Jingpho language

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Not to be confused with Jili language.
Pronunciation tɕiŋ˧˩pʰɔʔ˧˩
Native to Burma, China, India
Region Kachin State, Yingjiang County
Ethnicity Jingpo
Native speakers
ca. 940,000 (1999–2001)[1]
Dzili (Jili)
Language codes
ISO 639-2 kac
ISO 639-3 Variously:
kac – Jingpho
sgp – Singpho
tcl – Taman
Glottolog jing1260[2]
This article contains IPA phonetic symbols. Without proper rendering support, you may see question marks, boxes, or other symbols instead of Unicode characters.

Jingpho (Jinghpaw, Chingp'o) or Kachin (Burmese: ကချင်ဘာသာ [kətɕɪ̀ɴ bàðà]) is a Sino-Tibetan language of the Sal branch mainly spoken in Kachin State, Burma and Yunnan, China. The term "Kachin language" can refer either to the Jingpho language or to a group of languages spoken by various ethnic groups in the same region as Jingpo: Lisu, Lashi, Rawang, Zaiwa, Lhao Vo, Achang and Jingpho. These languages are from distinct branches of the highest level of the Sino-Tibetan family. The Jingpho alphabet is based on the Latin script. Now,the Jinghpo language is also written in Burmese script widely.

The ethnic Jingpho (or Kachin) are the primary speakers of Jingpho language, numbering approximately 900,000 speakers.[3] The Turung of Assam in India speak a Jingpho dialect with many Assamese loanwords, called Singpho.

Jingpho syllable finals can consist of vowels, nasals, or oral stops.


There are at least 16 Jingphoish (Kachinic) varieties (Kurabe 2014:59). The demographic and location information listed below is drawn from Kurabe (2014). Standard Jingpho and Nkhum are the best described varieties, whereas the Jingphoish varieties of India have been recently documented by Stephen Morey. Jingphoish varieties in northern Kachin State remain underdescribed.

The Ethnologue lists Dulong (Dalaung, Duleng), Dzili (Jili), Hkaku (Hka-Hku), and Kauri (Gauri, Guari, Hkauri). According to the Ethnologue, Dzili might be a separate language, whereas Hkaku and Kauri are only slightly different.

Other underdescribed Jingphoish varieties include Mungji and Zawbung.[4]


  • Standard Jingpho is the standard variety of Jingpho as used among the Kachin people in Myanmar, as well as by non-Kachin ethnic minorities in Kachin State. Most speakers are live in Kachin State, though some live in Shan State and Sagaing Division. It is spoken primarily in Myitkyina, Bhamo, and Kutkai. Younger generations tend to pronounce /ts/ and /dz/ as [s] and [z], contrasting them with /s/ [sʰ]. Standard Jingpho as spoken in Shan State often has ʔə- added to monosyllabic words, and also places the interrogative particle ʔi before verbs.
  • Nkhum / Enkun 恩昆 (n̩31 khum33 ka31) is spoken in Lianghe, Ruili, Longchuan, and Luxi counties of Yunnan, China.[5] It is the most widely spoken Jingpho dialect in China. The Nkhum dialect displays tense-lax register contrast, whereas Shadan does not. Although the Shadan dialect frequently has -ŋ, Nkhum often does not. The Tongbiguan 铜壁关 variety of Nkhum is used as the Jingpho standard variety in China. Small pockets of speakers are also found in Gengma County.[6]
  • Shadan / Shidan 石丹 (ʃă1 tan31 ka31) is spoken in Yunnan, China.[5] It is spoken in the townships of Kachang 卡昌 and Taiping 太平 (in Getong 格同 of Mengzhi 蒙支, Zhengtonghong 正通硔,[7] and Longpen 龙盆[8]), located in Yingjiang County 盈江县.
  • Gauri / Khauri is spoken in the Gauri Hills, located to the east of Bhamo. Villages include Prang Hkudung, Man Dau, Hkarawm Kawng, Manda, Ka Daw, Lamai Bang, Bum Wa, Ma Htang, Jahkai, and Loi Ming. In Longchuan and Yingjiang counties of Yunnan, China, there are also several dozen households that speak Gauri (kau33 ʒi31 ka31).[5]
  • Thingnai is spoken near Mohnyin, southern Kachin State.

Small pockets of Jingpho speakers are also scattered across Gengma County 耿马县, including the following villages (Dai Qingxia 2010).[6] Dai (2010) also includes 1,000-word vocabulary lists of the Yingjiang 盈江, Xinzhai 新寨, and Caoba 草坝 dialects.

  • Jingpo Xinzhai 景颇新寨, Mangkang Village 芒抗村, Hepai Township 贺派乡[9]
  • Nalong 那拢组, Nongba Village 弄巴村, Gengma Town 耿马镇[10]
  • Hewen 贺稳组, Jingxin Village 景信村, Mengding Town 孟定镇[11]
  • Hebianzhai 河边寨, Qiushan Village 邱山村, Mengding Town 孟定镇[12]
  • Caobazhai 草坝寨, Mang'ai Village 芒艾村, Mengding Town 孟定镇[13]


  • Dingga: a recently discovered Jingpho variety spoken near Putao, Kachin State, in the villages of Ding Ga, Ding Ga Gabrim, Tsa Gung Ga, Layang Ga, Dai Mare, and Mărawt Ga. These villages are all located between the Shang Hka and Da Hka rivers in northern Kachin State. There are between 2,000 and 3,000 speakers.
  • Duleng is spoken near Putao, in Machanbaw, and in the Nam Tisang valley Kachin State. The only published description is that of Yue (2006).[14]
  • Dingphan is spoken near Putao, Kachin State.
  • Jilí / Dzili
  • Khakhu is spoken near Putao, Kachin State.
  • Shang is spoken near Putao, Kachin State.
  • Tsasen is spoken in northwestern Kachin State.


Singpho (Northwestern Jingphoish) varieties of Assam and Arunachal Pradesh, India include the following.

  • Diyun is spoken in India.
  • Numphuk is spoken by about 2,000 speakers in 20 villages, including Ingthong, Ketetong, Inthem, Kumsai, Bisa, Wagun 1, Wagun 2, Wagun 3, Wakhet Na, Kherem Bisa, Guju, and Giding. These villages are situated along the Burhi Dihing river in Assam, which is called the Numhpuk Hka river in Numphuk.
  • Tieng is spoken in India.
  • Turung is spoken by about 1,200 speakers mainly in the Titabor area (in the 3 villages of Pathargaon (Na Kthong), Tipomia, and Pahukatia) and the Dhonsiri river valley (in the villages of Balipathar, Rengmai, and Basapathar). There are many Tai loanwords in Turung. Some Turung speakers also self-identify as ethnic Tai.

Internal classification[edit]

Kurabe (2014) classifies 7 Jingphoish dialects as follows.

  • Proto-Jingpho
    • Southern
      • Gauri (Khauri) (ေခၚရိ)
      • Standard Jingpho, Nkhum (Enkun) (ေအန္ကုန္)
    • Northern
      • Northwestern
        • Numphuk (ႏုမ္ဖုက္)
        • Turung (တ႐ုင္)
      • Northeastern
        • Duleng (ဒုေလင္)
        • Dingga (ဒိင္ဂ/ဒိဂၤ)

The Southern branch is characterized the loss of Proto-Jingpho final stop *-k in some lexical items. The Northern branch is characterized by the following mergers of Proto-Jingpho phonemes (Kurabe 2014:60).

  • *ts- and *c-
  • *dz- and *j-
  • *ʔy- and *∅- (before front vowels)
  • merger of Proto-Jingpho plain and preglottalized sonorants


Jingpho has verbal morphology that marks the subject and the direct object. Here is one example (the tonemes are not marked). The verb is 'to be' (rai).

person and number present past
1sg rai n ngai/ရဲဏ(ေအန္)ငဲ rai sa ngai/ရဲသငဲ
2sg rai n dai/ရဲဏ(ေအန္)ဒဲ rai sin dai/ရဲသိန္ဒဲ
3sg rai ai/ရဲအဲ rai sai/ရဲသဲ
1pl rai ga ai /ရဲဂအဲ rai sa ga dai/ရဲသဂဒဲ
2pl rai ma dai /ရဲမဒဲ rai ma sin dai/ရဲသိန္ဒဲ
3pl rai ma ai/ရဲမအဲ rai ma sai/ရဲမသဲ


Kachin writing is one of the easiest writing systems of the Tibeto-Burman languages. It's a Latin-based alphabet which contains 23 letters, diacritical marks are not used. It was originally created by American missionaries-Baptists in the late 19th century. Among the founders of the first role was Ola Hanson, who arrived in Burma in 1890, learned the language and wrote the first Kachin-English dictionary. In 1965, the alphabet was reformed.But now,Burmese script is also used to write Jinghpo language:[15]


IPA Burmanized Alphabet Old
IPA Burmanized Alphabet Old
IPA Burmanized Alphabet Old
IPA Burmanized Alphabet
b b [p] py py [pj-] ပ် r r [ʒ] k k [k-] က
p p [p-] hpy hpy [phj] ဖ် l l [l] hk hk [kj]
hp hp [ph] my my [mj] မ် y y [j] ng gr [kʒ] ျဂ
m m [m] d d [t] z z [ts] gy kr [kʒ-] ၾက
w w [w] t t [t-] ts ts [ts-] ky hkr [khʒ] ျခ
- f [f] ဖွ ht ht [th] - zh [tsh] khy gy [kj] ခ်
- br [pʒ] ျဗ n n [n] j j [tʃ] ဂ် - ky [kj-] က်
- pr [pʒ-] ျပ ny ny j] chy chy [tʃ-] ဆ် - hky [khj] ကွ်
- hpr [p] ျဖ s s [s] - ch [tʃh] - ng [ŋ]
by by [pj] ဗ် sh sh [ʃ] ရွ g g [k] - h [x]


IPA Burmanized alphabet Old
IPA Burmanized alphabet Old
IPA Burmanized alphabet Old
IPA Burmanized alphabet
i i [i] -ိ wi ui [ui] -ို en en [en] ေ- န္ awm om [om] ေ- ာမ္
e e [e] ေ- ip ip [ip] - ိပ္ eng eng [eŋ] ေ- င္ awn on [on] ေ- ာန္
a a [a] အ/- it it [it] -ိ တ္ ap ap [ap] အပ္/- ပ္ awng ong [oŋ] ေ- ာင္
aw o [o] ေ- ာ ik ik [ik] - ိက္ at at [at] အတ္/- တ္ up up [up] - ုပ္
u u [u] -ု im im [im] - ိမ္ ak ak [ak] အက္/- က္ ut ut [ut] -ု တ္
- iu [iɑu] -ူ in in [in] - ိန္ am am [am] အမ္/- မ္ uk uk [uk] - ုက္
- iau [iu] - ဳ ing ing [iŋ] -ိ င္ an an [an] အန္/- န္ um um [um] -ု မ္
ai ai [ai] -ဲ ep ep [ep] ေ- ပ္ ang ang [aŋ] အင္/- င္ un un [un] - ုန္
au au [au] ေ- ာ္ et et [et] ေ- တ္ awp op [op] ေ- ာပ္ ung ung [uŋ] - ုင္
oi oi [oi] -ြိ ek ek [ek] ေ- က္ awt ot [ot] ေ- ာတ္
- ua [uɑ] -ြ em em [em] ေ- မ္ awk ok [ok] ေ- ာက္


Jingpho (Jinghpaw) language has five tones. For example:

  • Wa (high short tone) compensate Á
  • Wa (middle tone) teeth Ä
  • Wa (high tone) father Ã
  • Wa (low tone) come back Ā
  • Wa (low short tone) pig Ą

Tones are not usually marked in writing.


  1. ^ Jingpho at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015)
    Singpho at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015)
    Taman at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015)
  2. ^ Nordhoff, Sebastian; Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2013). "Jingpho". Glottolog. Leipzig: Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology. 
  3. ^ "Ethnologue report for ISO 639 code: kac". www.ethnologue.com. Retrieved 2008-06-08. 
  4. ^ http://researchmap.jp/kur1/?lang=english
  5. ^ a b c Liu Lu. 1984. Jingpozu yuyan jianzhi, pp.121-122. Beijing: Nationalities Press.
  6. ^ a b Dai Qingxia [戴庆厦]. 2010. The Status Quo and Evolution of Language Use of The Jingpo Nationality in Gengma [耿马县景颇族语言使用现状及其演变]. Beijing: Commercial Press [商务印书馆]. ISBN 9787100071529
  7. ^ http://www.ynszxc.gov.cn/villagePage/vIndex.aspx?departmentid=150088
  8. ^ http://www.ynszxc.gov.cn/villagePage/vIndex.aspx?departmentid=150091
  9. ^ http://www.ynszxc.gov.cn/villagePage/vIndex.aspx?departmentid=117803
  10. ^ http://www.ynszxc.gov.cn/villagePage/vIndex.aspx?departmentid=80594
  11. ^ http://www.ynszxc.gov.cn/villagePage/vIndex.aspx?departmentid=78065
  12. ^ http://www.ynszxc.gov.cn/villagePage/vIndex.aspx?departmentid=61347
  13. ^ http://www.ynszxc.gov.cn/villagePage/vIndex.aspx?departmentid=61335
  14. ^ Yue, Ma La. (2006) Jingpo Dulianhua gaikuang [An overview of Duleng Jingpo]. Minzu Yuwen 2006(4): 68–81.
  15. ^ Minglang Zhou. Multilingualism in China: the politics of writing reforms for minority languages. Berlin, 2003. ISBN 3-11-017896-6


  • 景颇语-汉语词典 Jingpoyu - Hanyu cidian / Jingpho–Chinese dictionary, 戴庆夏 Dai Qingxia et al.
  • 景颇语语法 Jingpoyu yufa / Jingpho Grammar, 戴庆夏 Dai Qingxia et al.
  • Structures élémentaires de la parenté, de Claude Lévi-Strauss, devotes a chapter to the study of parenthood in the Jingpho ethnicity.
  • Inglish, Douglas. 2005. A Preliminary Ngochang - Kachin - English Lexicon. Payap University, Graduate School, Linguistics Department.
  • Kurabe, Keita. 2014. "Phonological inventories of seven Jingphoish languages and dialects." In Kyoto University Linguistic Research 33: 57-88, Dec 2014.