Standard Zhuang

Standard Zhuang (autonym: Vahcuengh (pre-1982: 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]

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


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


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

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


Front Central Back
High i ɯ u
Mid e eː (ə) o oː
Low a aː

[ə] only occurs in diphthong or triphthong sounds.

Among other northern Zhuang dialects, /e, o/ have shortened allophones of [ɛ, ɔ].[8]


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.


IPA Letters
IPA Letters
IPA Letters
IPA Letters
IPA Letters
/p/ B b /ɓ/ Ƃ ƃ Mb mb /m/ M m /f/ F f /β/ V v
/t/ D d /ɗ/ Ƌ ƌ Nd nd /n/ N n /θ/ S s /l/ L l
/k/ G g // Gv gv /ŋ/ Ŋ ŋ Ng ng /h/ H h /ɣ/ R r
/ɕ/ C c /j/ Y y /ɲ/ Ny ny /ŋʷ/ Ŋv ŋv Ngv ngv  
/pʲ/ By by /kʲ/ Gy gy /mʲ/ My my  
IPA Letters
IPA Letters
IPA Letters
// A a /e/ E e /a/ Ə ə AE ae
/i/ I i // O o /ɯ/ Ɯ ɯ W w
/u/ U u /o/ Ɵ ɵ OE oe


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).[9] 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 useEdit

Bilingual sign

Standard Zhuang is used most frequently in domains where written Zhuang was previously seldom used, such as newspapers, translations of communist literature[10] 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[11] and for folk songs Sawndip remains the predominant genre with most standard Zhuang versions being based on Sawndip versions.

Official examinationEdit

In 2012 the first Zhuang Proficiency Test took place which 328 people took and 58% passed.[12]

Differences from Wuming ZhuangEdit

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

Writing systemsEdit

Zhuang Sawndip manuscript

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.[13] These alphabetical scripts are part of Standard Zhuang.

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 existing 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.


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.


  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]. (in Chinese). Archived from the original on July 5, 2015. Retrieved July 3, 2015.
  3. ^ Zhang et al. 1999, p. 429f
  4. ^ "Zhuàng yǔ pīnyīn fāng'àn (yī)" 壮语拼音方案(一) [Zhuang Pinyin Plan (1)]. (in Chinese). Archived from the original on April 5, 2012. Retrieved April 6, 2012.
  5. ^ "Zhuàng yǔ pīnyīn fāng'àn (èr)" 壮语拼音方案(二) [Zhuang Pinyin Plan (2)]. (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). Zhuang-yu jianzhi 壮语简志 [Concise Grammar of Zhuang]. Zhongguo shaoshu minzu yuyan jianzhi congshu (in Chinese). Beijing: Mínzú chūbǎn shè 民族出版社 [Publishing House of Minority Nationalities].
  7. ^ Zhang et al. 1999, p. 51
  8. ^ Luo, Yongxian (2008). "Zhuang". In Diller, Anthony V. N.; Edmondson, Jerold A.; Luo, Yongxian (eds.). The Tai-Kadai Languages. London & New York: Routledge. pp. 317–377.
  9. ^ Zhang et al. 1999
  10. ^ 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. Springer. p. 245.
  11. ^ 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
  12. ^ "Guǎngxī shǒucì zhuàng yǔwén shuǐpíng kǎoshì jígé lǜ 58%-zhōng xīn wǎng" 广西首次壮语文水平考试及格率58%-中新网 [The Passing Rate of Guangxi's First Zhuang Language Proficiency Test is 58%]. 中国新闻网. December 20, 2012. Archived from the original on November 12, 2019. Retrieved November 12, 2019.
  13. ^ 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.

Sources citedEdit

  • 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). Zhuàng yǔ fāngyán yánjiū 壮语方言研究 [A Study of Zhuang Dialects] (in Chinese). Chengdu: Sìchuān mínzú chūbǎn shè 四川民族出版社 [Sichuan Nationalities Press]. ISBN 7-5409-2293-1.

External linksEdit