The Zhuang languages belong to the northern and Central Tai branches of the Kra-Dai language family. They are spoken mainly in Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region in southern China, and also in Yunnan, Guangdong, Guizhou, and Hunan Provinces.
Chinese linguists classify varieties of Zhuang into two groups: northern Zhuang dialects and southern Zhuang dialects. The different varieties of Zhuang are closely related, but not mutually intelligible. According to some linguists there are 36 distinct varieties of Zhuang, while others identify 13-16 varieties [source].
Standard Zhuang, the official version of Zhuang used and promoted by the Chinese government, is based mainly on the Yongbei dialect of Northern Zhuang, which is spoken in Shuangquiao in Wuming District of Guangxi, and on other northern dialects. Standard Zhuang has six tones. Other varities of Zhuang have between 5 to 11 tones.
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 a standardised form of Zhuang, known as Yongbei Zhuang, based on the dialect of Wuming County in Guangxi. 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.
Bouч bouч ma dəŋƨ laзƃɯn couƅ miƨ cɯyouƨ, cinƅyenƨ cəuƽ genƨli bouчbouч biŋƨdəŋз. Gyɵŋƽ vunƨ miƨ liзsiŋ cəuƽ lieŋƨsim, ɯŋdaŋ daiƅ gyɵngƽ de lumз beiчnueŋч ityieŋƅ.
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.
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)
Information about the Zhuang language
Akkadian Cuneiform, Ancient Egyptian (Demotic), Ancient Egyptian (Hieratic), Ancient Egyptian (Hieroglyphs), Chinese, Chữ-nôm, Cuneiform, Japanese, Jurchen, Khitan, Linear B, Luwian, Mayan, Naxi, Sawndip (Old Zhuang), Sui, Sumerian Cuneiform, Tangut (Hsihsia)
Page last modified: 15.08.22
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