Language Snapshots

Bala (China) – Language Snapshot


  • Andreas Hölzl


Bala is a Tungusic language of the Jurchenic subbranch recorded by Mu Yejun 穆晔骏 (1926‒1989) and other researchers. The language was spoken by people living in the Zhangguangcai mountain range (zhangguangcai ling 张广才岭) in Northeast China. There do not appear to be any living speakers, but information and materials may still be available from elderly people and in written documents. Data on the language encompasses word lists, grammatical items, a few sentences, and one song written in Chinese characters. The language shows some archaic features of utmost importance for comparative Tungusic linguistics. It is similar to Jurchen (jurc1239), and more distantly related to Manchu (manc1252). Bala exhibits signs of being a mixed language, evincing a certain number of borrowings from Manchu dialects, Chinese, and perhaps other Tungusic languages. There is sociolectal and dialectal variation that is poorly understood. Today, the Bala probably speak Northeastern Mandarin (nort3283).1

1 I want to thank Yadi Hölzl, an anonymous reviewer, and Peter Austin for their help.


BalaTungusicJurchenic/ManchuricZhangguangcaiNortheast ChinaHeilongjiangJilin
  • Year: 2020
  • Volume: 19
  • Page/Article: 162-170
  • DOI: 10.25894/ldd76
  • Published on 31 Dec 2020
  • children