Pumi language

Native to People's Republic of China
Region Sichuan, Yunnan
Ethnicity Pumi
Native speakers
54,000 (1999)[1]
Language codes
ISO 639-3 Either:
pmi  Northern Pumi
pmj  Southern Pumi
Glottolog pumi1242[2]

The Pumi language (also known as Prinmi) is a Qiangic language used by the Pumi people, an ethnic group from Yunnan, China, as well as by the Tibetan people of Muli in Sichuan, China.[3][4] Most native speakers live in Lanping, Ninglang, Lijiang, Weixi and Muli. Earlier works suggest there are two branches of Pumi (southern and northern), and they are not mutually intelligible. A more refined division proposes three major groups: Western Prinmi (spoken in Lanping), Central Prinmi (spoken in southwestern Ninglang, Lijiang, Yulong and Yongsheng) and Northern Prinmi (spoken in northern Ninglang and Sichuan).[5]

The autonym of the Pumi is pʰʐə̃˥mi˥ in Western Prinmi, pʰɹĩ˥mi˥ in Central Prinmi, and pʰʐõ˥mə˥˧ in Northern Prinmi with variants such as pʰɹə̃˥mə˥ and tʂʰə̃˥mi˥˧.[6][7]

In Muli Bonist priests read religious texts in Tibetan, which needs to be interpreted into Prinmi. An attempt to teach Pumi children to write their language using the Tibetan script has been seen in Ninglang.[8] A pinyin-based Roman script has been proposed, but is not commonly used.[9]


Dialects of Pumi include the following (Lu 2001).[10]

Southern (22,000 speakers)
Northern (55,000 speakers)

Sims (2017)[11] lists the following dialects of Pumi.

  • Northern
    • Jiulong (B. Huang & Dai 1992)
    • Taoba (B. Huang & Dai 1992)
    • Shuiluo (Jacques 2011)
  • Central
    • Wadu (Daudey 2014)
    • Niuwozi (Ding 2006, 2007, 2016, inter alia)
  • Southern
    • Dayang (Matisoff 2003)
    • Lanping (B. Huang & Dai 1992)
    • Qinghua (B. Huang & Dai 1992)

Sims (2017)[11] reconstructs high tones and low tones for Proto-Prinmi.


Transcribed, translated and annotated audio documents in the Pumi language are available from the Pangloss Collection.[12] They concern Northern dialects of Pumi.


A reference grammar of the Wadu dialect of Pumi is available online.[13] A grammar of Central Pumi is also available.[14]


Tèr gwéjè dzwán thèr phxèungphxàr sì.
Timitae llìnggwe zreungzrun stìng.
He has broken several hammers.
This man is crying and shouting all the time.


  1. Northern Pumi at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015)
    Southern Pumi at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015)
  2. Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2017). "Pumi". Glottolog 3.0. Jena, Germany: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History.
  3. Ding, Picus S. 2003. Prinmi: a sketch of Niuwozi. In Graham Thurgood and Randy LaPolla (eds.) The Sino-Tibetan Languages, pp. 588-601. London: Routledge Press.
  4. Lu, S. 2001. Dialectal Studies of the Pumi Language. Beijing: Nationalities Press.
  5. Ding, Picus. 2014
  6. Pumiyu Fangyan Yanjiu 2001.
  7. Ding, Picus. 2014
  8. Wáng lěi and Shī Xiǎoliàng. 2011. Shínián, xiāngcūn “hánguī” zǒujìn xiànxué “pǔmǐbān”.
  9. Ding, Picus. 2007
  10. Lù, Shàozūn. 2001. Pŭmĭyŭ fāngyán yánjiū [A dialectal study of the Pŭmĭ language]. Beijing: Mínzú Chūbănshè
  11. 1 2 Sims, Nathaniel. 2017. The suprasegmental phonology of proto-Rma (Qiang) in comparative perspective. Presented at the 50th International Conference on Sino-Tibetan Languages and Linguistics, Beijing, China.
  12. "Pangloss Collection - Pumi corpus".
  13. Daudey, Henriëtte. 2014. A grammar of Wadu Pumi. Victoria: LaTrobe University Ph.D.
  14. Ding, Picus (2014). A grammar of Prinmi: based on the Central dialect of northwest Yunnan, China. Languages of the Greater Himalayan Region. Leiden: Brill. ISBN 9789004279773.
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