|Native to||China, Vietnam, Laos, Thailand,|
Communities in United States, and France.
|(840,000 cited 1995–1999)|
Official language in
|China (in Jinxiu Yao Autonomous County)|
The Iu Mien language (Iu Mien: Iu Mienh, [ju˧ mjɛn˧˩]; Chinese: 勉語 or 勉方言; Thai: ภาษาอิวเมี่ยน) is the language spoken by the Iu Mien people in China (where they are considered a constituent group of the Yao peoples), Laos, Vietnam, Thailand and, more recently, the United States in diaspora. Like other Mien languages, it is tonal and monosyllabic.
Linguists in China consider the dialect spoken in Changdong, Jinxiu Yao Autonomous County, Guangxi to be the standard. This standard is also spoken by Iu Mien in the West, however, because most are refugees from Laos, their dialect incorporates influences from the Lao and Thai languages.
Iu Mien has 78% lexical similarity with Kim Mun (Lanten), 70% with Biao-Jiao Mien, and 61% with Dzao Min.
In China, Iu Mien is spoken in the following counties (Mao 2004:302–303). There are 130,000 speakers in Hunan province (known as the Xiangnan 湘南 dialect), and 400,000 speakers in Guangxi, Yunnan, Guangdong, Guizhou, and Jiangxi provinces (known as the Guangdian 广滇 dialect).
There are several known dialects of Iu Mien. Dialects vary by clan and geographic location.
In Vietnam, Dao people belonging to the Đại Bản, Tiểu Bản, Quần Chẹt, Ô Gang, Cóc Ngáng, and Cóc Mùn subgroups speak Iu Mien dialects.
There are 31 cited consonant phonemes in Iu Mien. A distinguishing feature of Iu Mien consonants is the presence of voiceless nasals and laterals.
It appears that all single consonant phonemes except /ʔ/ can occur as the onset.
Unlike Hmong, which generally prohibits coda consonants, Iu Mien has seven single consonant phonemes that can take the coda position. These consonants are /m/, /n/, /ŋ/, [p̚], [t̚], [k̚], and /ʔ/. Some of the stops can only occur as final consonants when accompanied by certain tones; for example, /ʔ/ only occurs with the tone ⟨c⟩ or ⟨v⟩.
Iu Mien vowels are represented in the Iu Mien United Script using combinations of the six letters, ⟨a⟩, ⟨e⟩, ⟨i⟩, ⟨o⟩, ⟨u⟩, and ⟨r⟩.
According to Bruhn, the monophthongs are ⟨i⟩, ⟨u⟩, ⟨e⟩, ⟨o⟩, ⟨ai⟩, ⟨er⟩, ⟨ae⟩, ⟨a⟩, ⟨aa⟩, and ⟨or⟩. The diphthongs are ⟨ai⟩, ⟨aai⟩, ⟨au⟩, ⟨aau⟩, ⟨ei⟩, ⟨oi⟩, ⟨ou⟩, ⟨eu⟩. Furthermore, additional diphthongs and triphthongs can be formed from the aforementioned vowels through /i/- or /u/-on-gliding (having /i/ or /u/ before the vowel). Such vowels attested by Bruhn include ⟨ia⟩, ⟨iaa⟩, ⟨ie⟩, ⟨io⟩, ⟨iu⟩, ⟨ior⟩, ⟨iai⟩, ⟨iaai⟩, ⟨iau⟩, ⟨iaau⟩, ⟨iei⟩, ⟨iou⟩, ⟨ua⟩, ⟨uaa⟩, ⟨uae⟩, ⟨ue⟩, ⟨ui⟩, ⟨uo⟩, ⟨uai⟩, ⟨uaai⟩, and ⟨uei⟩.
The dialect studied by Bruhn, and described in the above table, has a phoneme /ɛ/ that does not have its own spelling, but is represented in various contexts either as ⟨e⟩ or ⟨ai⟩ (which are also used for /e/ and /aɪ/, respectively). In all cases where /ɛ/ is spelled ⟨e⟩, and nearly all cases where it is spelled ⟨ai⟩, it does not contrast with /e/ or /aɪ/, respectively, and can be viewed as an allophone of these sounds. The only potential exception appears to be when occurring as a syllable final by itself, where it has an extremely restricted distribution, occurring only after the (alveolo-)palatal consonants /tɕ/, /dʑ/, and /ɲ/. The sound /ɛ/ may be a secondary development from /aɪ/ in this context, although Bruhn does not discuss this issue.
Iu Mien is a tonal language with six observed tonemes.
In the Iu Mien United Script (the language's most common writing system), tones are not marked with diacritics; rather, a word's tone is indicated by a special marker letter at the end of the word. If a word lacks a marker, then it is to be pronounced with a middle tone.
|scope="col" | IPA||Description||IMUS||Example||English meaning|
|˧˩||Mid, falling||h||maaih||to have|
|˧||Mid||∅||maai||basic tail of bird|
|˨˧/˨˧˨||Lower, longer, rise-fall||z||maaiz||to buy|
Iu Mien is an analytic language and lacks inflection. It is also a monosyllabic language, with most of its lexicon consisting of one syllable.
The language follows a SVO word order. Some other syntactic properties include the following:
In the past, the lack of an alphabet caused low rates of literacy amongst the Iu Mien speakers. It had been written with Chinese characters in China; however, this is extremely difficult for Iu Mien speakers from other countries such as Laos and from groups who now live in the West.
In an effort to address this, an Iu Mien Unified Script was created in 1984 using the Latin script, based on an earlier orthography developed in China. Unlike the Vietnamese language, this alphabet does not use any diacritics to distinguish tones or different vowel sounds, and only uses the 26 letters of the ISO basic Latin alphabet. This orthography distinguishes 30 initials, 128 finals, and eight tones. Hyphens are used to link adjectives with the nouns they modify. The alphabet is similar to the RPA used to write the Hmong language and the Hanyu Pinyin transcription scheme used for Chinese.
The following films feature the Iu Mien language: