Bai language

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Bai
白语 Báiyǔ
Baip‧ngvp‧zix
Native to Yunnan, China
Ethnicity Bai
Native speakers
1.3 million (2003)[1]
Dialects
  • Jianchuan-Dali
  • Panyi–Lama
Language codes
ISO 639-3 Variously:
bca – Central Bai, Jianchuan dialect
bfs – Southern Bai, Dali dialect
bfc – Panyi Bai
lay – Lama Bai
ISO 639-6 bicr
Glottolog baic1239[3]

The Bai language (Bai: Baip‧ngvp‧zix; simplified Chinese: 白语; traditional Chinese: 白語; pinyin: Báiyǔ) is a language spoken in China, primarily in Yunnan province, by the Bai people. The language has over a million speakers and is divided into three or four main dialects. It is a tonal language with eight tones and a rather rich set of vowels. The vowels of Bai have a phonemic opposition between tense vowels and lax vowels (creaky voice vs. normal voice). There exists a small amount of traditional literature written with Chinese characters, Bowen (僰文), as well as a number of recent publications printed with a recently standardized system of romanisation using the Latin alphabet.

The origins of Bai have been obscured by intensive Chinese influence of an extended period. Different scholars have proposed that it is an early offshoot or sister language of Chinese, or a separate group (though usually still within the Sino-Tibetan family).

Varieties[edit]

Bai language is located in Yunnan
Tuoluo
Tuoluo
Gongxing
Gongxing
Enqi
Enqi
Ega
Ega
Jinman
Jinman
Jinxing
Jinxing
Zhoucheng
Zhoucheng
Dashi
Dashi
Mazhelong
Mazhelong
Dali
Dali
Wang's survey sites in Yunnan, and the city of Dali

Xu and Zhao (1984) divided Bai into three dialects, which may actually be distinct languages: Jianchuan (Central), Dali (Southern), and Bijiang (Northern).[4] Bijiang county has since been renamed as Lushui County.[5] Jianchuan and Dali are close, and speakers are reported to be able to understand one another after living together for a month.

The more divergent Northern dialects are spoken by about 15,000 Laemae (lɛ˨˩mɛ˨˩, Lemei, Lama), a clan numbering about 50,000 people who are partly submerged within the Lisu.[6] They are now designated as two languages by ISO 639-3:

Wang Feng (2012)[10] gives the following tree for 9 Bai dialects:

Bai
  • Western
    • Gongxing (共兴), Lanping
    • (core)
      • Enqi (恩棋), Lanping; Jinman (金满), Lushui
      • Tuoluo (妥洛), Weixi
      • Ega (俄嘎), Lushui
  • Eastern
    • Mazhelong (马者龙), Qiubei County
    • (core)
      • Jinxing (金星), Jianchuan
      • Dashi (大石), Heqing County
      • Zhoucheng (周城), Dali City

Wang (2012)[11] also documents a Bai dialect in Xicun, Dacun Village, Shalang Township, Kunming City (昆明市沙朗乡大村西村).[12]

Classification[edit]

The affiliation of Bai is obscured by over two millennia of influence from varieties of Chinese, leaving most of its lexicon related to Chinese etyma of various periods.[13] To determine its origin, researchers must first identify and remove from consideration the various layers of loanwords, and then examine the residue.[14] In his survey of the field, Wang notes that early work was hampered by a lack of data on Bai and uncertainties in the reconstruction of early forms of Chinese.[15] Recent authors have suggested that Bai is an early offshoot from Chinese, a sister language to Chinese, or more distantly related (though usually still Sino-Tibetan).[16][17]

There are different tonal correspondences in the various layers.[18] Many words can be identified as later Chinese loans because they display Chinese sound changes from the last two millennia:[19]

Some of these changes date back to the first centuries AD.[20]

The oldest layer of Bai vocabulary with Chinese cognates, of which Wang lists some 250 words,[21] includes common Bai words that were also common in Classical Chinese, but are not used in modern varieties of Chinese.[22] Its features have been compared with current ideas on Old Chinese phonology:

  • The voiceless nasals and lateral postulated for Old Chinese are absent,[23] though in some cases the reflexes match those in western dialects of Han Chinese, rather than those of eastern dialects from which Middle Chinese and most modern varieties are descended.[24]
  • Where Middle Chinese has l-, believed to be a reflex of Old Chinese *r, Bai varieties have j before i, n before a nasal final, and ɣ elsewhere.[25][26] However, in words where Middle Chinese l- corresponds to /s/ in inland Min dialects, Bai often has a stop initial, providing support for Baxter and Sagart's suggestion that such initials derive from clusters.[27]
  • Old Chinese *l- generally has similar palatal and dental reflexes in Bai and Middle Chinese, but seems to be preserved in a few Bai words.[28]
  • The Old Chinese finals *-aw and *-u merged in Middle Chinese syllables without a palatal medial by the 4th century AD, but are still distinguished in Bai.[29][30]
  • Several words with Old Chinese *-ts, which developed to -j with the departing tone in Middle Chinese, produce tonal reflexes in Bai corresponding to an original stop coda.[31]

Sergei Starostin suggests that these facts indicate a split from mainstream Chinese around the 2nd century BC, corresponding to the Western Han period.[32][33] Wang argues that a few of the correspondences between his reconstructed Proto-Bai and Old Chinese cannot be explained by the Old Chinese forms, and that Chinese and Bai therefore form a Sino-Bai group.[34] However, Gong suggests that at least some of these cases can be accounted for by refining the Proto-Bai reconstruction to take account of complementary distribution within Bai.[35]

Starostin and Zhengzhang Shangfang have separately argued that the oldest Chinese layer accounts for all but an insignificant residue of Bai vocabulary, and that Bai is therefore an early branch of Chinese.[30]

On the other hand, Lee and Sagart (1998) argued that the various layers of Chinese vocabulary are loans, and that when they are removed, a significant non-Chinese residue remains, including 15 entries from the 100-word Swadesh list of basic vocabulary. They suggest that this residue shows similarities with Proto-Loloish.[36] James Matisoff (2001) argued that the comparison with Loloish is less persuasive when considering other Bai varieties than the Jianchuan dialect used by Lee and Sagart, and that it is safer to consider Bai as an independent branch of Sino-Tibetan, though perhaps close to the neighbouring Loloish.[37] Lee and Sagart (2008) refined their analysis, presenting the residue as a non-Chinese form of Sino-Tibetan, though not necessarily Loloish. They also note that this residue includes the Bai vocabulary relating to pig rearing and rice agriculture.[38]

Lee and Sagart's analysis has been further discussed by List (2009).[39] Gong (2015) suggests that the residual layer may be Qiangic, pointing out that the Bai, like the Qiang, call themselves "white", whereas the Lolo use "black".[22]

Phonology[edit]

The Jianchuan dialect has the following consonants, all of which are restricted to syllable-initial position:[40]

Labial Alveolar Palatal Velar
Stop unaspirated p t k
aspirated
Affricate unaspirated ts
aspirated tsʰ tɕʰ
Fricative voiceless f s ɕ x
voiced v ɣ
Nasal m n ŋ
Approximant l j

The Gongxing and Tuolou dialects retain a older 3-way distinction for stop and affricate initials between voiceless unaspirated, voiceless aspirated and voiced. In the core eastern group, including the standard form of Dali, the voiced initials have become voiceless unaspirated, while other dialects show partial loss of voicing, conditioned by tone in different ways.[41]

Jianchuan finals comprise:[40]

  • pure vowels: i e ɛ ɑ o u ɯ
  • diphthongs: ɑo io ui
  • triphthong: iɑo

All but u, ɑo and iɑo have contrasting nasalized variants. Dali Bai lacks nasal vowels.[40] Some other varieties retain nasal codas instead of nasalization, though only the Gongxing and Tuolou dialects have a contrast between -n and .[42]

Jianchuan has eight tones, divided between those with modal and non-modal phonation.[43] Some of the western varieties have fewer tones.[44]

Grammar[edit]

Bai has a basic syntactic order of subject–verb–object (SVO). However, SOV word order can be found in interrogative and negative sentences.

Writing system[edit]

The old Bai script used modified Chinese characters, but its use was limited.[45] A new script based on the Latin alphabet was designed in 1958, based on the speech of the urban centre of Xiaguan, even though it was not a typical Southern dialect.[46] The idea of romanization was controversial among Bai elites, and the system saw little use.[47] In a renewed attempt in 1982, language planners used the Jianchuan dialect as a base, because it represented an area with a significant population, almost all of whom spoke Bai. The new script was popular in the Jinchuan area, but was rejected in the more economically advanced area of Dali, which also had the largest number of speakers, albeit living alongside a large number of speakers of Chinese.[48][49] The script was revised extensively in 1993 to define two variants, representing Jinchuan and Dali respectively, and has since been more widely used.[50][51][52]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Central Bai, Jianchuan dialect at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015)
    Southern Bai, Dali dialect at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015)
    Panyi Bai at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015)
    Lama Bai at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015)
  2. ^ Ramsey 1987, p. 290.
  3. ^ Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2017). "Baic". Glottolog 3.0. Jena, Germany: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History. 
  4. ^ Wang 2006, p. 115.
  5. ^ Allen 2007, p. 6.
  6. ^ Bradley 2007, pp. 363, 393–394.
  7. ^ a b Wang 2006, p. 31.
  8. ^ Johnson, Eric (2013). "Change Request Documentation: 2013-006". ISO 639-3 Registration Authority. 
  9. ^ Johnson, Eric (2013). "Change Request Documentation: 2013-007". ISO 639-3 Registration Authority. 
  10. ^ Wang Feng [汪锋]. (2012). Language Contact and Language Comparison: The Case of Bai [语言接触与语言比较:以白语为例 ]. Beijing: Commercial Press [商务印书馆]. 92–94
  11. ^ Wang Feng [王锋]. 2012. A study of the Bai language of Shalang [昆明西山沙朗白语研究]. Beijing: China Social Sciences Academy Press p中国社会科学出版社].
  12. ^ http://www.ynszxc.gov.cn/villagePage/vIndex.aspx?departmentid=45388
  13. ^ Norman 2003, pp. 73, 75.
  14. ^ Ramsey 1987, p. 291.
  15. ^ Wang 2005, pp. 102–107.
  16. ^ Norman 2003, p. 73.
  17. ^ Wang 2005, pp. 109–116.
  18. ^ Lee & Sagart 2008, pp. 7–8, 10, 12–13.
  19. ^ Starostin 1995, pp. 3–4.
  20. ^ Starostin 1995, p. 4.
  21. ^ Wang 2006, pp. 205–211.
  22. ^ a b Gong 2015, p. 2.
  23. ^ Wang 2006, pp. 131, 144.
  24. ^ Gong 2015, p. 11.
  25. ^ Starostin 1995, p. 3.
  26. ^ Wang 2006, p. 133.
  27. ^ Gong 2015, p. 9.
  28. ^ Starostin 1995, pp. 4–5.
  29. ^ Starostin 1995, p. 12.
  30. ^ a b Wang 2005, pp. 110–111.
  31. ^ Starostin 1995, p. 2.
  32. ^ Starostin 1995, pp. 2, 17.
  33. ^ Wang 2005, p. 110.
  34. ^ Wang 2006, pp. 165–171.
  35. ^ Gong 2015, pp. 4, 7.
  36. ^ Lee & Sagart 1998.
  37. ^ Matisoff 2001, p. 39.
  38. ^ Lee & Sagart 2008.
  39. ^ List 2009.
  40. ^ a b c Wiersma 2003, p. 655.
  41. ^ Wang 2006, pp. 58–72.
  42. ^ Wang 2006, pp. 32–44, 74.
  43. ^ Wiersma 2003, pp. 655, 658.
  44. ^ Wang 2006, pp. 32–44.
  45. ^ Wang 2004, pp. 278–279.
  46. ^ Zhou 2012, pp. 271, 273.
  47. ^ Zhou 2012, p. 110.
  48. ^ Zhou 2012, p. 273.
  49. ^ Wiersma 2003, pp. 653–654.
  50. ^ Zhou 2012, pp. 273–274.
  51. ^ Wiersma 2003, p. 654.
  52. ^ Wang 2004, p. 279.

Works cited

Further reading[edit]

  • Allen, Bryan and Zhang Xia. 2004. Bai Dialect Survey. Yunnan Nationalities Publishing House. ISBN 7-5367-2967-7.
  • Wiersma, Grace. 1990. Investigation of the Bai (Minjia) language along historical lines. PhD dissertation, University of California at Berkeley.
  • Fēng Wāng. 2013. Báiyǔ yǔ báizú de liúbiàn: Duōjiǎodù jiéhé de shìyě 白語與白族的流變:多角度結合的視野. In Fēng Shí and Gāng Péng, editors, Dàjiāng Dōngqù: Wāng Shìyuán Jiàoshòu Bāshísuì Hèshòu Wénjí. 大江東去:王士元教授八十歲賀壽文集. City University of Hong Kong Press.
  • Lín Xú and Yǎnsūn Zhào. 1984. Báiyǔ Jiǎnzhì 白语简志. Mínzú Chūbǎnshè.
  • Míngjūn Yuán. 2006. Hànbáiyǔ diàochá yánjiū 汉白语调查研究. Zhōngguó Wénshǐ Chūbǎnshè.
  • Yǎnsūn Zhào and Lín Xú. 1996. Bái-Hàn Cídiǎn 白汉词典. Sìchuān Mínzú Chūbǎnshè.
  • Dali Prefecture Bai Cultural Studies Editorical Committee [大理白族自治洲白族文化研究所编]. 2008. Dali series: Bai language, vol. 3: Vocabulary of the dialects of the Bai people [大理丛书·白语篇 卷3 白族方言词汇]. Kunming: Yunnan People's Press [云南民族出版社]. ISBN 9787536738799 [Contains word lists of 33 Bai language datapoints.]

External links[edit]