Pinyin language

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For other uses, see Pinyin (disambiguation).
Region Northwest Region, Cameroon
Native speakers
25,000 (2001)[1]
Language codes
ISO 639-3 pny
Glottolog piny1238[2]
This article contains IPA phonetic symbols. Without proper rendering support, you may see question marks, boxes, or other symbols instead of Unicode characters.

Pinyin is a Grassfields language spoken by some 27,000 people in the Northwest Region of Cameroon.


Phoneme Allophones Environment Orthography
p p ⟨p⟩
Before /u/ in an open syllable.
b After /ɴ̩/. ⟨b⟩
β Between vowels within a root.
t t ⟨t⟩
k k Beginning of words and of roots within words, and after /ɴ̩/. ⟨k⟩
ʔ Only C found at ends of words. ⟨’⟩
l l In roots. ⟨l⟩
ɾ In suffixes. ⟨r⟩
d After /ɴ̩/. ⟨d⟩
ɣ ɣ ⟨ɡh⟩
ɡ After /ɴ̩/. ⟨ɡ⟩
ɣʷ ɡʷ After /ɴ̩/. ⟨ɡw⟩
f f ⟨f⟩
s s /ts/ after /ɴ̩/. ⟨s⟩
ts ts ⟨ts⟩
z z ⟨z⟩
dz After /ɴ̩/.
ʃ ʃ /tʃ/ after /ɴ̩/. ⟨sh⟩
ʒ ʒ ⟨zh⟩
After /ɴ̩/. ⟨j⟩
m m ⟨m⟩
n n ⟨n⟩
ɲ ɲ ⟨ny⟩
ŋ ŋ ⟨ŋ⟩
m̩ n̩ ŋ̍ Homorganic with following C. Carries tone. ⟨m⟩, ⟨n⟩
w w ⟨w⟩
ɥ ɥ ⟨ẅ⟩
j j ⟨y⟩

Sequences are:

py (mby), ly (ndy), ty, ky, ngy, my, kẅ, ngẅ (= /kʷj, ɡʷj/)
pw (mbw), lw (ndw), tw, tsw, chw, shw, sw, zw, zhw, nw, nyw, ŋw

All noun and verb roots begin with a consonant; initial vowels are necessarily prefixes. Only /a, ɨ/ occur in prefixes or at the beginning of words, and only /ə/ occurs in suffixes. /ɨ, y/ do not occur at the ends of words.

Phoneme Orthography
i i
y ʉ
ɛ e
a a
ɔ o
u u
ə ə
ɨ ɨ

All known long vowels may occur medially or at ends of words, none at the beginning, though long /ɛ, y/ are not attested. Long vowels are written double: aa, əə, ii, ‿ɨɨ, oo, uu. Diphthongs ie, iə, ʉə, ɨə, uə take a single tone.

Tones are high, mid, low, rising, falling. They are written as in IPA, apart from low, which is not written: á ā a ǎ â. Falling tone is largely confined to suffixes, and rising tone is rare, found only on a few nouns such as 'father'.


  1. ^ Pinyin at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015)
  2. ^ Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin; Bank, Sebastian, eds. (2016). "Pinyin". Glottolog 2.7. Jena: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History.