From 2013 to 2016, I coordinate the research project:

Ersu and Xumi: Comparative and Cross-Varietal Documentation of Highly Endangered Languages of South-West China

The project entails fieldwork in a multi-ethnic and multi-lingual region in western Sichuan Province in the People’s Republic of China, where the four team members analyze two language clusters:

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This language cluster comprises three mutually unintelligible languages: (1) Ersu; (2) Duoxu, also known as Tosu; (3) Lizu.
This language cluster comprises two varieties with limited mutual intelligibility. We refer to these varieties as Upper Xumi and Lower Xumi, as they are spoken in the upper and lower reaches of the Shuiluo river.

All languages and varieties in these two clusters are endangered. The moribund Duoxu language currently has 4 remaining speakers, and the severely endangered Xumi language has circa 1,000 proficient speakers.

Katia and Duoxu language consultant Jin Wanxiang
(Mianning, Sichuan Province, China, April 2013; photo by Wang Dehe)

Our project produces corpora of audio, video, and text data. In addition, the following output is planned:

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sketch grammars of Duoxu, Xumi, and Lizu
a collection of Ersu stories
two comparative dictionaries with Mandarin and English translations: one for the Ersu cluster and one for the Xumi cluster
pedagogical materials
pedagogical materials for Duoxu

This Major Documentation Project is funded (£90,712) by the Endangered Languages Documentation Programme. Audio, video, text, and image files of the project deposited with the Endangered Languages Archive at SOAS, London:

Research in the project is carried out by Katia Chirkova (CNRS), Wang Dehe 王德和 (Xichang College), Yuan Xiaowen 袁晓文 (Sichuan Institute of Nationalities), and Han Zhengkang 韩正康 (Sichuan Institute of Nationalities).

The work of professor Wang Dehe, one of our project members, inspired the publication of several lushly illustrated articles in Chinese popularizing journals (see the above two examples). For more publications that resulted from our project, see the publications page on this website.