Santa language

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Native to China
Region Gansu province, mainly in Linxia Hui Autonomous Prefecture, and Ili Kazakh Autonomous Prefecture in Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region[1]
Native speakers
200,000 (2007)[2]
  • Shirongolic
    • Santa
Arabic, Latin
Language codes
ISO 639-3 sce
Glottolog dong1285[3]

The Santa language, also known as Dongxiang (东乡语 Dōngxiāng yǔ), is a Mongolic language spoken by the Dongxiang people in northwest China.


Dongxiang is a Mongolic language. Dongxiang has neither vowel harmony nor distinctions of vowel length.[2] Except for a limited number of cases there is no vowel harmony, and the harmonic rules governing the suffix pronunciation are by far not as strict as those of Mongolian. There are no dialects in strict sense, but three local varieties (tuyu) can be found: Suonanba (ca. 50% of all Dongxiang speakers), Wangjiaji (ca. 30% of all Dongxiang speakers) and Sijiaji (ca. 20% of all Dongxiang speakers).


In common with other Mongolic languages, Dongxiang is basically a subject–object–verb language. In Linxia, however, under the influence of the Mandarin Chinese dialects spoken by the neighbouring Hui people, sentences of the subject–verb–object type have also been observed.[4]


There are seven short vowels in Dongxiang, such as, [a], [a], [i], [m], [o], [u], [w] and nine diphthongs [ail, [ ail, [ui] [au], [ au], [ia], [ia 1, [iu] [ua].

1.1 Short Vowel The examples [a] anda 'friend' [a] anda 'here' [i] ima~ 'goat' ['JJl quwu 'frost' [o] boro 'gray' [u] buru 'mistake' [s] i 'twenty"

1.2 The Description of Simple Vowel [a] Low back unrounded vowel. [a] Mid central unrounded vowel. [i] High front unrounded vowel. [w] High back unrounded vowel. [0] Mid central rounded vowel. [u] High back rounded vowel.

1.3 Diphthongs [ail qaiei 'scissorsr [ail failia- 'blow' [ui] kuit~ia n 'cold' [au] sau- 'sit' [au] daura 'under' [ia] nim- 'paste' [ia] gia 'house' [iu] niu- 'to hide' [ua] ua 'two'


Dongxiang has the following 28 consonants, [b], [p], [dl, [t], [g], [k], [GI, [q], [dzI, [&I, [@I 3 [@I, [GI, [fl, [sI, [$I 3 [GI, [XI [hI. [wI [TI, UI, [my [nI, [gI, [I], [rl

2.1 The contrast of consonants [b] bau- 'comedown' [PI PaU 'gun' [dl dm- 'to follow' [t] tam- 'dismiss' [g] gian 'sickness' [k] kian 'who' [q] quru- 'fry' [GI Guru 'finger' [&I &a- 'sue' [@I @a 'tea' [a] &ig 'scripture' [GI Gig 'that way' [fl failia 'blow' [w] w~a 'wash' ~ira 'yellow' [GI pira 'under' [x] xulq 'red' [E] no~i [m] mau 'bad' [g] jarjdzi 'shape' [r] narq 'sun' [z] ~auji- 'rub' [s] sira- 'cut off [hI haroy] 'ten' bl ja 'what' [n] nau- 'to hit a target' [I] laWy] 'leaf' [dz] badza 'town'

2.2 The description of consonants b] Bilabial unaspirated plosive [p] Bilabial aspirated plosive. [dl Alveolar unaspirated plosive [t] Alveolar aspirated plosive. [g] Velar unaspirated plosive [GI Uvular unaspirated plosive [k] Velar aspirated plosive. [q] Uvular aspirated plosive. [dz] Alveolar unaspirated affricative [el Postal alveolar unaspirated affricative. [Q] Postal alveolar aspirated affricative [a] Palatal unaspirated affricative. [Q] Palatal aspirated affricative [fl Labiodental voiceless fricative. [s] Alveolar voiceless fricative [$I Retroflex unaspirated fricative. [GI Retroflex aspirated fricative [x] Velar voiceless fricative. [h] Glottal voiceless fricative [q] Retroflex voiced fricative [I(] Uvular voiced fricative [n] Alveolar nasal [w] Bilabial voiced fricative. Ij] Palatal approximant. [m] Bilabial nasal [q] Velar nasal. [l] Alveolar lateral approximan t [r] Alveolar approximant.

Plural Suffixes

Suffix Condition -la any noun Examples ~oni 'sheep1 eoni-la 'sheep' -sla/-sila certain noun and pronoun in 'girl' o~in-sla 'girls' -pi only noun indicating relatives gajieiau 'brother' gajieiau-pi 'brothers'

An audio example of what the Santa Language (Dongxiang) sound like can be found HERE

More specifics on the Dongxiang language can be found here:

Writing system[edit]

Knowledge of Arabic is widespread among the Sarta, and as a result, they often use the Arabic script to write down their language informally (cf. the Xiao'erjing system that was used by Hui people); however, this has been little investigated by scholars. As of 2003, the official Latin alphabet for Dongxiang, developed on the basis of the Monguor alphabet, remained in the experimental stage.[5]


English Classical Mongolian Dongxiang
1 One Nigen Niy
2 Two Qoyar Ghua
3 Three Ghurban Ghuran
4 Four Dorben Jierang
5 Five Tabun Tawun
6 Six Jirghughan Jirghun
7 Seven Dologhan Dolon
8 Eight Naiman Naiman
9 Nine Yisun Yysun
10 Ten Arban Haron

The Tangwang language[edit]

There are about 20,000 people in the north-eastern part Dongxiang County, who self-identify as Dongxiang or Hui people who don't speak Dongxiang language, but speak natively a Dongxiang-influenced form of Mandarin Chinese. The linguist Mei W. Lee-Smith calls this the "Tangwang language" (Chinese: 唐汪话), based on the names of the two largest villages (Tangjia and Wangjia, parts of Tangwang Town) where it is spoken and argues it is a creolized language. [6] According to Lee-Smith, the Tangwang language uses mostly Mandarin words and morphemes with Dongxiang grammar. Besides Dongxiang loanwords, Tangwang also has a substantial number of Arabic and Persian loanwords.[6]

Like standard Mandarin, Tangwang is a tonal language, but grammatical particles, which are typically borrowed from Mandarin, but are used in the way Dongxiang morphemes would be used in Dongxiang, don't carry tones.[6]

For example, while the Mandarin plural suffix -men (们) has only very restricted usage (it can be used with personal pronouns and some nouns related to people), Tangwang uses it, in the form -m, universally, the way Dongxiang would use its plural suffix -la. Mandarin pronoun ni (你) can be used in Tangwang as a possessive suffix (meaning "your"). Unlike Mandarin, but like Dongxiang, Tangwang has grammatical cases as well (but only 4 of them, instead of 8 in Dongxiang).[6]


  1. ^ Bao 2006
  2. ^ a b Santa at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015)
  3. ^ Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin; Bank, Sebastian, eds. (2016). "Dongxiang". Glottolog 2.7. Jena: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History. 
  4. ^ Bao 2006, 1.1: 东乡语的语序特点
  5. ^ Kim 2003, p. 348
  6. ^ a b c d Lee-Smith, Mei W.; International Council for Philosophy and Humanistic Studies (1996), "The Tangwang 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, pp. 875–882, ISBN 3-11-013417-9 


  • Kim, Stephen S. (2003), "Santa", in Janhunen, Juha, The Mongolic Languages, Routledge Language Family Series, pp. 346–363, ISBN 0-203-98791-8 
  • 包萨仁/Bao Saren (2006), "从语言接触看东乡语和临夏话的语序变化/Sequential Changes in Dongxiang Language and Linxia Dialects from the View of Linguistic Contact", Journal of the Second Northwest University for Nationalities (Social Science Edition) (2), ISSN 1008-2883, retrieved 2009-04-13 
  • Wei,L. X., & Stuart, K.. (1989). POPULATION AND CULTURE OF THE MONGOLS, TU, BAOAN, DONGXIANG, AND YUGU IN GANSU.Mongolian Studies, 12, 71-93. Retrieved from
  • Jorigt, G., & Stuart, K.. (1998). Problems Concerning Mongolian Case. Central Asiatic Journal, 42(1), 110–122. Retrieved from
  • Hattaway, P. (n.d.). Dongxiang in China. Retrieved February 12, 2016, from
  • People's Daily. (2012, August 8). Chinese Ethnic Groups:东乡族(Dōngxiāng zú )The Dongxiang ethnic minority. Retrieved February 12, 2016, from
  • People's Group. (n.d.). The Dongxiang. Retrieved February 12, 2016, from
  • Cheng, J. (2013, May 10). Dongxiang – people of the northwest. Retrieved February 12, 2016, from

Further reading[edit]

  • Field, Kenneth Lynn (1997), A grammatical overview of Santa Mongolian, PhD dissertation, University of California, Santa Barbara 
  • 马国忠/Ma Guozhong (2001), 东乡语汉语词典/Dongxiang-Chinese Dictionary, Lanzhou: 甘肃民族出版社/Gansu Nationalities Publishing House, ISBN 7-5421-0767-4 
  • Üjiyediin Chuluu (Chaolu Wu) (November 1994). "Introduction, Grammar, and Sample Sentences for Dongxiang" (PDF). SINO-PLATONIC PAPERS. Department of East Asian Languages and Civilizations, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA 19104-6305 USA. 
  • Baker, C. (2000, April). The Dongxiang Language and People. Retrieved February 12, 2016, from

External links[edit]