Tue, Aug 01, 2006 - Page 5 News List

Ethnic Miao tongue in danger of dying out in south China

AFP , SHANGHAI

The Miao people, China's fourth-largest ethnic minority with thousands of years of history, are in danger of losing their language, state media reported yesterday.

Evidence from areas in south China populated by the Miao, also known as the Hmong in Southeast Asia, suggest a drastic and speedy decline in the use of the language, the Shanghai Daily said.

"Native people in Miao villages communicate in their own language less and less," said Han Kan, an official in charge of ethnic and religious affairs in Guizhou Province, where many members of the Miao live.

In Danzhai County, part of Guizhou, only 60 percent speak their own language, down from 85 percent just seven years ago, the paper said.

The Miao language may have gotten a lease of life when a writing system was developed in the mid-20th century, but now experts are worried it could be destined for extinction.

"With no effective inheritance mechanism, the Miao language will be hard to preserve," Han said, according to the paper.

China's minority languages are under pressure especially from economic forces, as members of ethnic groups migrate to big cities where the standard Mandarin Chinese dialect dominates communication.

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