Lalo language

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Western Yi
Native to China
Ethnicity Yi
Native speakers
320,000 (2002–2010)[1]
Language codes
ISO 639-3 Variously:
ywt – Xishanba (Central)
yik – Dongshanba (Eastern, Western, East Mountain Central)
yit – Eastern
ywl – Western
Glottolog lalo1240[2]

Lalo (Chinese: 腊罗; Western Yi) is a Loloish language cluster spoken in western Yunnan, China by 300,000 speakers. Speakers are officially part of the Yi nationality, and Chinese linguists refer to it as "Western Yi" due to its distribution in western Yunnan. Lalo speakers are mostly located in southern Dali Prefecture, especially Weishan County, considered the traditional homeland of the Lalo.[3] Historically, this area is the home of the Meng clan, who ruled the Nanzhao Kingdom (737–902 CE). Many Core Lalo claim to be descendants of the Meng clan.


Cathryn Yang (2010) gives the following demographic information for various Lalo languages. Combined, speakers of Lalo languages number fewer than 300,000 people.

Wang & Zhao (2013), citing Chen, et al. (1985)[9], divide Western Yi (彝语西部方言) into two dialects, namely Dongshan and Xishan.[10] In Lincang Prefecture, Western Yi speakers number approximately 30,000 people and have the autonyms la21 lo33 pɑ21 and mi13 sa21 pa21.

  • Dongshan 东山: spoken in Weishan (eastern part), Dali, Midu (in Dajiaban 大甲板 and Xiaojiaban 小甲板), Yongping, Baoshan counties
  • Xishan 西山: spoken in Weishan (western part), Dali, Yun, Changning, Lincang, Shuangjiang, Midu, Jingdong, Jinggu counties

In Jianxing Township 建兴乡, Xinping County, Yunnan, Lalu 腊鲁 is spoken in the two administrative villages of Malutang 马鹿塘 and Mowei 磨味 by about 3,000 people (Wang 2011:11,20).[11]

  • Malutang 马鹿塘[12] (1,552 Lalu people): in the 11 villages of Goutoupo 狗头坡, Gaoyingzhai 高阴寨, Cizhujing 刺竹警, Upper Mazongshan 上马宗山, Lower Mazongshan 下马宗山, Daliqi 大力气, Yuwuxiang 玉武乡, Upper Mowei 上磨味, Lower Mowei 下磨味, Upper Yunpan 上云盘, Lower Yunpan 下云盘
  • Mowei 磨味[13] (1,460 Lalu people): in the 6 villages of Malu Dazu 马鹿大组, Lalu Xiaozhai 腊鲁小寨, Laojing 老警, Xinzhai 新寨, Tianfang 田房, and Meizijing 梅子警.


Lama (2012) splits Laluba into three dialects.

  • Misaba
  • (branch)
    • Laloba
    • Laluba (la˨˩lu̠˧pa˨˩)

A recent dialectological survey by Cathryn Yang (2010)[14] shows that the Lalo cluster comprises at least 7 closely related languages. Three of these (Eastern, Western, and Central) constitute the Core Lalo group and are located in the traditional Lalo homeland of southern Dali Prefecture. There are also four peripheral languages, Mangdi, Eka, Yangliu, and Xuzhang, whose ancestors migrated out of the Lalo homeland at different times.

All Lalo languages show a reflex of the Proto-Lalo autonym *la2lo̠Hpa̠L; i.e. the name that the Proto-Lalo called themselves are still preserved in the various modern Lalo languages. Eka speakers’ autonym is now /o˨˩kʰa˨˦/, but elder speakers remember a time when they called themselves /la˨˩u̠˧po̠˨˩/.[clarification needed]

Yang's (2010:209) phylogenetic tree of Lalo is as follows.

  • Proto-Lalo
    • Eka
    • Mangdi 芒底
    • Yangliu 杨柳
    • Greater Lalo
      • Xuzhang 徐掌
      • Core Lalo
        • Eastern
          • Taoshu 桃树
          • Core Eastern
        • Central-Western
          • Central
            • East Mountain
            • Core Central
          • Western
            • Yilu 义路
            • Core Western


  1. ^ Xishanba (Central) at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015)
    Dongshanba (Eastern, Western, East Mountain Central) at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015)
    Eastern at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015)
    Western at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015)
  2. ^ Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2017). "Lalo". Glottolog 3.0. Jena, Germany: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History. 
  3. ^ Yang, Cathryn. 2009. Regional variation in Lalo: Beyond east and west. La Trobe Papers in Linguistics, 12.
  4. ^
  5. ^
  6. ^
  7. ^
  8. ^
  9. ^ Chen Shilin [陈士林], et al. 1985. Yiyu jianzhi [彝语简志]. Beijing: Ethnic Publishing House [民族出版社].
  10. ^ Wang Xingzhong [王兴中] & Zhao Weihua [赵卫华]. 2013. Geography and multilingualism in Lincang [临沧地理与双语使用]. Kunming: Yunnan People's Press [云南人民出版社]. ISBN 978-7-222-08581-7
  11. ^ Wang Guoxu [王国旭]. 2011. A study of Lalu Yi of Xinping County [新平彝语腊鲁话研究]. Ph.D. dissertation. Beijing: Minzu University.
  12. ^
  13. ^
  14. ^ Yang, Cathryn. 2010. Lalo regional varieties: Phylogeny, dialectometry, and sociolinguistics. Melbourne: La Trobe University PhD dissertation.