Proto-Kra language

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The Proto-Kra language is the reconstructed ancestor of the Kra languages. It was reconstructed in 2000 by Weera Ostapirat in his Ph.D. dissertation.

Lower-level reconstructions[edit]

Ostapirat (2000) provided preliminary phonological reconstructions for several lower-level groupings before attempting a reconstruction of Proto-Kra.

  • Proto-Kra
    • Proto-South-Western Kra
      • Proto-Western Kra (Gelao, Lachi)
      • Proto-Southern Kra (Laha)
    • Proto-Central-East Kra
      • Proto-Central Kra (Paha)
      • Proto-Eastern Kra (Buyang, Qabiao)



Proto-Kra has a total of 32 consonants, seven of which (marked in green) can occur as syllable finals (Ostapirat 2000:224, 236).

Proto-Kra Consonants
Labial Alveolar Postalveolar Retroflex Palatal Velar Glottal
Nasal m n ɳ ɲ ŋ
Unvoiced Stop p t ʈ c k ʔ
Voiced Stop b d ɖ ɟ ɡ
Unvoiced Affricate ts ʈʂ
Voiced Affricate dz ɖʐ
Unvoiced Fricative s ʃ x
Voiced Fricative z ʒ ɣ
Approximant w l j
Rhotic r


Proto-Kra has a total of 6 vowels (Ostapirat 2000:235).

Proto-Kra Vowels
Height Front Central Back
Close /i/ /u/
Mid /e/ /ə/ /o/
Open /a/

Proto-Kra has 4 diphthongs, which are not found in closed syllables.

  • *-ai
  • *-aɯ
  • *-ui
  • *-au


Proto-Kra had an A–B–C–D tonal system typical of other Tai–Kadai languages (see Proto-Tai language#Tones). The tonal descriptions below are from Ostapirat (2000:237).

  1. *A: *A is one of the most common tones.
  2. *B: *B and *D are phonetically similar, as reflexes of tone *D are often the same as those of *B. This regularly occurs in all Kra languages except for Qabiao.
  3. *C: *C is usually accompanied by glottal constriction and may have originally had a creaky or tense laryngeal quality. Some Gelao varieties and Yalang Buyang display the same reflex for
  4. *D: *D is the only tone to occur exclusively in closed syllables.

The following table of phonetic characteristics of Proto-Kra tones was adapted from Ostapirat (2000:237).

Proto-Kra Tonal Characteristics
*A *B *C *D
Type of final sonorants, vowels lax larynx (?) tense larynx stops
Voicing voiced unvoiced unvoiced unvoiced
Vocal cords vibrating wide open closed closed
Vowel duration long medium short medium

See also[edit]


  • Ostapirat, Weera. 2000. "Proto-Kra." Linguistics of the Tibeto-Burman Area 23 (1): 1-251.

External links[edit]