Zhuang is a northern Tai language spoken by about 10 million people mainly
in Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region in southern China, and also in Yunnan,
Guangdong, Guizhou, and Hunan Provinces.
Zhuang was originally written with a mixture of standard Chinese characters,
Chinese-like characters and other symbols. This script, known as the Old
Zhuang Script or sawndip ("immature character"), dates back to the
Tang Dynasty (618-907 AD) and was used to write folktales, myths, songs, play
scripts, medical prescriptions, family genealogies, contracts, communist
revolutionary propaganda, etc.
There are 16 main dialects of Zhuang, some of which differ from one another
so much that they are mutually unintelligible, and therefore some linguists
consider Zhuang a collection of closely related language rather than a single
language with different dialects.
There is standardised form of Zhuang, known as Yongbei Zhuang, based on the dialect
of Wuming County in Guangxi, and a slightly different standard, known as Bouyei,
is used in Guizhou. A method of writing Zhuang based on the Wuming dialect and using
a mixture of Latin and Cyrillic letters and a number of IPA symbols was devised
in 1955. A reform in 1986 removed the non-Latin letters and replaced them with
individual Latin letters or combinations of Latin letters.
Zhuang is a tonal language and Yongbei Zhuang has six tones which are indicated
in writing with particular letters.
The 1955 version of the alphabet is shown in blue, while the 1986 version is
Boux boux ma daengz lajmbwn couh miz cwyouz, cinhyenz
caeuq genzli bouxboux bingzdaengj. Gyoengq vunz miz lijsing
caeuq liengzsim, wngdang daih gyoengq de lumj beixnuengx ityiengh.
Old Zhuang Script (sawndip)
All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They
are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another
in a spirit of brotherhood. (Article 1 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights)