Lalo language

Western Yi
Native to China
Ethnicity Yi
Native speakers
320,000 (2002–2010)[1]
Language codes
ISO 639-3 Variously:
ywt  Xishanba (Central)
yik  Dongshanba (Eastern, Western, East Mountain Central)
yit  Eastern
ywl  Western
Glottolog lalo1240[2]

Lalo (Chinese: 腊罗; Western Yi) is a Loloish language cluster spoken in western Yunnan, China by 300,000 speakers. Speakers are officially part of the Yi nationality, and Chinese linguists refer to it as "Western Yi" due to its distribution in western Yunnan. Lalo speakers are mostly located in southern Dali Prefecture, especially Weishan County, considered the traditional homeland of the Lalo.[3] Historically, this area is the home of the Meng clan, who ruled the Nanzhao Kingdom (737–902 CE). Many Core Lalo claim to be descendants of the Meng clan.


Cathryn Yang (2010) gives the following demographic information for various Lalo languages. Combined, speakers of Lalo languages number fewer than 300,000 people.

Wang & Zhao (2013) divide Western Yi (彝语西部方言) into two dialects, namely Dongshan and Xishan.[9] In Lincang Prefecture, Western Yi speakers number approximately 30,000 people and have the autonyms la21 lo33 pɑ21 and mi13 sa21 pa21.


Lama (2012) splits Laluba into three dialects.


A recent dialectological survey by Cathryn Yang (2010)[10] shows that the Lalo cluster comprises at least 7 closely related languages. Three of these (Eastern, Western, and Central) constitute the Core Lalo group and are located in the traditional Lalo homeland of southern Dali Prefecture. There are also four peripheral languages, Mangdi, Eka, Yangliu, and Xuzhang, whose ancestors migrated out of the Lalo homeland at different times.

All Lalo languages show a reflex of the Proto-Lalo autonym *la2lo̠Hpa̠ᶫ; i.e. the name that the Proto-Lalo called themselves are still preserved in the various modern Lalo languages. Eka speakers’ autonym is now /o˨˩kʰa˨˦/, but elder speakers remember a time when they called themselves /la˨˩u̠˧po̠˨˩/.

Yang's (2010:209) phylogenetic tree of Lalo is as follows.


  1. Xishanba (Central) at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015)
    Dongshanba (Eastern, Western, East Mountain Central) at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015)
    Eastern at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015)
    Western at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015)
  2. Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin; Bank, Sebastian, eds. (2016). "Lalo". Glottolog 2.7. Jena: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History.
  3. Yang, Cathryn. 2009. Regional variation in Lalo: Beyond east and west. La Trobe Papers in Linguistics, 12.
  9. Wang Xingzhong [王兴中] & Zhao Weihua [赵卫华]. 2013. Geography and multilingualism in Lincang [临沧地理与双语使用]. Kunming: Yunnan People's Press [云南人民出版社]. ISBN 978-7-222-08581-7
  10. Yang, Cathryn. 2010. Lalo regional varieties: Phylogeny, dialectometry, and sociolinguistics. Melbourne: La Trobe University PhD dissertation.
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