Yunnan Languages

Most dialects of the Chinese language spoken in Yunnan belong to the southwestern subdivision of the Mandarin group, and are therefore very similar to the dialects of neighbouring Sichuan and Guizhou provinces. Notable features found in many Yunnan dialects include the partial or complete loss of distinction between finals /n/ and /ŋ/, as well as the lack of /y/. In addition to the local dialects, most people also speak Standard Chinese (Putonghua, commonly called “Mandarin”), which is used in the media, by the government, and as the language of instruction in education.

Yunnan’s ethnic diversity is reflected in its linguistic diversity. Languages spoken in Yunnan include Tibeto-Burman languages such as Bai, Yi, Tibetan, Hani, Jingpo, Lisu, Lahu, Naxi; Tai languages like Zhuang, Bouyei, Dong, Shui, Tai Lü and Tai Nüa; as well as Hmong–Mien languages.

The Naxi, in particular, use the Dongba script, which is the only pictographic writing system in use in the world today. The Dongba script was mainly used to provide the Dongba priests with instructions on how to carry out their rituals: today the Dongba script features more as a tourist attraction. Perhaps the best known Western Dongba scholar was Joseph Rock.


By the end of 1998, among the province’s population, 419,800 had received college education or above, 2.11 million, senior middle school education, 8.3 million, junior middle school education, 18.25 million, primary school education, and 8.25 million aged 15 or above, illiterate or semi-literate.

Yunnan Dialect

Yunnan dialect, also known as Yunnan mandarin, is generally a northern dialect. The stationing of troops in Ming Dynasty played a decisive role in the formation of Chinese dialects in Yunnan. With the gradual enrichment of people’s historical and cultural knowledge, they finally understand that the formation of Yunnan dialect is closely related to the migration of the Han nationality and the formation of the ethnic pattern today. Yunnan dialect is actually the central plains Chinese dialect in history. studying these dialect words can explain many historical and cultural problems. Unfortunately, most of the recorded data have been lost in previous political movements, and only the existing sporadic records can be collated and explained to form this article. Because of the large number of ethnic minorities in Yunnan, the dialects in different regions will be different.

Yunnan Language Classification

Yunnan is the hometown of mountains and rivers. On this plateau, there are 26 ethnic groups living here, of which 25 are ethnic minorities, of which 15 are unique to Yunnan and none exist elsewhere. Let’s take a look at this unique ethnic group

Dai language

There are four different forms of Dai script: Xishuangbanna Dai script, Dehong Dai script, Dai tense script and Jinping Dai script. These four kinds of characters are all derived from the Indian alphabet, and have gradually formed different styles of characters through different development and evolution processes. After the founding of New China, some improvements have been made to the Dai and Dehong Dai languages in Xishuangbanna on the basis of the original characters. The improved Dai languages in Xishuangbanna, on the basis of retaining the original letter form and phonetic features, have added and deleted some letters according to the actual pronunciation, changed the tone symbols, and standardized the pronunciation of letters, the use of additional symbols and the writing rules.

Naxi language

Naxi language can be divided into eastern and western dialect areas. The eastern dialect area refers to the Naxi residential area east of Jinsha River, represented by the Mosuo language on Lugu Lake at the junction of Yunnan and Sichuan. There are about 50,000 people who speak this eastern dialect. The western dialect area includes the Naxi residential area west of Jinsha River, represented by the language of Dayan Town, Lijiang County, Yunnan Province. There are about 250,000 people who speak this dialect.

Yi language

The Yi language belongs to the Yi branch of the Tibeto-Burman language family of the Sino-Tibetan language family. The population in use is about 4 million. One of the original syllabic characters of the Yi people (some people also think it is ideographic). In 1975, Sichuan Liangshan Yi region formulated Sichuan’s “Yi Language Standard Pilot Scheme”, which identified 819 standard Yi characters. In 1980, the State Council approved its implementation in Sichuan’s Yi region (see Yi language). Yi language is abroad, mainly distributed in Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam.

Bai language

White is the language used by Bai nationality in China. It is mainly distributed in Dali Bai Autonomous Prefecture of Yunnan Province and neighboring counties, with a population of over 3 million. Belonging to the Tibeto-Burman language family of Sino-Tibetan language family, some people think that white language is a language of Yi language branch, some people think that it should become an independent language branch, and some people think that it is a language of Chinese language family. White is a tonal language, divided into Jianchuan, Dali and Bijiang dialects. Dialects are quite different and it is difficult to talk to each other.

The above is only an introduction to some minority languages. Yunnan has 15 unique minorities, each of which basically has its own language. For more information, please search this website or consult relevant staff.

News About Yunnan language

With the development of economy, more and more people are going out of the mountain to develop, thus causing the development of local languages.

In bingzhongluo township and pengda township in gongshan county, Nujiang prefecture, Yunnan province, a branch of the Nu ethnic group “along” lives there.

“Nu ethnic group has four branches, each speaking a different language. Aron language is the most endangered one.”  Researchers said that in 1960, when he first went to investigate, about 400 people could speak.  Today, only 100 people can speak, and all of them are old people. Only a dozen old people speak well, and young people do not speak.

Luoma Village, Longdi Township, Honghe County, Yunnan Province, is a village inhabited by the Hani people. There are currently 137 families in the village. Li Songmei, who works at the Honghe State Institute for Nationalities, also came out of the village. Some time ago she did a survey. More than 90% of the people over 35 in the village are still talking about hani language, but half of the people under 35 have already said nothing. “There are not ten people who can sing our nation’s wedding lament.”

Yunnan Culture by Region