Proto-Hmong–Mien language

Hmongic languages in red, Mienic languages in green

The Proto-Hmong–Mien language is the reconstructed ancestor of the Hmong–Mien languages. The time of proto-Hmong-Mien has been estimated to be about 2500 BP by Sagart, Blench, and Sanchez-Mazas and about 4243 BP by the Automated Similarity Judgment Program (ASJP).[1] Lower-level reconstructions include Proto-Hmongic and Proto-Mienic.


Past reconstructions include Wang & Mao (1995).

Ratliff (2010)

Ratliff (2010) used 11 criterion languages for her reconstruction.

  1. East Hmongic (Qiandong); Northern vernacular: Yanghao 养蒿, Yanghao Township, Taijiang County, Guizhou
  2. North Hmongic (Xiangxi); Western vernacular: Jiwei 吉卫, Jiwei Township, Huayuan County, Hunan
  3. West Hmongic (Chuanqiandian): White Hmong of Laos and Thailand
  4. West Hmongic (Chuanqiandian); Mashan subdialect, Central vernacular: Zongdi 宗地, Zongdi Township, Ziyun County, Guizhou
  5. West Hmongic (Chuanqiandian); Luopohe subdialect: Fuyuan 复员, Fuyuan County, Yunnan
  6. Hmongic; Jiongnai: Changdong Township 长垌, Jinxiu County, Guangxi
  7. Hmongic; Baiyun Pa-Hng: Baiyun 白云, Rongshui County, Guangxi
  8. Mienic; Mien, Luoxiang vernacular: Luoxiang Township 罗香, Jinxiu County, Guangxi
  9. Mienic; Mun: Lanjin Township 览金, Lingyun County, Guangxi
  10. Mienic; Biao Min: Dongshan Yao Township 东山, Quanzhou County, Guangxi
  11. Mienic; Zao Min: Daping Township 大平, Liannan County, Guangdong

Wang & Mao (1995)

Wang & Mao (1995) base their Proto-Hmong-Mien reconstruction from the following 23 criterion Hmong-Mien languages.

  1. Yanghao 养蒿; Hmu, North (ISO 693-3: [hea])
  2. Jiwei 吉卫; Qo Xiong, West [mmr]
  3. Xianjin 先进 ( = Dananshan 大南山); Chuanqiandian Miao, 1st lect [cqd]
  4. Shimenkan 石门坎; Diandongbei Miao [hmd]
  5. Qingyan 青岩;[2] Guiyang Miao, North [huj]
  6. Gaopo 高坡; Huishui Miao, North [hmi]
  7. Zongdi 宗地; Mashan Miao, Central [hmm]
  8. Fuyuan 复员;[3] Luopohe Miao, 2nd lect [hml]
  9. Fengxiang 枫香; Chong'anjiang Miao [hmj]
  10. Qibainong 七百弄; Bunu, Dongnu [bwx]
  11. Yaoli 瑶里;[4] Nao Klao, Baonuo [bwx]
  12. Wenjie 文界; Pa-Hng, Sanjiang [pha]
  13. Changdong 长峒; Jiongnai [pnu]
  14. Duozhu 多祝;[5] She [shx]
  15. Jiangdi 江底; Iu Mien, Guangdian [ium]
  16. Xiangjiang 湘江; Iu Mien, Xiangnan [ium]
  17. Luoxiang 罗香; Luoxiang Mien AKA Ao Biao [ium]
  18. Changping 长坪; Changping Mien AKA Biao Mon [ium]
  19. Liangzi 梁子; Kim Mun [mji]
  20. Lanjin 览金; Kim Mun [mji]
  21. Dongshan 东山; Biao Mon, Dongshan [bmt]
  22. Sanjiang 三江; Biao Mon, Shikou AKA Chao Kong Meng [bmt]
  23. Daping 大坪; Dzao Min [bpn]


Martha Ratliff's 2010 reconstruction contains the following phonemic inventory.

Medial consonants are *-j-, *-l-, and *-r-.

Proto-Hmong–Mien had the following syllable structure (Ratliff 2010:10):


Ratliff does not reconstruct vowel length for either Proto-Mienic or Proto-Hmong-Mien. Even though Mienic languages usually have vowel length, Ratliff ascribes this to areal features that were borrowed after the breakup of Proto-Mienic.[6] Neighboring languages with vowel length include Cantonese and Zhuang.


Below are some reconstructed words roughly belonging to the semantic domains of agriculture and subsistence (Ratliff 2004; Greenhill et al. 2008; Starling 1998). Terms for domesticated animals and non-rice crops are usually shared with Chinese, while vocabulary relating hunting, rice crops, and local plants and animals are usually not shared with Chinese.

Proto-Hmongic Old Chinese English
*ntshu C1 lhaŋʔ (象) elephant
*ʔlen A1 w(h)an (猿) monkey
*ŋgeu B2 krun (麇) river deer
*tʂo B1 hlāʔ (虎) tiger
*Glɐn B2 shōŋ (蔥) Chinese onion
*Nqa:n A1 mrū (茅) cogon grass
*n̥Ak B1 nhāʔ (弩) crossbow
*pwɒn B1 ~
m-lak-s (射) to shoot
*ɳõ C2 łhuk (逐) to track, follow
*qəi A1 kē (雞) chicken
*m-nɔk ttiwʔ (鳥) bird
*qlAu B1 ~
*hmaŋ C kkhwirʔ (犬) dog
*ʔa:p B1 ʔrāp (鴨) duck
*mpɒ C1 prā (豝) pig
*ʑwɒə:ŋ A2 g(h)ʷān (羊) sheep/goat
*ŋɔ:ŋ A2 lhijʔ (兕) water buffalo
*dəp D2 d(h)ōs (豆) bean
*peu B1 snikʷ (菽) soybean
*vəu C2 was (芋) taro
*mblau A2 lhūʔ (稻) rice plant;
growing/unhusked rice
*ntsə:i C1 mhījʔ (米) husked rice
*ȵa:ŋ C1 mhījʔ (米) cooked rice

References and notes

  2. Baituo, Qingyan Township, Huaxi District, Guiyang 贵阳市花溪区青岩乡摆托寨
  3. Yejipo, Ganba Township, Fuquan County 福泉县甘坝乡野鸡坡寨
  4. Mangjiang, Yaoli Township, Nandan County 南丹县瑶里乡芒降村
  5. Chenhu, Duozhu Township, Huidong County 惠东县多祝乡陈湖村
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