Horpa language

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Native to China
Region Sichuan and Tibet
Native speakers
50,000 (2002–2004)[1]
Language codes
ISO 639-3 Either:
ero – Horpa
jih – sTodsde (Shangzhai)
Glottolog horp1240[2]

Horpa (Chinese: 道孚语 Daofu, 爾龔語 Ergong), also named Stau, Daofuhua, Bawang, Bopa, Danba, Dawu, Geshitsa, Geshiza, Geshizahua, Hor, Huo’er, Hórsók, Nyagrong-Minyag, Pawang, Rgu, Western Gyarong, Western Jiarong, Xinlong-Muya, rTau[3], is one of several closely related Rgyalrongic languages of China. Horpa is better understood as a cluster of closely related yet unintelligible dialect groups/languages closely related to Horpa Shangzhai or Stodsde skad. The term Stodsde skad is a Tibetan name meaning "language of the people of the far Northwest".


Horpa is a type of Rgyalrongic language, a branch of the Qiangic languages of the Sino-Tibetan family. Rgyalrong (proper), Lavrung, and Horpa-Shangzhai are in the Rgyalrongic subgroup. These have been organized into a family tree by Sun (2000).[4] Horpa and Shangzhai are sub-types of Horpa-Shangzhai, a Rgyalrongic language.

Geographic Distribution[edit]

Horpa is spoken in Dasang District, Danba County of Garzê Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, Sichuan.[5] There are about 50,000 Horpa speakers in the northwestern Sichuan. It is also spoken in nearby Dawu County, where it is called 'Stau', pronounced [stawuske].[6]

The cluster of languages variously referred to as Stau, Ergong or Horpa in the literature are spoken over a large area from Ndzamthang county (in Chinese Rangtang 壤塘县) in Rngaba prefecture (Aba 阿坝州) to Rtau county (Dawu 道孚) in Dkarmdzes prefecture (Ganzi 甘孜州), in Sichuan province, China. At the moment of writing, it is still unclear how many unintelligible varieties belong to this group, but at least three must be distinguished: the language of Rtau county (referred to as ‘Stau’ in this paper), the Dgebshes language (Geshizha 格什扎话) spoken in Rongbrag county (Danba 丹巴), and the Stodsde language (Shangzhai 上寨) in Ndzamthang.[7]

Ergong is a non-tonal language (Sun 2013).[8]


The language has dialects (varieties of languages), such as the Shangzhai Horpa and Gexi Horpa (Sun 2013).[9]

Ethnologue lists sTodsde (Shangzhai 上寨, Western Jiarong) as a language variety of Shangzhai district, southern Rangtang County, where it is spoken in Puxi, Shili, and Zongke townships, and around the Duke and Zhongke rivers' confluence. There are 4,100 speakers as of 2004. Dialects are Dayili (Northern), Zongke (宗科乡; Western), and Puxi (蒲西乡; Eastern). Phonologically, the Northern and Western dialects are similar to each other, while the Eastern dialect is divergent.


Shangzhai Horpa (Puxi Shangzhai) is a dialect of the Horpa language noted by a single consistently non-syllabic causative prefix "s", which exerts pressure on the already elaborate onset system and triggers multiple phonological adjustments (Sun 2007).[10] Gexi Horpa language not only has split verbal agreement system like rGyalrong but also has a hybrid system involving a more intricate interplay of functional and syntactic factors (Sun 2013).[9] The verbs in the rGylarongic family are marked for person and agreement, and Horpa language also has subtype of hierarchical agreement.

Stau is another name for the Horpa language (Jacques et al. 2013).[11] As a dialect of rGyalrong language, the Stau (Horpa) language follows some traits of the Tibetan language (Bradley 2012).[12] As a Qiangic language, Horpa has unique verb inflection and morphology such as the strategy of inverting the aspiration feature in the formation of the past and progressive stem(s) (Sun 2000).[4]


Verb agreement

The Horpa verb agrees with its subject. For example, zbəcʰa-i [zbəcʰe], means ‘you beat’, and zbəcʰa-u [zbəcʰo], means, 'I beat’.[13]


  1. ^ Horpa at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015)
    sTodsde (Shangzhai) at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015)
  2. ^ Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2017). "Horpa–Shangzhai". Glottolog 3.0. Jena, Germany: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History. 
  3. ^ "Horpa". Ethnologue. Retrieved 2017-05-01. 
  4. ^ a b Sun, Jackson T. S. "Stem alternations in Puxi verb inflection: toward validating the rGyalrongic subgroup in Qiangic" (PDF). Language and linguistics. 1: 161–190. 
  5. ^ "Chinese: 甘孜州丹巴县大桑区尔龚" Chinese: ; pinyin: Sūn, Chinese: 宏开; pinyin: Hóngkāi (1991). Chinese: 藏缅语音和词汇 [Tibeto-Burman Phonology and Lexicon]. Chinese Social Sciences Press. p. 211. 
  6. ^ Gates, J. P. (2016), Verbal Triplication Morphology in Stau (Mazi Dialect). Transactions of the Philological Society. doi: 10.1111/1467-968X.12083
  7. ^ Guillaume Jacques; Lai Yunfan; Anton Antonov; Lobsang Nima (January 29, 2015). Stau. Retrieved 11 May 2015. 
  8. ^ Sun Hongkai. 2013. Tibeto-Burman languages of eight watersheds [八江流域的藏缅语]. Beijing: China Social Sciences Academy Press.
  9. ^ a b Sun, Jackson T.-S.; Tian, Qianzi (2013-01-24). "Verb Agreement in Gexi Horpa". Bulletin of Chinese Linguistics. 7 (2): 203–223. doi:10.1163/2405478X-90000120. ISSN 2405-478X. 
  10. ^ Sun, Jackson T.-S. (2007-01-24). "Morphological Causative Formation in Shangzhai Horpa". Bulletin of Chinese Linguistics. 2 (1): 211–232. doi:10.1163/2405478X-90000031. ISSN 2405-478X. 
  11. ^ Gates, Jesse P. "Situ in situ: towards a dialectology of Jiāróng (rGyalrong)". 
  12. ^ Bradley, David. "Tibeto-Burman languages of China". 
  13. ^ Sun, Jackson T. (2013). "Horpa Language in Xichuan Province [Chinese: 川西霍爾語格西話動詞對協初探.]". Bulletin of Chinese Linguistics. 

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