Zhuang Language
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Zhuang Language
Vahcuengh (za), Hauqcuengh (zyb)
Kauqnuangz, Kauqnoangz (zhn)
Hoedyaej (zgn), Hau?y?i? (zqe)
Hauqraeuz, Gangjdoj (zyb, zhn, zqe)
Kauqraeuz, Gangjtoj (zhn, zyg, zhd)
Native toChina
Native speakers
16 million, all Northern Zhuang languages (2007)[1]
Standard forms
Zhuang, Old Zhuang, Sawndip, Sawgoek
Language codes
zha - inclusive code
Individual codes:
zch - Central Hongshuihe Zhuang
zhd - Dai Zhuang (Wenma)
zeh - Eastern Hongshuihe Zhuang
zgb - Guibei Zhuang
zgn - Guibian Zhuang
zln - Lianshan Zhuang
zlj - Liujiang Zhuang
zlq - Liuqian Zhuang
zgm - Minz Zhuang
zhn - Nong Zhuang (Yanguang)
zqe - Qiubei Zhuang
zyg - Yang Zhuang (Dejing)
zyb - Yongbei Zhuang
zyn - Yongnan Zhuang
zyj - Youjiang Zhuang
zzj - Zuojiang Zhuang
Geographic distribution of Zhuang dialects in Guangxi and related languages in Northern Vietnam and Guizhou
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Books of Zhuang language

The Zhuang languages (autonym: Vahcuengh, pre-1982: Va?cue, Sawndip?, from vah, 'language' and Cuengh, 'Zhuang'; simplified Chinese: ; traditional Chinese: ; pinyin: Zhuàngy?) are any of more than a dozen Tai languages spoken by the Zhuang people of Southern China in the province of Guangxi and adjacent parts of Yunnan and Guangdong. The Zhuang languages do not form a monophyletic linguistic unit, as northern and southern Zhuang languages are more closely related to other Tai languages than to each other. Northern Zhuang languages form a dialect continuum with Northern Tai varieties across the provincial border in Guizhou, which are designated as Bouyei, whereas Southern Zhuang languages form another dialect continuum with Central Tai varieties such as Nung, Tay and Caolan in Vietnam.[2]Standard Zhuang is based on the Northern Zhuang dialect of Wuming.

The Tai languages are believed to have been originally spoken in what is now southern China, with speakers of the Southwestern Tai languages (which include Thai, Lao and Shan) having emigrated in the face of Chinese expansion. Noting that both the Zhuang and Thai peoples have the same exonym for the Vietnamese, kuA1,[3] from the Chinese commandery of Jiaozhi in northern Vietnam, Jerold A. Edmondson posited that the split between Zhuang and the Southwestern Tai languages happened no earlier than the founding of Jiaozhi in 112 BC. He also argues that the departure of the Thai from southern China must predate the 5th century AD, when the Tai who remained in China began to take family names.[4]


Sites surveyed in Zhang (1999), subgrouped according to Pittayaporn (2009):    N,    M,    I,    C,    B,    F,    H,    L,    P

Zh?ng J?nrú's () Zhuàngy? F?ngyán Yánjiù ( [A Study of Zhuang dialects]) is the most detailed study of Zhuang dialectology published to date. It reports survey work carried out in the 1950s, and includes a 1465-word list covering 36 varieties of Zhuang. For the list of the 36 Zhuang variants below from Zhang (1999), the name of the region (usually county) is given first, followed by the specific village. The phylogenetic position of each variant follows that of Pittayaporn (2009)[5] (see Tai languages#Pittayaporn (2009)).

  1. Wuming - Shu?ngqiáo - Subgroup M
  2. Hengxian - Nàxù - Subgroup N
  3. Yongning (North) - W?táng - Subgroup N
  4. Pingguo - X?nx? - Subgroup N
  5. Tiandong - Héhéng - Subgroup N
  6. Tianlin - Lìzh?u - Subgroup N
  7. Lingyue - Sìchéng - Subgroup N
  8. Guangnan (Sh? people ) - Zh?méng Township - Subgroup N
  9. Qiubei - G?hán Township - Subgroup N
  10. Liujiang - B?ipéng - Subgroup N
  11. Yishan - Luòd?ng - Subgroup N
  12. Huanjiang - Chénggu?n - Subgroup N
  13. Rong'an - ?nzì - Subgroup N
  14. Longsheng - Rìx?n - Subgroup N
  15. Hechi - S?nq? - Subgroup N
  16. Nandan - Mémá - Subgroup N
  17. Donglan - Chéngxi?ng - Subgroup N
  18. Du'an - Liùl? - Subgroup N
  19. Shanglin - Dàf?ng - Subgroup N
  20. Laibin - Sìji?o - Subgroup N
  21. Guigang - Sh?nb?i - Subgroup N
  22. Lianshan - Xi?os?nji?ng - Subgroup N
  23. Qinzhou - Nàhé Township - Subgroup I
  24. Yongning (South) - Xiàf?ng Township - Subgroup M
  25. Long'an - Xi?olín Township - Subgroup M
  26. Fusui (Central) - Dàtáng Township - Subgroup M
  27. Shangsi - Jiàod?ng Township - Subgroup C
  28. Chongzuo - Fùlù Township - Subgroup C
  29. Ningming - F?nghuáng Township - Subgroup B
  30. Longzhou - B?nqiáo Township - Subgroup F
  31. Daxin - Hòuyì Township - Subgroup H
  32. Debao - Yuándì'èrq? ? - Subgroup L
  33. Jingxi - X?nhé Township - Subgroup L
  34. Guangnan (Nóng people ) - Xi?ogu?ngnán Township ? - Subgroup L
  35. Yanshan (Nóng people ) - Ku?x? Township - Subgroup L
  36. Wenma (T? people ) - H?imò Township , Dàzhài - Subgroup P


The Zhuang language (or language group) has been divided by Chinese linguists into northern and southern "dialects" (f?ng yán in Chinese), each of which has been divided into a number of vernacular varieties (known as t?y? in Chinese) by Chinese linguists (Zhang & Wei 1997; Zhang 1999:29-30).[6] The Wuming dialect of Yongbei Zhuang, classified within the "Northern Zhuang dialect," is considered to be the "standard" or prestige dialect of Zhuang, developed by the government for certain official usages. Although Southern Zhuang varieties have aspirated stops, Northern Zhuang varieties lack them.[7] There are over 60 distinct tonal systems with 5-11 tones depending on the variety.

Zhang (1999) identified 13 Zhuang varieties. Later research by the Summer Institute of Linguistics has indicated that some of these are themselves multiple languages that are not mutually intelligible without previous exposure on the part of speakers, resulting in 16 separate ISO 639-3 codes.[8][9]

Northern Zhuang

Northern Zhuang comprises dialects north of the Yong River, with 8,572,200 speakers[6][10] (ISO 639 ccx prior to 2007):

  • Guibei (1,290,000 speakers): Luocheng, Huanjiang, Rongshui, Rong'an, Sanjiang, Yongfu, Longsheng, Hechi, Nandan, Tian'e, Donglan (ISO 639 zgb)
  • Liujiang (1,297,000 speakers): Liujiang, Laibin North, Yishan, Liucheng, Xincheng (ISO 639 zlj)
  • Hongshui He (2,823,000 speakers): Laibin South, Du'an, Mashan, Shilong, Guixian, Luzhai, Lipu, Yangshuo. Castro and Hansen (2010) distinguished three mutually unintelligible varieties: Central Hongshuihe (ISO 639 zch), Eastern Hongshuihe (ISO 639 zeh) and Liuqian (ISO 639 zlq).[11]
  • Yongbei (1,448,000 speakers): Yongning North, Wuming (prestige dialect), Binyang, Hengxian, Pingguo (ISO 639 zyb)
  • Youjiang (732,000 speakers): Tiandong, Tianyang, and parts of the Baise City area; all along the Youjiang River basin area (ISO 639 zyj)
  • Guibian (Yei Zhuang; 827,000 speakers): Fengshan, Lingyun, Tianlin, Longlin, Yunnan Guangnan North (ISO 639 zgn)
  • Qiubei (Yei Zhuang; 122,000 speakers): Yunnan Qiubei area (ISO 639 zqe)
  • Lianshan (33,200 speakers): Guangdong Lianshan, Huaiji North (ISO 639 zln)

Southern Zhuang

Southern Zhuang dialects are spoken south of the Yong River, with 4,232,000 speakers[6][10] (ISO 639 ccy prior to 2007):

  • Yongnan (1,466,000 speakers): Yongning South, Fusui Central and North, Long'an, Jinzhou, Shangse, Chongzuo areas (ISO 639 zyn)
  • Zuojiang (1,384,000 speakers): Longzhou (Longjin), Daxin, Tiandeng, Ningming; Zuojiang River basin area (ISO 639 zzj)
  • Dejing (979,000 speakers): Jingxi, Debao, Mubian, Napo. Jackson, Jackson and Lau (2012) distinguished two mutually unintelligible varieties: Yang Zhuang (ISO 639 zyg) and Min Zhuang (ISO 639 zgm)[12]
  • Yanguang (Nong Zhuang; 308,000 speakers): Yunnan Guangnan South, Yanshan area (ISO 639 zhn)
  • Wenma (Dai Zhuang; 95,000 speakers): Yunnan Wenshan, Malipo, Guibian (ISO 639 zhd)

Tày-Nùng language is also considered one of the varieties of Central Tai and shares a high mutual intelligibility with Wenshan Dai and other Southern Zhuang dialects in Guangxi.

Recently described varieties

Johnson (2011) distinguishes four distinct Zhuang languages in Wenshan Prefecture, Yunnan: Nong Zhuang, Yei Zhuang, Dai Zhuang, and Min Zhuang.[13]Min Zhuang is a recently discovered variety that has never been described previous to Johnson (2011). (See also Wenshan Zhuang and Miao Autonomous Prefecture#Ethnic groups)

Pyang Zhuang and Myang Zhuang are recently described Central Tai languages spoken in Debao County, Guangxi, China.[14][15]

Writing systems

Zhuang Sawndip manuscript
the 81 symbols of the Poya Song Book used by Zhuang women in Funing County, Yunnan, China.

The Zhuang languages have been written in the ancient Zhuang script, Sawndip, for over a thousand years, and possibly Sawgoek previous to that. Sawndip is a Chinese character-based system of writing, similar to Vietnamese ch? nôm; some sawndip logograms were borrowed directly from Han characters, whereas others were original characters created from the components of Chinese characters. It is used for writing songs about every aspect of life, including in more recent times encouraging people to follow official family planning policy.

There has also been the occasional use of a number of other scripts including pictographics proto-writing, such as in the example at right.

In 1957 Standard Zhuang using a mixed Latin-Cyrillic script was introduced, and in 1982 this was changed to Latin script; these are referred to as the old Zhuang and new Zhuang, respectively. Bouyei is written in Latin script.

See also


  1. ^ Mikael Parkvall, "Världens 100 största språk 2007" (The World's 100 Largest Languages in 2007), in Nationalencyklopedin
  2. ^ Bradley, David (2007). "East and Southeast Asia". In Moseley, Christopher (ed.). Encyclopedia of the World's Engangered Languages. Routledge. pp. 349-422. ISBN 978-1-135-79640-2. p. 370.
  3. ^ A1 designates a tone.
  4. ^ Edmondson, Jerold A. (2007). "The power of language over the past: Tai settlement and Tai linguistics in southern China and northern Vietnam" (PDF). In Jimmy G. Harris; Somsonge Burusphat; James E. Harris (eds.). Studies in Southeast Asian languages and linguistics. Bangkok, Thailand: Ek Phim Thai Co. pp. 39-63. (see p. 15 of preprint)
  5. ^ Pittayaporn, Pittayawat (2009). The Phonology of Proto-Tai (Ph.D. thesis). Department of Linguistics, Cornell University. hdl:1813/13855.
  6. ^ a b c Zhang Yuansheng and Wei Xingyun. 1997. "Regional variants and vernaculars in Zhuang." In Jerold A. Edmondson and David B. Solnit (eds.), Comparative Kadai: The Tai branch, 77-96. Publications in Linguistics, 124. Dallas: Summer Institute of Linguistics and the University of Texas at Arlington. ISBN 978-1-55671-005-6.
  7. ^ Luo Yongxian. 2008. "Zhuang". In Diller, Anthony, Jerold A. Edmondson, and Yongxian Luo eds. 2008. The Tai-Kadai Languages. Routledge Language Family Series. Psychology Press. ISBN 978-0-7007-1457-5.
  8. ^ Johnson, Eric C. (2007). "ISO 639-3 Registration Authority, Change Request Number 2006-128" (PDF).
  9. ^ Tan, Sharon (2007). "ISO 639-3 Registration Authority, Change Request Number 2007-027" (PDF).
  10. ^ a b / Zhang Junru, et al. / Zhuang yu fang yan yan jiu [A Study of Zhuang dialects]. Chengdu / Sichuan min zu chu ban she, 1999.
  11. ^ Hansen, Bruce; Castro, Andy (2010). "Hongshui He Zhuang dialect intelligibility survey". SIL Electronic Survey Reports 2010-025.
  12. ^ Jackson, Bruce; Jackson, Andy; Lau, Shuh Huey (2012). "A Sociolinguistic Survey of the Dejing Zhuang Dialect Area". SIL Electronic Survey Reports 2012-036..
  13. ^ "SIL Electronic Survey Reports: A sociolinguistic introduction to the Central Taic languages of Wenshan Prefecture, China". SIL International. Retrieved .
  14. ^ http://lingweb.eva.mpg.de/numeral/Zhuang-Fuping.htm
  15. ^ Liao Hanbo. 2016. Tonal development of Tai languages. M.A. dissertation. Chiang Mai: Payap University.


  • Zhuàng-Hàn cíhuì ? (Nanning, Gu?ngx? mínzú ch?b?nshè ? 1984).
  • Edmondson, Jerold A. and David B. Solnit, ed. Comparative Kadai: The Tai Branch. Dallas, TX: Summer Institute of Linguistics; [Arlington]: University of Texas at Arlington, 1997.
  • Johnson, Eric C. 2010. "A sociolinguistic introduction to the Central Taic languages of Wenshan Prefecture, China." SIL Electronic Survey Reports 2010-027: 114 p. http://www.sil.org/silesr/abstract.asp?ref=2010-027.
  • Luo Liming, Qin Yaowu, Lu Zhenyu, Chen Fulong (editors) (2004). Zhuang-Chinese-English Dictionary / Cuengh Gun Yingh Swzdenj. Nationality Press, 1882 pp. ISBN 7-105-07001-3.
  • Tán Xi?oháng : Xiàndài Zhuàngy? ? (Beijing, Mínzú ch?b?nshè 1995).
  • Tán Guósh?ng : Zhuàngy? f?ngyán gàilùn (Nanning, Gu?ngx? mínzú ch?b?nshè ? 1996).
  • Wang Mingfu, Eric Johnson (2008). Zhuang Cultural and Linguistic Heritage. The Nationalities Publishing House of Yunnan. ISBN 7-5367-4255-X.
  • Wéi Qìngw?n , Tán Guósh?ng : Zhuàngy? ji?nzhì ? (Beijing, Mínzú ch?b?nshè 1980).
  • Zhang Junru , et al. / Zhuang yu fang yan yan jiu [A Study of Zhuang dialects]. Chengdu / Sichuan min zu chu ban she, 1999.
  • Zhou, Minglang: Multilingualism in China: The Politics of Writing Reforms for Minority Languages, 1949-2002 (Walter de Gruyter 2003); ISBN 3-11-017896-6; pp. 251-258.

External links

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