E language

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For the computer programming language, see E (programming language). For the grammar theory, see E-language.
Region Guangxi, China
Native speakers
9,000  (2008)[1]
Language codes
ISO 639-3 eee
Glottolog eeee1240[2]
Guangxi, of which E is spoken in a small area

E (simplified Chinese: 诶话; traditional Chinese: 誒話; pinyin: Ē Huà) or Wuse/Wusehua (simplified Chinese: 五色话; traditional Chinese: 五色話; pinyin: Wŭsè Huà; literally: "Colored Language") is a TaiChinese mixed language spoken primarily in Rongshui Miao Autonomous County, Guangxi, China. It contains features of both Tai and Chinese varieties, generally adopting Chinese vocabulary into Tai grammar. E is a tonal language—distinguishing for seven tones—and contains a few rare phonemes: voiceless versions of the more common alveolar nasal, bilabial nasal, and alveolar lateral approximant.


The E language's unusual pinyin-transliterated name, which is also an autonym, consists of a single letter e.[3] The character, which is written "" in Simplified Chinese and "" in Traditional Chinese, denotes an expression of affirmation.[4] The language's speakers also refer to their language as Kjang E.[3] Wusehua is a derogatory name for E.[5]

Geographical distribution[edit]

Zhuang people in Guilin

In 1992, E was spoken by about 30,000 people,[3] but by 2008 this number had dwindled to 9,000.[6] Most E speakers are classified as Zhuang by the Chinese government. E speakers live primarily in the Guangxi autonomous region of China, specifically in the Rongshui Miao county and border areas of Luocheng Mulao. Villages inhabited by E speakers include Xiatan, Simo, Xinglong, and the Yonglei district. Ethnologue classifies E as rank 6b (Threatened). E speakers' most commonly spoken other languages are Yue Chinese and the Guiliu variant of Southwestern Mandarin.[1]


Like most Southeast Asian languages, including Tai and Chinese varieties, E is tonal.[7] The language is described as having seven tones, with the seventh varying allophonically with the length of the vowel it is attached to. With numbers ranging from 1 to 5, with 1 being the lowest tone and 5 the highest, the contours of the various tones in E are as follows.[6]

Tone contours
Number Contour Tone letter
1. 42 ˦˨
2. 231 ˨˧˩
3. 44 ˦
4. 35 ˧˥
5. 24 ˨˦
6. 55 ˥
7. Short 24 ˨˦
Long 22 ˨

E's consonant and vowel inventories are mostly similar to those of its parent languages. However, it contains a few unusual consonants: the voiceless alveolar nasals /n̥/ and /ŋ̥/, the voiceless bilabial nasal /m̥/, and the voiceless alveolar lateral approximant /l̥/. All are voiceless versions of consonants that in most languages are always voiced. E allows syllabic consonants and diphthongs.[6]

Grammar and lexicon[edit]

E is usually classified as a mixed language deriving ultimately from the Tai-Kadai and Sino-Tibetan families, which both inhabit southern China and Southeast Asia.[5] Some non-Chinese scholars, however, consider it a Tai-Kadai language with Chinese influence.[8] Whatever its classification, the grammar resembles that of the Tai branch of Tai-Kadai. Specifically, scholars consider E's grammatical features a blend of Northern Zhuang, Mulam, and Kam.[1][7] The Caolan language of Vietnam displays many similarities with E.[7]

The vocabulary, however, is mostly Chinese, based on Guiliu and the Tuguai variant of Pinghua.[1][7] Out of the 2,000 most commonly used E words, only about 200 are of Tai-Kadai origin.[9] E also inherits elements of these Chinese dialects' phonology and compound word formation.[1] E morphology is primarily analytic, with concepts such as negation expressed with auxiliary words (pat6, m2) and no pronomial agreement.[6]

In its pronouns, E distinguishes for person between first, second, and third; in number between singular and plural; and, in the case of the second-person plural, between inclusive and exclusive we. E does not, however, distinguish for grammatical gender.[6]


  1. ^ a b c d e E at Ethnologue (17th ed., 2013)
  2. ^ Nordhoff, Sebastian; Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2013). "E". Glottolog 2.2. Leipzig: Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology. 
  3. ^ a b c Edmondson 1992, p. 138
  4. ^ "Unihan data for U+8A92". Unicode.org. Retrieved November 23, 2014. 
  5. ^ a b International Encyclopedia of Linguistics: AAVE–Esperanto 1. Oxford University Press. p. 207. ISBN 978-0-195-16783-2. 
  6. ^ a b c d e Hsiu, Andrew C. "Austronesian Basic Vocabulary Database – Language: Wusehua (Rongshui)". University of Auckland. Retrieved December 3, 2014. 
  7. ^ a b c d Edmondson 1992, pp. 135–144
  8. ^ Moseley, Christopher (2012). Atlas of the World's Languages in Danger. UNESCO Publishing. p. 72. ISBN 978-0-956-60524-5. 
  9. ^ Meizhin, Luo (2007). 中国的语言 (in Mandarin Chinese). Commercial Press. pp. 2596–2620.