Native toNorthwestern Hunan Province, China; Laifeng County, Hubei
Ethnicity8.0 million Tujia (2000 census)[1]
Native speakers
70,000 (2005)[1]
  • (unclassified)
    • Tujia
Language codes
ISO 639-3Either:
tji – Northern
tjs – Southern
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The Tujia language (Northern Tujia: Bifzivsar, /pi35 ʦi55 sa21/; Southern Tujia: Mongrzzirhof, /mõ21 ʣi21 ho35/; simplified Chinese: 土家语; traditional Chinese: 土家語; pinyin: Tǔjiāyǔ) is a Sino-Tibetan language spoken natively by the Tujia people in Hunan Province, China. It is unclassified within the Sino-Tibetan language family, due to pervasive influence from neighboring languages. There are two mutually unintelligible variants, Northern and Southern. Both variants are tonal languages with the tone contours of ˥˧ ˧˥ ˨˩/ (55, 53, 35, 21). Northern Tujia has 21 initials, whereas Southern Tujia has 26 (with 5 additional voiced initials). As for the finals, Northern Tujia has 25 and Southern Tujia has 30, 12 of which are used exclusively in loanwords from Chinese. Its verbs make a distinction of active and passive voices. Its pronouns distinguish the singular and plural numbers along with the basic and possessive cases. As of 2005, the number of speakers was estimated at 70,000 for Northern Tujia (of which about 100 are monolingual)[2] and 1,500 for Southern Tujia,[3] out of an ethnic population of 8 million.[2][3]


Tujia autonyms include /pi35 tsi55 kʰa21/ (毕孜卡; /pi21 tsi21 kʰa21/ in Ye 1995) and /mi35 tɕi55 kʰa33/55/.[4] The Tujia people call their language /pi35 tsi55 sa21/.[5]

Tujia (土家) literally means 'native people', which is the appellation that the Han Chinese had given to them due to their aboriginal status in the area. The Tujia, on the other hand, call the Han Chinese Kejia (客家), a designation also given to the Hakka people, which means 'guest people'.[4] Tujia is also called "Bizic" by Yulou Zhou.[6]


Tujia is clearly a Sino-Tibetan language, but its position within that family is unclear, due to massive borrowing from other Sino-Tibetan languages, in particular loanwords from Chinese.[7] Although it has been placed with other groups in the past, linguists now generally leave it unclassified.


Tujia can be divided into two different languages: Northern Tujia and Southern Tujia, which have 40% lexical similarity with each other.[8] Almost all Tujia speakers are located in Xiangxi Tujia and Miao Autonomous Prefecture. The Northern dialect has the vast majority of speakers, while the Southern dialect is spoken in only 3 villages of Tanxi Township (潭溪镇) in Luxi County.

The Tujia-speaking areas of Longshan County are mostly located around the Xiche River 洗车河. The variety studied by Tian (1986) is that of Dianfang Township 靛房乡, Longshan County. Ye focuses on the Northern variety of Xinghuo Village 星火村, Miao'ertan Township 苗儿滩镇 (formerly Miaoshi 苗市), Longshan County 龙山县.[5] Peng covers the Northern variety of Yongshun County.[9] Brassett based their Tujia data primarily on the variety of Tasha Township 他砂乡, Longshan County and also partly from Pojiao Township 坡脚乡 and Dianfang Township 靛房乡.[10] Dai focuses on the variety of Xianren Township 仙仁乡, Baojing County. Zhang (2006) covers the Northern Tujia dialect of Duogu village 多谷村, Longshan County and the Southern Tujia dialect of Poluozhai 婆落寨, Luxi County.[4]

Chen (2006)

Chen Kang divides Tujia as follows.[11]

Yang (2011)

Yang Zaibiao reports that Tujia is spoken in over 500 natural villages comprising about 200 administrative villages and 34 townships.[13] The Northern Tujia autonym is pi35 tsɿ55 kʰa21, and the Southern Tujia autonym is mõ21 dzɿ21.[14] Yang covers the two Northern Tujia dialects of Dianfang 靛房 and Xiaolongre 小龙热, and the Southern Tujia dialect of Qieji 且己.



The following are the consonants in both the Northern and Southern Tujia dialects:[15][10]

Labial Alveolar Post-
Plosive voiceless p t k
voiced1 b d ɡ
Affricate voiceless ts
aspirated tsʰ tɕʰ
voiced1 dz
Fricative voiceless f1 s ɕ x4
voiced z ɣ
Nasal m n2 ɲ3 ŋ
Approximant w l2 j
  1. Voiced plosives and affricates, and /f/ occur only in the Southern Tujia dialects.
  2. [n] and [l] are in free variation.
  3. [ɲ] is an allophone of /n/.
  4. /x/ has allophones [ç] before /i/ and [ɸ] before /u/.


Front Central Back
Close i y ɨ ʉ u
Close-mid e ɤ o
Open-mid ɔ
Open a
Vowels/Combinations in the Tujia dialects
Oral Nasal
Medial i ʉ e a o u coda e æ a u n ŋ coda
Nucleus æ̃ ɛn ɜŋ
Vowel i iaʉ ie ia io iu ĩ iæ̃ iɛn
y yei ye ya yẽ yæ̃
ɨ ɨi ɨe ɨu
a ai au iau ã
e ei
ɔ ɔŋ iɔŋ
o ou ioʉ
u uei ue ua uo uai ũ uẽ uæ̃ un uɛn


Ye (1995)

One system of writing Tujia in Latin script is based on Hanyu Pinyin and uses letters as tone markers, namely, x, r, v, f.[16][17]

Brassett, Brassett, & Lu (2006)

Philip Brassett, Cecilia Brassett and Lu Meiyan have proposed an experimental Pinyin orthography for the Tujia language, as follows:[10]

Tujia Pinyin Consonants
Symbol IPA Symbol IPA
b p ng ŋ
c tsʰ p
d t q tɕʰ
g k r z
h x s s
hh ɣ t
j w w
k x ɕ
l l, n y j
m m z ts
n ɲ, n
Tujia Pinyin Vowels
Symbol IPA Symbol IPA
a a ing
ai ai iong iɔŋ
an ɛn iu iu
ang o ɔ
ao au ong ɔŋ
e ɤ ou ou
ei ei u u
eng ɜŋ ua ua
i i, ɨ uai uai
ia ia uan uɛn
ian iɛn ui uei
iao iau un un
ie uo
Tujia Pinyin Tones
Symbol Pitch Name of tone Letters
1 ˥ or ˦ High level -v
2 ˨˦ or ˧˥ Low rising -f
3 ˨˩ Low falling -r
4 ˥˩ or ˥˧ High falling -x

Tujia numerals

Tujia Pinyin Tones
Number Tujia words (with tone letters)
1 La
2 Niev
3 Sov
4 Riev
5 Uv
6 Wor
7 Nier
8 Yer
9 Kiev
10 Laxiv

Language preservation

Although only a small percentage of Tujia people speak the Tujia language, Tujia language enthusiasts work hard on to preserve it, both in Hunan and Hubei. According to news reports, two Tujia language instruction books have been published and work continues on a Tujia dictionary. The Tujia language scholar Chu Yongming (储永明) works with children at the Baifusi Ethnic Minorities School (百福司民族小学) in Baifusi Town, Laifeng County, Hubei to promote the language use.[18]


  1. ^ a b Northern at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015) (subscription required)
    Southern at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015) (subscription required)
  2. ^ a b Tujia, Northern
  3. ^ a b Tujia, Southern
  4. ^ a b c Dai 2005.
  5. ^ a b Ye 1995.
  6. ^ Zhou, Yulou (2020). Proto-Bizic: A Study of Tujia Historical Phonology (B.A. honors thesis). Stanford University. (list)
  7. ^ Bradley, David (2002). "The Subgrouping of Tibeto-Burman". In Beckwith, Christopher I. (ed.). Brill's Tibetan studies library. 2,6: PIATS 2000: Tibetan studies: Leiden 2000 / ed. by Christopher I. Beckwith. Proceedings of the ... seminar of the International Association for Tibetan Studies. Leiden Köln: Brill. pp. 73–112. ISBN 978-90-04-12424-0.
  8. ^ "China". Ethnologue: Languages of the World, Nineteenth Edition. 2016. Archived from the original on 2016-09-09.
  9. ^ Peng 1998.
  10. ^ a b c Brassett, Brassett & Lu 2006.
  11. ^ Chen 2006, p. 152.
  12. ^ Li Jingzhong [李敬忠] (2000). 泸溪土家语 [The Luxi Tujia language]. Beijing: Minzu University Press.
  13. ^ Yang 2011, p. 4.
  14. ^ Yang 2011, p. 15.
  15. ^ Zhang 2006.
  16. ^ Zhou, Minglang. Multilingualism in China: The Politics of Writing Reforms for Minority. De Gruyter.
  17. ^ "- YouTube". YouTube.
  18. ^ Humes, Bruce. "Rejuvenating the Tujia Language No Easy Feat". Ethnic ChinaLit. Archived from the original on 2012-06-10. based on 王功尚; 蒲哲; 孙文振 (2012-04-17), 大山深处的土家语传承与坚守, archived from the original on 2016-03-03, retrieved 2012-04-24