Lizu: Documentation of a Highly Endangered Language of South-West China


Lizu: Documentation of a Highly Endangered Language of South-West China

Language: Lizu
Depositor: Katia Chirkova
Location: China
Deposit Id: 0317
Grant id: MDP0257
Funding body: ELDP
Level: Deposit

Summary of deposit

This deposit is based on 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.

A comprehensive description of Lizu on the basis of the deposit is in preparation.



Group represented

The Lizu people refer to themselves as /lî-zû/ or /lŷ-zû/ ‘white people’. In Chinese, the group is variously known as Liru 里汝, Lüsu 吕苏, or Lisu 傈苏; in English, as Lizu or Lyuzu.

The total number of Lizu speakers is estimated at ca. 7,000 (Wang 2010: 3). The Lizu people traditionally reside along the Yalong or Nyag Chu River and its tributary in Jiulong County, the Jiulong River, in three counties in Sichuan Province (四川省) in the People’s Republic of China: (i) Muli Tibetan Autonomous County 木里藏族自治县 (Written Tibetan smi li rang skyong rdzong), (ii) Jiulong county (九龙县 Whitten TIbetan brgyad zur), (iii) Mianning county (冕宁县) (Wang 2010: 3). The group has the longest history of residence in Jiulong and Mianning counties, whereas migration to Muli is more recent, dating from the turn of the 20th century.



Language information

Lizu is one of three closely related Tibeto-Burman languages spoken in Sichuan Province in the People’s Republic of China: Ersu, Lizu, and Duoxu. The three languages are currently classified as dialects of one Ersu language (ISO-639 code ers). The Ersu language itself is classified as a member of the Qiangic subgroup of the Tibeto-Burman language family (for more details, see Bradley 1997:36-37, Sun 2001, Chirkova 2012).

Lizu has dialectal variations across its area of distribution. All varieties are mutually intelligible and differ mainly in phonology and lexicon.

Lizu is essentially used as the primary language of oral communication in family and community events. It does not have its own writing system.

To date, little descriptive work on Lizu has been done (but see Sun 1983 on Ersu with focus on a variety spoken in Ganluo county (甘洛县); Huang and Renzeng 1991 on Lüsu 吕苏 [lʉ⁵⁵zʉ⁵³], a variety spoken in Muli county).



Special characteristics

Lizu is isolating, verb-final, and head-final. Syntax operates predominantly through word order and the use of nominal and verbal particles and auxiliaries. The unmarked word order is S/A - DO - IO - V. The (syntactic) relations of subject and object are not grammaticalised. The clause structure is based on the pragmatic relations of topical material (clause-initial) vs. focal material (clause-final). The verb complex is the only necessary element for an utterance to be considered a clause, and the verb complex may be simply a predicate noun. Lizu has two open word classes: nouns and verbs, which can be defined on the basis of morphological and morphosyntactic criteria. Nouns are those forms that can take (in)definite marking, numeral-classifier phrases, and nominal particles (analytic case markers). There is no agreement with nouns of any kind marked on the verb. Verbs are those forms that can take directional or perfectivising prefixes, the causative marker su, and the interrogative and negative marking. Verbs can be preceded by adverbial expressions, followed by markers expressing aspect, evidentiality, and modality, and be nominalised by one of the nominalisers.

Lizu is interesting, among others, for its rich consonant and vowel systems (including uvular phonemes and a voiceless nasal fricative, /h̃/); a hybrid prosodic tone system combining stress and tone; a typologically unusual combination of various means of denoting definiteness (demonstrative determiners, definite markers, bare classifiers); an intricate system of lexical-derivational aspect, which is similar to Slavic aspect; and complex systems of evidentiality and epistemic marking, combining both northern (Tibetic) and southern (Lolo-Burmese) types.



Deposit contents

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

The main focus of the collection is on the 'Eastern dialect' of Lizu, ʃæ̂tɕho pæ̂ in Lizu, from Written Tibetan shar phyogs 'east', as spoken in Kala Tonwship, Muli Tibetan Autonomous County. The deposit also contains data from the first-ever survey of various dialects in Lizu conducted in 2015-2016, including: two Lizu varieties spoken in Kala Township in Muli County (Manao 玛瑙 Lizu and Tianzhen 田镇 Lizu), two varieties spoken in Jiulong county (Ga’er 嘎尔 Lizu and Xieka 斜卡 Lizu), and one variety spoken in Mianning County (Mianning 冕宁 Lizu). The survey made use of custom-made questionnaires including a basic 1,700-word vocabulary list, a set of over 200 grammatical sentences, and a set of non-verbal stimuli. The survey data (currently under analysis) are to contribute to a better understanding of the geographical diversity of Lizu and of the complex relationship of Lizu with its neighbouring languages (Pumi and Chinese in Muli; Tibetan in Jiulong; Nuosu and Namuzi in Mianning).



Deposit history

Audio and video recordings by Katia Chirkova and Wang Dehe (王德和). Annotations by Katia Chirkova.



Other information

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:

https://cocoon.huma-num.fr/exist/crdo/meta2/crdo-COLLECTION_CHK

The deposit served as basis for the course "Introduction to Lizu" at the 2018 edition of the Summer School in Languages and Linguistics at Leiden University, The Netherlands:

http://summerschool.universiteitleiden.nl/courses/interest/languages



Acknowledgement and citation

Thank you to the Lizu communities of the Muli, Mianning, and Jiulong countries who participated in the 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. Lizu: Documentation of a Highly Endangered Language of South-West China. London: SOAS, Endangered Languages Archive. URL: https://elar.soas.ac.uk/Collection/MPI655514. Accessed on [insert date here].



Status

Curated
Resources online and curated

Depositor

Katia Chirkova
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Affiliation: CNRS-CRLAO

Deposit Statistics

Data from 2018 November 17 to 2018 November 17
Deposit hits:2
Downloaded files
Without statistics


Showing 1 - 10 of 331 Items


In this recording, Huang Dewen speaks about the hunters' deity Apute (hunters' protector), worshipped in Jiulong. Yeti temple (yeren miao) in Jiulong

Recorded on: 2017-06-13




In this recording, Katia Chirkova and Wang Xuecai listen together to the story about Apute told in Mandarin the previous day by Huang Dewen. Wang Xuecai retells the story in Lizu.

Recorded on: 2017-06-13




Elan annotation file for the audio file with the same name. For the moment this annotation file only contains one layer of annotation (Lizu), in progress. Double checked with Wang Xuecai in November 2014

Recorded on: 2017-06-13




In this recording, Wang Xuecai speaks about the origin of the name "Bulang" applied to the Lizu people

Recorded on: 2017-06-13




Video file for the audio file with the same name

Recorded on: 2017-06-13




In this recording, Wang Xuecai translates, from a picture book, a story about a chameleon who wanted to be like other animals

Recorded on: 2017-06-14




Elan annotation file for the audio file with the same name (four layers of annotation)

Recorded on: 2017-06-14




In this recording, Wang Xuecai's younger sister, Changying or Wang Xueying speaks about her childhood and about great improvements in Muli in the past 40-50 years

Recorded on: 2017-06-13




Elan annotation file for the audio file with the same name. Transcribed and translated with Wang Xuecai in

Recorded on: 2017-06-13




This video shows parts of a cleansing ritual (by Wang Xuecai). It provides some annotation and translation of the chanting (see the attached ELAN file)

Recorded on: 2017-06-13