Gyalrong languages

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East Gyalrongic
Native toChina
Native speakers
(83,000 cited 1999)[1]
Tibetan script
Language codes
ISO 639-3jya
Map of Gyalrong languages

Gyalrong or rGyalrong (Tibetan: རྒྱལ་རོང, Wylie: rgyal rong, THL: gyalrong), also rendered Jiarong (simplified Chinese: 嘉绒语; traditional Chinese: 嘉絨語; pinyin: Jiāróngyǔ), or sometimes Gyarung, is a subbranch of the Gyalrongic languages spoken by the Gyalrong people in Western Sichuan, China. Lai et al. (2020) refer to this group of languages as East Gyalrongic.[2]


The name Gyalrong is an abbreviation of Tibetan ཤར་རྒྱལ་མོ་ཚ་བ་རོང, shar rgyal-mo tsha-ba rong , "the hot valleys of the queen", to which the queen being Mount Murdo (in Tibetan, dmu-rdo).[3][4] Mount Murdo is in the historical region of Kham, now mostly located inside Ngawa Tibetan and Qiang Autonomous Prefecture in Sichuan. This Tibetan word is transcribed in Chinese as 嘉绒 or 嘉戎 or 嘉荣, jiāróng. It is pronounced [rɟɑroŋ] by speakers of Situ. It is a place-name and is not used by the people to designate their own language. The autonym is pronounced [kəru] in Situ and [kɯrɯ] in Japhug. The Gyalrong people are the descendants of former Tibetan warriors at the border, where they settled as time went by.[5]


Based on mutual intelligibility, Gates (2014)[6] considers there to be five Gyalrong languages:

  • Situ (Chinese: Situ, 四土话) or less precisely Eastern Gyalrong
  • Japhug (Chinese: Chapu, 茶堡)
  • Tshobdun (Chinese: Caodeng, 草登; along with Zbu, next, also called Sidaba)
  • Zbu (Chinese: Ribu, 日部, also Rdzong'bur or Showu)
  • Gyalrong (south-central)

Situ has more than 100,000 speakers throughout a widespread area, while the other three languages, all spoken in Barkam, have fewer than 10,000 speakers each.[7] They are all tonal except for Japhug.

Most early studies on Gyalrong languages (Jin 1949, Nagano 1984, Lin 1993) focused on various dialects of Situ, and the three other languages were not studied in detail until the last decade of the 20th century. The differences between the four languages are presented here in a table of cognates. The data from Situ is taken from Huang and Sun 2002, the Japhug and Showu data from Jacques (2004, 2008) and the Tshobdun data from Sun (1998, 2006).

gloss Situ Japhug Tshobdun Showu
badger pə́s βɣɯs ɣves təvîs
dream ta-rmô tɯ-jmŋo tɐ-jmiʔ tɐ-lmɐʔ
I saw pɯ-mtó-t-a nɐ-mti-aŋ
sheep kəjó qaʑo qɐɟjiʔ ʁiɐʔ

Gyalrong languages, unlike most Sino-Tibetan languages, are polysynthetic languages and present typologically interesting features such as inverse marking (Sun and Shi 2002, Jacques 2010), ideophones (Sun 2004, Jacques 2008), and verbal stem alternations (Sun 2000, 2004, Jacques 2004, 2008). See Situ language for an example of the latter.


Gates (2012: 102–106)[8] lists the following demographic information for 5 rGyalrong languages. Altogether, there are about 85,000 speakers for all 5 languages combined.

Language Speakers Villages Dialects Alternate names Locations
Situ 35,000–40,000 57 7+ rGyalrong, kəru, roŋba almost entirely in Barkam County; NE Jinchuan County; NW Li County
rGyalrong, South-central 33,000 (out of 45,000 ethnic people) 111 3+ rGyalrong, roŋba Xiaojin, Danba, and Baoxing Counties
Japhug 4,000–5,000 19 3 townships in NE Barkam County, namely Lóng'ěrjiǎ, Dàzàng, and Shā'ěrzōng
Tshobdun 3,000 10 stodpaskʰət Caodeng/Tsho-bdun (WT Tshobdun) Township, Barkam County
Zbu 6,000+ 28 stodpaskʰət Barkam, Rangtang, Seda, and Aba counties

Morphology and Syntax[edit]

In contrast to much of Sino-Tibetan, Gyalrong languages have a complex morphology; Japhug is polysynthetic. They tend to be prefixing, with Japhug being strongly so, with nine possible slots in its prefix chain. The Gyalrong verb distinguishes singular, dual, and plural numbers. While some parts of the Gyalrong prefix template are likely quite old, at least four slots in the prefix chain have been recently innovated.[9]

Syntactically, Gyalrong languages have SOV basic word order, and have been so for quite a while, Jacques argues. This combination of SOV word order with prefixing tendencies is typologically quite rare, although it is found also in Ket and various Athabaskan languages.[9]


  1. ^ Gyalrong at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015) (subscription required)
  2. ^ Lai, Yunfan; Gong, Xun; Gates, Jesse P.; Jacques, Guillaume (2020-12-01). "Tangut as a West Gyalrongic language". Folia Linguistica. 54 (s41–s1). Walter de Gruyter GmbH: 171–203. doi:10.1515/flih-2020-0006. ISSN 1614-7308.
  3. ^ Prins, Marielle. 2011. A web of relations: A grammar of rGyalrong Ji omùzú, p. 18.
  4. ^ Bennett, Daniel (2014). Rgyalrong Conservation and Change: Social Change on the Margins. Lulu Press. p. 24. ISBN 978-1-4834-1951-0.
  5. ^ Li, Mao 李茂; Li, Zhongjun 李忠俊 (2011). Jiāróng zàngzú mínsú zhì 嘉絨藏族民俗志 (in Chinese). Beijing: Zhongyang minzu daxue chubanshe. p. 44.
  6. ^ Gates, Jesse P. (2014). Situ in Situ : Towards a Dialectology of Jiarong (rGyalrong). München: Lincom Europa. ISBN 978-3-86288-472-8.
  7. ^ Jacques, Guillaumes (2017). "Rgyalrong Language". Encyclopedia of Chinese Language and Linguistics. Vol. 3: Men–Ser. Leiden: Brill. p. 583.
  8. ^ Gates, Jesse P. (2012). Situ in Situ: Towards a Dialectology of Jiāróng (rGyalrong) (M.A. thesis). Trinity Western University – via
  9. ^ a b Jacques, Guillaume (2013). "Harmonization and Disharmonization of Affix Ordering and Basic Word Order". Linguistic Typology. 17 (2): 187–215. doi:10.1515/lity-2013-0009. S2CID 55555480.
  • Huang, Liangrong 黄良荣; Sun, Hongkai 孙宏开 (2002). Hàn Jiāróngyǔ cídiǎn 汉嘉戎语词典 [A Chinese–rGyalrong Dictionary] (in Chinese). Beijing: Minzu chubanshe.
  • Jacques, Guillaume (2004). Phonologie et morphologie du japhug (rGyalrong) (Doctor's thesis) (in French). Université Paris VII – Denis Diderot.
  • Jacques, Guillaume (2008). Jiāróngyǔ yánjiū 嘉绒语研究 [A Study on the rGyalrong Language] (in Chinese). Beijing: Minzu chubanshe.
  • Jacques, Guillaume (2010). "The Inverse in Japhug Rgyalrong". Language and Linguistics. 11 (1): 127–157.
  • Jacques, Guillaume (2012). "From Denominal Derivation to Incorporation". Lingua. 122 (11): 1207–1231. CiteSeerX doi:10.1016/j.lingua.2012.05.010.
  • Jacques, Guillaume (2012). "Argument Demotion in Japhug Rgyalrong". In Authier, Gilles; Haude, Katharina (eds.). Ergativity, Valency and Voice. Berlin: De Gruyter Mouton. pp. 199–225.
  • Jacques, Guillaume (2013). "Harmonization and Disharmonization of Affix Ordering and Basic Word Order". Linguistic Typology. 17 (2): 187–215. doi:10.1515/lity-2013-0009. S2CID 55555480.
  • Jacques, Guillaume (2013). "Ideophones in Japhug (Rgyalrong)". Anthropological Linguistics. 55 (3): 256–287. doi:10.1353/anl.2013.0014. S2CID 143579082.
  • Jacques, Guillaume (2014). "Denominal Affixes as Sources of Antipassive Markers in Japhug Rgyalrong". Lingua. 138: 1–22. doi:10.1016/j.lingua.2013.09.011.
  • Jacques, Guillaume (2014). "Clause Linking in Japhug". Linguistics of the Tibeto-Burman Area. 37 (2): 264–328. doi:10.1075/ltba.37.2.05jac.
  • Jin, Peng 金鹏 (1949). "Etude sur le Jyarung". Han hiue (in French). 3: 3–4.
  • Lin, You-Jing (2003). "Tense and Aspect Morphology in the Zhuokeji rGyalrong Verb". Cahiers de linguistique – Asie orientale. 32 (2): 245–286. doi:10.3406/clao.2003.1633.
  • Lin, Youjing 林幼菁; Luo, Erwu 罗尔武 (2003). "Chábǎo Jiāróngyǔ Dàzànghuà de qūxiàng qiánzhuì yǔ dòngcí cígàn de biànhuà" 茶堡嘉戎语大藏话的趋向前缀与动词词干的变化. Mínzú yǔwén 民族語文 (in Chinese). 2003 (4): 19–29.
  • Lin, You-Jing (2009). Units in Zhuokeji rGyalrong Discourse: Prosody and Grammar (PhD thesis). University of California at Santa Barbara.
  • Lin, Xiangrong 林向荣 (1993). Jiāróngyǔ yánjiū 嘉戎语研究 [A Study on the rGyalrong Language]. Chengdu: Sichuan minzu chubanshe.
  • Nagano, Yasuhiko (1984). A Historical Study of the rGyarong Verb System. Seishido.
  • Sun, Jackson T.-S. (2007). "The Irrealis Category in rGyalrong" (PDF). Language & Linguistics. 8 (3): 797–819.
  • Sun, Jackson T.-S. 孫天心 (2006). "Jiāróngyǔ dòngcí de pàishēng xíngtài" 嘉戎語動詞的派生形態. Mínzú yǔwén 民族語文 (in Chinese). 2006 (4): 3–14.
  • Sun, Jackson T.-S. 孫天心 (2006). "Cǎodēng Jiāróngyǔ de guānxì jù" 草登嘉戎語的關係句 [Relative Clauses in Caodeng rGyalrong] (PDF). Language & Linguistics (in Chinese). 7 (4): 905–933.
  • Sun, Jackson T.-S. 孫天心 (2004). "Cǎodēng Jiāróngyǔ de zhuàngmàocí" 草登嘉戎語的狀貌詞 [The Ideophones in Caodeng rGyalrong]. Mínzú yǔwén 民族語文. 2004 (5): 1–11.
  • Sun, Jackson T.-S. (2004). "Verb-stem Variations in Showu rGyalrong". In Lin, Yin-chin; Hsu, Fang-min; Lee, Chǔn-chih; Sun, Jackson T.-S.; Yang, Hsiu-fang; Ho, Dah-an (eds.). Studies on Sino-Tibetan Languages: Papers in Honor of Professor Hwang-Cherng Gong on His Seventieth Birthday. Taipei: Institute of Linguistics, Academia Sinica. pp. 269–296.
  • Sun, Jackson T.-S. (2003). "Caodeng rGyalrong". In Thurgood, Graham; LaPolla, Randy J. (eds.). The Sino-Tibetan Languages. London: Routledge. pp. 490–502.
  • Sun, Jackson T.-S. 孫天心 (2002). "Cǎodēng Jiāróngyǔ yǔ "rèntóng děng dì" xiāngguān de yǔfǎ xiànxiàng" 草登嘉戎語與「認同等第」相關的語法現象 [Empathy Hierarchy in Caodeng rGyalrong Grammar]. Language & Linguistics (in Chinese). 3 (1): 79–99.
  • Sun, Jackson T.-S. (2000). "Parallelisms in the Verb Morphology of Sidaba rGyalrong and Guanyinqiao in rGyalrongic" (PDF). Language & Linguistics. 1 (1): 161–190.

Further reading[edit]

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