This is a rather complicated and vague question because I have forgotten a lot about the circumstances where I learned about the language in question, specifically I have neither the reference book nor the name of the language.

As far as I remember, the language is question was described as a language that is typologically markedly different from Chinese. It was spoken by 10.000 families at one place (village or town) completely surrounded by speakers of Chinese.

The book where I read about it was definitely published before the 1980ies and was (probably) published in German (either a German original or a translation from another language). It was about the languages of the world and also explained some basic typological features and language families. It was at a popular science or introductory level. It was worth having in a university library, I read it in the reading room of Mainz University library.

I'd like to know: The name of a language fitting to that description, if possible the author and the title of the book where I might have read about it, and an answer to the question why this language does not appeared on lists of isolated languages.

P.S. I have read this question and its answers but nothing there rings a bell.

  • We lack resources to recover lost memories. You might look here to contemplate what non-Chinese islands there might be. You could manually slog through a list of villages, or maybe the "Ethnic villages".
    – user6726
    Commented Feb 4, 2022 at 17:22
  • 1
    Wutun 五屯话? Pakanic?
    – Michaelyus
    Commented Mar 8, 2022 at 18:16
  • Definetely not Pakanic, the two Pakanic language were described too late (1984 and later). Wutun looks like a good candidate. Commented Mar 9, 2022 at 11:21
  • 1
    Are you sure it was a language isolate, and not just an isolated population speaking a non-Sino-Tibetan language? And was the language current to the book, or was it describing an extinct language?
    – cmw
    Commented Aug 6, 2022 at 18:22
  • Yes, when my memory is correct it was said the language was an isolate. It would make perfectly sense with respect to Wutun because the breakthroughs in Creole research came later than publication of the yet unidentified rerefence. Commented Aug 6, 2022 at 18:35

1 Answer 1


I think the language is Wutun as suggested by Michaelyus in the comments. It was classified as isolate back in the 1970ies, but is now considered a Chinese–Tibetan–Mongolian Creole.

Features matching my memories are

  • approximate numbers of speakers
  • location at one place
  • markedly different from surrounding languages
  • there is a reason not have it as an isolate today, that was not known at the time of writing the still unidentified book

My memory was somewhat off with respect to

  • surrounding languages: Instead of Chinese proper, Sino-Tibetan is a better description of the surrounding languages

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