Online Na-English-Chinese Dictionary - Alexis Michaud


Introduction to the dictionary

About the language
This dictionary documents the lexicon of the Na language (nɑ˩-ʐwɤ˥) as spoken in and around the plain of Yongning, located in Southwestern China, at the border between Yunnan and Sichuan, at a latitude of 27°50’ N and a longitude of 100°41’ E. This language is known locally as ‘Mosuo’.

Chronology and method
The author’s fieldwork on Yongning Na began in October 2006, with tone as its main focus (lexical tone, and tonal morphology). This required examining as many lexical items as possible to ensure that no tone category was overlooked, but
lexicographic work was not in itself a priority. A list of words was begun through elicitation, and gradually expanded and corrected as narratives were recorded and transcribed; addition of new words was therefore a slow process. An advantage
of placing the emphasis on text collection is that a context is available to help clarify the meaning of newly encountered words, also offering a basis for further discussion of their usage. But systematic elicitation of large amounts of vocabulary
was not carried out, hence the limited number of entries: currently slightly under 3,000.
Unless otherwise stated, all the data are from one language consultant, Mrs. Latami Dashilame (lɑ˧tʰɑ˧mi˥ ʈæ˧ʂɯ˧- lɑ˩mv˩; Chinese: 拉它米打史拉么). She was born in 1950 in the hamlet called ə˧lɑ˧-ʁwɤ#˥ in Na, close to the monastery
of Yongning. The administrative coordinates of this village are: Yúnnán province, Lìjiāng municipality, Nínglàng Yí autonomous county, Yǒngníng district, Ālāwǎ village (云南省丽江市宁蒗彝族自治县永宁乡阿拉瓦村). The choice to work in one location only, and essentially with one consultant, is, again, based on the investigator’s focus on the tone system. There is considerable dialectal diversity within the Na area (much more so than in the Naxi-speaking area); the tone
systems of different villages are conspicuously different, and this geographical diversity combines with dramatic differences across social groups, and across generations. The obvious thing to do seemed to be an in-depth description and analysis of the language as spoken by one person (simultaneously making a few forays into other idiolects and dialects). Data from other speakers are indicated using their codes in the author’s database of speakers of Naish languages. Table 2 provides the speaker codes.

Table 1: Language consultant codes speaker code name year of birth
F4 (main consultant) lɑ˧tʰɑ˧mi˥ ʈæ˧ʂɯ˧-lɑ˩mv˩ 1950
F5 ki˧zo˧ 1973
F6 tɕʰi˧ɖv#˥ 1987
M18 lɑ˧tʰɑ˧mi˥ ʈæ˧ʂɯ˧-ʈæ˩ʈv˩ 1972
M21 ho˧dʑɤ˧tsʰe˥ 1942
M23 ɖɯ˩ɖʐɯ˧ 1974

The list of words as of 2011 was deposited in the STEDT database ( The same year, under the impetus of Guillaume Jacques and Aimée Lahaussois, plans were made to bring the word list closer to the standards of a full-fledged dictionary. A project was deposited with the Agence Nationale de la Recherche, accepted in 2012, and begun in 2013: the HimalCo project (ANR-12-CORP-0006). Céline Buret, a computing engineer, worked with the project team for two years (Nov. 2014-Oct. 2015). She converted the data to the format of the Field Linguist’s Toolbox (MDF), then produced scripts for conversion to a XML format complying with the LMF standard, allowing for automatic conversion to an online format as well as to LaTeX files (with PDF as the final output for circulation). In 2015, version 1.0 of the online and PDF versions of the dictionary were produced and published online, along with the source document in MDF (Toolbox) format.

The dictionary can be consulted or downloaded here

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