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Northern Qiang language

Northern Qiang is a Sino-Tibetan language of the Qiangic branch spoken by approximately 60,000 people in north-central Sichuan Province, China.

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


Northern Qiang dialectsEdit

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
    • NW Heishui: Luhua
    • Central Heishui
      • Qinglang
      • Zhawo
      • Ciba
      • Shuangliusuo
      • uvular V's innovation group: Zhimulin, Hongyan, Mawo
    • SE Heishui: Luoduo, Longba, Musu, Shidiaolou
    • North Maoxian: Taiping, Songpingguo
    • South Songpan: Xiaoxing, Zhengjiangguan, Zhengping
    • West Maoxian / South Heishui: Weigu, Waboliangzi, Se'ergu, Ekou, Weicheng, Ronghong, Chibusu, Qugu, Wadi, Baixi, Huilong, Sanlong
    • Central Maoxian: Heihu
  • SE Maoxian (reflexive marker innovation): Goukou, Yonghe

Northern Qiang consonantsEdit

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 harmonyEdit

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)


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 alsoEdit


  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.