Northern Qiang language

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Northern Qiang
RegionSichuan Province
EthnicityQiang people
Native speakers
58,000 (1999)[1]
Language codes
ISO 639-3cng
Glottolognort2722  Northern Qiang[2]
sout3257  Southeast Maoxian Qiang[3]
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Northern Qiang is a Sino-Tibetan language of the Qiangic branch spoken by approximately 60,000 people in north-central Sichuan Province, China.

Unlike its close relative Southern Qiang, Northern Qiang is not a tonal language.

Northern Qiang dialects[edit]

Northern Qiang is composed of several different dialects, many of which are easily mutually intelligible. Sun Hongkai in his book on Qiang in 1981 divides Northern Qiang into the following dialects: Luhua, Mawo, Zhimulin, Weigu, and Yadu. These dialects are located in Heishui County as well as the northern part of Mao County. The Luhua, Mawo, Zhimulin, and Weigu varieties of Northern Qiang are spoken by the Heishui Tibetans. The Mawo dialect is considered to be the prestige dialect by the Heishui Tibetans.

Names seen in the older literature for Northern Qiang dialects include Dzorgai (Sifan), Kortsè (Sifan), Krehchuh, and Thóchú/Thotcu/Thotśu. The last is a place name.[4]

Sims (2016)[5] characterizes Northern (Upstream) Qiang as the *nu- innovation group. Individual dialects are highlighted in italics.

Northern Qiang
  • NW Heishui: Luhua 芦花镇
  • Central Heishui
    • Qinglang 晴朗乡
    • Zhawo 扎窝乡
    • Ciba 慈坝乡
    • Shuangliusuo 双溜索乡
    • uvular V's innovation group: Zhimulin 知木林乡, Hongyan 红岩乡, Mawo 麻窝乡
  • SE Heishui: Luoduo 洛多乡, Longba 龙坝乡, Musu 木苏乡, Shidiaolou 石碉楼乡
  • North Maoxian: Taiping 太平乡, Songpinggou 松坪沟乡
  • South Songpan: Xiaoxing 小姓乡, Zhenjiangguan 镇江关乡, Zhenping 镇坪乡
  • West Maoxian / South Heishui: Weigu 维古乡, Waboliangzi 瓦钵乡梁子, Se'ergu 色尔古镇, Ekou, Weicheng 维城乡, Ronghong, Chibusu, Qugu 曲谷乡, Wadi 洼底乡, Baixi 白溪乡, Huilong 回龙乡, Sanlong 三龙乡
  • Central Maoxian: Heihu 黑虎乡
  • SE Maoxian (reflexive marker innovation): Goukou 沟口乡, Yonghe 永和乡

Northern Qiang consonants[edit]

Labial Dental Post-alveolar Palatal Velar Uvular Glottal
Retroflex Alveolo-
Nasal m n ɲ ŋ
Plosive voiceless p t k q
voiced b d ɡ
Affricate voiceless ʦ ʧ ʈʂ ʨ
aspirated ʦʰ ʧʰ ʈʂʰ ʨʰ
voiced ʣ ʤ ɖʐ ʥ
Fricative voiced β z ʐ ʑ ɣ ʁ
voiceless ɸ s ʂ ɕ x χ h
Trill voiced r
Lateral voiced l
voiceless ɬ
Approximant ɻ j w

Vowel harmony[edit]

Vowel harmony exists in the Mawo (麻窝) dialect. For example, the realization of the word "one" (a) is influenced by the classifiers:[6]

  • e si (a day)
  • a qep (a can)
  • ɑ pɑu (a packet)
  • o ʁu (a barrel)
  • ɘ ʑu (a pile)
  • ø dy (a mouth)


Letter IPA
a a
ae æ
b p
bb b
c t͡sʰ
ch ʈ͡ʂʰ
d t
dd d
dh ɖ͡ʐ
e ə
ea e
f f
g k
gg ɡ
gv q
h x
hh ɣ
hv h
i i
iu y
j t͡ɕ
jj d͡ʑ
l l
lh ɬ
m m
n n
ng ŋ
ny ȵ
o o
ph ɸ
q t͡ɕʰ
rr ʐ
s s
sh ʂ
ss z
u u
v χ
vh ɦ
vv ʁ
w w,
x ɕ
xx ʑ
y j
z t͡s
zh ʈ͡ʂ
zz d͡z

Nasalized vowels are indicated with trailing nn, rhotacized vowels are indicated with trailing r, long vowels are indicated by doubling the vowel letter.


As with many of the Qiangic languages, Northern Qiang is becoming increasingly threatened. Because the education system largely uses Standard Chinese as a medium of instruction for the Qiang people, and as a result of the universal access to schooling and TV, most Qiang children are fluent or even monolingual in Chinese while an increasing percentage cannot speak Qiang.[7]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Northern Qiang at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015)
  2. ^ Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2017). "Northern Qiang". Glottolog 3.0. Jena, Germany: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History.
  3. ^ Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2017). "Southeast Maoxian Qiang". Glottolog 3.0. Jena, Germany: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History.
  4. ^ UC Berkeley, 1992, Linguistics of the Tibeto-Burman Area, vol. 15, pp. 76–77.
  5. ^ Sims, Nathaniel. 2016. Towards a More Comprehensive Understanding of Qiang Dialectology. Language and Linguistics 17(3), 351–381. DOI:10.1177/1606822X15586685
  6. ^ "羌语简志" by 孙宏开
  7. ^ Randy J. LaPolla, Chenglong Huan (2003). A Grammar of Qiang: With annotated texts and glossary. Mouton de Gruyter. p. 5. ISBN 978-3110178296.


  • Bradley, David. (1997). Tibeto-Burman languages and classification. In D. Bradley (Ed.), Papers in South East Asian linguistics: Tibeto-Burman languages of the Himalayas (No. 14, pp. 1–71). Canberra: Pacific Linguistics.
  • LaPolla, Randy J. with Chenglong Huang. 2003. A Grammar of Qiang, with Annotated Texts and Glossary (Mouton Grammar Library). Berlin. Mouton de Gruyter.
  • Evans, Jonathan P. 2006. Vowel quality in Hongyan Qiang. Language and Linguistics 7.4: 937-960.