Japhug language

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Native to China
Region Sichuan
Native speakers
(no estimate available)
Language codes
ISO 639-3
Glottolog japh1234[1]

Japhug [kɯrɯ skɤt] is a Rgyalrong language spoken in Barkam County, Sichuan, China, in the three xiang of Gdong-brgyad (Longerjia 龙尔甲, in Japhug [ʁdɯrɟɤt]), Gsar-rdzong (Shaerzong 沙尔宗, in Japhug [sarndzu]) and Da-tshang (Dazang 大藏, in Japhug [tatsʰi]).

The name Japhug [tɕɤpʰɯ] (Chinese chabao 茶堡) refers in Japhug to the area comprising Gsar-rdzong and Da-tshang, while that of Gdong-brgyad is also known as [sɤŋo] (Jacques 2004), but speakers of Situ Rgyalrong use this name to refer to the whole Japhug-speaking area.


Japhug is the only toneless Rgyalrong language. It has 49 consonants and seven vowels.


Labial Dental Alveolar Retroflex Alveopalatal Palatal Velar Uvular
Occlusive nasal m n ɲ ŋ
prenasalized mb nd ndz ndʐ ndʑ ɲɟ ŋg ɴɢ
voiced b d dz ɟ g
voiceless p t ts c k q
aspirated tsʰ tʂʰ tɕʰ
Continuant voiced w l z r ʑ j ɣ ʁ
voiceless ɬ s ʂ ɕ x χ

The phoneme /w/ has the allophones [β] and [f].

The phoneme /ʁ/ is realized as an epiglottal fricative in the coda or preceding another consonant.

The prenasalized consonants are analyzed as units for two reasons. First, there is a phoneme /ɴɢ/, as in /ɴɢoɕna/ "large spider", but neither /ɴ/ nor /ɢ/ exist as independent phonemes. Second, there are clusters of fricatives and prenasalized voiced stops, as in /ʑmbri/ "willow", but never clusters of fricatives and prenasalized voiceless stops.

Japhug distinguishes between palatal plosives and velar plosive + j sequences, as in /co/ "valley" vs. /kjo/ "drag". These both contrast with alveolo-palatal affricates.

There are at least 339 consonant clusters in Japhug (Jacques 2008:29), more than in ancient Tibetan or in most Indo-European languages. Some of these clusters are typologically unusual: in addition to the previously mentioned clusters of fricatives and prenasalized stops, there are clusters where the first element as a semivowel, as in /jla/ "hybrid of a yak and a cow".


Japhug has eight vowel phonemes: a, o, u, ɤ, ɯ, y, e and i. The vowel y is attested in only one native word -- /qaɟy/ "fish" -- and its derivatives, but appears in Chinese loanwords.

Vowel clusters are uncommon, but exist in words like /zɯu/ "eye disease".


Jacques (2008) is a short grammar and Jacques and Chen (2010) a text collection with interlinear glosses. Other studies on morphosyntax include Jacques (2010) on direct-inverse marking, Jacques (2012a) on valency (passive, antipassive, anticausative, lability etc), Jacques (2012b) on incorporation and Jacques (2013) on associated motion.


  • Jacques, Guillaume, 2004, Phonologie et morphologie du Japhug (rGyalrong), thèse de doctorat, Université Paris VII.
  • Jacques, Guillaume, 2007, La réduplication partielle en japhug, révélatrice des structures syllabiques, Faits de langues 29:9-21.
  • Jacques, Guillaume, Chen Zhen 陈珍, 2007, « 茶堡话的不及物前缀及相关问题 » [Le suffixe intransitif du japhug et autres problèmes apparentés], Language and Linguistics, 8.4:883-912.
  • Jacques, Guillaume, 向柏霖, 2008, 《嘉绒语研究》[A study on the rGyalrong language], Pékin, Minzu chubanshe.
  1. ^ Nordhoff, Sebastian; Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2013). "Japhug". Glottolog 2.2. Leipzig: Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology.