2- Hani5 - Coong7 - Tay Bao Lac8 - Nung Giang9 - Nung Ven14 - Laha Noong Lay16 - Tay Do6 - Red Mantsi (Lolo)11 - Phu Khla1 - Lahu Nung AnYao OgangNguon3 -  Sila12 - Yao KimmienTay Thanh

A - Pa-hng Hong Quang
B - Pa-hng Bac Quang
C - Cao Lan
D - Dong (Kam)
E - Tay Muong
F - Tay Sa Pa
G - Giay (Bouyei)
H - Laha Ta Mit
I - Kim Mun Lao Cai
J - Kim Mun Ha Giang
K - Lachi Ban Phung
L - Lachi Ban Diu
M - Mang Hien
N - Nung Chau
O - Thu Lao

P - Padi
Q - Qabiao
R - Red Gelao
S - Sui
T - Tay Ha Giang
U - Mang Chuong
W - White Gelao
X - Xa Pho
Y - Tay Trung Khanh
Z - Khang
1 - Lahu
2 - Hani
3 -Sila
4 -Hmong variants G Giay (Bouyei)

5 - Coong
6 - Red Mantsi (Lolo)
7 - Tay Bao Lac
8 - Nung Giang
9 - Nung Ven
10 - Nung An
11 - Phu Khla
12 - Yao Kimmien
13 - Yao Ogang
14 - Laha Noong Lay
15 - Tay Thanh
16 - Tay Do
17 - Nguon

D. Kam (Dong) -- We were able to study one of the two remaining  speakers of this dying Kam-Sui language in Vietnam. Comparing Chinese  language source data on Kam, we have ascertained that Viet Kam has a six-tone  speech pattern typical of Kam Area 5 spoken in China at Liping Shuikou of  Guizhou Province, China or at least a speech community very much like it.

S. Sui -- Our research shows that the Viet Sui spoken at Chiem Hoa in  Tuyen Quang came from Sandu County Sandong Township in Guizhou Province.  There are about 120 speakers found today in Vietnam. The Sui came to Vietnam  at a time sufficiently recent to allow them to have maintained a sound  inventory still strongly resembling forms found yet in Sandu County.

G. Bouyei (Giay) -- We studied the community of Bouyei (Northern Tai  Branch) speakers living in Lao Cai Province at Muong Khuong District and  adjacent areas in China near Hakou City in Yunnan Province. A comparison of  data with the Buyi Diaocha Baogao 1958 shows that the Giay in Vietnam  originally came from the SW part of Guizhou, notably these sites: Xingyi  Bajie, Anlong Bakan, Anlong Leju, Ceheng Naiyan, Zhengfeng Lurong, Wangmo  Zhexiang, or Luodian Poqiu. We believe, however, that there are very many  communities of Bouyei in Vietnam that we have not yet studied (a population  as great as 40000) and we also believe that they have come from many  different places in Guizhou Province.

C. Cao Lan -- This interesting Central "Tai" language was  studied in Tuyen Quang Province. It proved to be as enigmatic as has been  reported. We found the description of the language in the EFEO survey of 1938  to be fairly accurate. A puzzling feature, however, is that the vocabulary of  Cao Lan shows an aberrant -- what one might call a para-Tai -- tonal system  and many items not found in the lexicon of Tai languages elsewhere.

Y. Tay Trung Khanh -- This Central Tai language has retained the  archaic feature of voicing in consonant initials of low tones. Many other  features of Tay Trung Khanh are conservative, including clustered initials  and old vocabulary items. Certainly it is closer to the proto-language than  Nung Chao, which we also studied.

7. Tay Bao Lac -- Tay Bao Lac is a language clearly in the Central Tai subgroup of  Tai.  Bao Lac is a location about 200  km to the west of Cao Bang City in extreme western Cao Bang Province.  The Tay spoken there is quite different in  tone values and initial consonants from Tay Trung Khanh, but unmistakably Tay  in its lexicon.

N. Nung Chao -- This language is nearly identical to that described  under the name Longzhou by Li Fang Kuei many years ago. It was his example of  a Central Tai language in his Handbook of Comparative Tai (1977). The Vietnam  forms of Nung Chao differ slightly in tone value from Li's Longzhou, Guangxi  Province, China but we may now confirm it is in every other respect the same  language.

10. Nung An   -- Nung An constitute a subgroup of the Nung nationality, one of the larger of  Vietnam's 54 officially recognized minority ethnicities.  The Nung An population is concentrated in  Cao Bang Province at a location 37 km from Cao Bang City in Quang Ha District  at Phuc Sen Village and neighboring Communes such as Doan Khon, Quoc Phong,  and Quoc Dan, where the population is 99% Nung An; Beth Nicolson (p.c.)  reports that Nung An speakers also live in Quang Ha District at Chi Thao and  Tu Do as well as in Ha Quang District at Noi Thon Commune and in Ba Be  District at Cao Che Commune.  In this  region the Nung An have a population of about 10,000. We have recently determined that as many as 26,000 Nung An also live in Jingxi County in China just north of these locations in Vietnam.  The Nung An of Vietnam and the Long'an of  China appear to have the same mix of NT and CT lexical and phonological  features.  The simplest account of  this similarity accords with the report of the people themselves; they  brought these NT features with them when they immigrated from further north  and east into an area, located on the Sino-Vietnam border between NT and CT  areas.  The explanation for the NT  features is to be found in the immigrant status of a  NT people to a CT speaking area in Cao Bang.   The Nung An are thus out-of-place  geographically, but in-place linguistically with their origins to the  north-east in China.

8. Nung Giang -- The Nung Giang constitute a group of Nung (Central Tai) speakers who live  in Cao Bang Province Ha Quang District extending across the border into  Guangxi China at Pingmeng and Mengma and then in a northernly direction up to  and perhaps including Jingxi City in Jingxi County.  They call themselves nung jang or pou jang.  According to Zheng (1996:3), the people of  Jingxi County just north of the areas of the Nung Giang call themselves ken2 tho3or jang1.  These areas are saturated with Tai people;  Jingxi County, where this group is assigned to the Zhuang nationality, has a  Tai majority in excess of 99%. 

Also at location P. Nung Inh   -- Nung Inh is a variety of Western Nung (as studied by Gedney)  found in Muong Khuong City of Lao Cai  Province.  This language has a  standard Tai system of tonal development, the so-called 2x5 format of fives  tones splitting whenever the initial voiced series was devoiced to give ten  tones in the reflex language.  There  are about 3,000 speakers in this far western location.

O. Thu Lao -- Thu Lao is a Central Tai language of Muong Khuong  District of Lao Cai Province.  Like  Tay Trung Khanh, Thu Lao retains voiced initial consonants in low tones. With a  population estimated to number about 200, we can now confirm that this  language is identical to that reported in Yunnan by L-Thongkum 1996.

P. Padi [pa31 zi31] and F. Tay Sa Pa -- Padi proved to be an  interesting, heretofore undescribed language of Vietnam, though mentioned by  Abadie 1924 and more recently analyzed by L-Thongkum (1998) for varieties in China.  Padi is a SW Tai language found in Muong Khuong District of Lao Cai Province,  which has, however, been officially classified with Tay (a Central Tai  language complex). There is a certain linguistic irony that the people of  this economically underdeveloped area speak a language that is in terms of  tone splits, tone values, phonology, and lexicon coincidentally very similar  to Central Thai of Bangkok City, one of the most prosperous areas of SE Asia.  We also examined Tay Sa Pa of Lao Cai. It has been similarly grouped in Tay,  even though it too is, in fact, a SW Tai language. There are about 300 speakers  each of  Padi and Tay Sa Pa. On  linguistic grounds, however, neither of these languages is a member of the  Black/White Thai complex, which is found in million-strength numbers to the  west of this location, nor are they to be grouped with CT groups, such as Tay  or Nung.

15. Tay  Thanh -- Ms. Lu Thi Hai is  the  source of extensive data on Tay Thanh, which is spoken by about 20,000 people  in Thanh Hoa and Nghe An Provinces.    This group, about which very little has been known until now, belongs  to the SW Branch of Tai, which we deem quite close to the Black/White Thai  group.  It does, however, possess  distinctive developments in the velar series of initials that is typical for  those SW Tai languages of this part of Vietnam.

16. Tay Do   -- The Tay Do are a group also known as Tay Quy Chau, famous for a very archaic  script they still use to record their language.  They are found in Nghe An Province.  Our data from Mr. Lo Quang Lue support conclusions about this  language, as well as concerning Tay Thanh, and Tay Muong, consistent with  those reported by Prof. M. Ferlus in a recent paper.

E. Tay Muong -- This group is located today in Nghe An Province near  Ky Son, but they are said to have migrated from further north. Tay Muong is a  SW Tai language with five tones and may be connected most closely to  Black/White Thai.

H. Laha Ta Mit -- We were able to investigate the Than Uyen  form of Laha from Ta Mit Township. This language along with Qabiao may be  important in reconstructing the proto language from which the Tai Branch and  the Kam-Sui Branch have descended.  Laha  has retained finals to a much higher degree than the other members of this  outlier group, Lachi and Gelao, and thus it allows us more readily to  recognize cognates. TM Laha has a "Tai-like" tonal system and many  archaic lexical features. There are about 2000 speakers of Laha in Vietnam,  cf. Edmondson and Gregerson 1997.

14. Laha Noong Lay -- This language is a form  of Laha spoken in Son La Province at Noong Lay Commune.   There are very considerable differences between Laha Noong Lay  and Laha Ta Mit  while, at the same  time, showing clear similarities.  Laha Noong Lay is nearly extinct with fewer than 10 really fluent  speakers according to our informants Lo Van Sam and Lo Thi Ho.  The people of Noong Lay call themselves  Khla Phlao, literally the barbarians of the Phu Lao, which is probably the  exonym used by the Black Thai who succeeded them in settling this area.  This kind of Laha has a number of  clustered consonant initials not found in Ta Mit.  We were also able to get very high quality tone data about this  language and hope therefore to clarify the tonal correspondence between Noong  Lay and Ta Mit Laha.

9. Nung Ven -- Nung Ven is a heretofore unreported Tai outlier language from Ha Quang  District, Cao Bang Province.  The  neighbors of these people call them Nung Ven, the Nung of the Earrings.  They call themselves En.  This language, though called Nung, is not  to be grouped with other Tai languages known as Nung, but rather with the outlier  languages, Gelao, Lachi, Qabiao, Laha, etc.  The En number about 200 people and are found in a single village, Noi  Thon, about 20 km directly east on foot from Ha Quang City in Ha Quang  District.  The people themselves do  not have traditional accounts of their origins nor do they have ideas about  where they once lived or how or when they arrived in Vietnam.   There are several notable features of the  En language that show its unmistakable membership in the Outlier group (of  Tai) and others that indicate which languages it might be close to.  Our impression from our data is, though,  that En is a separate language and not a variant of one of the six already  discovered.  It is apparent that En  shares less than 50% common vocabulary with any of these.

Q. Qabiao -- A fascinating group of 307 souls in Pho La Township of  Dong Van District, this language, like Laha, is "Tai-like" in  phonology but retains many highly informative lexical items for  reconstructive work on the family, including a r- vs. rh- initial consonants.  Cf. Hoang Van Ma 1992.

W. White Gelao and R. Red Gelao -- These two groups are found in  vanishingly thin numbers in Ha Giang's northern reaches. Red Gelao is very  near extinction in China, Zhang (1993:297), and is spoken in its last  vestiges in Vietnam by only four families at Na Khe Village in Yen Minh  District and by a few of their relatives in Bach Dich 30 km away. Our  informant was from Na Khe. White Gelao is also fast disappearing. We were  able to study the speech of Mr. Giang Xuan Phu, 32 years of age. He lives in  Pho La with his Qabiao wife, but his family was originally from Dong Van to  the east 50 km, where a few more speakers are found. Both languages have four  tones, uvular stops in profusion, breathy voice in some low tones. They are  not mutually intelligible.

L. Black Lachi and K. Longhair Lachi -- These two indigenous speech  communities are so closely related that we can, for all intents and purposes,  regard them as the same language. We found more tones (six) than have been  reported by Chinese investigators (five), Liang Min 1990 and Zhang 1993. The  language has experienced strong tendencies to collapse "on the right"  at the end of syllables so that only CV and CVN word shapes are found today.  Phonologically and lexically Lachi will be difficult material to work with  having high tonality on CV syllables and unusual consonant inventories. Lachi  was studied early on by Bonifacy 1905b.

M. and U. Mang (Hien and Chuong dialects) and Z. Khang --  These two Mon-Khmer groups were examined only briefly in order to assist our  Vietnamese counterparts, who are very interested in them. We know that both  languages are tonal, 4-5 tones each; they belong to the MK family.

17. Nguon  -- Nguon is a Vietic language spoken  in Quang Binh by about 2,000 people.  It has been regarded by some as a form of Muong, but it is today  considered by others to be a separate group more closely aligned with  Vietnamese.  Ms. Dinh Thi Mai Anh  participated in a session of several hours in which we elicited a complete  word list in the Nguon language.  As has  been reported by Nguyen Phu Phong 1997,  Nguon has tones some of whose values are upside-down from  contemporary northern Vietnamese along with other changes of great interest  to those studying the history of Vietic languages.

  12. Yao Kimmien -- Ms. Cang Thi Minh, 20 years of age, helped us with the language of the Kim  Mien (Iu Mien).  She comes from a  village in Tuyen Quang Province, Xa Chi Phuy in Chiem Hoa District, where  there live only 20 Yao families.  These people are called Dao Deo Tien by the Vietnamese 'the Yao that wear  money,' because of the silver coins found on the tunics of the women.  This language is a find because it  demonstrates tripartition of tones and also considerable voice quality  distinction, which are features not widely attested in the Mien sub-branch but  are in the Mun sub-branch, and are reported here for this group for the first  time known to the authors.  13. Yao Ogang -- is a  Yao group that has only recently (perhaps within the last 100 years) arrived  from China.  They live in Thai Bac  Province and have been the subject of considerable study in Vietnam, esp.  Doan Thien Thuat (1992).

I. and J. Kim Mun (Lao Cai and Ha Giang) -- These two  linguistically distinct varieties stand among the seven culturally classified  types of Kim Mun in Vietnam.  Both of  these kinds showed tonal tripartition and somewhat simplified consonants in  comparison to types of Mun found north of the border in Yunnan Province,  China.

4. Hmong (Miao) -- We have looked at the tones of several kinds of  Hmong of Lao Cai and Ha Giang Provinces. All have eight tones and many have  breathy voice quality in low tones.

A. and B. Pa-hng (Bac Quang and Hong Quang dialects) -- Our  work has shown that the 2000 speakers of this language (two locations with  nearly identical speech patterns) came from Sanjiang County Gaoji Township  (we determined this result from our own fieldwork in Guangxi Province,  China). The language has eight tones with breathy voice a concomitant to low  tone. Aspiration is a major landmark in Pa-hng.

2. Hani -- Hani was  studied at Muong Te in the NW Province of Lai Chau with the help of Ms. Po Gu  Su and Ms. Lo Mi So.  While they do  not speak identical varieties of Hani, they reported no difficulty in  understanding each other.  Our  preliminary comparisons with the kinds of Hani spoken in China to the north  shows that Vietnam Hani is quite similar to the most common type reported on  in the Haniyu Jianzhi.   Hani  specialist Inge-Lill Hansson (p.c.) confirms the closeness of Hani varieties  on each side of the border.

X. Xa Pho -- This Tibeto-Burman group of 300 speakers has officially  been assigned to the Phu La nationality, but they speak a language unlike the  Phu La. We have determined that this language belongs to the Yi-Burmese  Group. However, it corresponds in linguistic terms to no currently described  language and thus must be regarded as a new language with close ties to Yi of  Sichuan and Yunnan Provinces. Its most remarkable feature is that it has retained  kl-, khl-, gl, and Ngl- initial clusters, which have been lost in all other  members of this Group, but are attested in Tibetan, Benedict 1972; these  clusters can be exemplified in the word for 'moon' khla33 ba33. These people  are mentioned briefly by Abadie 1924. Further in Edmondson and Lama 1997.

11. Phu Khla --   is a language, also known as Phu La,  had not been studied by our Vietnamese counterparts or anyone else  heretofore.   This language .like  Xapho (Laghuu), has clustered initials but unlike Xapho possesses them after  consonants other than the velars.

1. Black Lahu (Lahu Ja)   -- Black Lahu is one of three kinds of Lahu spoken in Vietnam.  This language is not to be confused with  Laghuu of Lao Cai Province, also a Tibeto-Burman language.  The other two types of Lahu are Yellow  Lahu (Lahu Hsi) and White/Red Lahu.  Our informant Mr. Phan Phu Lo was an outstanding helper in this  language, having high level skills in Vietnamese and having travelled over  much of the range of Muong Te District of Lai Chau, which is one of the most  remote in all Vietnam.  This language  has seven tones, just as the kinds reported by Matisoff in his famous work on  this language in Thailand and China.

3. Sila -- Sila was  studied with the help of Ms. Vang Co Um of Ban Xeo Hai, Xa Can Ho, Muong Te  District, Lai Chau Province.  She  reports that there are today about 300 speakers of Sila.  As the old people of her village tell it,  the Sila came from Laos during the French time.

5. Coong (Khong) -- The Coong  are found in four villages along the Black River in Muong Te District of Lai  Chau Province.    There are said to be  about 600 speakers of the language today.  Although Phunoi and Coong have been often considered to be the same  langauge, a comparison of tapes of Phunoi taken by Jimmy Harris in 1972 with  our data from Muong Te Vietnam, reflects significant linguistic  differences.  Vietnam Coong, for  example, has neither final consonants nor voiceless nasals and laterals,  unlike Harris' Phunoi data.

6. Red Mantsi  (Lolo) -- Ms. Lo Thi My was our vigorous informant for the Lolo Do (Red  Lolo) language of Xa Yen Minh, Yen Minh District, Ha Giang Province.  She told us that the Lolo Trang (White  Lolo) of Sinh Kai of Meo Vac are very similar in their speech, customs, and  habits.  This language is clearly an  example of Yi (Lolo), which is found 7 million strong in China with wide  variation from place to place.  We  believe that this kind of Yi is similar--but not identical to--SE Yi as  reported in the Yiyu Jianzhi.  It  possesses six tones, tense/lax voice quality and many uvular consonant  initials.  It also possesses the  trademark set of stop contrasts, having four manners of articulation, e.g.,/p  ph b mb/.

Return to introduction