Palaung language

De'ang, Ta'ang
ပလောင်ဘာသာ, တအောင်းဘာသာ
Native toBurma, China, Thailand
Native speakers
(ca. 560,000 cited 1982–??)[1]
Burmese, Tai Le
Language codes
ISO 639-3Variously:
pll – Shwe
pce – Ruching
rbb – Rumai
De'ang manuscript

Palaung (Burmese: ပလောင်ဘာသာ), also known as De'ang (Chinese: 德昂語; Burmese: တအောင်းဘာသာ), 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 whom have their own language.[2][3] 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] Palaung was classified as a "severely endangered" language in UNESCO's 2010 Atlas of the World’s Languages in Danger.[4][5]


Yan & Zhou (2012)

Chinese linguists classify "De'ang 德昂" varieties (spoken mostly in Santaishan Ethnic De'ang Township 三台山德昂族乡, Mangshi and Junnong Township 军弄乡, Zhenkang County) as follows (De'angyu Jianzhi). Names in IPA are from Yan & Zhou (2012:154–155)[6]

  • Bulei 布雷 (pule) (representative datapoint: Yunqian 允欠,[7] Mangshi): spoken in Luxi
    • Bulei 布雷 (pule) dialect
    • Raojin 饶进 (raudʑĕŋ) dialect
  • Liang 梁 (liaŋ) (representative datapoint: Xiaochanggou 硝厂沟): spoken in Longchuan and Ruili
  • Rumai 汝买 (romai, roraumai) (representative datapoint: Yechaqing 叶茶箐): spoken in Zhenkang and Baoshan

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

Liu (2006)[8] documents 3 Palaungic lects, namely:

  • Guangka Village, Mengxiu Township, Ruili City (瑞丽市勐休乡广卡村);[9] ru˥mai˦˩˨; tonal
  • Mengdan Village, Santaishan Township (三台山勐丹村);[10] ʔaŋ; non-tonal
  • Guanshuang Village, Mengman Township, Xishuangbanna (西双版纳州勐满乡关双村);[11] ar˧˩vaʔ˩˧; tonal

Ostapirat (2009)

Weera Ostapirat (2009:74) classifies the Palaung languages as follows.[12] Defining sound changes are given in parentheses.

  • Ta-ang
  • Rumai-Darang (*-ɔŋ > -ɛŋ; *-uŋ > -ɨŋ)
    • Rumai (*-r- > -j-)
    • Ra-ang-Darang (*b, *d, *ɟ, *g > p, t, c, k)
      • Ra-ang
      • Darang (*-on > -uan; *-r > -n)
        • Na-ang
        • Darang
        • Da-ang
        • Dara-ang

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:

  • Kengtung town
  • Waanpao village (near Kengtung)
  • Chengphong village (near Kengtung)
  • Loikhong village (near Mängpeng)
  • Mängküng
  • Yassaw
  • Kalaw

Deepadung, et al. (2015)

Deepadung, et al. (2015)[13] classify the Palaung dialects as follows.

  • Ta-ang: Namhsan, Khun Hawt, Htan Hsan
  • (core Palaung)
    • Pule: Pang Kham, Man Loi, Meng Dan, Chu Dong Gua
    • Dara-ang: Pan Paw, Noe Lae, Nyaung Gone, Pong Nuea (?), Xiang Cai Tang 香菜塘
    • Rumai: Nan Sang, Guang Ka, Mang Bang
    • ? Cha Ye Qing 茶叶箐


Chen, et all (1986) lists the following consonants for Palaung:

Labial Dental Alveolo-
Velar Glottal
Plosive voiceless p t t͡ɕ k ʔ
aspirated t͡ɕʰ
voiced b d d͡ʑ ɡ
Nasal voiced m n ɲ̟ ŋ ˀn
voiceless ɲ̟̊ ŋ̊
Fricative voiceless f s ɕ h
voiced v
Rhotic voiced r
Approximant voiced l j

A final /r/ can be heard as a voiceless sound [ɹ̥], and following a /u/ it is heard as [ɫ̥].

Front Back
High i ɯ u
Mid high ɪ ʊ
Mid tense e ɤ o
Mid lax ɛ ɔ
Low ɑ

/ɤ/ can be heard in rapid speech as a central vowel [ə], and is heard as [ɤ] elsewhere. /a/ can be heard as fronted [æ] before /k, ŋ/, and [ɛ] before /n, t/.

According to Shorto (1960), /ɤ/ 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/, /eɤ/, /aɤ/, /ɔɤ/, /oɤ/, /uɤ/, and /iɤ/.

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.)


The examples below are form Milne (1921).

Nouns and noun phrases

The order of elements in the noun phrase is N – (possessor) – (demonstrative).

Consider the following examples:

kwɔɔn ai öö
child we two this
this child of ours

Prepositions and prepositional phrases

Shwe Palaung has prepositions, as in the following example.

ta khuun hɔɔkhəm
to great king
to the great king


Shwe Palaung clauses generally have subject–verb–object (SVO) word order.

əən dii d͡ʒüür gaaŋ
he future buy house
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,
lady awake lady narrative:past said to great king lady say
The queen awoke and said to the king
öö ka tööm rɪɪnpoo hlai uu lööh khənjaa öö ai lɔh shoktee haa öö
oh neg ever dream even one time ruler oh we two come fast place this
'Oh, I never dreamed (like this) before, oh Ruler, (since) we two came to this place to fast
Phadiiu la puur shəŋii, ɔɔ rɪɪnpoo khuun phii leeh
today full good seven day I dream great spirit come down
seven days ago, I dreamed that the great spirit came down
dɛh ɔɔ hɔɔm makmon kəəm ŋaam hnjo hnjo
give me eat long mango gold sweet very
and gave me long mangoes of gold to eat. They were very sweet.'


  1. ^ a b Shwe at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015)
    Ruching at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015)
    Rumai at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015)
  2. ^ Waddington, Ray (2003). "The Palaung". The Peoples of the World Foundation. Retrieved 3 May 2012.
  3. ^ 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 (2nd rev. and enl. ed.). München: K.G. Saur. p. 403. ISBN 3-598-11404-4.
  4. ^ "UNESCO Atlas of the World's Languages in danger". UNESCO. Retrieved 2020-06-03.
  5. ^ Moseley, Christopher (2010). Atlas of the World's Languages in Danger. UNESCO. ISBN 978-92-3-104096-2.
  6. ^ Yan & Zhou (2012), pp. 154–155
  7. ^ "Yunqian Village Committee, Deang Nationality Township, Santai Mountain, Luxi City" 潞西市三台山德昂族乡允欠村委会 [Lù Xī Shì Sān Táishān Dé'áng Zú Xiāng Yǔn Qiàn Cūn Wěi Huì]. www.ynszxc.gov.cn (in Chinese). Archived from the original on 2018-07-23. Retrieved 2016-09-29.
  8. ^ 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].
  9. ^ "Ruìlì Shì Měng Xiù Xiāng Měng Xiù Cūn Wěi Huì Guǎng Kǎ Zìráncūn" 瑞丽市勐秀乡勐秀村委会广卡自然村 [Guangka Natural Village, Mengxiu Village Committee, Mengxiu Township, Ruili City]. www.ynszxc.gov.cn (in Chinese). Archived from the original on 2017-02-02. Retrieved 2016-10-09.
  10. ^ "Měng Hǎi Xiàn Měng Mǎn Zhèn Guān Shuāng Cūn Wěi Huì Lù Xī Shì Sān Táishān Dé'áng Zú Xiāng Měng Dān Cūn Wěi Huì" 潞西市三台山德昂族乡勐丹村委会 [Mengdan Village Committee, Deang Nationality Township, Santai Mountain, Luxi City]. www.ynszxc.gov.cn (in Chinese). Archived from the original on 2017-02-02. Retrieved 2016-10-09.
  11. ^ "Měng Hǎi Xiàn Měng Mǎn Zhèn Guān Shuāng Cūn Wěi Huì" 勐海县勐满镇关双村委会 [Guanshuang Village Committee, Mengman Town, Menghai County]. www.ynszxc.gov.cn (in Chinese). Archived from the original on 2017-02-02. Retrieved 2016-10-09.
  12. ^ Ostapirat, Weera (2009). "Some Phonological Criteria for Palaung Subgrouping". Journal of Language and Culture. 28 (1): 63.
  13. ^ Deepadung, Sujaritlak; Buakaw, Supakit; Rattanapitak, Ampika (2015). "A Lexical Comparison of the Palaung Dialects Spoken in China, Myanmar, and Thailand" (PDF). Mon-Khmer Studies. 44: 19–38. doi:10.15144/MKSJ-44.19. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2018-08-27.


Further reading

  • Mak, Pandora (2012). Golden Palaung: A Grammatical Description. Canberra: Asia-Pacific Linguistics. [electronic resource]
  • Yan, Qixiang (颜其香); Zhou, Zhizhi (周植志) (2012). Zhongguo Meng Gaomian yu zu yu yan yu Nan Ya yu xi 中国孟高棉语族语言与南亚语系/The Mon – Khmer languages in China and Austro-Asiatic languages (in Chinese). Beijing: She hui ke xue wen xian chu ban she 社会科学文献出版社 [Social Sciences Academy Press].
  • Harper, Jerod (2009). Phonological Descriptions of Plang spoken in Man Noi, La Gang, and Bang Deng Villages (in China) M.A. Thesis. Payap University, Chiang Mai.
  • Lewis, Emily (2008). Grammatical studies of Man Noi Plang. M.A. Thesis. Payap University, Chiang Mai.
  • 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].
  • Chen, Xiangmu; Wang, Jingliu and Lai, Yongliang (1986). De'ang jianzhi (Sketch grammar of De'ang) [德昂语简志]. Beijing: Nationalities Publishing house.
  • Shorto, H.L. (1960). Word and syllable patterns in Palaung. Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London; 1960, Vol. 23 Issue 3, p544-557.
  • Milne, Mrs. Leslie (1931). A dictionary of English–Palaung and Palaung–English. Rangoon: Supdt., Govt. Print. and Stationery.
  • Milne, Mrs. Leslie (1921). An elementary Palaung grammar. Oxford: The Clarendon press. (cp. [1])

External links

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