Bonan language

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Native to China
Region Gansu, Qinghai
Native speakers
6,000  (1999)[1]
  • Shirongolic
    • Bonan
Language codes
ISO 639-3 peh
Glottolog bona1250[2]
This article contains IPA phonetic symbols. Without proper rendering support, you may see question marks, boxes, or other symbols instead of Unicode characters.

The Bonan language (pronounced [p⁼aoˈnaŋ], Baonang) (Chinese 保安语 Bǎo'ān) is the Mongolic language of the Bonan people of China. As of 1985, it was spoken by about 8,000 people, including about 75% of the total Baonan ethnic population and many ethnic Monguor, in Gansu and Qinghai Provinces and the Ningxia Hui Autonomous Prefecture. There are several dialects, which are influenced to varying degrees—but always heavily—by Tibetan and Chinese. The most commonly studied is the Tongren dialect. There is no writing system in use.[3]


Bonan phonology has been heavily influenced by Tibetan. Consonants possess a [±aspirated] contrast. Initial consonant clusters of mostly falling sonority are present in native words, as are heavy diphthongs, though the content of both is heavily restricted. The possible word-initial consonant clusters in Baonan are [mp, nt, nt͡ɕ, ntʂ, ŋk, tʰχ, χt͡ɕ, rt͡ɕ, lt͡ɕ, ft, fk, ʂp, ʂk].


Baonan, like other Mongolic languages, is agglutinative.

There are five case markings for Baonan nouns: Nominative, Accusative-Genitive, Dative-Locative, Ablative-Comparative, and Instrumentative.

Verbal morphology is quite complex. Evidentiality is marked in the indicative mood as "definite" or "indefinite" with a specific suffix or with an auxiliary verb. The present definite is used to mark naturally occurring phenomena, while the present indefinite indicates the habits of animals. The indefinite may also mark volition. The future, continuous, and perfective suffixes also possess markers for evidentiality that are often used to mark negation.


Baonan has a primary SOV (subject–object–verb), but topicalization of an object is common.

Bonan is known for its peculiar double marking of the copula. A Mongolic copula, of which there are several with different meanings, comes sentence-finally, following Bonan SOV word order, while a copula [ʂɪ] from Chinese /ʂɨ̂/ “to be” appears between the copula’s subject and complement, as in Chinese SVO word order. This Chinese copula is optional and is used to emphasize the subject. The definite, but not indefinite, copula can also act as a participle following some finite verbs. For example:

[ənə ʂɪ kuŋʂə-nə t͡ɕʰitʂə o]

this COP commune-GEN car IND.COP

“This is the commune’s car.” (Buhe & Liu 1985: 65)

Wutun language[edit]

Main article: Wutun

The Bonan language is one of the "contributors" (the source of much of the grammar, as well as of some lexical items) to the Wutun language, a Chinese–Tibetan–Bonan mixed language spoken in two villages in Tongren County, Qinghai.[4]


  • Üjiyediin Chuluu (Chaolu Wu) (November 1994). "Introduction, Grammar, and Sample Sentences for Baoan". SINO-PLATONIC PAPERS. Department of East Asian Languages and Civilizations, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA 19104-6305 USA. 
  • Buhe & Liu Zhaoxiong, eds. 1982. Bao’anyu jianzhi. Beijing: Renmin Chubanshe.
  • Chen Naixiong, ed. 1985. Bao’anyu cihui. [Menggu yuzu yuyan fangyan yanjiu cishu 011]. Huhehaote: Neimenggu Chubanshe.
  • -----, ed. 1986. Bao’anyu huayu cailiao. [MYYFYC 012]. Huhehaote: Neimenggu Chubanshe.
  • Chen Naixiong & Cinggaltai. 1986. Bao’anyu he Mengguyu. [MYYFYC 010]. Huhehaote: Neimenggu Chubanshe.
  1. ^ Bonan reference at Ethnologue (16th ed., 2009)
  2. ^ Nordhoff, Sebastian; Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2013). "Bonan". Glottolog 2.2. Leipzig: Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology. 
  3. ^ Shoujiang Mi, Jia You (2004). Islam in China. 五洲传播出版社. p. 57. ISBN 7-5085-0533-6. Retrieved 2010-06-28. 
  4. ^ Lee-Smith, Mei W.; Wurm, Stephen A.; International Council for Philosophy and Humanistic Studies (1996), "The Wutun language", in Wurm, Stephen A.; Mühlhäusler, Peter; Tyron, Darrell T., Atlas of languages of intercultural communication in the Pacific, Asia, and the Americas, Volume 2, Part 1. (Volume 13 of Trends in Linguistics, Documentation Series)., Walter de Gruyter, p. 883, ISBN 3-11-013417-9