Native toChina
Native speakers
1,000 (2004)[1]
Language codes
ISO 639-3None (mis)

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.[2] 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.[3]


Similarities among Old Chinese, Waxiang, Caijia, and Bai have been pointed out by Wu & Shen (2010)[4] and others.[5][6] Zhengzhang Shangfang (2010) argued that Bai and Caijia formed a Greater Bai subgroup of Sino-Tibetan.[7]

Caijia also appears to be related to the extinct Longjia and Luren languages,[8] 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,[9][10] as the earliest group to split off from Old Chinese.[11] Sagart (2011) lists the following features of Old Chinese retained by both Caijia and Waxiang:

Sagart identifies two words as shared innovations:


Bijie prefecture within Guizhou province, China

Bijie (1983)[12] 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).[1]

Yinajia District 以那架区 has the most ethnic Caijia in Zhijin County. Bijie (1983)[12] 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)[13] lists ethnic Caijia populations for the following counties in the prefecture, with a total of 4,061 (1982):

In Shuicheng County, the Caijia language is still spoken in:

In Zhenxiong County, Yunnan, the Caijia people are scattered in the village cluster of Sumu 苏木村,[14][15] and in Chuanjiu 串九,[16] Qinggang 青杠,[17][18] Liangshui 凉水,[19] Poji 泼机,[20] Nantai 南台, Wugu 五谷[21] (Zhenxiong County Gazetteer 1986).[22]


Lee (2021)[23] gives the following consonants and vowels for the phononology of Caijia:

Labial Apical Retroflex Palatal Velar Uvular Glottal
Nasals /m/ ⟨m⟩ /n/ ⟨n⟩ /ŋ/ ⟨ng⟩
Stops /p/ ⟨b⟩ /t/ ⟨d⟩ /k/ ⟨g⟩ /q/ ⟨gv⟩
// ⟨p⟩ // ⟨t⟩ // ⟨k⟩ // ⟨gv⟩
/b/ ⟨bb⟩ /d/ ⟨dd⟩ /g/ ⟨gg⟩
Affricates /t͡s/ ⟨z⟩ /ʈ͡ʂ/ ⟨zh⟩ /t͡ɕ/ ⟨j⟩
/t͡sʰ/ ⟨c⟩ /ʈ͡ʂʰ/ ⟨ch⟩ /t͡ɕʰ/ ⟨q⟩
/d͡z/ ⟨zz⟩ /ɖ͡ʐ/ ⟨dh⟩ /d͡ʑ/ ⟨jj⟩
Fricatives /ɸ/ ⟨f⟩ /s/ ⟨s⟩ /ʂ/ ⟨sh⟩ /ɕ/ ⟨x⟩ /x/ ⟨h⟩ /χ/ ⟨v⟩
/v/ ⟨wf⟩ /z/ ⟨ss⟩ /ʐ/ ⟨rr⟩ /ʑ/ ⟨xx⟩ /ɣ/ ⟨hh⟩ /ʁ/ ⟨vv⟩ /ɦ/ ⟨vh⟩
/ɬ/ ⟨lh⟩
Sonorants /l/ ⟨l⟩ /ɭ/ ⟨rl⟩
/w/ ⟨w⟩ /ɹ/ ⟨r⟩ /j/ ⟨y⟩
Front Center Back
Close /ɪ/ ⟨i⟩ /y/ ⟨yu-/-ü⟩ /u/ ⟨u⟩
Mid /e/ ⟨ea⟩ /ə/ ⟨e⟩ /o/ ⟨o⟩
Open /æ/ ⟨ae⟩ /ɑ/ ⟨a⟩

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.[24] 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.

  1. 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[25]
  2. 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)[24] notes that the -an rime in Caijia of Xingfa 兴发 corresponds to the -aŋ rime in Caijia of Longchang 龙场.

Hsiu (2018)[26] 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).[27] Caijia, Longjia, and Lu are all spoken in western Guizhou.

In Weining County, Caijia speakers are officially classified by the Chinese government as ethnic Gelao (Hsiu 2017), while in Hezhang County they are classified as Bai (Bo 2004).

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.[28]

Historically recorded names for the Caijia include Caijiazi 蔡家子 and Gantan Caijia 擀毡蔡家.[13] The Yi call the Caijia "Sha'awu 沙阿乌", the Miao call them "Sini 斯你",[13] and other ethnic groups also call them "Xieguo 写果".[13]

Bijie (1983:2–3)[12] lists the following autonyms and exonyms for the Caijia people.


Lü (2022) is a comprehensive grammar of Caijia.[3]

See also

Notes and references

  1. ^ a b c Bo, Wenze 薄文泽 (2004). "Càijiāhuà gàikuàng" 蔡家话概况 [A Brief Introduction of Caijia Speech]. Mínzú yǔwén 民族语文. 2004 (2): 68–81. doi:10.3969/j.issn.0257-5779.2004.02.012.
  2. ^ a b Hölzl, Andreas (2021). "Longjia (China) – Language Contexts" (PDF). Language Documentation and Description. 20: 13–34.
  3. ^ a b Lü, Shanshan 吕珊珊 (2022). A Reference Grammar of Caijia: An Unclassified Language of Guizhou. De Gruyter Mouton. doi:10.1515/9783110724806. ISBN 978-3-11-072480-6. S2CID 252855820.
  4. ^ Wu, Yunji 伍云姬; Shen, Ruiqing 沈瑞清 (2010). Xiāngxī Gǔzhàng Wǎxiānghuà diàochá bàogào 湘西古丈瓦乡话调查报告 [An Investigative Report of Waxianghua of Guzhang County, Xiangxi Prefecture] (in Chinese). Shanghai: Shanghai jiaoyu chubanshe.
  5. ^ "Xiāngxī Wǎxiānghuà "chīfàn" [róumō] dúyīn láilì kǎo" 湘西瓦乡话“吃饭”【柔摸】读音来历考. Hóuxiǎohuī de bókè 侯小辉的博客 (in Chinese). Xinlang boke. 2013-12-04. Retrieved 16 April 2018.
  6. ^ "Yuánlíng Xiānghuà (chuánxī) yǔ Báiyǔ Càijiāhuà gèbié dúyīn duìbǐ" 沅陵乡话(船溪)与白语蔡家话个别读音对比. Hóuxiǎohuī de bókè 侯小辉的博客 (in Chinese). Xinlang boke. 2012-10-04. Retrieved 16 April 2018.
  7. ^ 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.
  8. ^ 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.
  9. ^ Baxter, William; Sagart, Laurent (2014). Old Chinese: A New Reconstruction. Oxford: Oxford University Press. p. 34. ISBN 978-0-19-994537-5.
  10. ^ Kurpaska, Maria (2010). Chinese Language(s): A Look Through the Prism of "The Great Dictionary of Modern Chinese Dialects". Berlin: De Gruyter Mouton. p. 73. ISBN 978-3-11-021914-2.
  11. ^ Sagart, Laurent (2011). Classifying Chinese Dialects/Sinitic Languages on Shared Innovations. Talk given at Centre de recherches linguistiques sur l’Asie orientale, Norgent sur Marne.
  12. ^ a b c Bijie Prefecture Ethnic Classification Office [贵州省毕节地区民族识别办公室]. 1983. "Caijia" minzu chengfen diaocha baogao ["蔡家"民族成分调查报告]. m.s.
  13. ^ a b c d e f Liupanshui City Ethnic Gazetteer 六盘水市志:民族志 (2003:182–183). ISBN 7-221-05533-5
  14. ^ "镇雄县黑树镇苏木村委会". Archived from the original on 1 January 2018. Retrieved 16 April 2018.
  15. ^ "镇雄县黑树镇苏木村委会苏木自然村". Archived from the original on 1 January 2018. Retrieved 16 April 2018.
  16. ^ "镇雄县母享镇串九村委会". Archived from the original on 1 January 2018. Retrieved 16 April 2018.
  17. ^ "镇雄县鱼洞乡青杠村委会". Archived from the original on 1 January 2018. Retrieved 16 April 2018.
  18. ^ "镇雄县鱼洞乡青杠村委会青杠自然村". Archived from the original on 1 January 2018. Retrieved 16 April 2018.
  19. ^ "镇雄县塘房镇凉水村委会". Archived from the original on 1 January 2018. Retrieved 16 April 2018.
  20. ^[dead link]
  21. ^ "镇雄县乌峰镇五谷村委会". Archived from the original on 2014-03-02. Retrieved 2014-02-26.
  22. ^ "Yúnnán hé Guìzhōu duìyú Chuānqīngrén, Nánjīngrén, Lóngjiā de shìbié dàxiāngjìngtíng" 云南和贵州对于穿青人、南京人、龙家的识别大相径庭. Liyuzhi de bókè Liyuzhi 的博客 (in Chinese). Xinlang boke. 2010-08-14. Archived from the original on 2014-03-02. Retrieved 16 April 2018.
  23. ^ Lee, Man Hei (2023). "Phonological features of Caijia that are notable from a diachronic perspective". Journal of Historical Linguistics. 13: 82–114. doi:10.1075/jhl.21025.lee. S2CID 252558124.
  24. ^ a b Guizhou provincial ethnic classification commission, linguistic division [贵州省民族识别工作队语言组]. 1982. The language of the Caijia [Caijia de yuyan 蔡家的语言]. m.s.
  25. ^ Note: 皮寸 form a single character, with 皮 on the left and 寸 on the right
  26. ^ Hsiu, Andrew. 2018. The Niujiaojing dialect of Caijia in Weining County, Guizhou, China. Manuscript draft. doi:10.5281/zenodo.1249165
  27. ^ Guizhou Province Gazetteer: Ethnic Gazetteer [贵州省志. 民族志] (2002). Guiyang: Guizhou Ethnic Publishing House [貴州民族出版社].
  28. ^ "白族家园——讲义寨_liyuzhi_新浪博客". Retrieved 16 April 2018.

Further reading