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a language group of the Miao and Yao peoples; spoken mainly in southern and southwestern China and in Indochina.
The linguistic relationship of the Miao-Yao languages is not completely clear. Scholars have related these languages to the Mon-Khmer, Tai, and Sino-Tibetan languages; the Miao-Yiao languages have also been regarded as an independent language family. The American scholar P. Benedict considers the Miao-Yao as part of the Austro-Tai family. Miao-Yao consists of the Miao branch, with the Miao language(s) and the Nu system of dialects (also called the Nu language) adjacent to it, and the Yao branch, with the Mien language (or Mien dialects), or Yao proper. Nu and Mien (in China) do not have a writing system.
Miao-Yao languages have features of isolating languages. All Miao-Yao languages are tonal. A morpheme, as a rule, is equivalent to a syllable. The Miao-Yao languages have numerous dialects. Considerable phonetic, lexical, and, to some extent, grammatical differences make mutual comprehension between speakers of different dialects impossible.
REFERENCESChungkuo shaoshu mintsu yüyen chien chih: Miao yao pufen. (Brief Descriptions of the Languages of the Minority Peoples of China: The Miao-Yao Languages). Peking, 1959.
“Miao yü kaik’uang (Brief Survey of the Miao Language).” Chungkuo yüwen, 1962, no. 1.
“Yaotsu yü kaik’uang (Brief Survey of the Languages of the Yao Peoples).” Chungkuo yüwen, 1962, no. 3.
A. A. MOSKALEV