Mulam language

Native toChina
RegionLuocheng County, Hechi, Northern Guangxi
Ethnicity210,000 (2000 census)[1]
Native speakers
86,000 (2005)[1]
< 10,000 monolinguals
Language codes
ISO 639-3mlm

The Mulam language (Chinese: 仫佬; pinyin: Mùlǎo) is a Kam–Sui language spoken mainly in Luocheng County, Hechi, Northern Guangxi by the Mulao people. The greatest concentrations are in Dongmen and Siba communes. Their autonym is mu6 lam1.[2] The Mulam also call themselves kjam1, which is probably cognate with lam1 and the Dong people's autonym "Kam" (Wang & Zheng 1980).

The Mulam language, like Dong, does not have voiced stop, but does have a phonemic distinction between unvoiced and voiced nasals and laterals. It has a system of eleven distinct vowels. It is a tonal language with ten tones and 65% of its vocabulary is shared with the Zhuang and Dong languages.[citation needed]

The language of Mulam leads to a comparison between two languages as Graham Thurgood states, "For 'headlouse', the KS forms are highly irregular: Kam, Mulam…" (Oceanic Linguistics, Vol. 33, No 2). This relates to the way in which one language can be interpreted through another language, which displays a level of diversity as they may derive different meanings from the translations. Within Mulam Phonology, there is a display of the syllables for Mulam that seems very difficult to decipher without having much knowledge of how they communicate with the dialect. The Mulam ethnic group traces back to the Yuan Dynasty (1271–1368), differing from the current society they have now as the people of Mulam eventually split in the Qing Dynasty (1644–1912).[citation needed]

The majority of the Mulam population are bilingual in the Mulam and the Zhuang language.[citation needed]


The following Mulam dialects are described by Wang & Zheng (1980) (all of which are spoken in Luocheng Mulao Autonomous County).

  • Dongmen 东门镇 (in Dayin 大银, Dafu 大福村, Le'e 勒俄村 etc.)
  • Long'an 龙岸镇 (in Liangsi 良泗, etc.)
  • Huangjin 黄金镇 (in Zhongjian 中间寨, etc.); documented in Qiu (2004)[3]
  • Qiaotou 桥头镇 (in Dongnong 洞弄屯, etc.)
  • Siba 四把镇 (in Dawu 大梧, Miao'er 苗儿屯, Shuangzhai 双寨村, etc.); documented in Guangxi (2008)[4]
  • Xiali 下里乡 (in Xiecun 谢村, etc.)

The following comparison of Mulam dialects is from Ni Dabai (2010:221-222).[2][5]

English gloss Chinese gloss Qiaotou 桥头 Huangjin 黄金 Siba 四把 Dongmen 东门 Long'an 龙岸
die tai1 tai1 pɣai1 tai1 tai1
medicine ta2 ta2 kɣa2 - tsa2
intestines 肠子 taːi3 taːi3 kɣaːi3 khɣaːi3 tsaːi3
cloud ma3 ma3 kwa3 kwa3 fa3
bran 细糠 pwa6 pwa6 kwa6 kwa6 fa6
dog m̥a1 m̥a1 ŋwa1 ŋ̥wa1 m̥a1
hair, fur 毛发 pəm1 pəm1 pɣam1 pɣam1 kjam1


  1. ^ a b Mulam at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015)
  2. ^ a b See Proto-Tai_language#Tones for an explanation of the tone codes.
  3. ^ Qiu Jing [岳静]. 2004. Huangjinzhen Mulaoyu gaikuang [黄金镇仫佬语概况]. Minzu Yuwen 民族语文 2004(4).
  4. ^ 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].
  5. ^ Ni Dabai [倪大白]. 2010. 侗台语概论 [An introduction to Kam-Tai languages]. Beijing: Ethnic Publishing House [民族出版社]. ISBN 978-7-105-10582-3

Further reading

  • Edmondson, Jerold A. and David B. Solnit, eds. Comparative Kadai: Linguistic studies beyond Tai. Summer Institute of Linguistics Publications in Linguistics, 86. Dallas: Summer Institute of Linguistics and the University of Texas at Arlington, 1988.
  • 王均, 郑国乔 / Wang Jun, Zheng Guoqiao. 仫佬语简志 / Mulao yu jian zhi (A Sketch of Mulao [Mulao]). Beijing: 民族出版社: 新華書店发行 / Min zu chu ban she: Xin hua shu dian fa xing, 1980.
  • Zheng, G. 1988. The influences of Han on the Mulam language. In Edmondson, Jerold, A (ed). Comparative Kadai: Linguistic Studies Beyond Tai. SIL International Publications in Linguistics.
  • Thurgood, G. Tai-Kadai and Austronesian: The Nature of the Historical Relationship University of Hawaiʼi Press. Oceanic Linguistics. 1962-2012.
  • "The Mulam Ethnic Group." MSD China. Web. 1 May 2016.

External links

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