The Vitality of Khams Tibetan Varieties in Weixi County

Hiroyuki Suzuki, Yunnan Tibetan, Hiroyuki Suzuki
2017 Asian Highlands Perspectives   unpublished
1 This article presents an overview of the multilingual situation of Weixi County, Yunnan Province, in the southeastern Tibetosphere, and discusses the vitality of several Tibetan varieties currently used by Tibetans in Weixi who live alongside Naxi, Lisu, Bai, Yi, and Pumi people. In this borderland area, most Tibetans are multilingual, speaking Lisu and/or Naxi in addition to Yunnanese, a dialect of Mandarin. I focus on two local Tibetan varieties: Gagatang and Tacheng. The former has become
more » ... former has become endangered, while many speakers still use the latter. Intergenerational transmission of Gagatang appears to be declining, and community attitudes towards the language are increasingly negative, whereas Tacheng Tibetan appears relatively vital, speakers of this variety have strong positive attitudes towards their mother tongue, and generally consider multilingualism to be normal. I identify two factors that contribute to Gagatang's endangerment. First is the local demographic context, where none of the minority languages are supported by the majority of villagers. A second factor is the lack of strong identities attached to local languages. This research suggests that minority languages are more valued in communities that also value ethnic diversity, thus suggesting that a key to maintaining linguistic diversity in the Tibetosphere is the retention of diverse identities.