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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, 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.
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) (see Tai languages#Pittayaporn (2009)).
Guangnan (Nóng people ) - Xi?ogu?ngnán Township ? - Subgroup L
Yanshan (Nóng people ) - Ku?x? Township - Subgroup L
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" (fangyan 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). 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. There are over 60 distinct tonal systems with 5-11 tones depending on the variety.
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).
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.
^ abcZhang 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. ISBN978-1-55671-005-6.
^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. ISBN978-0-7007-1457-5.
Field Notes on the Pronominal System of Zhuang "A major case of language shift is occurring in which the use of Zhuang and other minority languages is restricted mainly to rural areas because Zhuang-speaking villages, like Jingxi, which develop into towns become more and more of Mandarin-speaking towns. Zhuang-speaking villages become non-Zhuang-speaking towns! And children of Zhuang-speaking parents in cities are likely not to speak Zhuang as a mother-tongue."