Iu Mien language
|Pronunciation||[ju mjɛn][need tone]|
|Native to||China, Vietnam, Laos, Thailand, USA, and France.|
|Native speakers||840,000 (1995–1999)|
|Official language in||China (in Jinxiu Yao Autonomous County)|
ium – Iu Mien
bmt – Biao Mon
The Iu Mien language (Thai: ภาษาอิวเมี่ยน) is one of the main languages spoken by the Yao people in China, Laos, Vietnam, Thailand and, more recently, the United States in diaspora. Like other Hmong-Mien languages, it is tonal and monosyllabic.
Linguists in China consider the dialect spoken in Changdong, Jinxiu Yao Autonomous County, Guangxi to be the standard. However, most Iu Mien people in the West are refugees from Laos, so they primarily speak dialects common in Laos.
Geographic distribution 
In China, Iu Mien is spoken in the following counties (Mao 2004:302-303). There are 130,000 speakers in Hunan province (known as the Xiangnan 湘南 dialect), and 400,000 speakers in Guangxi, Yunnan, Guangdong, Guizhou, and Jiangxi provinces (known as the Guangdian 广滇 dialect).
- Guangxi: Yangshuo, Lingui, Guanyang, Ziyuan, Xing'an, Longsheng, Gongcheng, Yongfu, Luzhai, Lipu, Mengshen, Pingle, Jinxiu, Yishan, Rong'an, Rongshui, Luocheng, Huanjiang, Shanglin, Xincheng, Laibin, Baise, Napo, Lingyun, Tianlin, Cangwu, Hezhou, Fuchuan, Zhaoping, Fangcheng, Shangsi
- Guangdong: Yingde, Lechang, Shixing, Qujiang, Renhua, Wengyuan, Ruyuan, Liannan, Lianshan, Yangshan, Yangchun
- Yunnan: Hekou, Jinping, Honghe, Mengla, Malipo, Maguan, Gangnan, Funing, Wenshan
- Guizhou: Rongjiang, Congjiang, Sandu, Danzhai, Leishan, Zhenfeng, Luodian
- Jiangxi: Quannan, Shanggao
- Hunan: Jianghua, Yongzhou, Shuangpai, Xintian, Changning, Daoxian, Lanshan, Lingxian, Ningyuan, Jiangyong, Dong'an, Chenzhou, Zixing, Lingwu, Guiyang, Xinning, Yizhang, Chengbu, Qiyang, Chenxi; also in Longzha Township 龙渣瑶族乡, Yanling County
There are several known dialects of Iu Mien. Dialects vary by clan and geographic location. Dialects include, but are not limited to, Cham, Deo Tien, Man Do, Quan Chet, and Quan Trang.
Iu Mien makes a distinction between aspirated and unaspirated sounds.
|Stop||pʰ p||b||tʰ t||d||kʰ k||ɡ||ʔ|
|Affricate||t͡sʰ t͡s||d͡z||t͡ɕʰ t͡ɕ||d͡ʑ|
- The standard spelling system for Iu Mien does not represent the stop sounds in a way that corresponds to the IPA symbols, but instead uses e.g. ⟨t⟩ ⟨d⟩ ⟨nd⟩ to represent /tʰ/ /t/ /d/. This may stem from an attempt to model the Iu Mien spelling system on Pinyin (used to represent Mandarin Chinese), where ⟨t⟩ ⟨d⟩ represent /tʰ/ /t/. The Pinyin influence is also seen in the use of ⟨c⟩ ⟨z⟩ ⟨nz⟩ to represent the alveolar affricates /t͡sʰ/ /t͡s/ /d͡z/ and ⟨q⟩ ⟨j⟩ ⟨nj⟩ for the postalveolar affricates /t͡ɕʰ/ /t͡ɕ/ /d͡ʑ/. Note also that the use of ⟨ng⟩ to represent the velar nasal /ŋ/ means that it cannot also be used to represent /g/, as would be predicted; instead, ⟨nq⟩ is used.
- According to Aumann and Chengqian, in a certain Chinese dialect, the postalveolar affricates are instead palatal stops (/cʰ/, /c/, /ɟ/).
- According to Daniel Bruhn, the voiceless nasals are actually sequences [h̃m] [h̃n] [h̃ŋ] [h̃ɲ] (i.e. a short nasalized /h/ followed by a voiced nasal), while the voiceless lateral is actually a voiceless lateral fricative [ɬ].
- Bruhn also observed that younger-generation Iu Mien Americans were more likely to substitute the voiceless nasals and voiceless laterals with /h/ and the alveolo-palatal affricates with their corresponding palato-alveolar variants.
Unlike Hmong, which generally prohibits coda consonants, Iu Mien has seven single consonant phonemes that can take the coda position. These consonants are /m/, /n/, /ŋ/, [p̚], [t̚], [k̚], and /ʔ/. Some of the stops can only occur as final consonants when accompanied by certain tones; for example, /ʔ/ only occurs with the tone ⟨c⟩ or ⟨v⟩.
Iu Mien vowels are represented in the Iu Mien United Script using combinations of the six letters, ⟨a⟩, ⟨e⟩, ⟨i⟩, ⟨o⟩, ⟨u⟩, and ⟨r⟩.
According to Bruhn, the monophthongs are ⟨i⟩, ⟨u⟩, ⟨e⟩, ⟨o⟩, ⟨ai⟩, ⟨er⟩, ⟨ae⟩, ⟨a⟩, ⟨aa⟩, and ⟨or⟩. The diphthongs are ⟨ai⟩, ⟨aai⟩, ⟨au⟩, ⟨aau⟩, ⟨ei⟩, ⟨oi⟩, ⟨ou⟩, ⟨eu⟩. Furthermore, additional diphthongs and triphthongs can be formed from the aforementioned vowels through /i/- or /u/-on-gliding (having /i/ or /u/ before the vowel). Such vowels attested by Bruhn include ⟨ia⟩, ⟨iaa⟩, ⟨ie⟩, ⟨io⟩, ⟨iu⟩, ⟨ior⟩, ⟨iai⟩, ⟨iaai⟩, ⟨iau⟩, ⟨iaau⟩, ⟨iei⟩, ⟨iou⟩, ⟨ua⟩, ⟨uaa⟩, ⟨uae⟩, ⟨ue⟩, ⟨ui⟩, ⟨uo⟩, ⟨uai⟩, ⟨uaai⟩, and ⟨uei⟩.
The dialect studied by Bruhn, and described in the above table, has a phoneme /ɛ/ that does not have its own spelling, but is represented in various contexts either as ⟨e⟩ or ⟨ai⟩ (which are also used for /e/ and /aɪ/, respectively). In all cases where /ɛ/ is spelled ⟨e⟩, and nearly all cases where it is spelled ⟨ai⟩, it does not contrast with /e/ or /aɪ/, respectively, and can be viewed as an allophone of these sounds. The only potential exception appears to be when occurring as a syllable final by itself, where it has an extremely restricted distribution, occurring only after the (alveolo)palatal consonants /tɕ/ /dʑ/ /ɲ/. The sound /ɛ/ may be a secondary development from /aɪ/ in this context, although Bruhn does not discuss this issue.
Iu Mien is a tonal language. Tones are not marked with diacritics in the Iu Mien United Script (the language's most common writing system); rather, a word's tone is indicated by a special marker letter placed at the end of the word. This letter is not pronounced but rather indicates with what tone the word is to be pronounced. If a word lacks a marker, then it is to be pronounced with a middle tone.
|Mid, falling||h||maaih||to have|
|˧||Mid||maai||basic tail of bird|
|Lower, longer, rise-fall||z||maaiz||to buy|
Iu Mien is an analytic language; there are no cases, tenses, or plural marking, and words never change their endings. It is also a monosyllabic language. The language follows a SVO word order. Adjectives usually come after nouns. Question words like those meaning 'where' come at the end of the sentence.
Iu Mien contains many contractions. Some words consist of a contracted syllable, followed by an uncontracted second syllable (in IMUS, the syllables are separated by an apostrophe). For example, the first contracted syllable may be just m.
The word maiv (often shortened to mv) means "no" or "not". It may occur before a verb to negate it.
Writing system 
In the past, the lack of an alphabet caused low rates of literacy amongst the Iu Mien speakers. It had been written with Chinese characters in China; however, this is extremely difficult for Iu Mien speakers from other countries such as Laos and from groups such as the Chao Clan.
In an effort to address this, an Iu Mien Unified Script was created in 1984 using the Latin script, based on an earlier orthography developed in China. Unlike the Vietnamese language, this alphabet does not use any diacritics to distinguish tones or different vowel sounds, and only uses the 26 letters of the ISO basic Latin alphabet. This orthography distinguishes 30 initials, 128 finals, and eight tones. Hyphens are used to link adjectives with the nouns they modify. The alphabet is similar to the RPA used to write the Hmong language and the Hanyu Pinyin transcription scheme used for Chinese.
IMUS spelling-to-sound correspondences 
- Iu Mien at Ethnologue (16th ed., 2009)
Biao Mon at Ethnologue (16th ed., 2009)
- Ethnologue report for language code:ium
- 毛宗武, 李云兵 / Mao Zongwu, Li Yunbing. 1997. 巴哼语研究 / Baheng yu yan jiu (A Study of Baheng [Pa-Hng]). Shanghai: 上海远东出版社 / Shanghai yuan dong chu ban she.
- mienh.net online lesson - Initial Consonants
- Zhou 2003:259
- Smith Panh (Panh Kweifo/盘贵富): Modern English-Mienh and Mienh-English Dictionary (Trafford 2002), ISBN 1-55369-711-1.
- Tony Waters. "Adaptation and Migration among the Mien People of Southeast Asia." Ethnic Groups vol. 8, pages 127-141 (1990).
- Máo Zōngwǔ 毛宗武，Méng Cháojí 蒙朝吉，Zhèng Zōngzé 郑宗泽 etc. (eds.): Yáoyǔ jiǎnzhì 瑶语简志 (Overview of the Yao language; Běijīng 北京, Mínzú chūbǎnshè 民族出版社 1982)
- Máo Zōngwǔ 毛宗武: Yáozú Miǎnyǔ fāngyán yánjiū 瑶族勉语方言研究 (Studies in Mien dialects of the Yao nationality; Běijīng 北京, Mínzú chūbǎnshè 民族出版社 2004).
- Minglang Zhou: Multilingualism in China. The Politics of Writing Reforms for Minority Languages, 1949-2002 (Berlin, Walter de Gruyter 2003); ISBN 3-11-017896-6.
Further reading 
- Kim, Katherine Cowy. Quietly Torn: A Literary Journal by Young Lu Mien American Women Living in Richmond, California. San Francisco, CA: Pacific News Service, 1999.
- 2003 - Death of a Shaman. Directed by Richard Hall; produced by Fahm Fong Saeyang.
- 2010 - "Siang-Caaux Mienh". A story of a very irresponsible family man, alcoholic, and drug addict. He likes his bad friends but he doesn’t love his family. But as he starts paying his mistakes, has become a turning point in his life.
- 2011 - "Mborqv Jaax Ciangv". A moving family friendly movie.
- An Online Blog By Iu Mien Americans
- Mienh.net Language
- Entry for Iu Mien at Rosetta Project
- The Iu-Mien Community Online
- OLAC resources in and about the Iu Mien language
- World Atlas of Language Structures entry