Giay (Yay)
Native toChina (Guizhou, Yunnan and Sichuan Provinces)
EthnicityBouyei, Giay
Native speakers
2.7 million (2000 census)[1]
Latin, Sawndip
Language codes
ISO 639-3pcc
Geographic distribution of Bouyei language
This article contains IPA phonetic symbols. Without proper rendering support, you may see question marks, boxes, or other symbols instead of Unicode characters. For an introductory guide on IPA symbols, see Help:IPA.

The Bouyei language (autonym: Haausqyaix, also spelled Buyi, Buyei or Puyi;[2] Chinese: 布依语; pinyin: Bùyīyǔ; Vietnamese: tiếng Bố Y or tiếng Giáy) is a language spoken by the Bouyei ethnic group[3] of Southern Guizhou Province, China. Classified as a member of the Northern Tai group in the Tai language branch of the Tai–Kadai language family, the language has over 2.5 million native speakers and is also used by the Giay people (Vietnamese: Giáy) in some parts of Vietnam. There are native speakers living in France or the United States as well, which emigrated from China or Vietnam. About 98% of the native speakers are in China.[2]

Bouyei's characteristics are similar to the other members of its language branch. It is generally monosyllabic and word order and particles are the main forms of grammar. Bouyei's syllable initials match up closely to the other Northern Tai languages, with relatively fast simplification and merging. Bouyei sentences can be shown to contain many different levels of phrasing.

The contemporary Bouyei script was developed after the abandonment of the Bouyei-Zhuang Script Alliance Policy in 1981 and was designed from 1981 to 1985. It is focused and phonologically representative and takes the Wangmo County dialect as its foundation.



According to a 1950s survey performed by the Chinese government, the Bouyei language as spoken in Guizhou can be divided into three general dialect groups (Snyder 2008).[1]

  1. The Southern Guizhou (Qian) group – the largest of the three – from the Qianxinan Bouyei and Miao Autonomous Prefecture, which is mostly intelligible with the Guibian and Guibei Zhuang dialects. This vernacular is spoken in the counties of Wangmo, Ceheng, Luodian, Dushan, Libo, Duyun, Pingtang, Zhenfeng, Anlong, Xingren, and Xinyi.
  2. The Central Guizhou (Qian) group – next most spoken of the three – which is spread throughout Qiannan Buyei and Miao Autonomous Prefecture and the suburbs of Guiyang, and is partially intelligible with the Southern Guizhou dialects (it is very similar to the Zhuang dialects of northern Guangxi). This vernacular is spoken in the counties of Longli, Guiding, Qingzhen, Pingba, Kaiyang, Guiyang, and Anshun.
  3. The Western Guizhou (Qian) dialects – the least spoken of the three – which is spoken in the counties of Zhenning, Guanling, Ziyun, Qinglong, Pu'an, Liuzhi, Panxian, Shuicheng, Bijie, and Weining. The western dialects show more unique features than the other two groups. Some western dialects have aspirated stops, which is an uncommon feature in northern Tai languages (Snyder 2008).

Wu, Snyder, & Liang (2007) is the most comprehensive Bouyei survey to date, and covers the following data points.

Qiannan Bouyei and Miao Autonomous Prefecture
Qianxinan Bouyei and Miao Autonomous Prefecture
Anshun City
Liuzhi Special District

The Yei Zhuang varieties of Wenshan Prefecture, Yunnan are closely related to the Bouyei varieties of Guizhou. Many other languages outside China with the names "Yei", "Yay", "Yoy", are also closely related.


Bouyei is also spoken in northern Vietnam by several groups, the Bouyei people of Muong Khuong District of Lào Cai Province and in Quan Ba District of Ha Giang Province and the Giáy.[4] Edmondson and Gregerson (2001) has determined their language to be most similar to the Bouyei dialects of southwest Guizhou. The Giáy are an officially recognized group in Vietnam who now number nearly 50,000. Some household registries of the Giáy of Vietnam indicate that their ancestors had left Guizhou 160 years ago during the Qing dynasty, and traveled overland to southern Yunnan and then Vietnam (Edmondson & Gregerson 2001). This coincides with the Miao Rebellion (1854–73) of Guizhou. The Giáy are found in the following locations of Vietnam.[5]

Some Giày are in Yên Bái Province.

The Giáy of Mường Khương District of Lào Cai who call themselves Tu Dí [thu zi] can only speak a form of Chinese, and no Giáy. Their autonym comes from their ancestral place of origin, which is Duyun of Guizhou province, China. According to their household records, they had arrived in Maguan County and in Honghe Prefecture about 200 years ago. Similarly, some Giáy of Vietnam report that they have relatives still living in Hekou, Yunnan province, China (Edmondson & Gregerson 2001).

The Pu Nả people of Tam Đường District, Lai Châu Province, Vietnam call themselves the Vần Nả (with vần meaning 'people'), and number about 5,000 individuals (Lò 2012:11–20).[6] They are also called Quý Châu (Guizhou 贵州), Sa Quý Châu, Củi Chu, Pu Y, or Pâu Thìn. The Pu Nả live in the following villages of Tam Đường District (Lò 2012:18).

The Yay language described by William J. Gedney is in fact the Giáy dialect of Mường Hum, Bát Xát District, Lào Cai (Edmondson & Gregerson 2001). There are also other related Northern Tai languages spoken in Vietnam as well, such Bố Y, Nhang, and Quy Châu (possibly closely related to Tai Mène of Laos). The Bố Y had originally came from around Wangmo County in southwestern Guizhou. Some subgroups of Bố Y call themselves the Pu Na or Pu Thin, meaning 'people of the paddy field'.


There are also some speakers in Laos. In Laos, the Giáy people are called Yang, which is also used four various Rau peoples living there.

The Yang people, also spelled Nhang, are located in Louang Namtha Province, Oudomxay Province and Phongsaly Province. This three provinces are bordered by Yunnan, and one border Vietnam.



The Bouyei script recognizes 32 consonants, with names formed by the consonant in an initial position followed by a long "a" vowel.

Labial Alveolar/Dental (Alveolo-)
plain pal. plain sibilant plain labial
Nasal m /m/ my // n /n/ ny /ɲ/ ng /ŋ/ ngv /ŋʷ/
voiceless b /p/ by // d /t/ z /ts/* j // g /k/ gv //
aspirated p //* t //* c /tsʰ/* q /tɕʰ/* k //*
implosive mb /ɓ/ nd /ɗ/
Continuant voiceless f /f/ sl /ɬ/ s /s/~[θ] x /ɕ/ h /x/
voiced v /v/~[w] l /l/ r /z/~[ð] y /j/ hr /ɣ/
glottalised qv /ˀv/~[ˀw] qy /ˀj/

Pink: p, t, k, q, z, and c are used only to write Chinese loanwords.

Beige: sl and hr are used for sounds that occur only in certain dialects.

V is pronounced as a [w] before a "u".

An absent consonant may produce a glottal sound /ʔ/. /ʔ/ is also heard as a final sound.

Vowels and diphthongs

Bouyei has 77 vowels and diphthongs.

Front Central Back
High i ɯ u
High-mid e o
Low-mid ɐ ɔ
Low a
/a/~/aː/- /ɐ/ /o/- /ɔ/- /e/- /iə/- /i/- /uə/- /u/- /ɯə/- /ɯ/-
"Level" syllables - a /a/ o /o/ ee /e/~[ɛ] ie /iə/ i /i/ ue /uə/ u /u/ ea /ɯə/ e /ɯ/~[ɨ]
-/i/ aai /aːi/ ai /ɐi/ oi /oi/ ei /ɯi/
-/u/ aau /aːu/ au /ɐu/ eeu /eu/ iu /iu/
-/ɯ/ ae /ɐɯ/
-/m/ aam /aːm/ am /ɐm/ oom /om/ om /ɔm/ eem /em/ iam /iəm/ im /im/ uam /uəm/ um /um/ eam /ɯəm/
-/n/ aan /aːn/ an /ɐn/ oon /on/ on /ɔn/ een /en/ ian /iən/ in /in/ uan /uən/ un /un/ ean /ɯən/ en /ɯn/~[ən]
-/ŋ/ aang /aːŋ/ ang /ɐŋ/ oong /oŋ/ ong /ɔŋ/ eeng /eŋ/ iang /iəŋ/ ing /iŋ/ uang /uəŋ/ ung /uŋ/ eang /ɯəŋ/ eng /ɯŋ/~[əŋ]
"Entering" syllables -/p/ aab /aːp/ ab /ɐp/ oob /op/ ob /ɔp/ eeb /ep/ iab /iəp/ ib /ip/ uab /uəp/ ub /up/ eab /ɯəp/
-/t/ aad /aːt/ ad /ɐt/ ood /ot/ od /ɔt/ eed /et/ iad /iət/ id /it/ uad /uət/ ud /ut/ ead /ɯət/ ed /ɯt/~[ət]
-/k/ ag /ɐk/ og /ɔk/ eeg /ek/ ig /ik/ ug /uk/ eg /ɯk/~[ək]

The endings ⟨-er⟩ /ɚ/, ⟨-ao⟩ /au/, ⟨-ou⟩ /əu/, ⟨-ia⟩ /ia/, ⟨-io⟩ /io/, ⟨-iao⟩ /iɐu/, ⟨-ua⟩ /ua/, ⟨-uai⟩ /uɐi/, and ⟨-ui⟩ /ui/ are used in writing Chinese loanwords.

Vowels /i u/ may also have allophones of ʊ].

Another vowel sound [æ] may occur phonemically in the dialects of Anshun, Qinglong, Shuicheng, Zhenning, and Ziyun.


Bouyei has six tones, corresponding to the eight sheng of Middle Chinese: all six in open syllables or with a final /n/ or /ŋ/, reduced to two "entering" tones with a final stop.

# Name Contour Marking letter Corresponding Southwest Mandarin Tone Loanword Marking letter
1 Dark level ˨˦ l Departing q
2 Light level ˩ z
3 Dark rising ˥˧ c Rising j
4 Light rising ˧˩ x Light level f
5 Dark departing ˧˥ s
6 Light departing ˧ h Dark level y
7 Dark entering ˧˥ t
8 Light entering ˧ none

Marking letters are placed at the end of syllables to indicate tone. Loanword marking letters y, f, j, and q match with Mandarin tones 1, 2, 3, and 4 respectively.

Phonological shifts

Bouyei shows de-voicing of Proto-Tai–Kadai's voiced consonants (*b/p/, *d/t/, /k/), and loss of aspiration.

Proto-Tai–Kadai *ˀn, *n̥ *t *ˀd *dʱ, *d *n
Bouyei n t ɗ t n
Dark tone Light tone

Proto-Tai–Kadai's tones experienced a splitting into modern Bouyei, shown in the following table.

Proto-Tai–Kadai *ˀn, *n̥ *t *ˀd *dʱ, *d *n
PTK Level tone Dark level Light level
PTK Rising tone Dark rising Light rising
PTK Departing tone Dark departing Light departing
PTK Entering tone Dark entering Light entering


Ancient Bouyei script

Ancient Bouyei writing was created by borrowing elements from Chinese characters or by mimicking their forms, and is similar to Sawndip. Items collected were mostly Shaman's books of the Buyi ancestors, which were used to select auspicious days, lucky numbers and directions, and divination.[7] The scriptures also produced Nuo books and literary works. The Nuo scripts have been widely circulated among the Buyi people in Libo region for more than a thousand years to praise goodness, condemn evil, advocate filiality, and to promote truth, kindness and beauty; and these have become the code of conduct among the local Buyei people.[8] The epic poem Wang Yulian was a literary work that is believed to be the retelling of a Chinese story in Buyei language. Its manual copies are popular in Zhexiang Township, Wangmo County in Buyei and Miao Autonomous Prefecture in Southwest Guizhou.[9]

Old Modern Bouyei

In November 1956, a scientific conference was held in Guiyang to discuss the creation and implementation of a Latin-based alphabet for Bouyei. The result was a script similar some Zhuang romanizations that used the Longli County dialect as its base. The script was approved by the Chinese government and was put into use in 1957, though its use ceased in 1960.

Current Bouyei script

In 1981 a conference on Bouyei history revised the script developed in 1956 in an attempt to make it more practical and phonologically representative of Wangmo County speech. It also was approved by the Chinese government, and was adopted on an experimental basis in 1982. Feedback was largely positive, and the script was officially brought into use in March 1985 and continues to be used to the present.

Old and current Bouyei Romanization comparisons

Old Current IPA Old Current IPA Old Current IPA Old Current IPA Old Current{ IPA
b b /p/ ƃ mb /ɓ/ m m /m/ f f /f/ v v, qv /v, ˀv/
c z /ts/ s s /s/ r r /z/
d d /t/ ƌ nd /ɗ/ n n /n/ l l /l/
g g /k/ gv gv /kʷ/ ŋ ng /ŋ/ ŋv ngv /ŋʷ/ h h /x/
gy j /tɕ/ ny ny /nʲ/ x x /ɕ/ y y, qy /j, ˀj/
by by /pʲ/ my my /mʲ/

Old Zhuang Bouyei IPA Old Zhuang Bouyei IPA Old Zhuang Bouyei IPA Old Zhuang Bouyei IPA
a a aa /aː/ ə ae a /a/ e e ee /e/ i i i /i/
o o oo /oː/ ө oe o /o/ u u u /u/ ɯ w e /ɯ/

Tone Marking Letters

# Old Zhuang Bouyei Yangchang Dialect Fuxing Dialect
1 none none l, q 35 24
2 ƨ z z 11 11
3 з j c, j 13 53
4 ч x x, f 31 11
5 ƽ q s 33 35
6 ƅ h h, y 53 33
7 (p, t, k) (p, t, k) (b, d, g)t 33 (long), 35 (short) 35
8 (b, d, g) (b, d, g) (b, d, g) 53 (long), 11 (short) 33


  1. ^ Bouyei at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015) (subscription required)
  2. ^ a b "Bouyei". Ethnologue.
  3. ^ "Buyei Ethnic Group". Unique China Tours. Archived from the original on 2011-07-24.
  4. ^ Chu Thái Sơn (1975). "Lịch sử di cư và sinh hoạt văn hóa của người Tu Dí ở Lào Cai". In, Ủy ban khoa học xã hội Việt Nam: Viện dân tộc học. Về vấn đề xác định thành phần các dân tộc thiểu số ở miền bắc Việt Nam, 331–364. Hà Nội: Nhà xuất bản khoa học xã hội.
  5. ^ Edmondson, J. A.; Gregerson, K. J. (2001). "Four Languages of the Vietnam-China Borderlands". In Adams, K. L.; Hudak, T. J. (eds.). Papers from the Sixth Annual Meeting of the Southeast Asian Linguistics Society. Tempe, Arizona: Arizona State University, Program for Southeast Asian Studies. pp. 101–133.
  6. ^ Lò, Văn Chiến (2012). Dân ca người Pu Nả ở Lai Châu (in Vietnamese). Hà Nội: Nhà xuá̂t bản Văn hóa dân tộc. ISBN 978-604-70-0107-1.
  7. ^ Zhou, Guomao 周国茂 (2013). "Bùyīzú chuántǒng zéjí shū gǔwénzì: Gǔ Luò Yuè wénzì de huó biāoběn" 布依族传统择吉书古文字:古骆越文字的活标本 [Ancient Writings in the Buyei Nation's Traditional Scripts: Living Specimen of Ancient Luo Yue Writing]. Guìzhōu shèhuì kēxué 贵州社会科学 (in Chinese). 2013 (6): 146–149.
  8. ^ Zhongguo minzu bao 中国民族报 (2017-11-23). "Bùyīzú gǔwénzì: Rúhé bìmiǎn "Tiānshū" èyùn?" 布依族古文字:如何避免"天书"厄运? [Ancient Bouyei Scripts: How to Avoid the Doom of the "Book of Unintelligible"?]. Zhōngguó mínzú wénhuà zīyuán kù 中国民族文化资源库 (in Chinese).
  9. ^ Huang, Zhenbang 黄镇邦 (2013). "Bùyīzú "Gǎi Hàn zuò Yí" chūzhōng jí qí jiàzhí – Yǐ gūběn "Wáng Yùlián" wéi lì" 布依族"改汉作夷"初衷及其价值——以孤本《王玉连》为例 [The Original Intention and the Value of the Bouyei’s Adapting Han Into Yi – Taking the Only Existing Copy Named Wang Yulian as an Example]. Guìzhōu wénshǐ cóngkān 贵州文史丛刊 (in Chinese). 2013 (3): 119–124. The story of Wang Yulian tells that Wang Yulian was forced to join the army by Wang Erniang, and his mother and wife were also forced to beg in street. After Wang Yulian became well-established, with the help of the government, he punished Wang Erniang and reunited with his mother and wife.
  • Long, Haiyan 龙海燕 (2007). Guìyáng shìjiāo Bùyīyǔ Hànyǔ jiēchù yánjiū 贵阳市郊布依语汉语接触研究 [Language Contact Between Guiyang Buyi and Chinese] (in Chinese). Chengdu: Dianzi keji daxue chubanshe. ISBN 9787564710767.
  • Snyder, Wil C. (2008). "Bouyei Phonology". In Diller, Anthony V. N.; Edmondson, Jerold A.; Luo, Yongxian (eds.). The Tai-Kadai Languages. London: Routledge. ISBN 978-0-7007-1457-5.
  • Wu, Wenyi; Snyder, Wil C.; Liang, Yongshu (2007). "Survey of the Guizhou Bouyei Language" (PDF). Dallas: SIL International. SIL Language and Culture Documentation and Description 2007-001.
  • Yu, Jiongbiao; Snyder, Wil (1995). Libo Buyi Han Ying cihui / Libo Buyi-Chinese-English Glossary. Dallas, TX: Summer Institute of Linguistics. ISBN 1-55671-014-3.
  • Bouyei Culture Website