Bouyei Language
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Bouyei Language
Giay (Yay)
Native toChina (Guizhou, Yunnan and Sichuan Provinces)
EthnicityBouyei, Giay
Native speakers
2.7 million (2000 census)[1]
Latin, Sawndip
Language codes
Geographic distribution of Bouyei language
This article contains IPA phonetic symbols. Without proper rendering support, you may see question marks, boxes, or other symbols instead of Unicode characters. For an introductory guide on IPA symbols, see Help:IPA.

The Bouyei language (autonym: Haausqyaix, also spelled Buyi, Buyei or Puyi;[2]Chinese: ; pinyin: bùy? y?, Vietnamese: ti?ng B? Y or ti?ng Giáy) is a language spoken by the Bouyei ethnic group[3] of Southern Guizhou Province, China. Classified as a member of the Northern Tai group in the Tai language branch of the Tai-Kadai language family, the language has over 2.5 million native speakers and is also used by the Giay people (Vietnamese: Giáy) in some parts of Vietnam. There are native speakers living in France or the United States as well, which emigrated from China or Vietnam. About 98% of the native speakers are in China.[2]

Bouyei's characteristics are similar to the other members of its language branch. It is generally monosyllabic and word order and particles are the main forms of grammar. Bouyei's syllable initials match up closely to the other Northern Tai languages, with relatively fast simplification and merging. Bouyei sentences can be shown to contain many different levels of phrasing.

The contemporary Bouyei script was developed after the abandonment of the Bouyei-Zhuang Script Alliance Policy in 1981 and was designed from 1981 to 1985. It is focused and phonologically representative and takes the Wangmo County dialect as its foundation.

Subdivisions and distribution


According to a 1950s survey performed by the Chinese government, the Bouyei language as spoken in Guizhou can be divided into three general dialect groups (Snyder 2008). Note that ? (Qián) is an abbreviation for Guizhou.

  1. The Southern Qian group - the largest of the three - from the Qianxinan Bouyei and Miao Autonomous Prefecture, which is mostly intelligible with the Guibian and Guibei Zhuang dialects. This vernacular is spoken in the counties of Wangmo, Ceheng, Luodian, Dushan, Libo, Duyun, Pingtang, Zhenfeng, Anlong, Xingren, and Xinyi.
  2. The Central Qian group - next most spoken of the three - which is spread throughout Qiannan Buyei and Miao Autonomous Prefecture and the suburbs of Guiyang, and is partially intelligible with the Southern Qian dialects (it is very similar to the Zhuang dialects of northern Guangxi). This vernacular is spoken in the counties of Longli, Guiding, Qingzhen, Pingba, Kaiyang, Guiyang, and Anshun.
  3. The Western Qian dialects - the least spoken of the three - which is spoken in the counties of Zhenning, Guanling, Ziyun, Qinglong, Pu'an, Liuzhi, Panxian, Shuicheng, Bijie, and Weining. The western dialects show more unique features than the other two groups. Some western dialects have aspirated stops, which is an uncommon feature in northern Tai languages (Snyder 2008).

Wu, Snyder, & Liang (2007) is the most comprehensive Bouyei survey to date, and covers the following data points.

Qiannan Bouyei and Miao Autonomous Prefecture
Qianxinan Bouyei and Miao Autonomous Prefecture
Anshun City
  • Huangla Buyei and Miao Ethnic Township, Anshun ()
  • Banle, Zhenning County ()
  • Shitouzhai, Zhenning County ()
  • Huohua Township, Ziyun County ()
  • Nonghe, Ziyun County ()
Liuzhi Special District

The Yei Zhuang varieties of Wenshan Prefecture, Yunnan are closely related to the Bouyei varieties of Guizhou. Many other languages outside China with the names "Yei", "Yay", "Yoy", are also closely related.


Bouyei is also spoken in northern Vietnam, where it is known as Giáy.[4] Edmondson and Gregerson (2001) has determined their language to be most similar to the Bouyei dialects of southwest Guizhou. The Giáy are an officially recognized group in Vietnam who now number nearly 50,000. Some household registries of the Giáy of Vietnam indicate that their ancestors had left Guizhou 160 years ago during the Qing Dynasty, and traveled overland to southern Yunnan and then Vietnam (Edmondson & Gregerson 2001). This coincides with the Miao Rebellion (1854-73) of Guizhou. The Giáy are found in the following locations of Vietnam.[5]

The Giáy of Mng Khng District who call themselves Tudì [thu zi] can only speak a form of Chinese, and no Giáy. Their autonym comes from their ancestral place of origin, which is Duyun of Guizhou province, China. According to their household records, they had arrived in Maguan County and in Honghe Prefecture about 200 years ago. Similarly, some Giáy of Vietnam report that they have relatives still living in Hekou, Yunnan province, China (Edmondson & Gregerson 2001).

The Pu N? people of Tam ng District, Lai Châu Province, Vietnam call themselves the V?n N? (with v?n meaning 'people'), and number about 5,000 individuals (Lò 2012:11-20).[6] They are also called Quý Châu (Guizhou ), Sa Quý Châu, C?i Chu, Pu Y, or Pâu Thìn. The Pu N? live in the following villages of Tam ng District (Lò 2012:18).

  • B?n Giang commune
    • b?n Coc Pa
    • b?n Giang
    • b?n Nà B?
    • b?n Nà Sài
    • b?n Nà C?
    • b?n T?n Ph? Nhiêu
  • Thèn Xin commune
    • b?n L? Thàng
    • Thèn Xin
  • San Thàng commune
    • b?n T? Xin Ch?i
    • Xéo Xin Ch?i
    • Phan L?n

The Yay language described by William J. Gedney is in fact the Giáy dialect of Mng Hum, Bát Xát District, Lào Cai (Edmondson & Gregerson 2001). There are also other related Northern Tai languages spoken in Vietnam as well, such B? Y, Nhang, and Quy Châu (possibly closely related to Tai Mène of Laos). The B? Y had originally came from around Wangmo County in southwestern Guizhou. Some subgroups of B? Y call themselves the Pu Na or Pu Thin, meaning 'people of the paddy field'.



The Bouyei script recognizes 32 consonants, with names formed by the consonant in an initial position followed by a long "a" vowel.

Labials b /p/ p /p?/ mb /?/ m /m/ f /f/ v /v/~[w]
Apicals d /t/ t /t?/ nd /?/ n /n/ sl /?/ l /l/
Velars g /k/ k /k?/ ng /?/ h /x/ hr /?/
Palatals j /t?/ q /t/ ny /?/ x /?/ y /j/
Affricates z /ts/ c /ts?/ s /s/~[?] r /z/~[ð]
Palatalized by /p?/ my /m?/ qy /?j/
Labialized gv /k?/ ngv // qv /?v/~[?w]

Pink: p, t, k, q, z, and c are used only to write Chinese loanwords.

Beige: sl and hr are used for sounds that occur only in certain dialects.

V is pronounced as a [w] before a "u".

An absent consonant may produce a glottal sound /?/. /?/ is also heard as a final sound.

Vowels and diphthongs

Bouyei has 77 vowels and diphthongs.

"Level" syllables a /a/ o /o/ ee /e/~[?] i /i/ u /u/ e /?/~[?]
aai /a:i/ ai /?i/ oi /oi/ ei /?i/
aau /a:u/ au /?u/ eeu /eu/ iu /iu/
ae // ie /i?/ ue /u?/ ea //
aam /a:m/ am /?m/ oom /om/ om /?m/ eem /em/ iam /i?m/ im /im/ uam /u?m/ um /um/ eam /m/
aan /a:n/ an /?n/ oon /on/ on /?n/ een /en/ ian /i?n/ in /in/ uan /u?n/ un /un/ ean /n/ en /?n/~[?n]
aang /a:?/ ang // oong /o?/ ong // eeng /e?/ iang /i/ ing /i?/ uang /u/ ung /u?/ eang // eng //~[]
"Entering" syllables aab /a:p/ ab /?p/ oob /op/ ob /?p/ eeb /ep/ iab /i?p/ ib /ip/ uab /u?p/ ub /up/ eab /p/
aad /a:t/ ad /?t/ ood /ot/ od /?t/ eed /et/ iad /i?t/ id /it/ uad /u?t/ ud /ut/ ead /t/ ed /?t/~[?t]
ag /?k/ og /?k/ eeg /ek/ ig /ik/ ug /uk/ eg /?k/~[?k]

The endings er /?/, ao /au/, ou /?u/, ia /ia/, io /io/, iao /i?u/, ua /ua/, uai /u?i/, and ui /ui/ are used in writing Chinese loanwords.

Vowels /i u/ may also have allophones of [? ?].

Another vowel sound [æ] may occur phonemically in the dialects of Anshun, Qinglong, Shuicheng, Zhenning, and Ziyun.


Bouyei has six tones, corresponding to the eight sheng of Middle Chinese: all six in open syllables or with a final /n/ or /?/, reduced to two "entering" tones with a final stop.

# Name Contour Marking letter Corresponding Southwest Mandarin Tone Loanword Marking letter
1 Dark level l Departing q
2 Light level ? z
3 Dark rising c Rising j
4 Light rising x Light level f
5 Dark departing s
6 Light departing ? h Dark level y
7 Dark entering t
8 Light entering ? none

Marking letters are placed at the end of syllables to indicate tone. Loanword marking letters y, f, j, and q match with Mandarin tones 1, 2, 3, and 4 respectively.

Language shift

Bouyei shows de-voicing of Proto-Tai-Kadai's voiced consonants (*b -> /p/, *d -> /t/, *? -> /k/), and loss of aspiration.

Proto-Tai-Kadai *?n, *n? *t *?d *d?, *d *n
Bouyei n t ? t n
Dark tone Light tone

Proto-Tai-Kadai's tones experienced a splitting into modern Bouyei, shown in the following table.

Proto-Tai-Kadai *?n, *n? *t *?d *d?, *d *n
PTK Level tone Dark level Light level
PTK Rising tone Dark rising Light rising
PTK Departing tone Dark departing Light departing
PTK Entering tone Dark entering Light entering


Ancient Bouyei script

Ancient Bouyei writing was created by borrowing elements from Chinese characters or by mimicking their forms, and is similar to Sawndip. Items collected were mostly Shaman's books of the Buyi ancestors, which were used to select auspicious days, lucky numbers and directions, and divination.[7] The scriptures also produced Nuo books and literary works. The Nuo scripts have been widely circulated among the Buyi people in Libo region for more than a thousand years to praise goodness, condamn evil, avocate filialiation, and to promote truth, kindness and beauty; and these have become the code of conduct among the local Buyei people. [8] The epic poem Wang Yulian was a literary work that is believed to be the retelling of a Chinese story in Buyei language. Its manual copies are popular in Zhexiang Township, Wangmo County in Buyei and Miao Autonomous Prefecture in Southwest Guizhou.[9]?

Old Modern Bouyei

In November 1956, a scientific conference was held in Guiyang to discuss the creation and implementation of a Latin-based alphabet for Bouyei. The result was a script similar some Zhuang romanizations that used the Longli County dialect as its base. The script was approved by the Chinese government and was put into use in 1957, though its use ceased in 1960.

Current Bouyei script

In 1981 a conference on Bouyei history revised the script developed in 1956 in an attempt to make it more practical and phonologically representative of Wangmo County speech. It also was approved by the Chinese government, and was adopted on an experimental basis in 1982. Feedback was largely positive, and the script was officially brought into use in March 1985 and continues to be used to the present.

Old and current Bouyei Romanization comparisons

Old Current IPA Old Current IPA Old Current IPA Old Current IPA Old Current{ IPA
b b /p/ ? mb /?/ m m /m/ f f /f/ v v, qv /v, ?v/
c z /ts/ s s /s/ r r /z/
d d /t/ ? nd /?/ n n /n/ l l /l/
g g /k/ gv gv /k?/ ? ng /?/ ?v ngv // h h /x/
gy j /t?/ ny ny /n?/ x x /?/ y y, qy /j, ?j/
by by /p?/ my my /m?/

Old Zhuang Bouyei IPA Old Zhuang Bouyei IPA Old Zhuang Bouyei IPA Old Zhuang Bouyei IPA
a a aa /a:/ ? ae a /a/ e e ee /e/ i i i /i/
o o oo /o:/ ? oe o /o/ u u u /u/ ? w e /?/

Tone Marking Letters

# Old Zhuang Bouyei Yangchang Dialect Fuxing Dialect
1 none none l, q 35 24
2 ? z z 11 11
3 ? j c, j 13 53
4 ? x x, f 31 11
5 ? q s 33 35
6 ? h h, y 53 33
7 (p, t, k) (p, t, k) (b, d, g)t 33 (long), 35 (short) 35
8 (b, d, g) (b, d, g) (b, d, g) 53 (long), 11 (short) 33


  1. ^ Bouyei at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015)
  2. ^ a b
  3. ^
  4. ^ Chu Thái S?n (1975). "L?ch s? di c? và sinh ho?t v?n hóa c?a ngi Tu Dí ? Lào Cai". In, ?y ban khoa h?c xã h?i Vi?t Nam: Vi?n dân t?c h?c. V? v?n xác nh thành ph?n các dân t?c thi?u s? ? mi?n b?c Vi?t Nam, 331-364. Hà N?i: Nhà xu?t b?n khoa h?c xã h?i.
  5. ^ Edmondson, J.A. and Gregerson, K.J. 2001, "Four Languages of the Vietnam-China Borderlands", in Papers from the Sixth Annual Meeting of the Southeast Asian Linguistics Society, ed. K.L. Adams and T.J. Hudak, Tempe, Arizona, pp. 101-133. Arizona State University, Program for Southeast Asian Studies.
  6. ^ Lò V?n Chi?n. 2012. Dân ca ngi Pu N? ? Lai Châu. Nhà xu?t b?n v?n hóa dân t?c. ISBN 978-604-70-0107-1
  7. ^ (2013). ": Ancient Writings in the Buyei Nation's Traditional Scripts: Living Specimen of Ancient Luo Yue Writing". . 0 (6): 146-149.
  8. ^ ":?"" Ancient Bouyei scripts: How to avoid the doom of the "Book of Unintelligible"?". .
  9. ^ (2013). ""?"----?". . 0 (3): 119-124. The story of Wang Yulian tells that Wang Yulian was forced to join the army by Wang Erniang, and his mother and wife were also forced to beg in street. After Wang Yulian became well-established, with the help of the government, he punished Wang Erniang and reunited with his mother and wife.

External links

  This article uses material from the Wikipedia page available here. It is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share-Alike License 3.0.



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