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Licensed Unlicensed Requires Authentication Published by De Gruyter Mouton May 1, 2012

Conflicting tendencies in the influence of Putonghua on Hmu (Black Miao): orthography versus changing speech habits

  • Joakim Enwall, EMAIL logo


The Miao language is spoken in southwest China and adjacent countries by some 10 million people. This article focuses on the treatment of Chinese loanwords in the Hmu dialect of Miao. In the 1950s, the script earlier used by missionaries was replaced by a Latin-based script. In 1956, a written form for Hmu was elaborated, with detailed prescriptions for the spelling of Chinese loanwords. After 1949, the amount of Chinese loanwords in Hmu increased drastically, and by 1959 already reached around one third of the words in the colloquial language. After 1959, the new Hmu script ceased to be used in education; however, in 1981, Hmu writing was reintroduced on a trial basis in primary schools and the spelling of Chinese loanwords was changed in accordance with local Chinese pronunciation. Since the 1980s, the use of Putonghua has spread rapidly in the Hmu communities. The spelling principles for Chinese loanwords have, however, been retained, although an increasing number of Hmu tend to pronounce these words according to the Putonghua standard.

Published Online: 2012-05-01
Published in Print: 2012-05-17

©[2012] by Walter de Gruyter Berlin Boston

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