Palaung language

Not to be confused with Palauan language.
Native to Burma, China, Thailand
Ethnicity Palaung
Native speakers
(ca. 560,000 cited 1982–??)[1]
Language codes
ISO 639-3 Variously:
pll  Shwe
pce  Ruching
rbb  Rumai
Glottolog pala1336[2]
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.[3][4] 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]


Yan & Zhou (2012)

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). Names in IPA are from Yan & Zhou (2012:154-155) [5]

The Deang 德昂 variously refer themselves as naʔaŋ, daʔaŋ, toʔaŋ, and laʔaŋ, depending on the dialect (Yan & Zhou 2012:154-155). Another Deang autonym is ho (rau) khaoʔ, where rau means 'village'. The local Dai people refer to the Deang as po˧loŋ˧.

Liu (2006)[7] documents 3 Palaungic lects, namely:

Ostapirat (2009)

Weera Ostapirat (2009:74) classifies the Palaung languages as follows.[11] Defining sound changes are given in parentheses.


Shintani (2008)

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:


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 iɯu
Mid tenseeo
Mid lax ɛ əɔ
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:

childwe twothis
this child of ours

Prepositions and prepositional phrases

Shwe Palaung has prepositions, as in the following example:

ta khuun hɔɔkhəm
to the great king


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

əəndiid͡ʒüür gaaŋ
He will buy a house

Text sample

The following part of a story in Shwe Palaung is from Milne (1921:146-147)

Naaŋ̩ rashööh, naaŋ grai ta khuun hɔɔkhəm naaŋ daah,
The queen awoke and said to the king
öö katöömrɪɪnpoohlaiuulööhkhənjaa ööailɔhshokteehaaöö
ohnegeverdreamevenonetimerulerohwe twocomefastplacethis
'Oh, I never dreamed (like this) before, oh Ruler, (since) we two came to this place to fast
todayfullgoodsevendayIdreamgreatspiritcome down
seven days ago. I dreamed that the great spirit came down
dɛhɔɔhɔɔmmakmonkəəm ŋaam hnjo hnjo
givemeeatlong mangogoldsweetvery
and gave me long mangoes of gold to eat. They were very sweet.'


  1. 1 2 Shwe at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015)
    Ruching at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015)
    Rumai at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015)
  2. Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin; Bank, Sebastian, eds. (2016). "Palaung". Glottolog 2.7. Jena: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History.
  3. Ray Waddington (2003). "The Palaung". The Peoples of the World Foundation. Retrieved 3 May 2012.
  4. 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
  5. 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].
  7. 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].
  11. Ostapirat, Weera. 2009. "Some phonological criteria for Palaung subgrouping". In Journal of Language and Culture Vol. 28 No. 1 (January – June 2009).

Further reading

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