Caolan language

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Cao Lan
Man Cao-Lan
Native to Vietnam
Native speakers
170,000  (2009 census)[1]
Language codes
ISO 639-3 mlc
Glottolog caol1238[2]

Caolan, sometimes Man Cao Lan, is a Tai language of northern Vietnam. It is spoken by the Cao Lan subgroup the San Chay people; the Sán Chay proper speak a form of Chinese. According to Pittayaporn (2009), it is closest to the Chongzuo and Shangsi Zhuang across the border in China, both of which are lumped under the apparently polyphyletic Yongnan Zhuang by Ethnologue. Together, Caolan, Chongzuo, and Shangsi form a primary branch of the Tai languages (Pittayaporn 2009).


Caolan is spoken by the Cao Lan-Sán Chay people of Tuyên Quang Province. According to the people, the Cao Lan and Sán Chay peoples had arrived from southern China 400 years ago together as one group, even though they spoke two different languages. Notably, they both use Chinese characters to record their languages. Smaller numbers are also found in the following provinces (Gregerson & Edmondson 1998).

The Sán Chay speak a form of Han Chinese, while the Cao Lan speak a Tai language. Gregerson & Edmondson (1998) considers Caolan to have a combination of both Northern and Central Tai features. Like the E language of northern Guangxi, Cao Lan also displays influences form Pinghua, a Chinese vernacular spoken in Guangxi, China. Haudricourt (1973) believes that the Cao Lan may have adopted a form of Tai when they had stopped in Guangxi during their historical southward migration. The Chinese-speaking Sán Chay, on the other hand, might have been a Yao (or Mienic-speaking) group, as the Yao of Fangcheng, Guangxi call themselves san33 tɕai33. Today, the Chinese-speaking Sán Chay live mostly in Quảng Ninh, whereas the Cao Lan are mostly concentrated in Tuyên Quang, Thái Nguyên, and Bắc Giang.


  1. ^ Cao Lan at Ethnologue (17th ed., 2013)
  2. ^ Nordhoff, Sebastian; Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2013). "Cao Lan". Glottolog 2.2. Leipzig: Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology. 

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