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Standard Zhuang

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Standard Zhuang
Native toChina
Latin (official), Sawndip
Official status
Recognised minority
language in
Regulated byEthnic Minority Language Work Committee of Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region[1][2]
Language codes
ISO 639-1za (all Zhuang)
ISO 639-2zha
ISO 639-3None (mis)
This article contains IPA phonetic symbols. Without proper rendering support, you may see question marks, boxes, or other symbols instead of Unicode characters. For an introductory guide on IPA symbols, see Help:IPA.
Books of Zhuang language

Standard Zhuang (autonym: Vahcuengh, Zhuang pronunciation: [βa˧ɕuːŋ˧]; pre-1982 autonym: Vaƅcueŋƅ; Sawndip: 話壯; simplified Chinese: 壮语; traditional Chinese: 壯語; pinyin: Zhuàngyǔ) is the official standardized form of the Zhuang languages, which are a branch of the Northern Tai languages. Its pronunciation is based on that of the Yongbei Zhuang dialect of Shuangqiao Town in Wuming District, Guangxi with some influence from Fuliang, also in Wuming District,[3] while its vocabulary is based mainly on northern dialects. The official standard covers both spoken and written Zhuang. It is the national standard of the Zhuang languages, though in Yunnan a local standard is used.[4][5]


The following displays the phonological features of the Wuming and northern dialects of Zhuang:[6][7]


Standard Zhuang consonants
Labial Dental/
Velar Glottal
plain pal. plain pal. lab.
Nasal m n ɲ ŋ ŋʷ
Plosive voiceless p t k ʔ
implosive ɓ ɗ
Fricative f θ ɕ ɣ h
Approximant plain l j w
glottalised ˀj ˀw

Among other northern dialects of Zhuang, /w/ may be heard as a [β] or [v] sound. Absent consonant produces /ʔ/.

An unusual and rare feature that Zhuang has is the lack of /s/, which is a common fricative among most languages that have them (one other notable exception is in the Australian languages), and yet Zhuang has five fricatives and no /s/.


Standard Zhuang vowels
Front Central Back
High i ɯ u
Mid e (ə) o
Low a

[ə] only occurs in diphthong or triphthong sounds.

[ɤ] can occur in recent Chinese loanwords.[8]

Among other northern Zhuang dialects, /e, o/ have shortened allophones of [ɛ, ɔ].[9]


Standard Zhuang has six tones, reduced to two (numbered 3 and 6) in checked syllables:

Tone Contour IPA Letters
Description Example Gloss
1 24 /ǎ/ /˨˦/ (none) rising son to teach
2 31 /a᷆/ /˧˩/ Ƨ ƨ Z z low falling mwngz thou
3 55 /a̋/ /˥/ З з J j high level hwnj to climb up
-p/t/k high checked bak a mouth
4 42 /â/ /˦˨/ Ч ч X x falling max a horse
5 35 /a᷄/ /˧˥/ Ƽ ƽ Q q high rising gvaq to cross
6 33 /ā/ /˧/ Ƅ ƅ H h mid level dah a river
-b/g/d mid checked bag to hack

The sentence Son mwngz hwnj max gvaq dah (Son mɯŋƨ hɯnз maч gvaƽ daƅ) "Teach thee to climb on a horse to cross a river" is often used to help people remember the six tones.

Tones for open syllables (not terminated by a closing consonant) are written at end of syllables.

Closed syllables can only have two tones, high and mid checked, high being shown by the final consonant being devoiced (p/t/k), and mid by it being voiced (b/d/g).



Singular Plural
exclusive gou (𭆸) dou (杜)
inclusive raeuz (僂)
2nd person mwngz (佲) sou (𠈅)
3rd person de (𬿇) gyoengqde (𬾀𬿇)


Zhuang uses an SVO word order.


Zhuang words can be made up of one, two, or three syllables - one and two-syllable words (e.g. dahraix, 'really') cannot be broken down into morphemes, but trisyllabic words can be. Compound words also exist - for example, mingzcoh, 'name'. Prefixes and suffixes are also frequently used, such as "daih-" (borrowed from Chinese: ; pinyin: ). Reduplication is also used.[8]



Zhuang Sawndip manuscript

The Old Zhuang script, Sawndip, is a Chinese character–based writing system, similar to Vietnamese chữ nôm. Some Sawndip logograms were borrowed directly from Chinese, while others were created from the components of Chinese characters. Sawndip has been used for over one thousand years for various Zhuang dialects. Unlike Chinese, Sawndip has never been standardized and authors may differ in their choices of characters or spelling, and it is not currently part of the official writing system.

Modern Latin alphabet [edit]

In 1957, the People's Republic of China introduced an alphabetical script for the newly standardized Zhuang language. The alphabet was based on the Latin script, expanded with modified Cyrillic and IPA letters. A reform in 1982 replaced both the Cyrillic and IPA letters with Latin letters to facilitate printing and computer use.[10] These alphabetical scripts are part of Standard Zhuang.

1982 1957 IPA
A a //
AE ae Ə ə /a/
B b /p/
BY by By by /pʲ/
C c /ɕ/
D d /t/
E e /e/
F f /f/
G g /k/
GV gv Gv gv //
GY gy Gy gy /kʲ/
H h H h /h/
Ƅ ƅ /˧/
I i /i/
J j З з /˥/
K k -/k/
L l /l/
M m /m/
MB mb Ƃ ƃ /ɓ/
MY my My my /mʲ/
N n /n/
ND nd Ƌ


NG ng Ŋ


NGV ngv Ŋv


NY ny Ny ny /ɲ/
O o //
OE oe Ɵ


P p -/p/
Q q Ƽ ƽ /˧˥/
R r /ɣ/
S s /θ/
T t -/t/
U u /u/
V v /w/
W w Ɯ ɯ /ɯ/
X x Ч ч /˦˨/
Y y /j/
Z z Ƨ ƨ /˧˩/

Letters in italics only represent tones. Letters in bold are only found in syllable codas.


Standard Zhuang is an artificial mixture of several Zhuang languages. The lexicon is based almost entirely on various Northern Zhuang dialects. The phonology is essentially that of Shuangqiao, with the addition of ny, ei, ou from Fuliang, both located in Wuming County. Zhang (1999), along with other Chinese scholars, classifies Shuangqiao dialect as Northern Tai (Northern Zhuang).[11] Shuangqiao was chosen for the standard pronunciation in the 1950s because it was considered to be Northern Zhuang but with characteristics of Southern Zhuang.

Domains of use[edit]

Standard Zhuang is used most frequently in domains where written Zhuang was previously seldom used, such as newspapers, translations of communist literature[12] and prose. It is one of the official languages of China that appears on bank notes; all Chinese laws must be published in it, and it is used for bilingual signs. Whilst used for adult literacy programs, it is currently only taught in a very small percent of primary and secondary schools in Zhuang-speaking areas. In less formal domains the traditional writing system Sawndip is more often used[13] and for folk songs Sawndip remains the predominant genre with most standard Zhuang versions being based on Sawndip versions.

Official examination[edit]

In 2012, the first Zhuang Proficiency Test (Vahcuengh Sawcuengh Suijbingz Gaujsi, abbreviated VSSG) took place, in which 328 people took and 58% passed.[14] It was promoted as the first standardised minority language test in mainland China, with the objective of supporting bilingual Zhuang-Chinese education.[15] From 2012 to 2020, the average number of registered testees for the VSSG was 376 per year, with candidates from outside Guangxi being accepted after 2019.[15] Currently available at three levels, Basic, Intermediate and Advanced, the examination tests the written skills of reading comprehension, translation both into and from Standard Chinese, and writing.[15]

Differences from Wuming Zhuang[edit]

While Standard Zhuang is largely pronounced as Shuangqiao Wuming dialect, there is a degree of purposeful dialect mixture in vocabulary:

Standard IPA Wuming IPA gloss
gyaeuj kʲau˥ raeuj ɣau˥ head
da ta˨˦ ra ɣa˨˦ eye
ga ka˨˦ ha ha˨˦ leg



Cardinal Zhuang Zhuang IPA Bouyei Middle Chinese Proto Tai Saek Ahom Tai Nüa Tai Lü Tai Dam Shan Lanna
0 lingz [li᷆ŋ] lingz leng/lengH ᦟᦲᧃᧉ (liin2)
1 it [ʔi̋t] idt 'jit 𑜒𑜢𑜄𑜫 (ʼit) ဢဵတ်း (ʼáet)
2 ngeih [ŋēi] ngih nyijH ᨿᩦ᩵
3 sam [θǎːm] sam sɑm *saːm 𑜏𑜪 (saṃ) ᥔᥣᥛᥴ (sáam) ᦉᦱᧄ (ṡaam) ꪎꪱꪣ သၢမ် (sǎam) ᩈᩣ᩠ᨾ
4 seiq [θe᷄i] sis sijH *siːᴮ 𑜏𑜣 (sī) ᥔᥤᥱ (sǐ) ᦉᦲᧈ (ṡii1) ꪎꪲ꪿ သီႇ (sìi) ᩈᩦ᩵
5 haj [ha̋ː] hac nguX *haːꟲ 𑜑𑜡 (hā) ᥞᥣᥲ (hàa) ᦠᦱᧉ (ḣaa2) ꪬ꫁ꪱ ႁႃႈ (hāa) ᩉ᩶ᩣ
6 roek [ɣők] rogt ljuwk *krokᴰ 𑜍𑜤𑜀𑜫 (ruk) ᥞᥨᥐᥱ (hǒk) ᦷᦠᧅ (ḣok) ꪶꪬꪀ ႁူၵ်း (húuk) ᩉᩫ᩠ᨠ
7 caet [ɕa̋t] xadt tshit *cetᴰ 𑜋𑜢𑜄𑜫 (chit) ᥓᥥᥖᥱ (tsět) ᦵᦈᧆ (ṫsed) ꪹꪊꪸꪒ ၸဵတ်း (tsáet)
8 bet [pe̋t] beedt peat *peːtᴰ 𑜆𑜢𑜄𑜫 (pit) ᥙᥦᥖᥱ (pǎet) ᦶᦔᧆᧈ (ṗaed1) ꪵꪜꪒ ပႅတ်ႇ (pèt) ᨸᩯ᩠ᨯ
9 gouj [kőːu] guz kjuwX *kɤwꟲ กู̂. 𑜀𑜧 (kaw) ᥐᥝᥲ (kàw) ᦂᧁᧉ (k̇aw2) ꪹꪀ꫁ꪱ ၵဝ်ႈ (kāo) ᨠᩮᩢ᩶ᩣ
10 cib [ɕīp] xib dzyip ซิ̄บ 𑜏𑜢𑜆𑜫 (sip) ᥔᥤᥙᥴ (síp) ᦉᦲᧇ (ṡiib) ꪎꪲꪚ သိပ်း (síp) ᩈᩥ᩠ᨷ


A significant amount of Zhuang words are loaned from Chinese - around 30 to 40 percent in normal conversation, and almost every word regarding science, politics, or technology.[8] Loans have come from Cantonese as well as other Chinese varieties. Compare Yue Chinese: , romanized: faai3, lit.'fast' to Zhuang: vaiq, lit.'fast' - much of Zhuang's basic wordstock has come from loans. However, it is difficult to determine if specific loanwords come from Middle Chinese or from Chinese varieties later on in history.


First article of the 1948 United Nations' Universal Declaration of Human Rights:

Latin script
1957 1982 English
Bouч bouч ma dəŋƨ laзƃɯn couƅ miƨ cɯyouƨ, cinƅyenƨ cəuƽ genƨli bouчbouч biŋƨdəŋз. Gyɵŋƽ vunƨ miƨ liзsiŋ cəuƽ lieŋƨsim, ɯŋdaŋ daiƅ gyɵŋƽ de lumз beiчnueŋч ityieŋƅ. Boux boux ma daengz lajmbwn couh miz cwyouz, cinhyenz caeuq genzli bouxboux bingzdaengj. Gyoengq vunz miz lijsing caeuq liengzsim, wngdang daih gyoengq de lumj beixnuengx ityiengh. All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.
International Phonetic Alphabet

[pôːu pôːu mǎː ta᷆ŋ la̋ːɓɯ̌n ɕōːu mi᷆ ɕɯ̌jo᷆ːu | ɕīnje᷆n ɕa᷄u ke᷆nlǐ pôːupôːu pi᷆ŋta̋ŋ || kʲo᷄ŋ wu᷆n mi᷆ li̋θǐŋ ɕa᷄u lie᷆ŋθǐm | ʔɯ̌ŋtǎːŋ tāi kʲo᷄ŋ lűm pêinûeŋ ʔi̋tjiēŋ ||]



  1. ^ Zhuang: Gvangsih Bouxcuengh Swcigih Saujsu Minzcuz Yijyenz Vwnzsw Gunghcoz Veijyenzvei; Chinese: 广西壮族自治区少数民族语言文字工作委员会
  2. ^ "Guǎngxī Qū zhí yǒuguān dānwèi jīgòu míngchēng Yīngwén cānkǎo yì fǎ" 广西区直有关单位机构名称英文参考译法 [English Reference Translation of the Names of Related Units Directly in Guangxi District]. gxfao.gov.cn (in Chinese). Archived from the original on July 5, 2015. Retrieved July 3, 2015.
  3. ^ Zhang et al. 1999, p. 429f
  4. ^ "Zhuàngyǔ pīnyīn fāng'àn (yī)" 壮语拼音方案(一) [Zhuang Pinyin Plan (1)]. wszhuangzu.cn (in Chinese). Archived from the original on April 5, 2012. Retrieved April 6, 2012.
  5. ^ "Zhuàngyǔ pīnyīn fāng'àn (èr)" 壮语拼音方案(二) [Zhuang Pinyin Plan (2)]. wszhuangzu.cn (in Chinese). Archived from the original on April 5, 2012. Retrieved April 6, 2012.
  6. ^ Wei, Qingwen 韦庆稳; Qin, Guosheng 覃国生 (1980). Zhuàngyǔ jiǎnzhì 壮语简志 [Concise Grammar of Zhuang]. Zhongguo shaoshu minzu yuyan jianzhi congshu (in Chinese). Beijing: Minzu chubanshe.
  7. ^ Zhang et al. 1999, p. 51
  8. ^ a b c Burusphat, Somsonge; Xiaohang, Qin; 桑颂; 軍晓航 (2012). "ZHUANG WORD STRUCTURE / 壮语词的结构". Journal of Chinese Linguistics. 40 (1): 56–83. ISSN 0091-3723. JSTOR 23754198.
  9. ^ Luo, Yongxian (2008). "Zhuang". In Diller, Anthony V. N.; Edmondson, Jerold A.; Luo, Yongxian (eds.). The Tai-Kadai Languages. London: Routledge. pp. 317–377.
  10. ^ Zhou, Minglang (2003). Multilingualism in China: The Politics of Writing Reforms for Minority Languages 1949–2002. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter. pp. 251–258. ISBN 3-11-017896-6.
  11. ^ Zhang et al. 1999
  12. ^ Li, Xulian; Huang, Quanxi (2004). "The Introduction and Development of the Zhuang Writing System". In Zhou, Minglang; Sun, Hongkai (eds.). Language Policy in the People's Republic of China: Theory and Practice Since 1949. Boston: Kluwer Academic Publishers. p. 245.
  13. ^ Tang, Weiping 唐未平. "Guǎngxī Zhuàngzú rén wénzì shǐyòng xiànzhuàng jí wénzì shèhuì shēngwàng diàochá yánjiū" 广西壮族人文字使用现状及文字社会声望调查研究 [Research Into Survey of the Scripts Used by Zhuang in Guangxi] (in Chinese) – via www.doc88.com.
  14. ^ "Guǎngxī shǒucì Zhuàng yǔwén shuǐpíng kǎoshì jígé lǜ 58%" 广西首次壮语文水平考试及格率58% [The Passing Rate of Guangxi's First Zhuang Language Proficiency Test is 58%]. Zhōngguó xīnwén wǎng 中国新闻网. December 20, 2012. Archived from the original on November 12, 2019. Retrieved November 12, 2019.
  15. ^ a b c Wu, Ying; Silver, Rita Elaine; Hu, Guangwei (July 9, 2022). "Minority language testing: the social impact of the Zhuang language proficiency test in China". Journal of Multilingual and Multicultural Development: 1–18. doi:10.1080/01434632.2022.2097249. hdl:10397/101745.

Sources cited[edit]

  • Zhang, Junru 张均如; Liang, Min 梁敏; Ouyang, Jueya 欧阳觉亚; Zheng, Yiqing 郑贻青; Li, Xulian 李旭练; Xie, Jianyou 谢建猷 (1999). Zhuàngyǔ fāngyán yánjiū 壮语方言研究 [A Study of Zhuang Dialects] (in Chinese). Chengdu: Sichuan minzu chubanshe. ISBN 7-5409-2293-1.

External links[edit]