Qiangic languages

Qiangic (Ch'iang, Kyang, Tsiang), formerly known as Dzorgaic, is a group of related languages within the Sino-Tibetan language family. They are spoken mainly in Southwest China, including Sichuan, Tibet and Yunnan. Most Qiangic languages are distributed in the prefectures of Ngawa, Garzê, Ya'an, and Liangshan in Sichuan with some in northern Yunnan as well.

Qiangic speakers are variously classified as part of the Qiang, Tibetan, Pumi, Nakhi and Mongol ethnic groups by the Chinese government.

The extinct Tangut language of the Western Xia is considered to be Qiangic by some linguists, including Matisoff (2004).[3] The undeciphered Nam language of China may possibly be related to Qiangic.

Lamo, Larong, and Drag-yab, a group of three closely related Sino-Tibetan languages spoken in Chamdo, eastern Tibet, may or may not be Qiangic.[4][5][6]

Linguistic classificationSino-Tibetan
Glottolognaqi1236  (Na–Qiangic)[1]
qian1263  (Qiangic)[2]


Sun (1983)

Sun Hongkai (1983)[7] proposes two branches, northern and southern:

Sun groups other, poorly described Qiangic languages as:

Matisoff (2004)

Matisoff (2004)[3]states that Jiarongic is an additional branch:

Matisoff (2004) describes Proto-Tibeto-Burman *-a > -i as a typical sound change in many Qiangic languages, and refers to this vowel heightening as "brightening." Yu (2012)[8] also notes that "brightening" is a defining innovation in Proto-Ersuic, the reconstructed ancestor of the Ersuic languages.

Thurgood and La Polla (2003)

Thurgood and La Polla (2003) state that the inclusion of Qiang, Prinmi, and Muya is well supported, but that they do not follow Sun's argument for the inclusion of Tangut. Matisoff (2004), however, claims Tangut demonstrates a clear relationship.[9] The unclassified language Baima may also be Qiangic or may retain a Qiangic substratum after speakers shifted to Tibetan.[10]

Some other lesser-known, unclassified Qiangic peoples and languages include the following:[11]

  • Bolozi 玻璃哦子/博罗子: 2,000 people; in Xiao Heshui Village 小河水村, west of Songpan; also as far south as Wenchuan Township 汶川乡.[12] Sun Hongkai (2013:80-82)[13] identifies Bolozi 博罗子 as a Northern Qiang variety, belonging to the Cimulin 茨木林 dialect.
  • Ming 命: 10,000 people; mixed Chinese in Mao County and Wenchuan County, Sichuan[14]
  • Xiangcheng 乡城: 10,000 people in and around Xiangcheng Township 乡城, Garzê Prefecture[15][16]

Sun (2001)

Sun Hongkai (2001)[17] groups the Qiangic languages are follows.

Jacques & Michaud (2011)

Guillaume Jacques & Alexis Michaud (2011)[18] argue for a Na–Qiangic branch, which itself forms a Burmo-Qiangic branch together with Lolo–Burmese. Na–Qiangic comprises three primary branches, which are Ersuish (or Ersuic), Naic (or Naxish), and [core] Qiangic. Similarly, David Bradley (2008)[19] also proposed an Eastern Tibeto-Burman branch that includes Burmic (AKA Lolo-Burmese) and Qiangic. The position of Guiqiong is not addressed.


Chirkova (2012)

However, Chirkova (2012) casts doubt on the validity of Qiangic as a coherent branch, instead considering Qiangic to be a diffusion area. Chirkova considers the following four languages to be part of four separate Tibeto-Burman branches:[20]

Both Shixing and Namuzi are both classified as Naic (Naxi) by Jacques & Michaud (2011), but Naic would not be a valid genetic unit in Chirkova's classification scheme since Shixing and Namuzi are considered by Chirkova to not be part of a single branch.

Yu (2012)

Yu (2012:218)[8] notes that Ersuic and Naish languages share some forms that are not found in Lolo-Burmese or “core” Qiangic (Qiang, Prinmi, and Minyak). As a result, “Southern Qiangic” (Ersuic, Namuyi, and Shixing) may be closer to Naish than it is to “core” Qiangic. Together, Southern Qiangic and Naish could form a wider “Naic” group that has links to both Lolo-Burmese to the south and other Qiangic languages to the north.

Obsolete names

Shafer (1955) and other accounts of the Dzorgaic/Ch'iang branch[21] preserve the names Dzorgai, Kortsè, Thochu, Outer/Outside Man-tze, Pingfang from the turn of the century. The first three were Northern Qiang, and Outside Mantse was Southern Qiang.[22]

When Jiarongic is included as a branch of Qiangic, but distinct from the non-Jiarongic languages, the label "Dzorgaic" may be used for Qiang proper.

Hsi-fan (Xifan) is an ethnic name, meaning essentially 'Tibetan'; the people speak Qiangic or Jiarongic languages such as Qiang, Ergong/Horpa, Ersu, Guiqiong, Shixing, Zhaba, Namuyi, Muya/Minyak, and Jiarong, but not Naxi/Moso, Pumi, or Tangut. The term has not been much used since language surveys of the 1980s resulted in sufficient data for classification.


Qiangic languages are spoken mainly in western Sichuan and northwestern Yunnan provinces of China. Sun Hongkai (2013) lists the following watersheds (riverine systems) and the respective Qiangic languages spoken there.[13]


Jialing 嘉陵江 watershed

Min sichuan rivermap

Min 岷江 and Dadu 大渡河 watersheds


Yalong 雅砻江 and Jinsha 金沙江 watersheds

Yangtze River drainage basin map

Yangtze watershed

See also


  1. ^ Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2017). "Na–Qiangic". Glottolog 3.0. Jena, Germany: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History.
  2. ^ Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2017). "Qiangic". Glottolog 3.0. Jena, Germany: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History.
  3. ^ a b Matisoff, James. 2004. "Brightening" and the place of Xixia (Tangut) in the Qiangic subgroup of Tibeto-Burman
  4. ^ Suzuki, Hiroyuki and Tashi Nyima. 2018. Historical relationship among three non-Tibetic languages in Chamdo, TAR. Proceedings of the 51st International Conference on Sino-Tibetan Languages and Linguistics (2018). Kyoto: Kyoto University.
  5. ^ Zhao, Haoliang. 2018. A brief introduction to Zlarong, a newly recognized language in Mdzo sgang, TAR. Proceedings of the 51st International Conference on Sino-Tibetan Languages and Linguistics (2018). Kyoto: Kyoto University.
  6. ^ Jacques, Guillaumes. 2016. Les journées d'études sur les langues du Sichuan.
  7. ^ Sun, Hongkai. (1983). The nationality languages in the six valleys and their language branches. Yunnan Minzuxuebao, 3, 99-273. (Written in Chinese).
  8. ^ a b Yu, Dominic. 2012. Proto-Ersuic. Ph.D. dissertation. Berkeley: University of California, Berkeley, Department of Linguistics.
  9. ^ James Matisoff, 2004. "Brightening" and the place of Xixia (Tangut) in the Qiangic subgroup of Tibeto-Burman (Archived 2015-06-08 at WebCite)
  10. ^ Katia Chirkova, 2008, "On the position of Báimǎ within Tibetan", in Lubotsky et al (eds), Evidence and Counter-Evidence, vol. 2.
  11. ^ "China". asiaharvest.org. Archived from the original on 2013-08-01.
  12. ^ http://asiaharvest.org/wp-content/themes/asia/docs/people-groups/China/chinaPeoples/B/Bolozi.pdf
  13. ^ a b Sun Hongkai. 2013. Tibeto-Burman languages of eight watersheds [八江流域的藏缅语]. Beijing: China Social Sciences Academy Press.
  14. ^ http://asiaharvest.org/wp-content/themes/asia/docs/people-groups/China/chinaPeoples/M/Ming.pdf
  15. ^ http://asiaharvest.org/wp-content/themes/asia/docs/people-groups/China/chinaPeoples/X/Xiangcheng-OC.pdf
  16. ^ http://asiaharvest.org/wp-content/themes/asia/docs/people-groups/China/chinaPeoples/X/Xiangcheng-PBW.pdf
  17. ^ Sūn Hóngkāi 孙宏开. 2001. 論藏緬語族中的羌語支語言 Lùn Zàng-Miǎn yǔzú zhōng de Qiāngyǔzhī yǔyán [On language of the Qiangic branch in Tibeto-Burman]. Language and linguistics 2:157–181.
  18. ^ Jacques, Guillaume, and Alexis Michaud. 2011. "Approaching the historical phonology of three highly eroded Sino-Tibetan languages." Diachronica 28:468-498.
  19. ^ Bradley, David. 2008. The Position of Namuyi in Tibeto-Burman.
  20. ^ Chirkova, Katia (2012). "The Qiangic subgroup from an areal perspective: a case study of languages of Muli" (PDF). Languages and Linguistics. 13 (1): 133–170.
  21. ^ Such as Barley (1997) (Archived 2015-06-08 at WebCite)
  22. ^ UC Berkeley, 1992, Linguistics of the Tibeto-Burman Area, vol. 15, pp. 76–77.


External links

Burmo-Qiangic languages

The Burmo-Qiangic or Eastern Tibeto-Burman languages are a proposed family of Sino-Tibetan languages spoken in Southwest China and Myanmar. It consists of the Lolo-Burmese and Qiangic branches, including the extinct Tangut language.

Choyo language

Queyu (Choyo, Choyu) is a poorly attested Qiangic language of Yajiang County and Xinlong County, Sichuan, as well as Tibet. It is similar with and shares a name with Zhaba, but the two languages are distinct from each other.

Ersu Shaba script

The Ersu Shaba script, also called Ersu Shaba Picture Writing and known in Ersu as [ndzārāmá], is the writing system used in texts of the indigenous religion of the Ersu people, which is rendered in Chinese as Shābā (沙巴). These scriptures are recited in divination and when treating the sick. The script is used for non-scriptural texts as well, such as astrological almanacs, but predominantly ones which concern religion. Only Shaba priests are literate in the script.

The script is predominantly pictographic. It is limited in scope and is not sufficient to write the Ersu language fully. Some 200 glyphs have been identified, most of them depicting (and resembling) concrete objects. These are combined into composite diagrams. The system is (proto-)writing, as the relationship between form and meaning is fixed: Although glyphs may be written simply or elaborately, they may not be chosen at the author's whim, and pronunciation and interpretation is consistent across the several counties of the Ersu-speaking area. However, it typically takes many words to explain a few glyphs; the connection to language is definite in the object depicted, but the position and context of the glyphs does not have a fixed linguistic correlation.

Writing is done with a bamboo brush or animal hair dipped in white, black, red, blue, green, and yellow-colored ink. The color chosen may affect the meaning. For example, the glyph 'stars and moon' written in black means 'dim', but written in white it means 'shining' (Sun 2009:165).

Guiqiong language

Guiqiong (autonym: ɡuʨhiɐŋ; simplified Chinese: 贵琼; traditional Chinese: 貴瓊; pinyin: Guìqióng) is a poorly attested Qiangic language of Sichuan and Tibet. There are differences in the phonology of the dialects, but communication is possible. Two or three varieties have low mutual intelligibility with the rest.It may be the same language as Sötati-pö in early editions of Ethnologue.Sun (1991) documents Guiqiong of Maiben Township 麦本乡, Yutong District 鱼通区, Kangding County 康定县, Sichuan (Sun 1991:227).

The Qiangic languages are split into two language clusters. Guiqiong is categorized into a specific Qiangic cluster based on its vocabulary. This Qiangic language cluster also includes Zhaba, Queya, Ersu, Shixing, and Namuzi.Outside their villages, speakers communicate utilizing the Chinese language. Guiqiong is heavily influenced by the Chinese language, as it contains many loanwords.The Guiqiong language utilizes four tones and has no written script. Although Guiqiong lacks a written script, it has been able to successfully transcend from generation to generally orally.The language has no presence in media today.

Horpa language

Horpa (Chinese: 道孚语 Daofu, 爾龔語 Ergong) is one of several closely related Rgyalrongic languages of China. Horpa is better understood as a cluster of closely related yet unintelligible dialect groups/languages closely related to Horpa Shangzhai or Stodsde skad. The term Stodsde skad is a Tibetan name meaning "language of the upper village".

Laze language

Laze, rendered in Chinese as Lare (拉热) and Shuitianhua (水田话), is a language of the Naish subbranch of the Naic group of languages, spoken in Muli County, western Sichuan, China.

Laze is spoken by less than 300 fluent speakers in Xiangjiao township 项脚乡, Muli prefecture, Sichuan, China (Michaud & Jacques 2012).

Lizu language

Lizu (Chinese: 傈苏, 里汝, 吕苏; Western Ersu) is a Qiangic language spoken in western Sichuan, China. There are 4,000 speakers according to Sun (1982), and 7,000 speakers according to Chirkova (2008). Muli, where Lizu is spoken, is a multi-ethnic and multi-lingual county, and Lizu has been historically influenced by Mandarin Chinese.

Muya language

Munya or Muya (Chinese 木雅; also Manyak 曼牙科, Menia 么呢阿) is one of the Qiangic languages spoken in China. There are two dialects, Northern and Southern, which are not mutually intelligible. Most research on Munya has been conducted by Ikeda Takumi.

Na language

Na (or Narua, Mosuo) is a is a language of the Naish subbranch of the Naic group of Sino-Tibetan languages.

Naic languages

The Naic or Naxish languages are a group of Sino-Tibetan languages that include Naxi, Na (Mosuo), Shixing (Xumi), and Namuyi (Namuzi). They have been variously classified as part of the Loloish or the Qiangic branch of Sino-Tibetan.

The name "Naic" is derived from the endonym Na used by speakers of several of the languages.

Namuyi language

Namuyi (Namuzi; autonym: na˥˦mʑi˥˦) is a poorly attested Tibeto-Burman and more specifically Naic language of Sichuan and Tibet. It has also been classified as Qiangic by Sun Hongkai (2001) and Guillaume Jacques (2011). The eastern and western dialects have low mutual intelligibility. In Sichuan, it is spoken in Muli County and Mianning County. The language is endangered and the number of speakers with fluency is decreasing year by year, as most teenagers do not speak the language, instead speaking the Sichuan dialect of Chinese.

Northern Qiang language

Northern Qiang is a Sino-Tibetan language of the Qiangic branch spoken by approximately 60,000 people in north-central Sichuan Province, China.

Unlike its close relative Southern Qiang, Northern Qiang is not a tonal language.

Rgyalrongic languages

The Rgyalrongic languages (also known as Jiarongic), constitute a branch of the Qiangic languages of Sino-Tibetan, although Randy LaPolla (2003) proposes that it may be part of a larger Rung languages group, and does not consider it to be particularly closely related to Qiangic. LaPolla (2003) suggests that similarities between Rgyalrongic and Qiangic may be due to areal influence.

Shixing language

Shixing, also rendered Shuhi, is a poorly-attested Qiangic language of Sichuan and the Tibet Autonomous Region. Two thirds of its speakers are monolingual.

Shixing is also known by its Chinese name Xumi (旭米 Xùmǐ); it is spoken by about 1800 people living by the Shuiluo River 水洛 in Shuiluo Township 水洛乡, Mili Tibetan Autonomous County.Katia Chirkova reports two varieties.

Upper Xumi (autonym: ʂuhĩ)

Lower Xumi (autonym: ʃʉhẽ)

Situ language

Situ (Chinese: 四土话; pinyin: Sìtǔ huà) is a Rgyalrong language spoken in Sichuan, China.

Southern Qiang language

Southern Qiang is a Sino-Tibetan language of the Qiangic branch spoken by approximately 81,300 people along the Minjiang (Chinese: 岷江) river in Sichuan Province, China.

Unlike its close relative Northern Qiang, Southern Qiang is a tonal language.

Tshobdun language

Tshobdun (Chinese Caodeng 草登) is a Rgyalrong language spoken in Sichuan, China. It is surrounded by the Zbu, Japhug , and Amdo Tibetan languages.

Zbu language

Zbu (Chinese Ribu 日部), or Showu, is a Rgyalrong language spoken in Sichuan, China.

The Khalong Tibetan language has a Shawu (Zbu) substratum, as evident from its phonology and grammar.

Zhaba language

Zhaba, also known as Bazi, Bozi, Draba, nDrapa, Zaba, Zha (Chinese: 扎坝语), is a Qiangic language of Sichuan, China spoken by about 8,000 people in Daofu County and Yajiang County. The Zhaba, who are officially classified by the Chinese government as ethnic Tibetan people, refer to themselves as [ndʐa˥ pɪ˧˩] and to the Zhaba language as [ndʐa˧˥ ʂka˥]. Neighboring Khams Tibetan speakers refer to the Zhaba people as [ndʐa˥ pa˥]. Zhaba speakers live primarily in the Xianshui River 鲜水河 valley.Descriptions of Zhaba include Huang (1991) and Gong (2007). Huang & Dai (1992) document the Queyu dialect spoken in Zhatuo Village 扎拖村, Zhatuo Township 扎拖乡, Daofu County, Sichuan.

Qiangic languages
core Qiangic
Sino-Tibetan branches
Western Himalayas
(Himachal, Uttarakhand, Nepal, Sikkim)
Eastern Himalayas
(Tibet, Bhutan, Arunachal)
circum-Myanmar tribal belts
East and Southeast Asia
Dubious (possible isolates)
Proposed groupings

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