi and shina - marks and introduces personal names
  • rin - too, also
  • ra - limiting particle; only or just
  • dao - a reporting particle that expresses that the information in the sentence is second-hand; they say, he said, reportedly, supposedly, etc.
  • ho - shows politeness
  • ba - used in yes-and-no questions and optionally in other types of questions,
  • muna - for now, for a minute and yet (in negative sentences).
  • naman - used in making contrasts; softens requests; emphasis
  • kase - expresses cause; because
  • kaya - expresses wonder; I wonder; perhaps (we should do something) (also optionally used in yes-and-no questions and other forms of questions)
  • teka - expresses that the speaker has realised or suddenly remembered something; realization particle
  • yatta - expresses uncertainty; probably, perhaps, seems
  • kaya - used in cause and effect; as a result
  • sana - expresses hope, unrealised condition (with verb in completed aspect), used in conditional sentences.
  • baka - expresses the potential of an action to occur
  • go - used to indicate duty, correctness, or obligation


There are three negation words, which are all postpositional;

  • hide (tchi) - used to negate verbs
  • wa - used to express negative commands
  • wara used to indicate the absence of an object


Han has forty main dialects, excluding pidginized forms and the Sierran dialect.

Sierran Han

Han pidgin