Hmu language

Qiandong Miao
Black Miao, hveb Hmub
Native toChina
Regionmostly Guizhou
Ethnicitymostly Miao, some Yao
Native speakers
(2.1 million cited 1995)[1]
Standard forms
Standard Miao
Language codes
ISO 639-3Variously:
hea – Northern
hmq – Eastern
hms – Southern
neo – Ná-Meo

The Hmu language (hveb Hmub), also known as Qiandong Miao (黔东 Eastern Guizhou Miao), Central Miao, East Hmongic, or (somewhat ambiguously) Black Miao, is a dialect cluster of Hmongic languages of China. The best studied dialect is that of Yǎnghāo (养蒿) village, Taijiang County, Guizhou Province, China.

Qanu 咯努, a Hmu variety, had 11,450 speakers as of 2000, and is spoken just south of Kaili City, Guizhou.[2] The Qanu are ethnoculturally distinct from the other Hmu.


Autonyms include m̥ʰu33 in Kaili, mo33 in Jinping County, mu13 in Tianzhu County, m̥ə33 in Huangping County, qa33 nəu13 in some parts of Qiandongnan (Miaoyu Jianzhi 苗语简志 1985), and ta11 mu11 in Rongshui Miao Autonomous County, Guangxi.[3] Ná-Meo, spoken by the Mieu people of Cao Minh Commune, Tràng Định District, Lạng Sơn Province, Vietnam, may be closely related.[4]

Subdivisions and distribution

Wang (1985)

Wang Fushi (1985)[5] groups the Qiandong Miao languages as follows.

  • Northern: 1,000,000 speakers in Kaili, Majiang, Nandan, Leishan, Taijiang, Huangping, Jianhe, Zhenyuan, Sansui, Shibing, Sandu, Fuquan, Pingba, Zhenning, Xingren, Zhenfeng, Anlong, Wangmo, etc.
  • Eastern: 250,000 speakers in Jinping, Liping, Jianhe, Jingzhou, Tongdao, Huitong, etc.
  • Southern: 350,0000 speakers in Rongjiang, Congjiang, Nandan, Sandu, Rongshui, Sanjiang, etc. Includes Na Meo of northern Vietnam.[6]
  • Western (Raojia): 15,000 speakers in Heba of Majiang, Mianluo of Duyun, Sandu, Rongjiang, parts of Nandan

Wu (2009)

Wu Zhengbiao (2009)[7] divides Hmu into 7 different dialects. Past classifications usually included only 3 or 4 dialects. For example, Li Jinping & Li Tianyi (2012),[8] based on past classifications, divide Hmu into the 3 dialects of Northern,[9] Southern,[10] and Eastern.[11] Datapoint locations of representative dialects are from Li Yunbing (2000).[12]

  • Eastern (Representative dialect: Sanjiang township 三江乡, Jinping County, Guizhou)
    • Jinping County, Guizhou (in Ouli 偶里寨 of Ouli Township 偶里乡, etc.)
      • Hekou 河口 dialect (10,000+ speakers): spoken in Hekou 河口乡, Wenniu 文牛乡, and Zhanghua 彰化乡 townships[13]
      • Ouli 偶里 dialect (20,000+ speakers): spoken in Pinglve 平略乡, Ouli 偶里乡, Zhaizao 寨早乡, Jiaosan 皎三乡, Maoping 茅坪乡, Guazhi 挂治乡, Pingjin 平金乡, and Suijiang 稳江乡, Loujiang 娄江乡, and Tongpo 铜坡乡 townships[13]
      • Yuhe 裕河 dialect (about 3,000 speakers): spoken in Yuhe 裕河乡, Xinmin 新民乡, and Guben 固本乡 townships[13]
    • Jingzhou County, Hunan (in Caidiwan 菜地湾,[14] etc.)
    • Huitong County, Hunan
  • Northern (Representative dialect: Yanghao village 养蒿村, Guading town 挂丁镇, Kaili city, Guizhou)
  • Northeastern
    • Zhaitou 寨头村, Baye 巴冶村, and Liangshan 良上村 villages of Sansui County
    • Gaoyongzhai 高雍寨, Guanme Township 观么乡, Jianhe County
  • Western (including Raojia; Representative dialect: Baixing village 白兴村, Heba township 河坝乡, Majiang County, Guizhou)
    • Heba Village 河坝村, Longshan Township 龙山乡, Majiang County
    • Raohe Village 绕河村, Luobang Township 洛邦乡, Duyun (also in Pingzhai 坪寨 of Wu'ai Village 五爱村)
  • Southern (Representative dialect: Yangpai village 羊排村, Yangwu township 扬武乡, Danzhai County, Guizhou)
    • Sandu County: Lalan 拉揽乡 (in Paishaozhai 排烧寨, etc.), Jiaoli 交梨乡, Dujiang 都江镇 townships; Jialan 甲揽, Yangwu 羊吴, Dediao 的刁, Hongguang 红光, and Wuyun 巫匀 villages of Pu'an Township 普安镇
    • Danzhai County: Paidao 排岛 and Paimo 排莫 of Yahui Township 雅灰乡
  • Southeastern 1 (Representative dialect: Datu village 大土村, Jiuqian township 九迁乡, Libo County, Guizhou)
  • Southeastern 2 (Representative dialect: Zhenmin 振民, Gongdong township 拱洞乡, Rongshui County, Guangxi)


Sanqiao 三锹 (三橇) is a mixed Kam–Hmu language spoken in Liping County and Jinping County, Guizhou, China by about 6,000 people.[15]


Hmu has been recognized as a branch of Hmongic since the 1950s. Wang (1985) recognized three varieties. Matisoff (2001) treated these as distinct languages, which is reflected in Ethnologue. Lee (2000) added a fourth variety, Western Hmu (10,000 speakers), among the Yao,[12] and Matisoff (2006) lists seven (Daigong, Kaili [N], Lushan, Taijiang [N], Zhenfeng [N], Phö, Rongjiang [S]).


Northern Qiandong Miao, also known as Central Miao and as Eastern Guizhou Hmu (黔东方言 Qián-Dōng fāngyán), was chosen as the standard for Hmu-language textbooks in China, based on the pronunciation of Yǎnghāo (养蒿) village.[16][failed verification]


The phonemic inventory and alphabetic transcription are as follows.

Northern Hmu consonants
Labial Alveolar Palatalized
Velar Uvular Glottal
Nasal voiced m /m/ n /n/ ni /nʲ/ ng /ŋ/
aspirated hm /m̥ʰ/ hn /n̥ʰ/ hni /n̥ʲʰ/
Plosive tenuis b /p/ d /t/ di /tʲ/ g /k/ gh /q/ (/ʔ/)
aspirated p /pʰ/ t /tʰ/ ti /tʲʰ/ k /kʰ/ kh /qʰ/
Affricate tenuis z /ts/ j /tɕ/
aspirated c /tsʰ/ q /tɕʰ/
voiced w /v/ r /z/ y /ʑ/ v /ɣ/
tenuis f /f/ s /s/ x /ɕ/ h /h/
aspirated hf /fʰ/ hs /sʰ/ hx /ɕʰ/ hv /xʰ/
tenuis dl /ɬ/ dli /ɬʲ/
aspirated hl /ɬʰ/ hli /ɬʲʰ/
Lateral approximant l /l/ li /lʲ/

[ʔ] is not distinct from a zero initial (that is, if we accept /ʔ/ as a consonant, there are no vowel-initial words in Hmu), and only occurs with tones 1, 3, 5, 7.

The aspirated nasals and fricatives do not exist in Southern or Eastern Hmu; cognates words use their unaspirated homologues. Further, in Eastern Hmu, di, ti merge into j, q; c merges into x; r (Northern /z/) merges into ni; and v is pronounced [w]. In Southern Hmu, words cognate with hni (and some with ni) are pronounced [nʲʑ]; those with r are [nz]; and some words exchange s and x.

Northern Hmu vowels
Front Central Back
oral nasal oral nasal oral nasal
Close i /i/ u /u/
Mid ai /ɛ/ en /en/ e /ə/ o /o/ ong /oŋ/
Open a /ɑ/ ang /ɑŋ/

Ai /ɛ/ does not occur after palatalized consonants. /en/ after palatalized consonants is spelled in.

Close component is front ei /ej/
Close component is back eu /əw/

Additional diphthongs occur in Chinese loans.

All dialects have eight tones. There is no sandhi. In the chart below, Northern Hmu is represented by Yanghao village (Kaili City), Eastern Hmu by 偶里 village (Jinping County), and Southern Hmu by 振民 (Rongshui County).

Hmu tone
Tone Letter Northern Eastern Southern
1 b ˧ 3 ˧ 3 ˧ 3
3 d ˧˥ 35 ˨̤ 2 ˧˥ 35
5 t ˦ 4 ˦˥ 45 ˦ 4
7 k ˥˧ 53 ˨˦ 24 ˨˦ 24
2 x ˥ 5 ~ ˦˥ 45 ˦˨ 42 ˥˧ 53
4 l ˩̤ 1 ˨˩ 21 ˧˩ 31
6 s ˩˧̤ 13 ˥ 5 ˨̤ 2
8 f ˧˩ 31 ˩˨̤ 12 ˨˩˧ 213

The lowest tones—Northern tones 4 and 6, Eastern tones 3 and 8, and Southern tone 6—are said to make the preceding consonant murmured (breathy voiced), presumably meaning that these are murmured tones as in other Hmongic languages. They are marked with ⟨◌̤⟩ in the chart.

References and notes

  1. ^ Northern at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015)
    Eastern at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015)
    Southern at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015)
    Ná-Meo at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015)
  2. ^ http://asiaharvest.org/wp-content/themes/asia/docs/people-groups/China/chinaPeoples/Q/Qanu.pdf
  3. ^ Guangxi Minority Languages Orthography Committee. 2008. Vocabularies of Guangxi ethnic languages [广西民族语言方音词汇]. Beijing: Nationalities Publishing House [民族出版社].
  4. ^ Nguyễn Văn Thắng (2007). Ambiguity of Identity: The Mieu in North Vietnam. Chiang Mai: Silkworm Books.
  5. ^ 王辅世主编,《苗语简志》,民族出版社,1985年。
  6. ^ a b Hsiu, Andrew (2015). The classification of Na Meo, a Hmong-Mien language of Vietnam. Paper presented at SEALS 25, Chiang Mai, Thailand.
  7. ^ 吴正彪,《黔东方言苗语土语划分问题的再探讨》,《吉首大学学报(社会科学版)》,第30卷(2009),117至121页。
  8. ^ Li Jinping, Li Tianyi [李锦平, 李天翼]. 2012. A comparative study of Miao dialects [苗语方言比较研究]. Chengdu: Southwest Jiaotong University Press
  9. ^ Representative dialect: Yanghao, Sankeshu, Kaili City 贵州凯里三棵树养蒿
  10. ^ Representative dialect: Gaolian, Xiajiang, Congjiang County 贵州从江下江高联
  11. ^ Representative dialect: Meihua, Zhulin, Tianzhu County 贵州天柱竹林梅花
  12. ^ a b 李云兵,《苗语方言划分遗留问题研究》,中央民族大学出版社,2000年。
  13. ^ a b c Tu, Guanglu 涂光禄; Yang, Jun 杨军. 2008. Jinpingxian Han, Dong, Miao yu fangyan zhi 锦屏县汉侗苗语方言志. Guiyang: Guizhou University Press 贵州大学出版社. ISBN 9787811260441
  14. ^ a b Chen, Qiguang [陈其光] (2013). Miao and Yao language [苗瑶语文]. Beijing: China Minzu University Press.
  15. ^ Yu Dazhong [余达忠]. 2017. "Ethnic Interactions and the Formation of the Sanqiu People in the Borderland of Modern Hunan,Guizhou and Guangxi Provinces [近代湘黔桂边区的族群互动和“三锹人”的形成]". In Journal of Guizhou Education University [贵州师范学院学报], Vol. 33, No. 1 (Jan 2017).
  16. ^ 石德富 Shi Defu; 苗语基础教程(黔东方言) Miao-yu jichu jiaocheng (Qian-Dong fangyan) 中央民族大学出版社 Central Minorities Publishing House (2006-08出版)
  • Mă, Xuéliáng and Tái Chānghòu. 1956. A preliminary survey of the phonology of the Miao dialects in the southeast of Kweichou. Yŭyán Yánjiū 1:265-282.
  • Ji Anlong [姬安龙]. 2012. A reference grammar of Taijiang Miao [苗语台江话参考语法]. Kunming: Yunnan People's Press [云南民族出版社].

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