Annotated Swadesh wordlists for the Bai group (Sino-Tibetan family).

Languages included: Jianchuan Bai [bai-jch], Dali Bai [bai-dli], Bijiang Bai [bai-bij].


Xu Lin 1984 = 徐琳 [Xú Lín]. 白語簡志 [Bái yǔ jiǎn zhì]. Beijing: Minzu yinshuachang yinshua. // A grammatical description of the Bai language, accompanied with a large glossary for three Bai dialects: Jianchuan, Dali, and Bijiang.

Allen 2007 = Bryan Allen. Bai Dialect Survey. SIL International. // Sociolinguistic information on different varieties of Bai. Includes 500-item survey lists for nine subdialects of Bai.


I. General.

The subclassification of modern varieties of Bai varies between authors, but most sources generally agree on a basic tripartite division between Central Bai (sometimes referred to as "Jianchuan Bai"), Northern Bai (sometimes referred to as "Bijiang Bai"), and Southern Bai (sometimes referred to as "Dali Bai").

One of the most important sources on Bai lexics, Xu Lin 1984, has been taken as the primary source for the construction of this database. It contains three large wordlists for the main three dialects (languages) of Bai, without specifying precisely from which precise towns or villages the information comes from. As an auxiliary source, we have chosen Allen 2007, a source that includes survey lists for nine subdialects of Bai: Jianchuan (膛川), Eryuan (洱源), Heqing (禍④), Lanping (擘坪), Zhoucheng (周城), Qiliqiao (七里Э), Yunlong (云韓), Xiangyun (祥云), Luobenzhuo (洛本卓). Of these, the Jianchuan, Eryuan, and Heqing varieties correspond to Xu Lin's "Central / Jianchuan"; Qiliqiao, Yunlong, and Xiangyun correspond to Xu Lin's "Southern / Dali"; Luobenzhuo corresponds to Xu Lin's "Northern / Bijiang"; the others remain somewhat unclear.

Judging by the comparison of Xu Lin's and Allen's lists, we assume Xu Lin's "Jianchuan" to be the closest to Allen's "Jianchuan", and Xu Lin's "Dali" to be the closest to Xu Lin's Qiliqiao (although occasionally, the forms are closer to Yunlong or Xiangyun); Allen's "Jianchuan Bai" and "Qiliqiao Bai" have been, therefore, chosen as the potential equivalents, for quotation / comparison in the "Notes" section.

The situation with Bijiang (Northern) Bai, which seems to be the most divergent variety of Bai, is somewhat more tricky. Lexically and phonetically, the closest equivalent to Xu Lin's "Bijiang" in Allen's lists is the Luobenzhuo dialect. However, the Lanping variety of Bai is also traditionally classified as "Northern Bai" (primarily because of geographical reasons) - even though, in reality, Lanping seems to be lexically closer to the Central varieties, although it does share a small bunch of exclusive isoglosses with Xu Lin's Bijiang Bai. From a conservative viewpoint, we include Allen's data on Lanping Bai in the notes section on Bijiang Bai, together with the data on Luobenzhuo Bai; the user is welcome to figure out for him/herself how the Lanping data actually fit in with the rest.

II. Transliteration.

Most of the sources on Bai employ standard IPA notation, so that only the most standard readjustments have been made in the transliteration to UTS. Several minor remarks:

(a) in diphthong codas, as in other databases on Southeast Asian languages, we render the last glide as y or w instead of -i or -o (-u); thus, Xu Lin's -ui = our -uy, etc.;

(b) for simplicity's sake, we render the back "fricative" vowel (ɿ), which in Bai functions as an allophone of i after certain consonants, as ɨ (when it is graphically distinguished in the source) or i (when it is not graphically distinguished);

(c) tones, as in the corresponding sources, are marked with numbers indicating registers (1 is the lowest, 5 is the highest; 55 = high even tone, 21 = low-falling tone, etc.).

Database compiled and annotated by: G. Starostin (last update: August 2014).