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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 men31 ni33.
Similarities among Old Chinese, Waxiang, Caijia, and Bai have been pointed out by Wu & Shen (2010) and others. Zhengzhang Shangfang (2010) argued that Bai and Caijia formed a Greater Bai subgroup of Sino-Tibetan.
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:
Sagart identifies two words as shared innovations:
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).
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):
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, and in Chuanjiu 串九, Qinggang 青杠, Liangshui 凉水, Poji 泼机, Nantai 南台, Wugu 五谷 (Zhenxiong County Almanac 1986).
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.
Guizhou (1982) notes that the -an rime 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.
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.
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 Almanac 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".
Bijie (1983:2–3) lists the following autonyms and exonyms for the Caijia people.