Caijia (Chinese: 蔡家话) is an endangered Sino-Tibetan language spoken in an area centred on Bijie, in the west of the Chinese province of Guizhou. It was first documented by Chinese researchers in the 1980s. It has been described by different authors as a relative of Bai or an early split from Old Chinese. The autonym is men³¹ni³³. According to Lu (2022), Caijia speakers in Xingfa 兴发乡, Hezhang County refer to their language as meŋ²¹ni³³ŋoŋ³³.
Caijia also appears to be related to the extinct Longjia and Luren languages, but they are too poorly documented for definitive classification.
In contrast, Sagart (2011) groups Caijia with Waxiang, a divergent Chinese variety spoken in northwestern Hunan, as the earliest group to split off from Old Chinese.
Sagart (2011) lists the following features of Old Chinese retained by both Caijia and Waxiang:
OC *lˤ- and *lr- > Caijia and Waxiang l- (where Middle Chinese has d-), as in OC *lˤiŋ (田) > Caijia len31, Waxiang lɛ13 'field'
OC *r- > Caijia ɣ- and Waxiang z- (where Middle Chinese has l-), as in OC *mə.rˤək (來) > *rˤə > Caijia ɣɯ31, Waxiang zɛ13 'to come'
Sagart identifies two words as shared innovations:
'two': Caijia ta55, Waxiang tso53, from OC *tsˤə(ʔ)-s 'twice' (再)
'milk': Caijia mi55, Waxiang mi55, which Sagart (2011) suggests is a non-Sinitic word
Bijie (1983) reports the Caijia people are found in the seven counties of Bijie prefecture – Qixingguan, Dafang, Qianxi, Zhijin, Nayong, Weining, and Hezhang – comprising a total of over 3,100 households and over 18,000 individuals. Bijie (1983) reports that smaller populations of Caijia people are found in Anshun (with over 400 people) and Liupanshui (with over 3,500 people) prefectures (to the southeast and southwest respectively), as well as Zhaoyang, Yiliang, and Zhenxiong counties in Zhaotong prefecture, Yunnan (to the northwest). Bijie (1983) also contains linguistic data for the Caijia language of Hezhang County.
Caijia speakers are distributed in the following locations in Bijie prefecture (Bo Wenze 2004).
Lijiazhai 李家寨, Xinying Village 新营村, Xingfa Township 兴发乡, Hezhang County
Caijiayuan 蔡家园, Yakou Village 垭口村, Songlinpo Township 松林坡乡, Hezhang County
Lijiagou 李家沟, Kele Township 可乐乡, Hezhang County
Xinfa Township 新发布依族乡, Weining County (not to be confused with Xingfa Township 兴发乡 in Hezhang County)
Yinajia District 以那架区 has the most ethnic Caijia in Zhijin County. Bijie (1983) also reports the location of Baiyanjiao 白岩脚, Puweng Township 普翁公社, Guiguo District 桂果区, Zhijin County.
The Liupanshui City Ethnic Gazetteer 六盘水市志：民族志 (2003:182–183) lists ethnic Caijia populations for the following counties in the prefecture, with a total of 4,061 (1982):
Liuzhi: 1,720 (1981), in Niuchang 牛场, Xinchang 新场, Heitang 黑塘
Shuicheng: 2,296 (1982), in Bide 比德, Huale 化乐, Qinglin 青林, Jinpen 金盆
Lee (2021) also notes that vowels can have three additional forms: long ⟨(double letter)⟩, nasal ⟨-nn⟩, and r-colored ⟨-r⟩. Although sources conflict, consonants can additionally be glottalized or pharyngealized, which of the two it is actually unclear. This is presumably marked with their respective IPA symbols.
Guizhou (1982) lists the following two dialects of the Caijia language. The Caijia dialect documented in Guizhou (1982) is that of Yangjiazhai 杨家寨, Liangyan Village 亮岩公社, Xingfa District 兴发区, Hezhang County.
Xingfa District 兴发区, Hezhang County: Liangyan Village 亮岩公社 (including the main datapoint of Yangjiazhai 杨家寨), Yeli Village 野里公社, and Wocun Village 窝皮寸
Kaiping Village 开坪公社, Longchang District 龙场区, Weining County (located near Xinfa Township 新发布依族乡)
Guizhou (1982) notes that the -anrime in Caijia of Xingfa 兴发 corresponds to the -aŋ rime in Caijia of Longchang 龙场.
Hsiu (2018) reports the discovery of a previously undocumented Caijia dialect that is spoken in Niujiaojing 牛角井村, Yangjie Town 羊街镇, Weining County. This Caijia dialect is also spoken in the villages of Xinglongchang 兴隆场村, Niuchishui 牛吃水, and Fadi 发地.
Names and ethnic subdivisions
The Caijia people are ethnoculturally related to the Lu (卢) people (Luren 卢人), who are classified as Manchu by the Chinese government. Luren (Lu) and Caijia are also closely related to Longjia (龙家). Caijia, Longjia, and Lu are all spoken in western Guizhou.
Caijia people with the autonym "Menni" (门尼 or 门你) have also been reported in Puding County, Guizhou, where they were classified as ethnic Gelao during the 1980s (Zhou Guoyan 2004).
In Zhijin County, Guizhou, Caijia people are called Silie 斯列 by the local Miao and Awuna 阿乌纳 by the local Yi (Zhijin County Gazetteer 1997:166).
Ethnic subdivisions of the Caijia people include the Black 黑, White 白, Qingshangshui 青上水, Xiashui 下水, Hanzhan 捍毡, Zhuazhua 抓抓, Datou 大头, Qianqiaoba 乾乔巴, Laohu 老虎, Luoluo 倮倮, Xuejiao 削角 (Xieguo 写果), and Jiandao 剪刀.
Historically recorded names for the Caijia include Caijiazi 蔡家子 and Gantan Caijia 擀毡蔡家. The Yi call the Caijia "Sha'awu 沙阿乌", the Miao call them "Sini 斯你", and other ethnic groups also call them "Xieguo 写果".
^Zhengzhang, Shangfang 郑张尚芳 (2010). "Càijiāhuà Báiyǔ guānxì jí cígēn bǐjiào" 蔡家话白语关系及词根比较. In Pan, Wuyun 潘悟云; Shen, Zhongwei 沈钟伟 (eds.). Yánjiū zhī lè: Qìngzhù Wáng Shìyuán xiānshēng qīshíwǔ shòuchén xuéshù lùnwén jí 研究之乐：庆祝王士元先生七十五寿辰学术论文集 [The Joy of Research: A Collection of Academic Papers Celebrating the 75th Birthday of Mr. Wang Shiyuan] (in Chinese). Vol. II. Shanghai: Shanghai jiaoyu chubanshe. pp. 389–400.
^Guizhou provincial ethnic classification commission [贵州省民族识别工作队]. 1984. Report on ethnic classification issues of the Nanlong people (Nanjing-Longjia) [南龙人（南京-龙家）族别问题调查报告]. m.s.