Nungish languages

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Yunnan Province of China, Burma
Linguistic classificationSino-Tibetan
  • Nungish

The Nung or Nungish languages are a poorly described family of uncertain affiliation within the Sino-Tibetan languages spoken in Yunnan, China and Burma. They include:

The Chinese name Ālóng 阿龙, sometimes misread Ayi, refers to Nung (Anong). Two other languages were formerly included under Nungish in the Ethnologue, namely Nor(r)a and Lama; however, they have recently been removed, as Nora is another name for the moribund Khamyang Tai language of Assam,[2] and Lama (or Laemae) is a northern Bai variety that has been subsumed into the Lisu ethnic group in China.[3]

History of classification[edit]

Grierson (1928:24) tentatively put Nung (referring to the whole Nungish family, based on what was probably a Waqdamkong Rawang wordlist from J.T.O. Barnard) in the Lolo subgroup of Lolo-Mos'o, remarking, "The language appears to form a bridge between Lolo and Kachin".[4]

Luo (2000:325 [1954]) placed Gongshan Qiu (Dulongjiang Dulong) and Gongshan Nu (Nujiang Dulong) in the Tibetan language branch (along with Tibetan, Jiarong, Qiang, and Xibo), but also stated that the person-marking in Qiu and Nu resembles that of languages in Nepal, and suggested that Qiu and Nu might form their own separate branch. Sun (1982:2) postulated a close relationship between Dulong, Jingpho, and Deng; elsewhere (2007:567) he limits this to Dulong and Jingpho. In a more extensive passage (1983:234-247), he still maintains that Dulong and Deng should be included in the Jingpho branch (1983:243), but also concludes that based on the unique characteristics of Dulong, it arguably deserve its own branch of Sino-Tibetan, but it has more similarities with Jingpho than with any other branch (1983:247). Nishida (1987) places Dulong and Nung (a supergroup including Rawang and Anong) together into a group called Lolo-Burmese-Dulong, alongside the Loloish and Burmese branches, but places Nu (Nusu?) directly under the Burmese branch.

In her PhD dissertation, Cui Xia (2009) compares Dulong with Tibetan, Qiangic (Pumi), Burmese-Yi (Zaiwa and Hani), and Jingpho, concluding that Dulong is on a separate branch. The results pertaining to Jingpho are summarized in Dai & Cui 2009.

Matisoff (various places, e.g. 2003:692) likewise postulated a relationship between Nungish and Jingpho, and a grouping called Jingpho-Nung-Luish, but neither van Driem (2001) nor LaPolla (2003) have been able to find substantiating evidence. Thurgood (2003) and LaPolla (2003) propose that Nungish may be part of a larger "Rung" group. Matisoff (2013) now agrees that the relationship between Nungish and Jingpho-Luish is due to contact, not a close genetic relationship. He also reiterates a relatively close relationship between Nungish and Lolo-Burmese, particularly the Burmish branch (Matisoff 2013:5). DeLancey (2009) includes Nungish in the Rung group along with rGyalrong, Qiang, Primi, and Tangut, and places Rung tentatively under Burmic, on the same level as Lolo-Burmese-Naxi.

Recently, LaPolla has proposed a group of features that are characteristic of Rawang (LaPolla 2012:126), and also offered a reconstruction of person-marking in Proto-Dulong-Rawang (LaPolla 2013:470).

Scott DeLancey (2015)[5] suggests that Nungish may be part of a wider Central Tibeto-Burman group.


  1. ^ Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2017). "Nungish". Glottolog 3.0. Jena, Germany: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History.
  2. ^
  3. ^
  4. ^ Grierson, George Abraham. 1928. Linguistic survey of India, vol. 1, pt. 2, Comparative vocabulary. Calcutta: Government of India Central Publication Branch. [1]
  5. ^ DeLancey, Scott. 2015. "Morphological Evidence for a Central Branch of Trans-Himalayan (Sino-Tibetan)." Cahiers de linguistique - Asie oriental 44(2):122-149. December 2015. doi:10.1163/19606028-00442p02


  • Cui Xia 崔霞. 2009. Dulongyu xishu bijiao yanjiu 独龙语系属比较研究 [A comparative study of Dulong]. Beijing: Zhongyang Minzu Daxue 中央民族大学 Central Minzu University PhD dissertation.
  • Dai Qingxia 戴庆厦 & Cui Xia 崔霞. 2009. Cong Zangmianyu yufa yanbian cengci kan Dulongyu he Jingpoyu qinyuan guanxi de yuanjin 从藏缅语语法演变层次看独龙语和景颇语亲缘关系的远近 [The genetic distance between Dulong and Jingpo from the perspective of grammatical evolution of the Tibeto-Burman languages]. Zhongyang Minzu Daxue Xuebao (Zhexue shehui kexue ban) 《中央民族大学学报(哲学社会科学版)》 [Journal of the Central University for Nationalities (Philosophy and Social Sciences edition)] 2009(3). 132–139.
  • DeLancey, Scott. 2009. Sino-Tibetan languages. In Bernard Comrie (ed.), The World’s Major Languages, 693–702. 2nd edition. London & New York: Routledge.
  • van Driem, George. 2001. Languages of the Himalayas: an ethnolinguistic handbook of the greater Himalayan region. Brill.
  • Grierson, George Abraham. 1928. Linguistic survey of India, vol. 1, pt. 2, Comparative vocabulary. Calcutta: Government of India Central Publication Branch.
  • LaPolla, Randy J. 2003. Overview of Sino-Tibetan morphosyntax. In Graham Thurgood & Randy J. LaPolla (eds.), The Sino-Tibetan languages, 22–42. (Routledge Language Family Series). London & New York: Routledge.
  • LaPolla, Randy J. 2012. Comments on methodology and evidence in Sino-Tibetan comparative linguistics. Language and Linguistics 13(1). 117–132.
  • LaPolla, Randy J. 2013. Subgrouping in Tibeto-Burman: Can an individual-identifying standard be developed? How do we factor in the history of migrations and language contact? In Balthasar Bickel, Lenore A. Grenoble, David A. Peterson & Alan Timberlake (eds.), Language typology and historical contingency: In honor of Johanna Nichols, 463–474. Amsterdam & Philadelphia: John Benjamins.
  • Luo Changpei 罗常培. 2000 [1954]. Guonei shaoshu minzu yuyan wenzi gaikuang 国内少数民族语言文字概况 [An overview of in-country minority languages and writing systems (in China)]. Zhongguo Yuwen 《中国语文》 [Chinese Language and Literature] 1954(3). Reprinted in Luo Changpei Wenji Bianweihui (ed.), The collected linguistic works of Luo Changpei, vol. 9 《罗常培文集(第9卷)》 Luo Changpei wenji (di jiu juan), 324–341. Jinan: Shandong Jiaoyu Chubanshe.
  • Matisoff, James A. 2003. Handbook of Proto-Tibeto-Burman: system and philosophy of Sino-Tibetan reconstruction. Berkeley, Los Angeles, London: University of California Press.
  • Matisoff, James A. 2013. Re-examining the genetic position of Jingpho: putting flesh on the bones of the Jingpho/Luish relationship. Linguistics of the Tibeto-Burman Area 36(2). 1–106.
  • Nishida, Tatsuo. 1987. Dokuriugo oyobi Nugo no yiti ni tuite [On the position of the Trung and Nu languages]. Toohoogaku Ronshuu Fortieth Anniversary Volume. 988–973.
  • Shintani, Tadahiko. 2018. The Khwingsang language. Linguistic survey of Tay cultural area, no. 113. Tokyo: Research Institute for Languages and Cultures of Asia and Africa (ILCAA).
  • Shintani, Tadahiko. 2018. The Khrangkhu language. Linguistic survey of Tay cultural area, no. 114. Tokyo: Research Institute for Languages and Cultures of Asia and Africa (ILCAA).
  • Sun, Hongkai 孙宏开. 1982. Dulongyu jianzhi 《独龙语简志》 [A sketch of the Dulong language]. (Guojia minwei minzu wenti wuzhong congshu 1). Beijing: Minzu Chubanshe.
  • Sun, Hongkai 孙宏开. 1983. Liu jiang liuyu de minzu yuyan ji chi xishu fenlei 六江流域的民族语言及其系数分类 [Minority languages of the “six river valleys” and their respective classifications]. Minzu Xuebao 《民族学报》 1983(3). 99–274.
  • Sun, Hongkai 孙宏开. 2007. Dulongyu 独龙语 [Dulong]. In Sun Hongkai 孙宏开, Hu Zengyi 胡增益 & Huang Xing 黄行 (eds.), Zhongguo de yuyan 《中国的语言》 [The languages of China], 567–580. Beijing: The Commercial Press 商务印书馆.
  • Thurgood, Graham. 2003. A subgrouping of the Sino-Tibetan languages: The interaction between language contact, change, and inheritance. In Graham Thurgood and Randy J. LaPolla (eds.), The Sino-Tibetan languages, 3-21. (Routledge Language Family Series). London & New York: Routledge.

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