The rGyalrongic languages, also rendered Jiarongic, constitute a branch of the Qiangic languages of Tibeto-Burman, although Randy LaPolla (2003) proposes that it may be part of a larger "Rung" group. They are spoken in the province of Sichuan in China, mainly in the autonomous Tibetan/Qiang prefectures of Kar-mdzes (Garzê 甘孜) and Rnga-ba (Ngawa 阿坝). These languages are distinguished by their conservative morphology and their phonological archaisms, which make them valuable for historical linguistics.
rGyalrongic languages share several features, notably in verbal morphology, and are classified into three groups:
which in turn constitutes four mutually unintelligible varieties: Eastern rGyalrong or Situ, Japhug , Tshobdun, and Showu (Zbu).
Lavrung and Horpa are classified by Lin 1993 as a "western dialect" of rGyalrong, along with Eastern rGyalrong and the "northwestern dialect" (Japhug, Tshobdun, and Showu). Otherwise, the scholarly consensus deems the distance between Lavrung, Horpa, and rGyalrong greater than that between the rGyalrung languages proper. For example, Ethnologue reports 75% lexical similarity between Situ and Japhug, 60% between Japhug and Tshobdun, but only 13% between Situ and Horpa.
- James Matisoff, 2004. "Brightening" and the place of Xixia (Tangut) in the Qiangic subgroup of Tibeto-Burman