Naxi language

Native to China
Region Yunnan and Tibet
Ethnicity Nakhi, Mosuo
Native speakers
350,000 (2000 census – 2010)[1]
Geba script, or Dongba augmented with Geba
Official status
Official language in
People's Republic of China
Language codes
ISO 639-3 Either:
nxq  Naxi
nru  Narua (Yongning Na)
Glottolog naxi1245  (Naxi)[2]
naxi1246  (additional bibliography)[3]
yong1270  (Narua)[4]

Naxi (autonym: IPA: [nɑ˩ɕi˧]), also known as Nakhi, Nasi, Lomi, Moso, Mo-su, is a Sino-Tibetan language or group of languages spoken by some 310,000 people most of whom live in or around Lijiang City Yulong Naxi Autonomous County (Yùlóng Nàxīzú Zìzhìxiàn 玉龍納西族自治縣) of the province of Yunnan, China. Nakhi is also the ethnic group that speaks it, although in detail, officially defined ethnicity and linguistic reality do not coincide neatly: there are speakers of Naxi who are not registered as "Naxi", and citizens who are officially "Naxi" but do not speak it.[5]


See also: Naic languages

It is commonly proposed in Chinese scholarship that the Naic languages are Lolo-Burmese languages: for instance, Ziwo Lama (2012) classifies Naxi as part of a "Naxish" branch of Loloish.

However, as early as 1975, Sino-Tibetan linguist David Bradley pointed out that Naxi does not partake in the shared innovations that define Loloish.[6] Thurgood and La Polla (2003) state that "The position of Naxi ... is still unclear despite much speculation", and leave it unclassified within Sino-Tibetan.[7] Guillaume Jacques & Alexis Michaud (2011)[8] classify Naxi within the Naish lower-level subgroup of Sino-Tibetan; in turn, Naish is part of Naic, itself part of a proposed "Na-Qiangic" branch.


Naxi in the broad sense (including Na/Mosuo) was initially split by the linguists He Jiren and Jiang Zhuyi into two major clusters, Western Naxi and Eastern Naxi.[9]

Western Naxi (纳西语西部方言) is fairly homogeneous. It is spoken mainly in Lijiang, Zhongdian (Shangri-La), Weixi, and Yongsheng counties. Smaller populations of Western Naxi speakers are found in Heqing, Jianchuan, Lanping, Deqin, Gongshan, Ninglang (in Bapijiang village 坝皮匠村, Yongning Township 永宁乡) Muli (in Eya 俄亚), Yanbian (Daoju 道咀), and Tibet (in Mangkang 芒康). There over 240,000 speakers total. Western Naxi consists of the Dayan, Lijiangba, and Baoshanzhou dialects (Naxiyu Jianzhi p. 752).

Eastern Naxi (纳西语东部方言) consists of several mutually unintelligible varieties. It is spoken mainly in Yanyuan, Muli, and Yanbian counties. Eastern Naxi is also spoken by smaller populations in Yongsheng (in Zhangzidan 獐子旦), Weixi (in Qizong 其宗), and Lijiang (in Hailong 海龙 and Fengke 奉科) counties. There is a total of over 40,000 speakers (Naxiyu Jianzhi p. 754).


According to the 2000 Chinese census, 310,000 people speak Nakhi, and 100,000 of those are monolingual. Approximately 170,000 speak Chinese, Tibetan, Bai, or English as a second language. Almost all speakers live in Yunnan, but some are in Tibet, and it is possible that some live in Burma.

The language is commonly spoken among Nakhi people in everyday life and the language is in little danger of dying out soon, although the written literacy is still a rare skill. The language can be written in the Geba syllabary or the Latin script, but they are rarely used in everyday life and few people are able to read Naxi.

The three most common dialects are Lijiang, Lapao, and Lutien. Lijiang, which is spoken in the western parts of the language's range, is the most uniform of the three and it is heavily influenced by Standard Chinese and Yunnanese dialects, proved by its huge volume of loan words from Chinese. The eastern dialects, which are much more native and have many dialectal differences.

Naxi phonemes

The alphabet used here is the 1957 pinyin alphabet.


IPA and Naxi Pinyin orthography
Labial Dental/
Retroflex Palatal Velar Glottal
Plosive voiceless /p/ b /t/ d /c/ ? /k/ g /ʔ/
aspirated /pʰ/ p /tʰ/ t /cʰ/ ? /kʰ/ k
voiced /b/ bb /d/ dd /ɟ/ ? /ɡ/ gg
prenasalized /ᵐb/ nb /ⁿd/ nd /ᶮɟ/ ? /ᵑɡ/ mg
Affricate voiceless /ts/ z /tʂ/ zh /tɕ/ j
aspirated /tsʰ/ c /tʂʰ/ ch /tɕʰ/ q
voiced /dz/ zz /dʐ/ rh /dʑ/ jj
prenasalized /ⁿdz/ nz /ⁿdʐ/ nr /ⁿdʑ/ nj
Fricative voiceless /f/ f /s/ s /ʂ/ sh /ɕ/ x /x/ h
voiced /v/ v /z/ ss /ʐ/ r /ʑ/ y /c/ w
Nasal /m/ m /n/ n /ɲ/ ni /ŋ/ ng
Flap or trill /ɲ/ ?
Approximant /w/ u, /ɥ/ iu /l/ l /j/ i


In the Lijiang dialect, there are nine vowels, plus syllabic /v̩/. They are: /i, e, æ, ɑ, y, ɨ, ə, o, u/ written i, ee, ai, a, iu, ee, e, o, u. There is also a final /əɹ/, written er.


There are four tones: high level, mid-level, low level (or falling), and, in a few words, high rising. They are written -l, -, -q, -f.



  1. Naxi at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015)
    Narua (Yongning Na) at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015)
  2. Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin; Bank, Sebastian, eds. (2016). "Naxi". Glottolog 2.7. Jena: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History.
  3. Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin; Bank, Sebastian, eds. (2016). "Naxi, retired". Glottolog 2.7. Jena: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History.
  4. Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin; Bank, Sebastian, eds. (2016). "Narua". Glottolog 2.7. Jena: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History.
  5. Mathieu, Christine (2003). A History and Anthropological Study of the Ancient Kingdoms of the Sino-Tibetan Borderland - Naxi and Mosuo (Mellen Studies in Anthropology 11 ed.). Lewiston, NY: Edwin Mellen Pr.
  6. Cited in Michaud, Alexis. "The Tones of Numerals and Numeral-Plus-Classifier Phrases: On Structural Similarities Between Naxi, Na and Laze". Linguistics of the Tibeto-Burman Area. 34 (1).
  7. The Sino-Tibetan Languages, pp. 19–20
  8. Jacques, Guillaume, and Alexis Michaud. 2011. "Approaching the historical phonology of three highly eroded Sino-Tibetan languages: Naxi, Na and Laze." Diachronica 28:468-498.
  9. He Jiren 和即仁 & Jiang Zhuyi 姜竹仪. 1985. Naxiyu Jianzhi 纳西语简志 (A Brief Description of the Naxi Language). Beijing 北京: Minzu Chubanshe 民族出版社.
This article is issued from Wikipedia - version of the 8/18/2016. The text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike but additional terms may apply for the media files.