What is it about?

This study sets out several phonological features in Caijia that are notable from a diachronic point of view. The Caijia language is an endangered language spoken in northwestern Guìzhōu, China. It was first formally documented in the early 1980s and is generally viewed as a Sinitic language. Some aspects of Caijia phonology are noteworthy from the perspective of historical phonology. There exist features which cannot be accounted for in terms of Middle Chinese (MC), such as the retention of the contrast between Old Chinese (OC) T-type and L-type onsets in words with d- or dr- in Middle Chinese. Moreover, Caijia also demonstrates features which are observed or preserved in Middle Chinese, but absent in mainstream modern Sinitic varieties, including the retention of bilabial stops in words with initials Fēi/Fū/Fèng. This study will also explore the implications certain phonological features have for the classification of Caijia in the Sinitic clade and examine the relationship between Caijia and Bai.

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Why is it important?

Caijia is an endangered, yet understudied language. This study enables readers to gain a better understanding of the language, as it unveils many aspects of Caijia, with a focus on phonological features that are noteworthy from a diachronic point of view. Caijia does not appear to be highly akin to other Sinitic languages; it is most likely an early offshoot in the Sinitic clade as it did not undergo several sound changes which affected most Sinitic languages.


The Caijia people are a small ethnic group with approximately 20000 people. Chinese government does not recognize them as an independent ethnic group, and thus they are treated as Han Chinese or Yi people in official documents. Their culture and language have not garnered much interests from scholars until recent years. Hence, it is of utmost importance to describe and investigate their language so as to preserve the language and unveil the history of it, and in turn, the history of the ethnic group itself.

Man Hei Lee
Chinese University of Hong Kong

Read the Original

This page is a summary of: Phonological features of Caijia that are notable from a diachronic perspective, Journal of Historical Linguistics, September 2022, John Benjamins, DOI: 10.1075/jhl.21025.lee.
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