|unknown (20,000 cited 1982)|
|Ersu Shaba script|
Ersu (Chinese: 尔苏, Ersu; also called Duoxu or Erhsu) is a Qiangic language cluster of the Sino-Tibetan language family. Ersu languages are spoken by about 20,000 people in China as reported by Sun (1982). Muya (alternatively Menia or Menya) is reported to be related, but it is not known how it fits in.
Ersu speakers live in the western part of China's Sichuan province (several counties within the Garzê Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, Liangshan Yi Autonomous Prefecture, and the prefecture-level city of Ya'an). Most of them are classified by the Chinese government as members of the Tibetan ethnic group (Zang zu), although some also are registered as Han Chinese. Older adults mostly use Ersu, but younger people also use Chinese or Yi.
The Ersu Shaba script of the shābā religious books is a pictographic system of proto-writing. The system, in which the color of the characters has an effect on the meaning, was inspired by Chinese writing and was created in the 11th century.
There are three Ersu languages (Yu 2012).
- Ersu 尔苏 (Eastern Ersu) - 13,000 speakers (Sun 1982)
- Lizu 傈苏, 里汝, 吕苏 (Western Ersu) - 4,000 speakers (Sun 1982); 7,000 speakers (Chirkova 2008)
- Tosu 多续 (Central Ersu) - 3,000 speakers (Sun 1982); almost none remaining (Chirkova 2008)
Yu's (2012) classification of Ersu languages is as follows, with defining innovations given in parentheses.
- Ersu (ja- adjective prefix)
- Zeluo 则落 / Qingshui 清水 (ui > ri, tɕ > ts, etc.)
- Lizu (j > ȵ, Ke > Kɯ, riu > ri)
- Mianning 冕宁 (alveopalatal split)
- Central (st > k, HC > C)
- Naiqu 乃渠
- Kala 卡拉 [from Chirkova 2008]
- Kala 卡拉 [from Huanh & Renzheng 1991]
- Yu, Dominic. 2012. Proto-Ersuic. Ph.D. dissertation. Berkeley: University of California, Berkeley, Department of Linguistics.