Xiandao is the language used by Xiandao people who are Achang nationality live in Xiandao camp, Mangmian village and Mang’e camp, Mangxian village in Dehong state, Yunnan province. There are around 120 people use Xiandao language, it is the no-word language that has the least users in China.
Dai-Jingpo Autonomous Prefecture of Dehong is located in the southwest of China. In the long years of history, Central Plains culture and border culture, Han culture and minority culture, Oriental culture and Western culture, Chinese culture and South Asian culture blend in here. There are five ethnic minorities: Dai, Jingpo, Achang ,De’ang and Lisu live in Dehong, every ethnic has their own long culture and history.
Nowadays, Xiandao people mainly live in Xiandao camp, Mianmang village and Mang’e camp, Mangxian village in Nongzhang town, Yingjiang. There are about 120 Xiandao people, they use Xiandao language which has no word. Xiandao language is the language used by Xiandao people who are the branch of Achang. It belongs to Chinese and Tibetan Languages .It used to be a kind of dialect of Achang language. It became independent in 1990,which is one of the “Chinese new language” and an extremely endangered minority language in China.
At present, Xiandao people in Xiandao village use three kinds of language: Xiandao,Jingpo and Han. However, from the perspective of social communication, the status and social function of the three languages are different. Xiandao is ethnic traditional native language ,Jingpo is foreign language which is the earliest language for children to learn, and Han is official language. For Xiandao group, the two languages they speak are Xiandao and Jingpo,while for individual of Xiandao,they speak Jingpo and Han.
The research of Xiandao language started from 1990, four small field surveys have been done. In 1990, professors of Minzu University of China, Qingxia Dai, Ailan Fu and Juhuang Liu came to Mang’e camp,Mangmian village, Yingjiang for their first investigation of Xiandao language. They understood the social and cultural circumstances and usage of Xiandao language. They also arranged the sound system and basic grammar characteristics of Xiandao language. The experts came to Xiandao village and Mang’e village for their second field investigation in 2005. They collected many first-hand information of Xiandao language and checked the past materials and added a lot of vocabulary and short sentences. Eventually, they published the professional research book of Xiandao language “The research on Xiandao language”. This book analyzed this endangered language from the perspectives of the usage, sound system, lexical, syntactic, vocabulary and grammar of Xiandao language.
There are many similarities between Xiandao language and Achang, Zaiwa and Burmese. Find by hard and thorough search, Xiandao people are the branch of Achang, Xianda language and Achang language have neat corresponding rules in pronunciation as a result, there are a large proportion of cognate words. Not only grammatical regulations, and grammatical meaning, but also grammatical forms show the close relation of origin between them, so experts regard them as the same language.
According to the statistics of December 2002, there were only around 70 Xiandao people, who mainly live in Xiandao village and Mangmian village. According to the memory of old people, there were more Xiandao people before 1950s.And they kept using their own mother tongue, there was no language transforming exist, but the phenomenon of using two languages together appeared. After 1950s, with the expansion of foreign exchange, the phenomenon of language use and language transfer is increasing. In general, the Xiandao people live in Mang’e village use Xiandao language. However, they use Jingpo language and Han language as well. Most local people are bilinguals, some teenagers already turn to use Jingpo language.
On the whole, Xiandao language is endangered, there is the trend that Han and Jingpo replace it. Ethnic differentiation makes less people use Xiandao language, the function of Xiandao language decrease, the development of it is limited as well.
Mang’e village which is 5 kilometers away from Xiandao village is another village that Xiandao people live. The 10 families immigrated to here lost their mother tongue. Most people live in Mang’e village are Han. Xiandao people accepted Han’s culture and education quickly after they moved in here. They learnt Han’s language, got married with Han, grow a variety of farming crops, such as rice, sugar cane, and so on with the Han nationality. Xiandao people live in Mang’e village who are under 40 years old can understand Xiandao language but cannot speak it.
The usage of Xianda language in this village is limited between the old people of few families.
Xiandao language is the language that has the least people use in China, its differentiation, evolution and being endangered has its own characteristics. The main reasons why Xiandao language have become endangered among many reasons are Xiandao people with small population and serious social transformation, language assimilation. Xiandao people experienced two big immigration in history, they got rid of the plight of bad natural conditions, their mode of production, culture and education have changed a lot. Teenagers learn and use Han language and Jingpo language more frequently due to most people live around them are Han and Jingpo.
Nowadays, the proficiency level of using Xiandao language depends on age. People over 40 years old are proficient, 13 mid-age people and teenagers who are between 20 to 39 years old are semi-skilled, they can talk in daily life, 16 teenagers who are under 19 years old can understand and speak a little. From the perspective of language development, the process that Xiandao language became endangered is: from mother tongue is effected by other languages(be effected by Dai,Han and Jingpo language) to using two kinds of languages together (using Dai,Han and Jingpo language together) to language transformation (turn to use Han and Jingpo language).Among those steps, using several languages together was the beginning of Xiaodao language became endangered.
The continuous accumulation of language influences will lead to a gradual expansion of using several kinds of languages together, the mother tongue becomes endangered eventually. The problems that Xiandao language has faced already have aroused wide attention of experts and scholars at home and abroad. They combined traditional methods of investigation and modern information technology, investigated and recorded the endangered languages of ethnic minorities and collected and collated sound materials, preserved and had intensive study. The local government also puts forward feasible rescue and protection measures, they plan to offer ethnic cultural courses, gradually propagate the importance of protecting Xiandao language in village ,encourages young people to use mother tongue more frequently, let the endangered language can be used in the future as a result.
The gorgeous and colorful national language combines the origin of border culture, the inclusiveness of multiculturalism, the uniqueness of regional culture, the richness of history and culture and so on. It is a precious human wealth in the intangible cultural heritage, which has high historical value and literary and artistic value. However, these precious ethnic minority’s language and word are becoming endangered due to complicated reasons like ethnic differentiation, population migration, ethnic integration, social transformation and the impact of globalization.
The disappearance of language has always been regarded as a prelude to the extinction of national culture. It is essential to seize the time to investigate and record the endangered dialect, save every detail of these endangered languages as much as possible, and then put it into the file for the posterity. In December, 2016, “The exploration and protection of the endangered languages of ethnic minorities in Yunnan-Rouruo language of Nu people” which was filmed, produced and published by Yunnan ethnic culture video and audio publishing house was approved to be a special fund for the publication of national written national characters. It saved endangered language and word of ethnic minorities, reflected the unique spiritual values, ways of existence and cultural connotations of ethnic minorities.