Conference presentations: Hsiu, Andrew. 2013. New endangered Tibeto-Burman languages of southwestern China: Mondzish, Longjia, Pherbu, and others.

Journal: looking for Longjia speakers in 2013

I've found out that in most parts of Guizhou, the last fluent speakers of Longjia had most likely passed away in the 1970's. However, some written records of the language do remain. In Jiangyizhai 讲义寨, Anshun City 安顺市, Guizhou, China, I was able to find an elderly Longjia man, Zhao Qiming 赵启明, born in 1942; his grandparents spoke Longjia, but his parents could not. He had recorded several Longjia words and phrases using Chinese characters in his "jiapu" (family genealogy book), which he had written down in 1974.

Zhao said that he had worked on his jiapu for 28 years. In the past, he would be so poor that he would not have any paper to write it on, and had to resort to writing on scraps of cardboard instead.

My motorcycle driver, Liu Jiang 刘江, is an ethnic Gelao from Maodong Township. He reported that there are still “Green Gelao” speakers in Daji village 大记村 (Dadi 大地村 on Google maps).


I went to Sanjia Township 三甲乡, Zhijin County 织金县, Guizhou, and this is what a local ethnic Bai had told me: "If you had come here before last year, I would have been able to introduce you to the last Longjia speaker. He passed away last year, and was 99 years old at the time." He was most likely only a semi-speaker -- and the last one too. I hired a motorcycle driver to take me to the homes of several elderly Longjia folks over 80 years old, and none of them could remember even a single word of Longjia.

He also reported that he had Bai classmates at a middle school in Zhijin County who spoke Bai, but was not sure where they were from.

I went to the Puding County government offices today, and they reported that Yang Dehua 杨德华 had taken notes of Longjia in Jiangyizhai 讲义寨 (the village I had just went to and taken photos of the jiapu) around the 1970's. One government official by the name of Yang Huaxian 杨华献 said that his handwritten field notes may have a few hundred Longjia words in IPA. Yang Dehua specialized mostly in Miao (Hmongic) languages, but had also done some work on non-Miao languages of the area.

However, Yang Dehua 杨德华 had already passed away several years ago. His son, Yang Shengshi 杨胜世, is a middle school teacher at Zhenyizhong 镇一中, a middle school in Puding County. I went there today to talk to him, and he said that he doesn't know where his father's field notes are. In his words: 老人过世,我们不知道他东西放到哪边去了。 He said he'll try to look for them in his house, and will tell me if he does find them.

One of the Puding County government officials also said that there are ethnic Caijia in 贵州 织金县 猫场乡 新国村 (Xinguo, Maochang Township, Zhijin County), but they do not know whether Caijia is still spoken there. There are also Caijia in Puding County, but they no longer speak the language, and are classified as ethnic Gelao. This is because their customs were similar to that of the neighboring Gelao. However, none of the government officials had any idea where ethnic Caijia are located within Puding County.

Also, the motorbike driver who took me to Jiangyizhai 讲义寨 was a Green Gelao 青仡佬 from Maodong Township 猫洞乡, but he and all of his family members do not speak Gelao. He says that there are a few elderly Gelao in Dadi 大地村 (locally Daji 大记村) who still speak "Green Gelao." The nearby administrative village of Shuangkeng 双坑村 in Baiyan Township 白岩乡 includes the Gelao-speaking villages of Xinzhai 新寨 and Wozi 窝子, which have "Qau" Gelao according to some Chinese sources. There are also two Gelao villages in Houchang Township 猴场乡, namely Mengzhou 猛舟 and Mengjia 猛架, but these villages are hard to get to and may not have any Gelao speakers left. I won't have time to do fieldwork on the Gelao of this region though, since I need to track down ethnic Shui languages in Pan County, Guizhou and Qujing Prefecture, Yunnan.

Xie Fei 谢飞, a member of the Bai Ethnic Studies Association (白族学会) of Dafang County, says that Zhao Guoming 赵国明 (in his 70’s, retired, and living in the Dafang County city) may or may not have Longjia field notes taken that he had in the 1960’s and/or 1970’s, when the government had commissioned him to do work on classifying the ethnic groups (民族识别) of the area.

One Agong Township government official said that there were ethnic Bai in Jinyu village 金鱼村 of Agong Township 阿弓镇 and Lianhe village 联合村 of Baini Township 白泥乡. Ethnic Bai were indeed found in Jinyu village when I went there, and an elderly couple (in their 70’s and/or 80’s) claimed that they were ethnic “Bailong” (白龙族) or “Long” (龙族). However, they could not remember a single word of Longjia.

In Jinyu village, the village mayor, a woman named Xiao Zhuying 肖主英, guided me around the village and made phone calls to various neighbors. The Bailong’s neighbors include ethnic Mongols, Gelao, and Miao (particularly the Waisu Miao 歪素苗). A local Waisu Miao told me that there were ethnic Bai in Dashujiao 大树脚. Only the Miao still speak their own ethnic language, although even many middle-aged Miao are no longer fluent in Miao and can only remember some words (“language rememberers”); none of the ethnic Mongols and Gelao could speak any of their language.

Agong Township also has a large ethnic “Qing” (青族) population. Locals report that they are very populous, but do not retain any of their ethnic language or customs anymore. The Qing are officially classified as ethnic Han, but even the local government posters refer to them as a separate ethnic group, the “Qingzu” (青族).

A visit to Baini Township later that afternoon revealed that there were indeed ethnic Bai in the township, but they did not even know what branch (e.g., Longjia) they belong to. The local government officials and residents also denied there were any ethnic Bai living in Lianhe village 联合村 and in Dashujiao 大树脚.