West Hmongic

West Hmongic
Chuanqiandian Miao
Linguistic classification:


Glottolog: west2803[1]

The West Hmongic languages, also known as Chuanqiandian Miao (川黔滇方言: SichuanGuizhouYunnan Miao) and Western Miao, is the major branch of the Hmongic languages of China and Southeast Asia.

The name Chuanqiandian is used both for West Hmongic as a whole, as for one of its branches, the Chuanqiandian cluster AKA Hmong.


The Miao languages were traditionally written with various adaptations of Chinese characters. Around 1905, Samuel Pollard introduced a Romanized script, the Pollard script, for the A-Hmao language, and this came to be used for Hmong Daw (Chuanqiandian) as well.[2] In the United States, the Romanized Popular Alphabet is often used for White and Green Hmong (also Chuanqiandian). In China, pinyin-based Latin alphabets have been devised for Chuanqiandian (variety of Dananshan 大南山, Yanzikou 燕子口镇, Bijie) and A-Hmao.[3] Wu and Yang (2010) report attempts at writing Mashan in 1985 and an improvement by them; they recommend that standards should be developed for each of the six other primary varieties of West Hmongic.


Autonyms include (Miaoyu Jianzhi 苗语简志 1985):


West Hmongic is the most diverse branch of the Hmong (Miao) language family. There are nine primary branches in Chinese sources,[4] though the unity of these are not accepted in all Western sources. Items marked "§" have been split into individual languages (and not kept together) by either Matisoff or Strecker; all of these are branches of Miao listed with subbranches in Chinese sources. The other three (A-Hmao, A-Hmyo, Gejia) are not so divided in either Chinese or Western sources.

The three divisions of the Chuanqiandian cluster are only as divergent as the divisions of the other branches marked "§", but are listed separately due to the internal complexity of Hmong.

The various varieties of Pingtang, new branches of Guiyang and Mashan, and Matisoff's Raojia and Pa Na are not listed in Ethnologue 16, and have no ISO codes. Matisoff (2006) gives very different names, and it's not clear how these correspond to the branches listed here.

Ratliff (2010)

Ratliff (2010)[5] includes three languages specifically:

The last contradicts Matisoff (2001), who had posited a Bunu branch of Hmongic with Bu-Nao in it, but recapitulates Strecker (1987). The other Western varieties were not addressed, though some were included in her reconstruction of Proto-Hmong–Mien.

Wang (1985)

Wang Fushi (1985)[6] groups the Western Miao languages into eight primary divisions. Datapoint locations of representative dialects are from Li Yunbing (2000:237), all of which are located in Guizhou province, China.

The above classification was later revised by Li Jinping & Li Tianyi (2012:285) to include 7 dialects instead of the 8 given in Wang (1985); Pingtang Miao is excluded.

Li (2000)

Li Yunbing (2000) classified those varieties left unclassified in Wang, grouping four of them together as an eighth branch of West Hmongic, Pingtang. He identified Luodian Muyin and Wangmo (using Strecker's names) as varieties of Mashan.[7] Wang (1994) had already established Qianxi and Ziyun as varieties of Guiyang. This classification is repeated in Wu and Yang (2010):[8]

The varieties analyzed by Li Yunbing (2000) are:

Li (2000) considers qɑ24 ʑuɤ24 (autonym; Raojia) of Heba, Majiang County 麻江县河坝乡 to be a separate dialect of Hmu (East Hmongic). It has 5,000 speakers in Majiang County, and 10,000 speakers total (including in the counties of Kaili, Duyun, Sandu, Rongjiang, Nandan, etc.)

Bu-Nao may not be included simply because speakers are ethnically Yao rather than Miao.[9]

Mortensen (2004)

David Mortensen (2004)[10] argues for the following classification of Western Hmongic based on shared tonal innovations, including tone sandhi. Pingtang, Luobohe, and Chong'anjiang are not addressed.

Western Hmongic

Castro & Gu (2010): Wenshan

Castro & Gu (2010) divide the Hmong dialects of Wenshan Prefecture, Yunnan into four subdivisions, listed from east to west.[11]

The dialects given above are named after the groups they are spoken by. Some townships where they are spoken in are given as well.

Castro, Flaming, & Luo (2012): Honghe

Castro, Flaming, & Luo (2012) found that there are 4 different West Hmongic languages in Honghe Prefecture, Yunnan.[12]

Castro, Flaming, & Luo (2012)[12] propose the following classification for the Western Miao dialects of southeastern Yunnan, which is based on Michael Johnson's 1998 classification of Western Miao dialects.[13]

Western Miao [Hmongic]

Matisoff (2006)

Matisoff 2006 outlined the following. Not all languages are necessarily listed.[16]

Western Hmong

Matisoff (2001)

Matisoff 2001 removed Bu-Nao from Strecker (1987), broke up several of the remaining groups, and does not mention the unclassified languages, unless they are covered by Raojia or Pa Na. Apart from those, this is basically the classification of Ethnologue 16.

Chuanqiangdian Miao

Wang (1983)

Wang (1983),[17] summarized in English in Strecker 1987[18] emphasized the diversity of Western Hmongic. The names below are from Strecker; Wang did not assign names, but identified the districts where the varieties were spoken.

Chuanqiandian (Sichuan–Guizhou–Yunnan)

These are not all established as unitary branches, however. In a follow-up to that paper in the same publication,[19] Strecker broke up Bu-Nao on the basis of newly accessible data, and noted that several of the languages listed in Wang [marked "?" above] were unclassified due to lack of data, and had not been demonstrated to be West Hmongic.

The other groups are then listed as unclassified within Hmongic, and not specifically West Hmongic. However, Wang (1994) identified two as varieties of Guiyang.

The eight unclassified languages are all spoken in a small area of south-central Guizhou, along with Guiyang, Huishui, Mashan, and Luobo River Miao. These were later addressed by Li Yunbing (2000).


  1. Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin; Bank, Sebastian, eds. (2016). "West Hmongic". Glottolog 2.7. Jena: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History.
  2. Tanya Storch Religions and missionaries around the Pacific, 1500-1900 2006 p293 "he invented the first script for any Miao language"
  3. 苗文创制与苗语方言划分的历史回顾
  4. though Bu-Nao is not listed, for ethnic rather than cladistic reasons
  5. Ratliff, Martha. 2010. Hmong–Mien language history. Canberra, Australia: Pacific Linguistics.
  6. 王辅世主编,《苗语简志》,民族出版社,1985年。
  7. Li Yunbing [李云兵]. 2000. Miaoyu fangyan huafen yiliu wenti yanjiu [苗语方言划分遗留问题研究]. Beijing: Minzu University Press [中央民族大学出版社].
  8. Wú Zhèngbiāo and Yáng Guāngyīng, 2010. 兼谈苗族英雄史诗《亚鲁王》的记译整理问题, 民族翻译.
  9. Wang Fushi, cited in Strecker (1987b)
  10. Mortensen, David (2004). “The Development of Tone Sandhi in Western Hmongic: A New Hypothesis”. Unpublished, UC Berkeley. http://www.pitt.edu/~drm31/development_whmongic_tone_sandhi.pdf
  11. Castro, Andy & Gu Chawen. 2010. "Phonological innovation among Hmong dialects of Wenshan." Journal of the Southeast Asian Linguistics Society (JSEALS) 3.1:1-39.
  12. 1 2 Andy Castro, Royce Flaming, Luo Youliang. 2012. A Phonological and Lexical Comparison of Western Miao Dialects in Honghe. SIL International.
  13. Johnson, Michael. 1998. Farwestern Hmongic. ms.
  14. Strongly resembles Hmong Shuat of Guangnan and Funing counties
  15. Phonemically identical to Hmong Nzhuab (Green Mong) of Thailand, and Hmong Shib of Wenshan and Xichou counties
  16. Matisoff, 2006. "Genetic versus Contact Relationship". In Aikhenvald & Dixon, Areal diffusion and genetic inheritance
  17. Wang Fushi (1983). "Miáoyǔ fāngyán huàfēn wèntí (On the Dialect Divisions of the Miao Language)". Mínzú Yǔwén 5:1–22.
  18. Strecker, David. 1987. "The Hmong-Mien Languages." In Linguistics of the Tibeto-Burman Area, 10 , no. 2: 1–11.
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