Native toChina
RegionGansu, Qinghai
Native speakers
6,000 (1999)[1]
  • Shirongolic [fr]
    • Bonan
Language codes
ISO 639-3peh
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The Bonan language (pronounced [p⁼aoˈnaŋ], Baonang; Chinese: 保安语, Bǎo'ānyǔ; Amdo Tibetan: Dorké) is the Mongolic language of the Bonan people of China. As of 1985, it was spoken by about 8,000 people, including about 75% of the total Bonan ethnic population and many ethnic Monguor, in Gansu and Qinghai Provinces. There are several dialects, which are influenced to varying degrees — but always heavily — by Chinese and Tibetan, while bilingualism in Wutun is less common. The most commonly studied is the Tongren dialect. There is no writing system in use.[2] The language is also referred to as "Manegacha", natively.[3]


Bonan phonology has been heavily influenced by Tibetan. Consonants possess a [±aspirated] contrast. Initial consonant clusters of mostly falling sonority are present in native words, as are heavy diphthongs, though the content of both is heavily restricted. The possible word-initial consonant clusters in Bonan are [mp, nt, nt͡ɕ, ntʂ, ŋk, tʰχ, χt͡ɕ, rt͡ɕ, lt͡ɕ, ft, fk, ʂp, ʂk].

Ñantoq Baoan has six vowels /a, e, ə, i, ɵ, u/, with long counterparts for all except /ə/.[4]

Labial Alveolar Retroflex Alveolo-
Velar Uvular Glottal
Stop voiceless p t k
voiced b d g ɢ
Affricate voiceless t͡s t͡ɕ
voiced d͡z d͡ʑ
Fricative voiceless f s ʂ ɕ χ h
voiced ʑ
Nasal m n ŋ
Approximant l j w
Trill r


Bonan, like other Mongolic languages, is agglutinative.

There are five case markings for Bonan nouns: Nominative, Accusative-Genitive, Dative-Locative, Ablative-Comparative, and Instrumentative.

Verbal morphology is quite complex. Evidentiality is marked in the indicative mood as "definite" or "indefinite" with a specific suffix or with an auxiliary verb. The present definite is used to mark naturally occurring phenomena, while the present indefinite indicates the habits of animals. The indefinite may also mark volition. The future, continuous, and perfective suffixes also possess markers for evidentiality that are often used to mark negation.


Bonan has a primary SOV (subject–object–verb), but topicalization of an object is common. It is known for its peculiar double marking of the copula. A Mongolic copula, of which there are several with different meanings, comes sentence-finally, following Bonan SOV word order, while a copula [ʂɪ] from Chinese /ʂɨ̂/ "to be" appears between the copula's subject and complement, as in Chinese SVO word order. This Chinese copula is optional and is used to emphasize the subject. The definite, but not indefinite, copula can also act as a participle following some finite verbs. For example:











ənə ʂɪ kuŋʂə-nə t͡ɕʰitʂə o

this COP commune-GEN car IND.COP

"This is the commune's car." (Buhe & Liu 1985: 65)

Uniquely among Mongolic languages, adjectives follow the noun they modify. This is due to Tibetan influence.


  1. ^ Bonan at Ethnologue (16th ed., 2009)
  2. ^ Mi, Shoujiang; You, Jia (2004). Islam in China. Translated by Min, Chang. China Intercontinental Press. p. 57. ISBN 7-5085-0533-6.
  3. ^ "Gerald Roche on Facebook". Facebook. Archived from the original on 2022-04-27.[user-generated source]
  4. ^ Nugteren, Hans (2011). Mongolic Phonology and the Qinghai-Gansu Languages (Ph.D. thesis). Leiden University. hdl:1887/18188.


  • Üjiyediin Chuluu (Chaolu Wu) (1994). Introduction, Grammar, and Sample Sentences for Baoan (PDF). Sino-Platonic Papers, 58.
  • Bu, He 布和; Liu, Zhaoxiong 刘照雄, eds. (1982). Bǎo'ānyǔ jiǎnzhì 保安语简志 [A Brief Description of Baonan] (in Chinese). Beijing: Renmin chubanshe.
  • Chen, Naixiong 陈乃雄, ed. (1985). Bǎo'ānyǔ cíhuì 保安语词汇 [Baoan Vocabulary] (in Chinese). Huhehaote: Neimenggu renmin chubanshe.
  • ———, ed. (1986). Bǎo'ānyǔ huàyǔ cáiliào 保安语话语材料 [Baoan Language Materials] (in Chinese). Huhehaote: Neimenggu renmin chubanshe.
  • Chen, Naixiong 陈乃雄; Cinggaltai 清格尔泰 (1986). Bǎo'ānyǔ hé Ménggǔyǔ 保安语和蒙古语 [Baoan and Mongolian Languages] (in Chinese). Huhehaote: Neimenggu renmin chubanshe.
  • Fried, Robert Wayne (2010). A Grammar of Bao'an Tu: A Mongolic Language of Northwest China (Ph.D. thesis). State University of New York at Buffalo. ProQuest 578487588 – via ProQuest.