|Native to||Northwestern Hunan Province, China|
|Ethnicity||8.0 million Tujia (2000 census)|
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) and 1,500 for Southern Tujia, out of an ethnic population of 8 million.
Tujia autonyms include pi35 tsi55 kʰa21 [毕孜卡] (pi21 tsi21 kʰa21 in Ye 1995) and mi35 tɕi55 kʰa33/55 The Tujia people call their language "pi35 tsi55 sa21".
"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'. Tujia is also called "Bizic" by Zhou.
Tujia is clearly a Sino-Tibetan language, but its position within that family is unclear, due to massive borrowing from other Sino-Tibetan languages. Although it has been placed with other groups in the past, linguists now generally leave it unclassified.
Tujia is divided into two major dialects. 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. Almost all Tujia speakers are located in Xiangxi Tujia and Miao Autonomous Prefecture.
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. Peng covers the Northern variety of Yongshun County. 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. 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.
Chen Kang divides Tujia as follows.
Yang Zaibiao reports that Tujia is spoken in over 500 natural villages comprising about 200 administrative villages and 34 townships. The Northern Tujia autonym is pi˧˥ tsɿ˥ kʰa˨˩, and the Southern Tujia autonym is mõ˨˩ dzɿ˨˩. 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:
One system of writing Tujia in Latin script is based on Hanyu Pinyin and uses letters as tone markers, namely, x, r, v, f.
Philip Brassett, Cecilia Brassett and Lu Meiyan have proposed an experimental Pinyin orthography for the Tujia language, as follows:
|Symbol||Pitch||Name of tone||Letters|
|1||˥ or ˦||High level||-v|
|2||˨˦ or ˧˥||Low rising||-f|
|4||˥˩ or ˥˧||High falling||-x|
|Number||Tujia words (with tone letters)|
The Tujia have been known as an ethnic minority (historically) without a written language. However, a succession of ancient undeciphered books with glosses presented in Chinese characters have been found in the Youyang Tujia habitation straddling the borders of Hunan, Hubei, Guizhou provinces and Chongqing City.
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.
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