A study of BIYO, an endangered Chinese ethnic minority language of the Lolo-Burmese family: Language documentation and an analytical approach to the system of discourse markers in contact with Southwestern Mandarin

01 October 2021 → 30 September 2025
Regional and community funding: Special Research Fund
Research disciplines
  • Humanities
    • Chinese language
    • Language studies not elsewhere classified
    • Contact linguistics
    • Corpus linguistics
    • Discourse analysis
    • Sociolinguistics
    • Syntax
Cartographic approach Southwestern Mandarin language contact Chinese minority languages language documentation Biyo language endangered languages generative grammar modal system Lolo-Burmese languages discourse particles
Project description

This project aims at documenting the endangered BIYO language (Hani group of the Lolo-Burmese language family), spoken by ethnic minorities in scattered locations of Southwestern Yunnan Province of China. Nowadays, the language is very rarely transmitted to the younger generation which prefers Chinese or English as daily means
of communication. As such, the language community is continuously shrinking and the language is on the verge of becoming extinct.

The project aims at preserving BIYO and its cultural heritage, by documenting its lexicon and grammar, based on two field studies conducted in Bixi Town and Keman Village of Mojiang County. The material will be collected through audio and video recordings of dialogues and traditional genres narrated by BIYO speakers, such as myths and historical narratives, descriptions of festivals and handicrafts. In addition, we will produce video recordings of important rituals, related to nature deities and significant events in life (such as birth, naming ceremonies, funerals, etc.).

The material will be transcribed and linguistically analyzed, as such creating an archive of the language, which can be used by both BIYO members and linguists. In particular, we will conduct a thorough study of the highly complex system of modal particles / discourse markers. We will try to categorize and describe them, and show how they interact and in which ways they have been influenced by Southwestern Mandarin. Our analysis of the modal system will be based on the Cartographic approach within generative grammar.