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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]
  • Southern
    • Be–Tai
      • Be
Language codes
ISO 639-3 onb
Glottolog ling1262[2]



Be speakers refer to themselves as ʔaŋ3 vo3, with ʔaŋ3 being the prefix for persons and vo3 meaning 'village' (Liang 1997:1). Liang (1997) notes that it is similar to the autonym ŋaːu1 fɔːn1 (from ŋaːu1 'person' and fɔːn1 'village'), which Gelong 仡隆 (Cun language) speakers refer to themselves by.


Be is a Tai–Kadai language, but it has no close relatives and its relationship within that family has not been determined.[3]

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


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 (1997:16) 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.


  1. ^ Be at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015)
  2. ^ Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2017). "Lingao". Glottolog 3.0. Jena, Germany: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History. 
  3. ^ Ethnologue classifies Ong Be with the Tai and Kam–Sui languages based on shared vocabulary. However, this is negative evidence, perhaps due to lexical replacement in other branches of the family, and morphological evidence suggests that the Tai and Kam–Sui languages are closer to the Hlai and Kra languages, respectively. The place of Ong Be in this scheme is unknown.
  4. ^ 李锦芳教授:“濒危语言吉兆话研究”
  • 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].

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