Duoxu: Documentation of a Critically Endangered Language of South-West China
|Depositor:||Katia Chirkova, Han Zhengkang (韩正康)|
Duoxu (/do³³-ɕu³³-na³¹/, Duōxù 多续 or Duōxū 多须 in Mandarin Chinese) is a little-known and virtually undescribed Tibeto-Burman language, spoken in Mianning county (冕宁县), which is located in the Liangshan Yi Autonomous Prefecture (凉山彝族自治州) in Sichuan province (四川省) in the People’s Republic of China. Together with Lizu and Ersu, two closely related languages, Duoxu is currently classified as a member of the Qiangic subgroup of the Tibeto-Burman language family (the central dialect of the Ersu language, ISO-639 ers).
This deposit is based on Duoxu data collected by the research team of the project "Ersu and Xumi: Comparative and Cross-Varietal Documentation of Highly Endangered Languages of South-West China" (MDP0257, 2013-2017), funded by the Endangered Languages Documentation Programme (ELDP) of SOAS, University of London.
The collection comprises audio and video recordings of personal narratives, traditional stories, traditional songs, conversations, elicitations from Mandarin Chinese (using both written and non-written stimuli), and translations from Mandarin Chinese collected in the Lizu-speaking areas in Southwest China. Some recordings are accompanied by annotations including the following layers of analysis:
- phonetic transcription (IPA)
- underlying morpheme sequence
- morpheme-by-morpheme gloss
- free translation in Mandarin Chinese
Duoxu are a small minority of circa 2,000 people who live in Mianning County (冕宁县), which is situated in a Yi nationality autonomous region (Liangshan Yi Autonomous Prefecture in Sichuan Province 四川省凉山彝族自治州), and which is home to majority populations of Chinese and Nuosu. Hardly any of the 2,000 Duoxu people speak the traditional language of the Duoxu community.
The Duoxu language is critically endangered. A survey of all remaining Duoxu speakers in April 2013, conducted by Katia Chirkova, Han Zhengkang (韩正康), Wang Dehe (王德和), and Yuan Xiaowen (袁晓文), and supported by the Endangered Languages Documentation Programme, identified nine last speakers. All are in their 70s and 80s and bilingual in the local variety of Southwest Mandarin, which is their dominant daily language. None of the speakers has regular conversation partners in Duoxu. These circumstances qualify the remaining Duoxu speakers as ‘semi-speakers’. Furthermore, as became obvious in our follow-up work on Duoxu, only five of the nine speakers were reasonably fluent in Duoxu, while the remaining four consultants had only some passive and limited knowledge of the language. Unfortunately, three of the five reasonably fluent speakers could not continue their work with us in 2015-2017 due to health reasons. That left us with only two speakers (Mr. Wu Rongfu 伍荣富 and Mrs. Wu Decai 吴德才), who became the main language consultants of the project throughout its duration.
The Duoxu language is little-studied. There are practically no published data on Duoxu from before the language went out of use (in the 1970s): the entire documentation record prior this documentation project consisted of just two short lexical lists of 14 words (Sun 1982: 242) or 30 words (Nishida and Sun 1990:17) and one grammatical sketch (Huang and Yin 2012).
Language information Other names: Duoxu (多须), Tosu
Duoxu is isolating tonal language. Compared to its sister languages Ersu and Lizu, its vocabulary, phonology and grammar have been substantially influenced by Mandarin Chinese. At the same, Duoxu preserves a complex tonal system with four tones, which is of great interest for comparative studies.
The focus of the present collection is on interviews with two Duoxu language consultants: Mr. Wu Rongfu (伍荣富) and Mrs. Wu Decai (吴德才). The collection comprises audio and video recordings of personal narratives, traditional stories, conversations, elicitations from Mandarin Chinese (using both written and non-written stimuli), and translations from Mandarin Chinese. The latter include a collection of traditional stories shared by the Duoxu, Ersu, and Lizu groups (over 90 narratives and conversations). Annotations include two-layer annotations (phonetic transcription in IPA and free translation in Mandarin Chinese) and four-layer annotations (phonetic transcription in IPA; underlying morpheme sequence; morpheme-by-morpheme gloss; free translation in Mandarin Chinese).
In addition, the collection includes:
(i) audio and video recordings from the 2013 survey of all remaining Duoxu speakers.
(ii) sound archive for the article "Phonological sketch of Duoxu" (Chirkova 2015).
(iii) sound archive for the pedagogical grammar of Duoxu (Shiyong Duoxuyu Yufa 实用多续语语法 [A Practical Grammar of Duoxu], by Chirkova and Han, 2017). This book is the first-ever comprehensive grammar of Duoxu. Written in the form of a textbook, it is a step-by-step introduction to the phonology, lexicon, and morpho-syntax of this language.
(iv) audio recordings related to our study of a handwritten manuscript, entitled Liangshan zhou Zangzu jianshi: Mianning xian Zangzu Duoxu zhi pu 凉山州藏族简史：冕宁县藏族多续之谱 [A brief history of the Tibetans of Liangshan Prefecture: The Duoxu Tibetans of Mianning county] by Wu Wancai 吴万才.
Wu’s manuscript contains an extensive vocabulary list of ca. 2700 words and a number of texts, including song lyrics, proverbs, riddles, and narratives, recorded in Chinese characters. In the four years of our fieldwork on Duoxu we could collect modern Duoxu readings of ca. 70% of words on Wu’s list. A careful comparison of character transcriptions in Wu’s manuscript (in Mianning Mandarin) with corresponding modern Duoxu readings revealed that Wu’s transcriptions are highly systematic and accurate. This encouraged us to do follow-up work, which consisted of (1) recording Mianning Mandarin readings of the Chinese characters used in transcriptions (ca. 800), and (2) systematically comparing these to the corresponding Duoxu readings with the aim of discovering Wu’s principles of transcription. With this work currently completed we can now apply our knowledge of Wu’s principles of transcription to “reconstruct” those vocabulary items which can no longer be recalled by our language consultants (such as many plant and animal names) and to read connected texts (stories, song lyrics, proverbs and the like) in the manuscript.
Data in this deposit were collected between 2013 and 2017 by Katia Chirkova, Han Zhengkang (韩正康), Wang Dehe (王德和), and Yuan Xiaowen (袁晓文). Annotations by Katia Chirkova.
Parts of the deposit are availabe at the language archive COCOON («COllections de COrpus Oraux Numériques») of the National Research Center of France (CNRS) and the Bibliothèque Nationale de France:
Acknowledgement and citation
Thank you to all Duoxu speakers who participated in the study, and in particular Mr. Wu Rongfu (伍荣富) and Mrs. Wu Decai (吴德才), the main language consultants of our project Thank you to the ELAR team and in particular to Gema Zamora for their help with the upload and curation of the data.
This project is supported by the Endangered Languages Documentation Programme (ELDP, SOAS, Major Documentation Project 0257)
Chirkova, Katia. 2017. Duoxu: Documentation of a Critically Endangered Language of South-West China. London: SOAS, Endangered Languages Archive. URL: https://elar.soas.ac.uk/Collection/MPI655546. Accessed on [insert date here].