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Palaung language

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Title: Palaung language  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
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Subject: Languages of China, Hmong language, Mrs. Leslie Milne, Austroasiatic languages, Palaungic languages
Collection: Languages of China, Languages of Myanmar, Languages of Thailand, Palaung People, Palaungic Languages
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Palaung language

Native to Burma, China, Thailand
Ethnicity Palaung
Native speakers
unknown (ca. 560,000 cited 1982–??)[1]
Language codes
ISO 639-3 Variously:
pll – Shwe
pce – Ruching
rbb – Rumai
De'ang manuscript

Palaung, or in Chinese De'ang, is a Mon–Khmer dialect cluster spoken by over half a million people in Burma (Shan State) and neighboring countries. The Palaung people are divided into Palé, Rumai, and Shwe, and each of these has their own language.[2][3] The Riang languages are reported to be unintelligible or only understood with great difficulty by native speakers of the other Palaung languages.

A total number of speakers is uncertain; there were 150,000 Shwe speakers in 1982, 272,000 Ruching (Palé) speakers in 2000, and 139,000 Rumai speakers at an unrecorded date.[1]


  • Dialects 1
  • Phonology 2
  • Syntax 3
    • Nouns and noun phrases 3.1
    • Prepositions and prepositional phrases 3.2
    • Sentences 3.3
  • Text sample 4
  • References 5
  • Further reading 6


Shintani (2008) recognizes two dialects of Palaung, namely Southern Palaung and Northern Palaung. Southern Palaung unvoiced stops correspond to Northern Palaung voiced stops, the latter which Shintani (2008) believes to be retentions from Proto-Palaungic. Southern Palaung dialects studied by Shintani (2008) are those of:

  • Kengtung town
  • Waanpao village (near Kengtung)
  • Chengphong village (near Kengtung)
  • Loikhong village (near Mängpeng)
  • Mängküng
  • Yassaw
  • Kalaw

Chinese linguists classify "Deang 德昂" varieties (spoken mostly in Santaishan Ethnic Deang Township 三台山德昂族乡, Mang City and Junnong Township 军弄乡, Zhenkang County) as follows (Deangyu Jianzhi).

  • Bulei 布雷 (representative datapoint: Yunqian 允欠, Mang City): spoken in Luxi
    • Bulei 布雷 dialect
    • Raojin 饶进 dialect
  • Liang 梁 (representative datapoint: Xiaochanggou 硝厂沟): spoken in Longchuan and Ruili
  • Rumai 汝买 (representative datapoint: Yechaqing 叶茶箐): spoken in Zhenkang and Baoshan


Shorto (1960) lists the following consonants for Palaung:
Labials Dentals Palatals Velars Glottal
p t t͡ɕ k ʔ
b d d͡ʑ g
m n ɲ ŋ
v s h
r,l j
Front Central Back
High i ɯ u
Mid tense e o
Mid lax ɛ ə ɔ
Low a

According to Shorto (1960), /ə/ does not occur alone in primary stressed syllable, but only in an unstressed syllable or as the second member of a diphthong. There are also a large number of diphthongs, including /eo/, /eə/, /aə/, /ɔə/, /oə/, /uə/, and /iə/.

Although Milne (1921) includes the vowels /ü, ö, ɪ/ in her transcriptions, Shorto (1960) did not find these as vowel phonemes in his work.

(Note that the words cited below in the Syntax section come from Milne (1921), so their phonetic representations may need revision.)


Nouns and noun phrases

The order of elements in the noun phrase is N - (possessor) - (demonstrative)

Consider the following examples:

kwɔɔn ai öö
child we two this
this child of ours

Prepositions and prepositional phrases

Rumai Palaung has prepositions, as in the following example:

ta khuun hɔɔkhəm
to great king
to the great king


Clauses in Rumai are generally in subject–verb–object (SVO) order:

əən dii d͡ʒüür gaaŋ
he future buy house
He will buy a house

Text sample

The following part of a story in Rumai Palaung is from Milne (1921:146-147)
Naaŋ̩ rashööh, naaŋ grai ta khuun hɔɔkhəm naaŋ daah,
lady awake lady narrative:past said to great king lady say
The queen awoke and said to the king
öö ka tööm rɪɪnpoo hlai uu lööh khənjaa öö ai lɔh shoktee haa öö
oh neg ever dream even one time ruler oh we two come fast place this
'Oh, I never dreamed (like this) before, oh Ruler, (since) we two came to this place to fast
Phadiiu la puur shəŋii, ɔɔ rɪɪnpoo khuun phii leeh
today full good seven day I dream great spirit come down
seven days ago. I dreamed that the great spirit came down
dɛh ɔɔ hɔɔm makmon kəəm ŋaam hnjo hnjo
give me eat long mango gold sweet very
and gave me long mangoes of gold to eat. They were very sweet.'


  1. ^ a b Shwe at Ethnologue (17th ed., 2013)
    Ruching at Ethnologue (17th ed., 2013)
    Rumai at Ethnologue (17th ed., 2013)
  2. ^ Ray Waddington (2003). "The Palaung". The Peoples of the World Foundation. Retrieved 3 May 2012. 
  3. ^ Klose, Albrecht (2001) Sprachen der Welt: ein weltweiter Index der Sprachfamilien, Einzelsprachen und Dialekte, mit Angabe der Synonyma und fremdsprachigen Äquivalente (Languages of the world: a multi-lingual concordance of languages, dialects and language-families) Saur, Munich, Germany, page 403, ISBN 3-598-11404-4
  • Shintani Tadahiko. 2008. The Palaung language: the comparative lexicon of its southern dialects. Tokyo: Research Institute for Languages and Cultures of Asia and Africa (ILCAA).

Further reading

  • Mak, Pandora (2012). Golden Palaung: A Grammatical Description. Canberra: Asia-Pacific Linguistics. [electronic resource]
  • Yan Qixiang [颜其香] & Zhou Zhizhi [周植志] (2012). Mon-Khmer languages of China and the Austroasiatic family [中国孟高棉语族语言与南亚语系]. Beijing: Social Sciences Academy Press [社会科学文献出版社].
  • Harper, Jerod (2009). Phonological Descriptions of Plang spoken in Man Noi, La Gang, and Bang Deng Villages (in China) M.A. Thesis. Payap University, Chiang Mai.
  • Lewis, Emily (2008). Grammatical studies of Man Noi Plang. M.A. Thesis. Payap University, Chiang Mai.
  • Liu Yan [刘岩] (2006). Tone in Mon-Khmer languages [孟高棉语声调研究]. Beijing: Minzu University Press [中央民族大学出版社].
  • Shorto, H.L. (1960). Word and syllable patterns in Palaung. Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London; 1960, Vol. 23 Issue 3, p544-557.
  • Milne, Mrs. Leslie (1931). A dictionary of English–Palaung and Palaung–English. Rangoon: Supdt., Govt. Print. and Stationery.
  • Milne, Mrs. Leslie (1921). An elementary Palaung grammar. Oxford: The Clarendon press.

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