E language

For the computer programming language, see E (programming language). For the grammar theory, see E-language.

Kjang E
Region Guangxi, China
Native speakers
30,000 (1992)[1]
Language codes
ISO 639-3 eee
Glottolog eeee1240[2]

Guangxi, of which E is spoken in a small area

E (simplified Chinese: 诶话; traditional Chinese: 誒話; pinyin: Ē Huà) or Wuse/Wusehua (simplified Chinese: 五色话; traditional Chinese: 五色話; pinyin: Wŭsè Huà; literally: "Colored Language") is a TaiChinese mixed language spoken primarily in Rongshui Miao Autonomous County, Guangxi, China. It contains features of both Tai and Chinese varieties, generally adopting Chinese vocabulary into Tai grammar. E is a tonal language—distinguishing between seven tones—and contains a few rare phonemes: voiceless versions of the more common nasal consonants and alveolar lateral approximant.


The E language's unusual pinyin-transliterated name, which is also an autonym, consists of a single letter e.[3] The character, which is written "" in Simplified Chinese and "" in Traditional Chinese, usually denotes an expression of affirmation.[4] The language's speakers also refer to their language as Kjang E.[3] Wusehua is a derogatory name for E.[5]

Geographical distribution

Zhuang people in Guilin

In 1992, E was spoken by about 30,000 people,[3] but by 2008 this number had dwindled to 9,000.[6] Most E speakers are classified as Zhuang by the Chinese government. E speakers live primarily in the Guangxi autonomous region of China, specifically in the Rongshui Miao county and border areas of Luocheng Mulao. Villages inhabited by E speakers include Xiatan, Simo, Xinglong, and the Yonglei district. Ethnologue classifies E as rank 6b (Threatened). E speakers' most commonly spoken other languages are Yue Chinese and the Guiliu variant of Southwestern Mandarin.[7]


E's consonant and vowel inventories are mostly similar to those of its parent languages. However, it contains a few unusual consonants: the voiceless nasal consonants [], [ŋ̥], [], and the voiceless alveolar lateral approximant []. All are voiceless versions of consonants that, in most languages, are always voiced. E allows syllabic consonants and diphthongs.[6]

Labial Alveolar Alveolo-
Velar Glottal
plain sibil. plain lab.
Nasal m
Stop plain p t t͡s k
aspirated t͡sʰ
Fricative f s ɕ h
Approximant l
j w

Front Back
unrounded unrounded rounded
Close i
Close-mid e o
Mid-central ə
Open-mid ɛ
Open a

Like most Southeast Asian languages, including Tai and the varieties of Chinese, E is tonal.[8] The language is described as having seven tones, with the seventh varying allophonically with the length of the vowel it is attached to. With numbers ranging from 1 to 5, with 1 being the lowest tone and 5 the highest, the contours of the various tones in E are as follows.[6]

Tone contours
Number Contour Tone letter
1. 42 ˦˨
2. 231 ˨˧˩
3. 44 ˦
4. 35 ˧˥
5. 24 ˨˦
6. 55 ˥
7. Short 24 ˨˦
Long 22 ˨

Grammar and lexicon

E is usually classified as a mixed language deriving ultimately from the Tai-Kadai and Sino-Tibetan families, which both inhabit southern China and Southeast Asia.[5] Some non-Chinese scholars, however, consider it a Tai-Kadai language with Chinese influence.[9] Whatever its classification, the grammar resembles that of the Tai branch of Tai-Kadai. Specifically, scholars consider E's grammatical features a blend of Northern Zhuang, Mulam, and Kam.[7][8] The Caolan language of Vietnam displays many similarities with E.[8]

The vocabulary, however, is mostly Chinese, based on Guiliu and the Tuguai variant of Pinghua.[7][8] Out of the 2,000 most commonly used E words, only about 200 are of Tai-Kadai origin.[10] E also inherits elements of these Chinese dialects' phonology and compound word formation.[7] E morphology is primarily analytic, with concepts such as negation expressed with auxiliary words (pat6, m2) and no pronominal agreement.[6]

In its pronouns, E distinguishes for person between first, second, and third; in number between singular and plural; and, in the case of the second-person plural, between inclusive and exclusive we. E does not, however, make distinctions for grammatical gender.[6]

Person Singular Plural
1. ku1 lau2 (incl.)
kju1 (excl.)
2. ŋ2 su1
3. mo5 mo5 kjau1

No. E No. E
1 je:t6 6 l̥ok6
2 soŋ1
7 tshat6
3 sam1 8 pe:t6
4 si4 9 kjəu3
5 ŋ̥a3
10 tɕəp7


  1. E at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015)
  2. Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin; Bank, Sebastian, eds. (2016). "E". Glottolog 2.7. Jena: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History.
  3. 1 2 3 Edmondson 1992, p. 138.
  4. Unihan Database 1991.
  5. 1 2 Encyclopedia of Linguistics 2003, p. 207.
  6. 1 2 3 4 5 Greenhill, Blust & Gray 2008.
  7. 1 2 3 4 Lewis, Simons & Fennig 2014.
  8. 1 2 3 4 Edmondson 1992, pp. 135–144.
  9. Moseley 2012, p. 72.
  10. Meizhin 2007, pp. 2596–2620.


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