Bai language

Bai Language

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Bai language

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The Bai/Baip language (Bai: Baip‧ngvp‧zix; ) is a language spoken in China, primarily in Yunnan province, by the Bai people, one of the 56 ethnic groups officially recognized by the People's Republic of China. The language has over a million speakers and is divided into three main dialects. It is a tonal language with eight tones and a rather rich set of vowels. As is common amongSoutheast Asian languages, 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, as well as a number of recent publications printed with a recently standardized system of romanisation.


The position of this language (or language group) within the Sino-Tibetan family is undetermined. Traditionally, Bai has been considered to be a Tibeto-Burman language, but starting with R.A.D. Forrest in 1948, the rival argument has been made that it is instead an offshoot of Proto-Sinitic, coordinate with Old Chinese. Within the last generation, this argument has been taken up by Sergei Starostin, G. van Driem, and S. Zhengzhang. The state of the debate on the genetic position of Bai is surveyed by Wang (2005), who points out that the proper investigation of the issue is hampered by the fact that Proto-Bai, the ancestor of the three modern dialects, has yet to be reconstructed. Indeed, the dialects themselves have not yet all been thoroughly...
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