Bai, Central


A language of China

Alternate Names
Labbu, Minchia, Minjia, Minkia, Nama, Pai

800,000 (2003 census). Ethnic population: 800,000.


Northwest Yunnan Province, Jianchuan, Heqing, Lanping, Eryuan, and Yunlong; small enclave in Guizhou Province.

Language Maps
Language Status

6a (Vigorous). Language of recognized nationality: Bai.


Eryuan, Heqing, Jianchuan, Lanping, Yunlong.


SVO; attributives precede noun heads; number classifier constructions follow noun heads; tense-lax vowel distinction; tonal, 5 to 8 tones.

Language Use

Vigorous. All domains. All ages. Positive attitudes. A few also speak Naxi [nxq]. Also use Anong [nun], Lisu [lis], Mandarin Chinese [cmn]. Used as L2 by Lisu [lis], Naxi [nxq], Northern Pumi [pmi], Southern Pumi [pmj], Zaiwa [atb], Zauzou [zal].

Language Development
Literacy rate in L1: 0%. Literacy rate in L2: 70%. 1 experimental program. Poetry. Radio programs. Dictionary.

Han (Hanzi, Kanji, Hanja) script [Hani], dating from 9th century, limited use in folk songs and ritual texts, favoured by older people. Latin script [Latn], pinyin-based, used since 1982, experimental, small-scale use in education, administration, and literature.

Other Comments

Classification difficult due to heavy borrowing (60%–70%) from Chinese. Considered genetically related to Chinese, or a mixed language with Chinese, or an independent branch of Tibeto-Burman. Traditional religion, Buddhist, Daoist.