Move to Protect World's Only Women's Language

In a bid to save a special language used exclusively by women of an ethnic group in central- south China, a protection zone will be set up in Hunan Province.

The language, on the verge of disappearing, is believed to be the world's only women's language. It is used among women of the Yao ethnicity in Jiangyong County of Hunan.

The language was usually written on silks, paper fans or embroidery items.

So far, more than 1,200 characters have been identified. Less than 700 characters are in common use.

Some experts hold that the language has a long history and may be one of the world's oldest, but no conclusions have been reached so far on when it originated.

Chinese experts have called for efforts to save the language. As the small number of women who use it die off, it draws closer to oblivion.

Yang Huanyi, 93, and He Yanxin, in her 60s, are among the few women who can read and write the language.

Some samples of the language have been destroyed because of a lack of protection, say experts.

Museum to be built to protect the language
Within the protection zone in Jiangyong County, a museum will be built to collect and protect cultural relics related to the language. Symposiums on the language will also be held.

The total investment in setting up the protection zone is expected to reach 9 million yuan (1.08 million US dollars).

The Cultural Department of Hunan Province is applying for support from the Ford Foundation of the United States.

The Yuelu Publishing House in Hunan is compiling a dictionary covering the history, pronunciation, meaning and written style of the characters of the language.

Ye Xumin, deputy director of the research center for the women' s language of the Central-South China Institute for Nationalities, called for greater efforts to protect and study the language.

Race to save world's only women's language
Experts have called for efforts to save a language used only by women of an ethnic group in central China's Hunan Province. The language, used among women of the Yao ethnic group in Jiangyong County, Hunan Province, is believed to be world's only women's language.

Some experts presume that the language is related to inscriptions on the animal bones and tortoise shells of the Yin Ruins from more than 3,000 years ago, but no conclusions have been reached on when the language originated.

The Central-south China Institute for Nationalities in Hubei Province began to study the language in 1983. So far, about 2,000 characters have been identified.

However, as the small number of women who used the language die off, it draws closer to extinction.

In addition, some works of the language have been destroyed because of a lack of protection, said experts.

Yang Huanyi, 93, and He Yanxin, in her 60s, are among the few women who can read and write the language.

Ye Xumin, vice-director of the research center for the women's language of the Central-south China Institute for Nationalities, called for greater efforts to protect and study the language.

Experts are also seeking publication of works in the language and research articles, and for a museum to be built for the language culture. A symposium on the language will also be held.
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