Lolo-Burmese languages

Southern China and Southeast Asia
Linguistic classification:


Glottolog: lolo1265[1]

The Lolo-Burmese languages (also Burmic languages) of Burma and southern China form a coherent branch of the Sino-Tibetan family.


Until ca. 1950, the endonym Lolo was written with derogatory characters in Chinese, and for this reason has sometimes been avoided. Shafer (1966–1974) used the term "Burmic" for the Lolo-Burmese languages. The Chinese term is Mian–Yi, after the Chinese name for Burmese and one of several words for Tai, reassigned to replace Lolo by the Chinese government after 1950.[2]

Possible languages

The position of Naxi (Moso) within the family is unclear, and it is often left as a third branch besides Loloish and Burmish. Lama (2012) considers it to be a branch of Loloish, while Guillaume Jacques has suggested that it is a Qiangic language.

The Pyu language that preceded Burmese in Burma is sometimes linked to the Lolo-Burmese family, but there is no good evidence for any particular classification, and it is best left unclassified within Sino-Tibetan.

However, the unclassified Mru language is thought to be more likely to be related to Lolo-Burmese.

Pai-lang, attested from the 3rd century, is Lolo-Burmese, perhaps Loloish.

External relationships

Guillaume Jacques & Alexis Michaud (2011)[3] argue for a Burmo-Qiangic branch with two primary subbranches, Na-Qiangic (i.e. Naxi-Qiangic) and Lolo-Burmese. Similarly, David Bradley (2008)[4] also proposes an Eastern Tibeto-Burman branch that includes the two subbranches of Burmic (AKA Lolo-Burmese) and Qiangic.

Internal classification

Bradley (1997, quoted in Peiros 1997) gives the following classification for the Lolo-Burmese languages.

Lama (2012), in a study of 36 languages, finds the Mondzish cluster (MondziMaang, Mantsi–Mo'ang) to be divergent. He did not include Mru or Ugong.

Lama (2012) recognizes 9 unambiguous groups of Lolo-Burmese languages, whereas Bradley considers there to be 5 groups (Burmish, Southern Ngwi, Northern Ngwi, Southeastern Ngwi, and Central Ngwi).

  1. Mondzish
  2. Burmish
  3. Hanoish
  4. Lahoish
  5. Naxish
  6. Nusoish
  7. Kazhuoish
  8. Lisoish
  9. Nisoish

See also


  1. Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin; Bank, Sebastian, eds. (2016). "Lolo-Burmese". Glottolog 2.7. Jena: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History.
  3. Jacques, Guillaume, and Alexis Michaud. 2011. "Approaching the historical phonology of three highly eroded Sino-Tibetan languages." Diachronica 28:468-498.
  4. Bradley, David. 2008. The Position of Namuyi in Tibeto-Burman.


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