Dungan, a Sinitic language of Central Asia written in the Cyrillic Alphabet

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The linguistic importance of Dungan is greatly disproportionate to the number of its speakers, approximately 150,000, who live in seven different countries that are widely spread across Eurasia:   Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, Russia, Tajikistan, Mongolia, Uzbekistan, and Ukraine.  The main reason why Dungan has been the focus of so much interest during the half-century since I began studying this fascinating language is that it puts the lie to the fallacy that Sinitic languages can only be written with the Sinographic script (i.e., Chinese characters).  The only Sinitic language that needs to be written with morphosyllabic characters is Literary Sinitic / Classical Chinese, a language that, in terms of its sayability, has been dead for millennia.  The recent academic study of Dungan has played a key role in enabling language specialists and the lay public finally to come to this realization.

Because the Dungan people are so highly scattered across vast distances and live among dominant populations with completely different languages that they need to speak for daily survival, their own language — and consequently also its alphabetic script — is threatened with extinction.  Furthermore, in recent decades the Dungans have been buffetted by ethnopolitical winds that make it even harder to maintain their unique identity.  That is why I have long felt a sense of urgency about the need to document and research Dungan language and script in all of their dimensions (morphology, phonology, lexicography, grammar, syntax, script, literature, sociolinguistics…).

For all of the above reasons, I'm always glad to hear news of lectures, workshops, and conferences, as well as research and publication projects, devoted to Dungan.  The following is an announcement from WU Heping (武和平) of the College of International Cultural Exchanges, Northwest Normal University, in Lanzhou, China:

I'm pleased to inform you of two events closely related to Dungan language studies. 
The first is the online version of the Dungan Language Corpus that is now available for open test (username and passwords are both "test" during the open test stage, and registration is required after it is officially launched two weeks from now).
This project is part of our initiative to preserve Dungan language which is classified into the "definitely endangered language" category by UNESCO.  The Dungan-Chinese Parallel Corpus and the audio corpus of Dungan language are still under construction. 
As you might have noticed, this online corpus is still in a pre-mature stage, owing to a lack of a sufficient amount of text in Dungan language, and our plan to do fieldwork on Dungan language in Central Asian Dungan communities was unfortunately halted by the Covid-19 pandemic.  The size of the corpus is currently around 600,000 words and we expect the figure to reach 1 million words at a minimum. If you have any electronic texts in Dungan language not included in this corpus, we would be very appreciative if you could kindly share them with us. 
I am also pleased to inform you that we will host the Sixth International Conference of Dungan Language and Culture at Northwest Normal University between September 18 and 19, and, very unfortunately again, owing to Covid-19, the international part will have to be done online. We sincerely invite you to speak at the conference on your recent studies on Dungan language and culture.   The due date for accepting abstracts /papers is July 30th, 2021. The email account of the conference is dungan2021@163.com
We will be privileged to receive your contribution for the conference, and the corpus, of course.

Good news, indeed!


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