Naish Languages and Dongba / Daba Oral Traditions


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Naish languages are a sub-branch of the Naic group in the Tibeto-Burmese family from southwest China. Their distinctive features are valuable in the context of comparative studies on the historical reconstructions of proto-Tibeto-Burmese. Naish languages show several morphological characteristics similar to Qiang, while sharing a considerable percentage of cognates with the Loloish languages. Their ethnic group has an ancient designation: Moso. Two are the main varieties recognized by ISO 639–3: nxq (Naxi) and nru (Na). This chapter introduces the phonological system of Naxi and Na and clarifies the different sets of IPA symbols and orthographies for Naxi and Na. A minor branch of the Naxi language, Ruke, is briefly described according to first-hand field work data collected from Yomi Village, Labo Township, Ninglang County, Yunnan Province. Naish People, or the ancient Moso People, have their own indigenous religions, Dabaism and Dongbaism. Dongba and Daba oral traditions, following rhythmic patterns based on pentameters and/or heptameters, vehiculate the transmission of knowledge from generation to generation in the Moso community. A pictographic writing is used by the Dongba priests as a mnemonic device. This chapter conducts a comparative analysis on the legends on the origins of the local scripts among the Dongba, Daba, and several neighbouring ethnic groups, in order to contribute to the understanding of the cultural identity of Moso People. Kinship terms are analyzed as lexemes depicting their matrilineal cultural milieu. The multilingual context sketched here provides a comprehensive portrait of the current situation across the Moso regions.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Routledge Handbook of Asian Linguistics
EditorsChris SHEI, Saihong LI
Place of PublicationAbingdon-on-Thames (UK)
PublisherRoutledge Taylor & Francis Group
Number of pages20
ISBN (Electronic)9781003090205
ISBN (Print)9780367546991
Publication statusPublished - 28 Jul 2022


  • Na / Naxi
  • Daba
  • Dongba
  • Moso
  • Language Documentation


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