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Title: Wutunhua  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
Language: English
Subject: Mixed language
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia


Native to China
Region Qinghai province, mainly in Tongren County
Ethnicity Monguor
Native speakers 2,000  (1995)
Language family
Language codes
ISO 639-3 wuh
Linguist List

Wutun language (Chinese: 五屯话; pinyin: Wǔtún huà), is a ChineseTibetanMongolian mixed language. It is spoken by about 2,000 people, most of whom are classified as Monguor (Tu) by the Chinese government, living in two villages (Upper and Lower Wutun) in Tongren County, in the eastern part of the Qinghai province in western People's Republic of China.[1][2]

The two Wutun villages, as well as other villages in the area, were under the control of a Mongol banner for several centuries, and have long been regarded by governments as members of a Mongol ethnic group. However, they self-identify as Tibetans.[2]


The greatest portion of Wutun lexical items is Chinese (but with their tones lost); a smaller one, Tibetan; and an even smaller one comes from the Bonan Mongolian language.[2]


The Wutun grammar is of Mongolic type, particularly similar to that of the Bonan language. There is also Tibetan influence.[2]


A number of theories have been proposed about the origin of the Wutun villagers, and their peculiar dialect. The Chinese linguist Chen Naixiong infers from the vowel distribution of the Chinese lexical items in Wutun speech that their ancestors may have spoken an old Nanjing dialect. Others think that they may have been a group of Hui people (Chinese-speaking Muslims) from Sichuan who, for reasons unknown, converted to Lamaism and moved to eastern Qinghai. In any event, historical documents as old as 1585 attest to the existence of the Wutun community.[2]

Today's Wutun villagers don't speak Chinese, but the knowledge of Tibetan is common both in Wutun and in Tongren County in general, as the Tibetan language is the lingua franca of this multiethnic region, which is populated by Tibetans and Hui people, as well as some Han Chinese and Mongols.[2]


Further reading

Slater, Keith. 2009. Review of WUTUN by J Janhunen, M Peltomaa, E Sandman, and Xiawudongzhuo. ASIAN HIGHLANDS PERSPECTIVES 1:367-371.

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