Bai, Central


A language of China

Alternate Names
Báiyǔ, Labbu, Minchia, Minjia, Minkia, Nama, Pai, Yunnan Bai
白语‎ (Baip‧ngvp‧zix)

800,000 (2003 census). Ethnic population: 1,930,000 (2010 census). Includes Lama Bai [lay], Panyi Bai [bfc], and Southern Bai [bfs] languages.


Guizhou province: small enclave; Yunnan province: Eryuan, Heqing, Jianchuan, Lanping, and Yunlong.

Language Maps
Language Status

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


Jianchuan, Heqing, Lanping, Eryuan, Yunlong.


SVO; prepositions; attributives precede noun heads; number classifier constructions follow noun heads; aspect words; tense-lax vowel distinction; 21 consonants and 8 vowels; tonal (5 to 8 tones).

Language Use

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

Language Development

Literacy rate in L2: 70%. 1 experimental program. Literature. Radio. Dictionary. Texts.


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, revised in 1993, 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.

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