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Xibe language

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Title: Xibe language  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
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Subject: Manchu language, Languages of China, Mongolian script, Tungusic languages, Xibe
Collection: Agglutinative Languages, Languages of China, Tungusic Languages
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Xibe language

ᠰᡞᠪᡝ ᡤᡞᠰᡠᠨ sibe gisun [1]
Native to China
Region Xinjiang
Ethnicity 190,000 Xibe people (2000)
Native speakers
30,000  (2000)[2]
  • Southern
    • Xibe
Xibe script
Language codes
ISO 639-3 sjo
Glottolog xibe1242[3]

The Xibe language (also Sibo, Sibe, Xibo language) is the most widely spoken of the Tungusic languages spoken by members of the ethnic group in Xinjiang, in the northwest of the People's Republic of China.


  • Classification 1
  • Phonology 2
  • Lexicon 3
  • Writing system 4
  • Cyrillization proposal 5
  • Table 6
  • Usage 7
  • Notes 8
  • References 9
  • Further reading 10
  • External links 11


Xibe is conventionally viewed as a separate language within the southern group of Tungusic languages, alongside the more well-known Manchu language, with more than 200 years of separate development from the Tungusic-speaking heartland since the Xibe people's exile to Xinjiang in 1764. Some researchers such as Jerry Norman hold that Xibe is a dialect of Manchu, whereas other Xibologists, such as An Jun, argue that Xibe should be considered the "successor" of Manchu. Ethnohistorically, the Xibe people are not considered Manchu people, because they were excluded from chieftain Nurhaci's 17th century tribal confederation to which the name "Manchu" was later applied.[4]


Xibe is mutually intelligible with Manchu,[5] although unlike Manchu, Xibe is reported to have eight vowel distinctions as opposed to the six found in Manchu, as well as differences in morphology, and a more complex system of vowel harmony.[6]


The general vocabulary and structure of Xibe has not been affected as much by Chinese as Manchu has. However, Xibe has absorbed a large body of Chinese sociological terminology, especially in politics: like gəming ("revolution", from 革命) and zhuxi ("chairperson", from 主席),[7] and economics: like chūna ("cashier", from 出纳) and daikuan ("loan", from 贷款). Written Xibe is more conservative and rejecting of loanwords, but spoken Xibe contains additional Chinese-derived vocabulary such as nan (from ) for "man" where the Manchu-based equivalent is niyalma.[4] There has also been some influence from Russian,[8] including words such as konsul ("consul", from консул) and mashina ("sewing machine", from машина).[4] Smaller Xinjiang languages contribute mostly cultural terminology, such as namas ("an Islamic feast") from Uygur and baige ("horse race") from Kazak.[4]

Writing system

Xibe is written in the Xibe script, which has its origins in the Manchu script.[6] Xibe script diverges from Manchu in that the positions of the letters in some words have changed, Xibe lacks 13 out of 131 syllables in Manchu, and has three syllables not found in Manchu (wi, wo, and wu).[4]

Cyrillization proposal

There was a proposal in China by 1957 to adapt the Cyrillic alphabet to Xibe, but this was abandoned in favor of the original Xibe script.[9]

Cyrillic Transliteration to Latin IPA equivalent
А а A a a
Б б B b b
В в V v v
Г г G g g
Ғ ғ G g, Gg gg ɢ
Д д D d d
Е е E e ə
Ё ё Ë ë, œ
Ж ж Dz Dz, Z z dz
Җ җ J j dʐ, ʥ
З з R' r', Ž ž ʐ
И и I i i
Й й Y y y
К к K k k
Қ қ K' k', Kk kk q
Л л L l l
М м M m m
Н н N n n
Ң ң Ng ng ŋ
О о O o ɔ
Ө ө O o ø
П п P p p
Р р R r r
С с S s s
Т т T t t
У у U u u
Ү ү W w w
Ф ф F f f
Х х H' h' x
Ҳ ҳ H h χ
Ц ц Ts ts, Z z ʦ
Ч ч C c
Ш ш Š š ʂ
ы E e e, ɛ
Я я Y y, Ya ya j
ь - sign of thinness


This lists the letters in Xibe that differentiate it from Manchu as well as the placement of the letters. Red are important differences.

Letters Paul Georg von Mollendorf/New Manchu Dictionary) Unicodeencoding Description
Independent Initial Medial Final
ᡞ᠊ ᠊ᡞ᠊ ᠊ᡞ i 185E After the second row for vowels, third line used for k, g, h, b, p, after the fourth line for DZ
‍ᡞ᠌᠊ ᠊ᡞ᠋
᠊ᡡ᠊ ᠊ᡡ ū/uu 1861 after k、g、h
‍ᡢ᠊ ᠊ᡢ ng 1862 only occurs at the end of the syllables
ᡣ᠊ ᠊ᡣ᠊ k 1863 A, o, ū before first row, third row before e, I, u;at the end of syllables from the second row
᠊ᡣ᠋᠊ ᠊ᡣ
?? ??
ᡪ᠊ ᠊ᡪ᠊ j/zh 186A Only appear in the first syllable
ᠷ᠊ ᠊ᠷ᠊ ᠊ᠷ r 1837 Native language does not have words beginning with r
ᡫ᠊ ᠊ᡫ᠊ f 186B
ᠸ᠊ ᠊ᠸ᠊ w 1838 Can appear in a、e、i、o、u
ᡲ᠊ ᠊ᡲ᠊ j/zh 1872 jy is used for Chinese loanwords(Pinyinzhi


"Cabcal Serkin" in Xibe script (the name of Qapqal News, the world's only Xibe-language newspaper)

In 1998, there were eight primary schools that taught Xibe in the Qapqal Xibe Autonomous County, where the medium of instruction is Chinese but Xibe lessons are mandatory. From 1954 to 1959, the People's Publishing House in Ürümqi has published over 285 significant works, including government documents, belles-lettres, and school books, in Xibe.[4] Since 1946, the Xibe-language Qapqal News has been published in Yining. In Qapqal, Xibe-language programming is allocated 15 minutes per day of radio broadcasting and 15 to 30-minute television programmes broadcast one or twice per month.[10]

Xibe is taught as a second language by the Ili Normal University in the Ili Kazakh Autonomous Prefecture of northern Xinjiang; they established an undergraduate major in the language in 2005.[11] A few Manchu language enthusiasts from Eastern China have visited Qapqal Xibe County in order to experience an environment where a variety closely related to Manchu is spoken natively.[12]


  1. ^ Li 1986, p. 1
  2. ^ Xibe at Ethnologue (17th ed., 2013)
  3. ^ Nordhoff, Sebastian; Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2013). "Xibe". Glottolog 2.2. Leipzig: Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology. 
  4. ^ a b c d e f Gorelova, Liliya. "Past and Present of a Manchu Tribe: The Sibe". In Atabaki, Touraj; O'Kane, John. Post-Soviet Central Asia. Tauris Academic Studies. pp. 327–329. 
  5. ^ Gordon 2005, Xibe
  6. ^ a b Ramsey 1989, p. 215
  7. ^ Ramsey 1989, p. 216
  8. ^ Guo 2007
  9. ^ Minglang Zhou. Multilingualism in China: the politics of writing reforms for minority languages. Berlin, 2003. ISBN 3-11-017896-6
  10. ^ Zhang 2007
  11. ^ 佟志红/Tong Zhihong (2007-06-06), "《察布查尔报》——锡伯人纸上的精神家园/'Qapqal News'—A 'Spiritual Homestead' on Paper for the Xibe People", 伊犁晚报/Yili Evening News, retrieved 2009-04-13 
  12. ^ Ian Johnson (2009-10-05), "In China, the Forgotten Manchu Seek to Rekindle Their Glory", The Wall Street Journal, retrieved 2009-10-05 


  • Li, Shulan (1986), 锡伯语简志/Outline of the Xibo language, Beijing: Nationalities Publishing House 
  • Ramsey, S. Robert (1989), The Languages of China, Princeton University Press 
  • 张莉/Zhang Li (2007), "新疆锡伯族新闻事业发展现状/Xinjiang Xibo Peoples' News Undertaking Present Situation", 伊犁师范学院学报/Journal of Ili Normal University (1),  
  • 郭庆/Guo Qing (2004), "俄罗斯语言文化对新疆锡伯族语言文化的影响/Influence of Russian Language and Culture on the Sibo Language and Culture in Xinjiang", 满语研究/Manchu Studies (2),  

Further reading

  • Jang, Taeho (2008), 锡伯语语法研究/Sibe Grammar, Kunming, China: Yunnan Minzu Chubanshe,  
  • Li, Shulan (1984), 锡伯语口语研究/Research into Xibo oral language, Beijing, China: Nationalities Publishing House,  
  • Kida, Akiyoshi (2000), A typological and Comparative study of Altaic languages with emphasis on XIBO Language: The part of XIBO Grammar 
  • Jin, Ning (1994), Phonological correspondences between literary Manchu and spoken Sibe, University of Washington 
  • Tong, Zhongming (2005), "俄国著名学者B·B·拉德洛夫用锡伯语复述记录的民间故事/The Folktales Retold and Recorded in Xibo Language by the Famous Russian Scholar B.B. Radloff", Studies of Ethnic Literature (3): 60–63 

External links

  • Unicode Manchu/Sibe/Daur Fonts and Keyboards - English
  • Unicode Manchu/Sibe/Daur Fonts and Keyboards - Chinese
  • Xibe-English-Chinese phrases
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