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Kri language

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Krìì, meengq Kri
Native toLaos or Vietnam
Native speakers
250 (2009)[1]
  • Kri
  • Phóng
  • Mlengbrou
Language codes
ISO 639-3aem
pkt-kha [2]
Kri is classified as Severely Endangered by the UNESCO Atlas of the World's Languages in Danger
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Kri (Krìì) is a Vietic language spoken by the Kri people of Laos and Vietnam.


Alternative names for Kri include Karii, K[a]ri-Phoong, Kha Phoong, Coi, and Salang.[4]


Kri speakers live in the Upper Ñrong (Nam Noy) valley of Khammouane Province, Laos, as well as other locations within the Nakai-Nam Theun Biodiversity Conservation Area. It is mutually intelligible with Pròòngq, which is spoken in several villages downstream from the Kri (Enfield & Diffloth 2009).

Kri is spoken in the following villages of Laos and Vietnam.[5]


The Kri call themselves mleeng Kri, and their language meengq Kri. They are swidden cultivators who move every 2–3 years among pre-existing village sites (Chamberlain 1998).[6] Houses are torn down after the death of a household member, and the housing materials are then used to construct a new house in a different location. Other than the Kri language, many adults, especially men, are also fluent in Vietnamese, Saek, Bru, and Lao.

Kri has been studied by the Russian-Vietnamese Linguistic Expedition in 2012.[4]



The consonants in Kri are:

Labial Alveolar Retroflex Palatal Velar Glottal
Nasal m n ɲ ŋ
Stop implosive ɓ ɗ ʄ
tenuis p t ʈʂ c k ʔ
aspirated ʈʂʰ
Fricative s h
Approximant w l r~ʐ j~ʝ ɣ


These are the consonants that may come at the end of a syllable in Kri:

Bilabial Alveolar Palatal Velar
Checked [] [] []
Nasal [m] [n] [ɲ] [ŋ]
Oral [w] [l] , [r] [j] Vowel

Do note that they are all contrastive, and that vowels, nasal consonants, and oral consonants may have checked endings. The Oral endings also may become voiceless.


Kri has a few morphological features, less than Khmu but more than Vietnamese.

Causative Infix[edit]

The -a- infix may be inserted into words with two initial consonants, between them. This infix turns intransitive verb into a transitive verb, adding an agent. It can also turn a noun into a verb. Here are some examples:

  • praang - to cross over
  • paraang - to take someone across

  • slôôj - to be washed away by running water
  • salôôj - to discard into flowing water, to let something be washed away

  • kleeh - to fall off
  • kaleeh - to pick off

  • blang - of the eyes, to become open (like a young dog's)
  • balang - to open one's eyes

  • ckaang - a hand span
  • cakaang - to measure something by hand spans

Nominalising Infix[edit]

The -rn- infix is placed after a single initial consonant. This infix makes a noun from a verb:

  • sat - to get one's foot stuck
  • srnat - a foothold

  • koq - to live
  • krnoq - a house

This shortens to -r- when between consonants:

  • kadôôlq - to rest the head on something
  • krdôôlq - a pillow

Verbal Morphology[edit]

There are three forms of negation: dêêh, laa, and cùù. There have distinct syntactic behavior. Cùù occurs before the subject (e.g. sentence initially). Both dêêh and laa can occur before the verb (after the subject). Dêêh is distinct from laa in that dêêh can occur in responsive ellipsis environments (i.e. as a stand alone word after a questions).[7]

There are a variety of TAM markers (which supply information about the tense, aspect, or mood) of predicates.[7]


The basic word order of Kri is SVO, although argument ellipsis and fronting of constituents is common. Further, there is no case marking or cross-referencing agreement.[7]

Verbal Domain[edit]

Serial verb constructions have an explicit marker of subordination (kùù).[7]

Nominal Domain[edit]

Kri pronouns displays sensitivity to the three grammatical numbers in Kri (singular, dual and plural), as well inclusive/exclusive distinction, and (for the singular) a polite/bare distinctions. A gender distinction is made only in the third person polite forms. Polite forms are used when there is appropriate social distance (e.g. by age or kinship).

Personal Pronouns
singular dual plural
bare polite
1st person exclusive teeq
koon ñaar caa
inclusive saa cawq
2nd person cak mii maar prii
3rd person feminine hanq mooq qaar paa
masculine qôông


The classifier longq can be (but need not be) used to express possession. There are also numeral classifier constructions. These can be ordered Number-Classifier-Noun or Noun-Number-Classifier.[7]


  1. ^ Kri at Ethnologue (25th ed., 2022) Closed access icon
  2. ^ Names/varieties are listed as Kha Phong, Maleng Kari, Maleng Bro, Kha Nam Om, Phong, Phòòngq
  3. ^ Endangered Languages Project data for Pong.
  4. ^ a b Babaev, Kirill; Samarina, Irina (2021). Sidwell, Paul (ed.). A Grammar of May: An Austroasiatic Language of Vietnam. Brill. pp. 12–13. ISBN 978-9-00446-108-6.
  5. ^ Babaev, Kirill Vladimirovich [Бабаев, Кирилл Владимирович]; Samarina, Irina Vladimirovna [Самарина, Ирина Владимировна]. 2019. Язык май. Материалы Российско-вьетнамской лингвистической экспедиции / Jazyk maj. Materialy Rossijsko-vetnamskoj lingvisticheskoj ekspeditsii. Moscow: Издательский Дом ЯСК. ISBN 978-5-907117-34-1. (in Russian). p.16.
  6. ^ Chamberlain, J.R. 1998, "The origin of Sek: implications for Tai and Vietnamese history", in The International Conference on Tai Studies, ed. S. Burusphat, Bangkok, Thailand, pp. 97-128. Institute of Language and Culture for Rural Development, Mahidol University.
  7. ^ a b c d e f Enfield, Nicholas J.; Diffloth, Gérard (2009). "Phonology and sketch grammar of Kri, a Vietic language of Laos" (PDF). Cahiers de Linguistique Asie Orientale. 38 (1): v-69. doi:10.1163/1960602809X00063. hdl:11858/00-001M-0000-0013-4111-0.

Further reading[edit]

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