Proto-Hmong–Mien language

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Hmongic languages in red, Mienic languages in green

The Proto-Hmong–Mien language is the reconstructed ancestor of the Hmong–Mien languages. The time of proto-Hmong-Mien has been estimated to be about 2500 BP by Sagart, Blench, and Sanchez-Mazas and about 4243 BP by the Automated Similarity Judgment Program (ASJP).[1] Lower-level reconstructions include Proto-Hmongic and Proto-Mienic.


Past reconstructions include Wang & Mao (1995).

Ratliff (2010)[edit]

Ratliff (2010) used 11 criterion languages for her reconstruction.

  1. East Hmongic (Qiandong); Northern vernacular: Yanghao 养蒿, Yanghao Township, Taijiang County, Guizhou
  2. North Hmongic (Xiangxi); Western vernacular: Jiwei 吉卫, Jiwei Township, Huayuan County, Hunan
  3. West Hmongic (Chuanqiandian): White Hmong of Laos and Thailand
  4. West Hmongic (Chuanqiandian); Mashan subdialect, Central vernacular: Zongdi 宗地, Zongdi Township, Ziyun County, Guizhou
  5. West Hmongic (Chuanqiandian); Luopohe subdialect: Fuyuan 复员, Fuyuan County, Yunnan
  6. Hmongic; Jiongnai: Changdong Township 长垌, Jinxiu County, Guangxi
  7. Hmongic; Baiyun Pa-Hng: Baiyun 白云, Rongshui County, Guangxi
  8. Mienic; Mien, Luoxiang vernacular: Luoxiang Township 罗香, Jinxiu County, Guangxi
  9. Mienic; Mun: Lanjin Township 览金, Lingyun County, Guangxi
  10. Mienic; Biao Min: Dongshan Yao Township 东山, Quanzhou County, Guangxi
  11. Mienic; Zao Min: Daping Township 大平, Liannan County, Guangdong

Wang & Mao (1995)[edit]

Wang & Mao (1995) base their Proto-Hmong-Mien reconstruction from the following 23 criterion Hmong-Mien languages.

  1. Yanghao 养蒿; Hmu, North (ISO 693-3: [hea])
  2. Jiwei 吉卫; Qo Xiong, West [mmr]
  3. Xianjin 先进 ( = Dananshan 大南山); Chuanqiandian Miao, 1st lect [cqd]
  4. Shimenkan 石门坎; Diandongbei Miao [hmd]
  5. Qingyan 青岩;[2] Guiyang Miao, North [huj]
  6. Gaopo 高坡; Huishui Miao, North [hmi]
  7. Zongdi 宗地; Mashan Miao, Central [hmm]
  8. Fuyuan 复员;[3] Luopohe Miao, 2nd lect [hml]
  9. Fengxiang 枫香; Chong'anjiang Miao [hmj]
  10. Qibainong 七百弄; Bunu, Dongnu [bwx]
  11. Yaoli 瑶里;[4] Nao Klao, Baonuo [bwx]
  12. Wenjie 文界; Pa-Hng, Sanjiang [pha]
  13. Changdong 长峒; Jiongnai [pnu]
  14. Duozhu 多祝;[5] She [shx]
  15. Jiangdi 江底; Iu Mien, Guangdian [ium]
  16. Xiangjiang 湘江; Iu Mien, Xiangnan [ium]
  17. Luoxiang 罗香; Luoxiang Mien AKA Ao Biao [ium]
  18. Changping 长坪; Changping Mien AKA Biao Mon [ium]
  19. Liangzi 梁子; Kim Mun [mji]
  20. Lanjin 览金; Kim Mun [mji]
  21. Dongshan 东山; Biao Mon, Dongshan [bmt]
  22. Sanjiang 三江; Biao Mon, Shikou AKA Chao Kong Meng [bmt]
  23. Daping 大坪; Dzao Min [bpn]


Martha Ratliff's 2010 reconstruction contains the following phonemic inventory.

  • 51–54 consonants (including pre-glottalized and pre-nasalized consonants)
  • 9 monophthong vowels
  • 7 diphthongs
  • 11 nasal rimes

Medial consonants are *-j-, *-l-, and *-r-.

Proto-Hmong–Mien had the following syllable structure (Ratliff 2010:10):

  (C) C [j/w/l] [i̯/u̯] (V) V C (C)T

Ratliff does not reconstruct vowel length for either Proto-Mienic or Proto-Hmong-Mien. Even though Mienic languages usually have vowel length, Ratliff ascribes this to areal features that were borrowed after the breakup of Proto-Mienic.[6] Neighboring languages with vowel length include Cantonese and Zhuang.


Below are some reconstructed words roughly belonging to the semantic domains of agriculture and subsistence (Ratliff 2004; Greenhill et al. 2008; Starling 1998). Terms for domesticated animals and non-rice crops are usually shared with Chinese, while vocabulary relating hunting, rice crops, and local plants and animals are usually not shared with Chinese.

Proto-Hmongic Old Chinese English
*ntshu C1 lhaŋʔ (象) elephant
*ʔlen A1 w(h)an (猿) monkey
*ŋgeu B2 krun (麇) river deer
*tʂo B1 hlāʔ (虎) tiger
*Glɐn B2 shōŋ (蔥) Chinese onion
*Nqa:n A1 mrū (茅) cogon grass
*n̥Ak B1 nhāʔ (弩) crossbow
*pwɒn B1 ~
m-lak-s (射) to shoot
*ɳõ C2 łhuk (逐) to track, follow
*qəi A1 kē (雞) chicken
*m-nɔk ttiwʔ (鳥) bird
*qlAu B1 ~
*hmaŋ C kkhwirʔ (犬) dog
*ʔa:p B1 ʔrāp (鴨) duck
*mpɒ C1 prā (豝) pig
*ʑwɒə:ŋ A2 g(h)ʷān (羊) sheep/goat
*ŋɔ:ŋ A2 lhijʔ (兕) water buffalo
*dəp D2 d(h)ōs (豆) bean
*peu B1 snikʷ (菽) soybean
*vəu C2 was (芋) taro
*mblau A2 lhūʔ (稻) rice plant;
growing/unhusked rice
*ntsə:i C1 mhījʔ (米) husked rice
*ȵa:ŋ C1 mhījʔ (米) cooked rice

References and notes[edit]

  1. ^
  2. ^ Baituo, Qingyan Township, Huaxi District, Guiyang 贵阳市花溪区青岩乡摆托寨
  3. ^ Yejipo, Ganba Township, Fuquan County 福泉县甘坝乡野鸡坡寨
  4. ^ Mangjiang, Yaoli Township, Nandan County 南丹县瑶里乡芒降村
  5. ^ Chenhu, Duozhu Township, Huidong County 惠东县多祝乡陈湖村
  6. ^
  • Niederer, Barbara. 1998. Les langues Hmong-Mjen (Miao-Yao): phonologie historique. Munich: Lincom Europa.
  • Ratliff, Martha (1992). Meaningful Tone: A Study of Tonal Morphology in Compounds, Form Classes, and Expressive Phrases in White Hmong. Dekalb, Illinois: Center for Southeast Asian Studies, Northern Illinois University. ISBN 1-877979-77-5. 
  • Ratliff, Martha (2004). Tapp, Michaud, Culas, and Lee, ed. Vocabulary of Environment and Subsistence in the Hmong–Mien Protolanguage. Symposium on the Hmong/Miao in Asia. (Chiang Mai, Thailand: Silkworm Books). pp. 147–165.  Manuscript.
  • Ratliff, Martha (2010). Hmong–Mien language history. Canberra, Australia: Pacific Linguistics. ISBN 0-85883-615-7. 
  • Benedict, Paul K. (1942). "Thai, Kadai and Indonesian: a new alignment in south east Asia". American Anthropologist (44): 576–601. 
  • Greenhill, S.J., Blust. R, & Gray, R.D. (2008). "Proto-Hmong–Mien word list". Austronesian Basic Vocabulary Database. Department of Psychology, University of Auckland. Retrieved 2011-04-09. 
  • Greenhill, S.J., Blust. R, & Gray, R.D. (2008). "Proto-Hmongic word list". Austronesian Basic Vocabulary Database. Department of Psychology, University of Auckland. Retrieved 2011-04-09. 
  • Greenhill, S.J., Blust. R, & Gray, R.D. (2008). "Proto-Mienic word list". Austronesian Basic Vocabulary Database. Department of Psychology, University of Auckland. Retrieved 2011-04-09. 
  • Sergei Starostin, G. Bronnikov, Phil Krylov (1998). "Database query to Chinese characters". The Tower of Babel (Starling online). George Starostin. Retrieved 2011-04-09.  (multiple entries)
  • Wang Fushi, Mao Zongwu / 王辅世, 毛宗武. 1995. Miao Yao yu gu yin gou ni / 苗瑤语古音构拟. 中国社会科学出版社.