Zhuang language

Vaƅcueŋƅ Vahcuengh
Spoken in China
Native speakers 8.8 million Northern (2007)
5.1 million Southern  (2000)
Language family
  • Tai
    • Central
      • Zhuang
Language codes
ISO 639-1 za
ISO 639-2 zha
ISO 639-3 zha – Macrolanguage
individual codes:
zch – Central Hongshuihe Zhuang
zhd – Dai Zhuang
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
zqe – Qiubei Zhuang
zyg – Yang Zhuang
zyb – Yongbei Zhuang
zyn – Yongnan Zhuang
zyj – Youjiang Zhuang
zzj – Zuojiang Zhuang
Books of Zhuang language
Zhuang Sawndip manuscript

The Zhuang language (autonym: Vahcuengh (pre-1982: Vaƅcueŋƅ; Sawndip: 话壮) ("vah" means language and "Cuengh" means Zhuang); simplified Chinese: 壮语; traditional Chinese: 壯語; pinyin: Zhuàngyǔ) is a language from the Tai language group used by the Zhuang people. Most speakers live in the Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region within the People's Republic of China, where it is an official language. Over one million speakers also live in China's Yunnan province.[1]

Standardized Zhuang is based on the dialect of Wuming County. The Bouyei language is a slightly different standard form of Zhuang used across the provincial border in Guizhou. There is a dialect continuum between Zhuang and Bouyei, as well as between Zhuang and Tày, Nùng, Giay and San Chay of northern Vietnam.

Some linguists do not consider Zhuang to be a single language but rather a group of closely related northern and central Taic languages, whose speakers are classified by the Chinese government within the official Zhuang nationality. The sixteen ISO 639-3 registered Zhuang languages are not mutually intelligible without previous exposure on the part of speakers.[2]

Citing the fact that both the Zhuang and Thai peoples have the same exonym for the Vietnamese, kɛɛuA1,[3] Jerold A. Edmondson of the University of Texas, Arlington posited that the split between Zhuang and the Southwest Tai languages happened no earlier than the founding of Jiaozhi (交址) in Vietnam in 112 BC, but no later than the 5th - 6th century AD.[4]



Zhuang is a tonal language. Yongbei Zhuang [zyb] has six tones in open syllables:

Number Contour Description
1 ˨˦ rising
2 ˧˩ low falling
3 ˥ high level
4 ˦˨ falling
5 ˧˥ high rising
6 ˧ mid level

Yongbei Zhuang [zyb] has two (high and low) in closed syllables. Other Zhuang languages have differing tone split patterns, with some having four tones in closed syllables.

Writing systems

Book of Songs of the Zhuang People in Poya, a recording of Zhuang folk songs in pictographic writing.

Sawndip is a Chinese character-based system of writing, similar to the Vietnamese writing system of Chữ nôm: some sawndip logograms were borrowed directly from Han characters, while others were original characters made up from the components of Chinese characters. Sawndip have been used for over one thousand years, they are used for writing songs about every aspect of life, including in more recent times encouraging people to follow official family planning policy.

In 1957, in the People's Republic of China, a Latin alphabet with some special letters was introduced to write the new standardised Zhuang language. The system also included a mixture of Cyrillic letters and IPA symbols, however with some of the Cyrillic letters used only the shapes of the letters were important for writing Zhuang and the symbols had completely different sounds than those used in languages using Cyrillic. A spelling reform in 1982 replaced these special letters with regular letters of the Latin alphabet to facilitate printing and the language's use on computers.[5]

Zhuang has also been written using various other writing systems however none of these have been used as widely as Sawndip or the official alphabetical scripts.

The tables below compare spelling before and after the 1982 reform.

1957 1982 IPA 1957 1982 IPA 1957 1982 IPA 1957 1982 IPA 1957 1982 IPA
B b B b /p/ Ƃ ƃ Mb mb /ɓ/ M m M m /m/ F f F f /f/ V v V v /β/
D d D d /t/ Ƌ ƌ Nd nd /ɗ/ N n N n /n/ S s S s /θ/ L l L l /l/
G g G g /k/ Gv gv Gv gv /kʷ/ Ŋ ŋ Ng ng /ŋ/ H h H h /h/ R r R r /ɣ/
C c C c /ɕ/ Y y Y y /j/ Ny ny Ny ny /ɲ/ Ŋv ŋv Ngv ngv /ŋʷ/
By by By by /pʲ/ Gy gy Gy gy /kʲ/ My my My my /mʲ/
1957 1982 IPA 1957 1982 IPA 1957 1982 IPA
A a A a // E e E e /e/ Ə ə AE ae /a/
I i I i /i/ O o O o // Ɯ ɯ W w /ɯ/
U u U u /u/ Ɵ ɵ OE oe /o/
Tone 1957 1982 Tone contour IPA
1 Not indicated 24 /˨˦/
2 Ƨ ƨ Z z 31 /˧˩/
3 З з J j 55 /˥/
4 Ч ч X x 42 /˦˨/
5 Ƽ ƽ Q q 35 /˧˥/
6 Ƅ ƅ H h 33 /˧/


A 1980 Chinese 10 Yuan bill bears the 1957 Zhuang text: Cuŋƅgoƨ Yinƨminƨ Yinƨhaŋƨ cib mənƨ (Cunghgoz Yinzminz Yinzhangz cib Maenz).

First article of the Declaration of Human Rights.

1957 1982 English
Bouч bouч ma dəŋƨ laзƃɯn couƅ miƨ cɯyouƨ, cinƅyenƨ cəuƽ genƨli bouчbouч biŋƨdəŋз. Gyɵŋƽ vunƨ miƨ liзsiŋ cəuƽ lieŋƨsim, ɯŋdaŋ daiƅ gyɵŋƽ de lumз beiчnueŋч ityieŋƅ. Boux boux ma daengz lajmbwn couh miz cwyouz, cinhyenz caeuq genzli bouxboux bingzdaengj. Gyoengq vunz miz lijsing caeuq liengzsim, wngdang daih gyoengq de lumj beixnuengx ityiengh. All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.
Zhuang logogram
Universal Declaration of Human Rights Zhuang Sawndip.png


The Zhuang language (or language group) has been divided by Chinese linguists into northern and southern "dialects" (fangyan 方言 in Chinese) each of which has been divided into a number of vernacular varieties (known as Tǔyǔ 土语 in Chinese) (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. While 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.

Northern (8,572,200 speakers)[6][8]

  • 1. Guibei 桂北 - 1,290,000 speakers : Luocheng, Huanjiang, Rongshui, Rong'an, Sanjiang, Yongfu, Longsheng, Hechi, Nandan, Tian'e, Donglan
  • 2. Liujiang 柳江 - 1,297,000 speakers : Liujiang, Laibin North, Yishan, Liucheng, Xincheng
  • 3. Hongshui He 红水河 - 2,823,000 speakers : Laibin South, Du'an, Mashan, Shilong, Guixian, Luzhai, Lipu, Yangshuo
  • 4. Yongbei 邕北 - 1,448,000 speakers : Yongning North, Wuming (prestige dialect), Binyang, Hengxian, Pingguo
  • 5. Youjiang 右江 - 732,000 speakers : Tiandong, Tianyang, Baise; Youjiang River basin area
  • 6. Guibian 桂边 - 827,000 speakers : Fengshan, Lingyun, Tianlin, Longlin, Yunnan Guangnan North
  • 7. Qiubei 丘北 - 122,000 speakers : Yunnan Qiubei area
  • 8. Lianshan 连山 - 33,200 speakers : Lianshan, Huaiji North

Southern (4,232,000 speakers)[6][8]

  • 9. Yongnan 邕南 - 1,466,000 speakers : Yongning South, Fusui Central and North, Long'an, Jinzhou, Shangse, Chongzuo areas
  • 10. Zuojiang 左江 - 1,384,000 speakers : Longzhou (Longjin), Daxin, Tiandeng, Ningming; Zuojiang River basin area
  • 11. Dejing 得靖 - 979,000 speakers : Jingxi, Debao, Mubian, Napo
  • 12. Yanguang 砚广 - 308,000 speakers : Yunnan Guangnan South, Yanshan area
  • 13. Wenma 文马 - 95,000 speakers : Yunnan Wenshan, Malipo, Guibian

Zhāng Jūnrú's (张均如) Zhuàngyǔ Fāngyán Yánjiù (壮语方言研究 [A Study of Zhuang dialects]) is the most detailed study of Zhuang dialectology ever published to date. It includes a 1465-word list covering 36 varieties of Zhuang. For the list of the 36 Zhuang variants below from Zhang (1999), the region (usually county) is given first, with the name of the specific village listed after the hyphen. The phylogenetic position of each variant follows that of Pittayaporn (2009)[9] (see Tai languages#Pittayaporn (2009)).

  1. Wuming 武鸣 - Shuangqiao 双桥 - Subgroup M
  2. Hengxian 横县 - Naxu 那旭 - Subgroup N
  3. Yongbei 邕北 (邕宁北部) - Wutang 五塘 - Subgroup N
  4. Pingguo 平果 - Xingyu 新于 - Subgroup N
  5. Tiandong 田东 - Hexuan 合愃 - Subgroup N
  6. Tianlin 田林 - Lizhou 利周 - Subgroup N
  7. Lingyue 凌乐 - Sicheng 泗城 - Subgroup N
  8. Guangnan 广南 (Sha people 沙族) - Zhemeng Township 者孟乡 - Subgroup N
  9. Qiubei 丘北 - Gehan Township 戈寒乡 - Subgroup N
  10. Liujiang 柳江 - Baipeng 百朋 - Subgroup N
  11. Yishan 宜山 - Luodong 洛东 - Subgroup N
  12. Huanjiang 环江 - Chengguan 城管 - Subgroup N
  13. Rong'an 融安 - Anzi 安治 - Subgroup N
  14. Longsheng 龙胜 - Rixin 日新 - Subgroup N
  15. Hechi 河池 - Sanqu 三区 - Subgroup N
  16. Nandan 南丹 - Mema 么麻 - Subgroup N
  17. Donglan 东兰 - Chengxiang 城厢 - Subgroup N
  18. Du'an 都安 - Liuli 六里 - Subgroup N
  19. Shanglin 上林 - Dafeng 大丰 - Subgroup N
  20. Laibin 来宾 - Sijiao 寺脚 - Subgroup N
  21. Guigang 贵港 - Shanbei 山北 - Subgroup N
  22. Lianshan 连山 - Xiaosanjiang 小三江 - Subgroup N
  23. Qinzhou 钦州 - Nahe Township 那河乡 - Subgroup I
  24. Yongnan 邕南 - Xiafang Township 下枋乡 - Subgroup M
  25. Long'an 隆安 - Xiaolin Township 小林乡 - Subgroup M
  26. Fusui (Central) 扶绥中部 - Datang Township 大塘乡 - Subgroup M
  27. Shangsi 上思 - Jiaoding Township 叫丁乡 - Subgroup C
  28. Chongzuo 崇左 - Fulu Township 福鹿乡 - Subgroup C
  29. Ningming 宁明 - Fenghuang Township 凤璜乡 - Subgroup B
  30. Longzhou 龙州 - Binqiao Township 彬桥乡 - Subgroup F
  31. Daxin 大新 - Houyi Township 后益乡 - Subgroup H
  32. Debao 德保 - Yuandi'erqu 原第二区 - Subgroup L
  33. Jingxi 靖西 - Xinhe Township 新和乡 - Subgroup L
  34. Guangnan 广南 (Nong people 侬族) - Xiaoguangnan Township 小广南乡 - Subgroup L
  35. Yanshan 砚山 (Nong people 侬族) - Kuaxi Township 夸西乡 - Subgroup L
  36. Wenma 文马 (Tu people 土族) - Dazhai, Heimo Township 黑末乡大寨 - Subgroup P

See also


  1. ^ http://www.yn.xinhuanet.com/newscenter/2011-05/09/content_22719368.htm
  2. ^ http://sil.org/silesr/abstract.asp?ref=2010-027
  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". in Studies in Southeast Asian languages and linguistics, Jimmy G. Harris, Somsonge Burusphat and James E. Harris (eds.), Bangkok, Thailand: Ek Phim Thai Co. Ltd. (see page 15)
  5. ^ Minglang Zhou, Multilingualism in China: the politics of writing reforms for minority languages 1949-2002 (Berlin, Mouton de Gruyter 2003), ISBN 3-11-017896-6, pp. 251–258.
  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. ^ a b 张均如 / Zhang Junru, et. al. 壮语方言研究 / Zhuang yu fang yan yan jiu [A Study of Zhuang dialects]. Chengdu: 四川民族出版社 / Sichuan min zu chu ban she, 1999.
  9. ^ Pittayaporn, Pittayawat. 2009. The Phonology of Proto-Tai. Ph.D. dissertation. Department of Linguistics, Cornell University.


  • Wéi Qìngwěn 韦庆稳, Tán Guóshēng 覃国生: Zhuàngyǔ jiǎnzhì 壮语简志 (Beijing, Mínzú chūbǎnshè 民族出版社 1980).
  • Tán Xiǎoháng 覃晓航: Xiàndài Zhuàngyǔ 现代壮语 (Beijing, Mínzú chūbǎnshè 民族出版社 1995).
  • Tán Guóshēng 覃国生: Zhuàngyǔ fāngyán gàilùn 壮语方言概论 (Nanning, Guǎngxī mínzú chūbǎnshè 广西民族出版社 1996).
  • Zhuàng-Hàn cíhuì 壮汉词汇 (Nanning, Guǎngxī mínzú chūbǎnshè 广西民族出版社 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.
  • Wang Mingfu, Eric Johnson (2008). Zhuang Cultural and Linguistic Heritage. The Nationalities Publishing House of Yunnan. ISBN 753674255X.
  • Luo Liming, Qin Yaowu, Lu Zhenyu, Chen Fulong (editors) (2004). Zhuang–Chinese–English Dictionary / Cuengh Gun Yingh Swzdenj. Nationality Press, 1882 pp. ISBN 7105070013.
  • 张均如 / Zhang Junru, et al. 壮语方言研究 / Zhuang yu fang yan yan jiu [A Study of Zhuang dialects]. Chengdu: 四川民族出版社 / Sichuan min zu chu ban she, 1999.
  • 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.

External links

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Look at other dictionaries:

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