Open main menu

Be (native pronunciation: [ʔɑŋ˧ɓe˧]), also known as Ong Be, , or Vo Limgao (Chinese: 臨高; pinyin: Lín'gāo), is a language spoken by 600,000 people, 100,000 of them monolingual, on the north-central coast of Hainan Island, including the suburbs of the provincial capital Haikou. According to Ethnologue, it is taught in primary schools.

Native to People's Republic of China
Region Hainan
Native speakers
600,000 (2000)[1]
Language codes
ISO 639-3 onb
Glottolog ling1262[3]



Be speakers refer to themselves as ʔaŋ˧vo˧, with ʔaŋ˧ being the prefix for persons and vo˧ meaning 'village' (Liang 1997:1). Liang (1997) notes that it is similar to the autonym ŋaːu˩fɔːn˩ (from ŋaːu˩ 'person' and fɔːn˩ 'village'), by which Gelong 仡隆 (Cun language) speakers refer to themselves.


Be is a Kra–Dai language, but its precise relationship to other branches within the Kra-Dai family has yet not been conclusively determined. Hansell (1988)[2] considers Be to be a sister of the Tai branch based on shared vocabulary, and proposes a Be–Tai grouping.

Based on toponymic evidence from place names with the prefix dya- (调 diao), Jinfang Li considers Be to have originated from the Leizhou peninsula of Guangdong province.[4]

Weera Ostapirat (1998),[5] analyzing data from Zhang (1992)[6], notes that Be and Jizhao share many lexical similarities and sound correspondences, and that Jizhao may be a remnant Be-related language on the Chinese mainland.


Be consists of the Lincheng 临城 (Western) and Qiongshan 琼山 (Eastern) dialects (Liang 1997). Liang (1997:32) documents the following varieties of Be.

Be of Chengmai is intermediate between the Lincheng and Qiongshan dialects, and has features of both (Liang 1997).


Liang (1997:16) considers Be to have migrated to Hainan from the Leizhou Peninsula of Guangdong about 2,500 years ago during the Warring States Period, but not over 3,000 years ago. Liang & Zhang (1996:21-25)[7] also believe that Be had migrated from the Leizhou Peninsula to northern Hainan about 2,500 years ago during the Warring States period.


  1. ^ Be at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015)
  2. ^ a b Hansell, Mark. 1988. The Relation of Be to Tai: Evidence from Tones and Initials. In Comparative Kadai: Linguistic studies beyond Tai. Edited by Jerold A. Edmondson and David B. Solnit. Summer Institute of Linguistics and The University of Texas at Arlington Publications in Linguistics No. 86: 239-288.
  3. ^ Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2017). "Lingao". Glottolog 3.0. Jena, Germany: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History.
  4. ^ 李锦芳教授:“濒危语言吉兆话研究”
  5. ^ Ostapirat, W. (1998). A Mainland Bê Language? / 大陆的Bê语言?. Journal of Chinese Linguistics, 26(2), 338-344
  6. ^ Zhang Zhenxing [张振兴]. 1992. "Guangdongsheng Wuchuan fangyan jilve" [广东省吴川方言记略]. In Fangyan [方言] 1992(3).
  7. ^ Liang Min 梁敏 & Zhang Junru 张均如. 1996. Dongtai yuzu gailun 侗台语族概论 / An introduction to the Kam–Tai languages. Beijing: China Social Sciences Academy Press 中国社会科学出版社. ISBN 9787500416814
  • Liang Min [梁敏]. 1997. A study of Lingao [临高语研究]. Shanghai: Shanghai Far Eastern Publishing House [上海远东出版].

External linksEdit