The Tujia Language
Cecilia Brassett, Philip Brassett, Meiyan Lu
The Tujia people group is the sixth largest ethnic minority in China, numbering over 8 million. However, the Tujia language is now only spoken by about 70,000 people, a figure that represents less than 1% of the total Tujia population. These speakers live in the northern half of the Xiangxi Tujia and Miao Autonomous Prefecture in northwestern Hunan Province. The language was once spoken throughout the areas inhabited by the Tujia, which comprise a region of 100,000 square miles straddling the common borders of Hunan, Hubei, and Guizhou Provinces, and Chongqing Municipality. In view of the present rate of decrease in language use, Tujia is considered to be an endangered language.
Tujia is a member of the Tibeto-Burman family of languages, but its specific genetic affiliation remains unclear. Its phonology is extremely similar to the local Chinese dialect. Tujia syllables are of the CV type, with most vowels having nasalised variants. There are four tones and sandhi is common. The basic word order is SOV. There is an abundance of verb particles, which indicate aspect, modality, directionality, negation, and relevance. Adjectives do not exist as a distinct category and conjunctions are rare.
This grammar of the northern dialect of Tujia is based on research conducted in Xiangxi over an 18-month period from 2002 to 2003. It is the first in-depth analysis of the Tujia language that has been written in the English language. The book offers a comprehensive and systematic overview of the language and includes a lexicon of over 1,500 vocabulary items as well as three traditional texts. This description of one of the lesser-known minority languages of China should also provide a useful record of a language which is currently in decline.
ISBN 9783895869952. Languages of the World/Materials 455. 220pp. 2006.