Nisu language

Southern Yi
Native toChina
Native speakers
300,000 apart from Northern (2004–2007)[2]
160,000 Northern (no date)[3]
Yi logograms
Language codes
ISO 639-3Variously:
nsd – Southern
yiv – Northern
nos – Eastern
nsv – Southwestern (duplicate or spurious code)[1]
nsf – Northwestern
Glottolognisu1237  Nisu–Nyisu[4]

Nisu (Southern Yi) is a language cluster spoken by half a million Yi people of China. It is one of six Yi languages recognized by the government of China. The Yi script was traditionally used, though few can still read it.[2] According to Lama (2012), Nisu (Nishu) autonyms include ne̠˧su˥, ne̠˧su˥pʰo˨˩, and ɲe̠˧ʂu˥.

The position of Nisu within Nisoish is debated. Nisu is classified as Southeastern Loloish by Pelkey (2011), but is traditionally classified as a Northern Loloish language, including by Lama (2012).

Internal classification[edit]

Chen (1985)[edit]

Chen, et al. (1985:114) recognizes 3 major varieties of Southern Yi (i.e., Nisu) that are spoken in Yunnan province, namely Shijian 石建 (Shiping-Jianshui), Yuanjin 元金 (Yuanjiang-Jinping), and Exin 峨新 (Eshan-Xinping).[5] Autonyms include na̠33 su55 and na̠33 su55 pho21 (alternatively ne̠33 su55 pho21). Chen (1985) reported a speaker population of nearly 1.6 million.

  • Shijian 石建土语: spoken in Shiping, Jianshui, Tonghai, Gejiu, Kaiyuan, Mengzi, and Hekou counties
  • Yuanjin 元金土语: spoken in Yuanyang, Jinping, Mojiang, Yuanjiang, Pu'er, Jiangcheng, and Honghe counties
  • Exin 峨新土语: spoken in Eshan, Xinping, Jiangchuan, Yuxi, Yimen, and Kunming counties

Yang (2009)[edit]

Yang (2009) classifies the Nisu dialects as follows.

  • Northern Nisu
    • North-central (Shijian 石建): spoken in Shiping, Xinping, Jiangcheng, Mojiang, and Lüchun counties
    • Northwestern (Exin 峨新): spoken in Eshan and Jinning counties
  • Southern Nisu (Yuanjin 元金): spoken in Honghe, Yuanyang, Jinping, Yuanjiang, Shiping, and perhaps also Jianshui counties
  • Far Northwestern Nisu: spoken in Beidou Township (北斗彝族乡), Yongping County (descendants of Nisu soldiers who migrated to Yongping during the early Ming Dynasty; most divergent Nisu variety)[6]

The Jiangcheng, Mojiang, and Lüchun varieties were grouped by Chen (1985) to be southern varieties, but Yang (2009) found that they actually belonged to the Northern Nisu group.

Other varieties[edit]

Other Nisu or Southern Yi groups with similar autonyms or language varieties are:

A variety of Southern Nisu (autonym: ɲe˧su˥ pʰo˨˩) spoken in Aka Luoduo 阿卡洛多 village (also called Taiping village 太平村),[9] Tianfang Village 田房村, Jiangcheng County is covered in Lu Yan (2008).[10]

In Tonghai County, Southern Yi (Nisu) is spoken by all generations only in Xiangping 象平, Bajiao 芭蕉, Sizhai 四寨, Shikan 石坎, Pingba 平坝, Shangzhuangke 上庄科, and Xiazhuangke 下庄科 villages (Tonghai County Gazetteer 1992:600).


  1. ^ Hammarström (2015) Ethnologue 16/17/18th editions: a comprehensive review: online appendices
  2. ^ a b Southern at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015)
    Northern at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015)
    Eastern at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015)
    Southwestern (duplicate or spurious code)[1] at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015)
    Northwestern at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015)
  3. ^ Northern Nisu at Ethnologue (16th ed., 2009)
  4. ^ Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2017). "Nisu–Nyisu". Glottolog 3.0. Jena, Germany: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History.
  5. ^ Chen Shilin [陈士林], et al. 1985. Yiyu jianzhi [彝语简志]. Beijing: Ethnic Publishing House [民族出版社].
  6. ^ Blackburn, P.L. and Blackburn, Laura. 2007. Yongping Nisu wordlist. Dali: SIL East Asia Group.
  7. ^ a b Yunnan minzu shibie cankao ziliao 云南民族识别参考资料 (1955), p.40. m.s.
  8. ^ a b c Lüchun County Almanac (1992)
  9. ^
  10. ^ Lu Yan 陆燕. 2008. 江城田房彝语结构助词研究. Journal of Yunnan Nationalities University 云南民族大学学报(哲学社会科学版). Vol. 25, No. 4, July 2008.
  • Chen Shilin [陈士林], et al. 1985. Yiyu jianzhi [彝语简志]. Beijing: Ethnic Publishing House [民族出版社].
  • Lama, Ziwo Qiu-Fuyuan (2012). Subgrouping of Nisoic (Yi) Languages. Ph.D. thesis, University of Texas at Arlington.
  • Pelkey, Jamin. 2011. Dialectology as Dialectic: Interpreting Phula Variation. Berlin: De Gruyter Mouton.
  • Yang, Cathryn. 2009. Nisu dialect geography. SIL Electronic Survey Reports 2009-007.
  • 雲南彝語方言詞彙彙編3