Naic languages

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Yunnan and Sichuan
Linguistic classification: Sino-Tibetan
Glottolog: naic1235[1]

The Naic or Naxish languages is a group of Sino-Tibetan languages that includes Naxi. They have been variously classified as part of the Loloish or the Qiangic branch of Sino-Tibetan.

The name "Naic" is derived from the endonym Na used by speakers of several of the languages.

However, Chirkova (2012)[2] does not consider Shixing and Namuzi to be part of a single Naic branch, instead arguing for similarities due to diffusion.


Lama (2012)[edit]

Lama (2012) lists the following languages in his Naxish clade, which he places in the Loloish branch.

  • Namuzi (næ˥mu˧zɿ˧˩)
  • Naxi (nɑ˨˩ɕi˧)
    • Na: Mali Masa, Na (Moso)
    • etc.
      • Naru
      • Naheng, Naxi proper

Lama (2012) lists the following sound changes from Proto-Loloish as Naxish innovations.

  • *sn > ȵ-
  • *pw- > b-, ʁ-

Jacques & Michaud (2011)[edit]

The Naic group (corresponding to Lama's Naxish clade) is classified as Qiangic and not Loloish by Guillaume Jacques & Alexis Michaud (2011).[3] David Bradley (2008) has also suggested that Naxi, Na, Namuyi, Shixing, and Ersu are Qiangic languages.[4]

Tentative Sino-Tibetan family tree proposed by Jacques & Michaud (2011)

The argument is based on the discovery of cognates with Qiangic languages, that are superficially undetectable due to the high degree of phonological erosion of the Naic languages, but can be uncovered through a systematic examination of lexical correspondences. Progress in the reconstruction of rGyalrongic languages and other languages of the Qiangic branch offers an improved basis for reconstruction. For instance, it appears that Proto-Naish *-o corresponds both to Proto-Rgyalrong *-o and *-aŋ, suggesting a merger between a closed syllable and an open syllable.

Lidz (2010)[edit]

Lidz (2010)[5] groups the Naxi varieties as follows, but does not consider where these languages fit within Sino-Tibetan. Lidz notes that the western groups call themselves "Naxi", whereas the eastern groups call themselves "Na" — hence the parentheses. Lidz (2010) also notes that the Na (Eastern) speakers of Sichuan are officially classified as ethnic Mongols by the Chinese government. Namuyi and Shixing are not addressed.

  • Western (Naxi)
    • Baoshanzhou 保山州
    • Dayanzhen 大研镇
    • Lijiang 丽江
  • Eastern (Na)
    • Ninglang 宁蒗 / Beiqu 北渠
    • Yongning 永宁
    • Guabie 瓜别


  1. ^ Nordhoff, Sebastian; Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2013). "Naic". Glottolog. Leipzig: Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology. 
  2. ^ Chirkova, Katia (2012). "The Qiangic Subgroup from an Areal Perspective: A Case Study of Languages of Muli." In Languages and Linguistics 13(1):133-170. Taipei: Academia Sinica.
  3. ^ Jacques, Guillaume, and Alexis Michaud. 2011. "Approaching the historical phonology of three highly eroded Sino-Tibetan languages: Naxi, Na and Laze." Diachronica 28:468-498.
  4. ^ Bradley, David. 2008. The Position of Namuyi in Tibeto-Burman. Presentation at the Workshop on the Namuyi language, Taipei, 2008.
  5. ^ Lidz, Liberty A. 2010. A Descriptive Grammar of Yongning Na (Mosuo). Ph.D. dissertation. Austin: University of Texas, Austin.