Northern Loloish languages

Northern Loloish
Northern Ngwi
Ethnicity Yi people
Southern China, Vietnam
Linguistic classification


Glottolog niso1234[1]

The Northern Loloish languages, also known as Northern Ngwi, are a branch of the Loloish languages that includes the literary standard of the Yi people. In Lama's (2012) classification, it is called Nisoid (Nisu–Lope), which forms the Nisoish branch together with the Axi-Puoid (Southeastern Loloish) languages.


Two of the six Yi languages (fangyan 方言) officially recognized by the Chinese government belong to the Northern Loloish branch.

  • Northern Yi (Nuosu 诺苏)
  • Eastern Yi (Nasu 纳苏)

Another officially recognized Yi language (fangyan), Southern Yi (Nisu 尼苏), may or may not be a Northern Loloish language, as Pelkey (2011) classifies it as a Southeastern Loloish language based on phonological innovations shared with Southeastern instead of Northern Loloish languages.

Other Northern Loloish languages are listed below.

Nisu is classified as Southeastern Loloish by Pelkey (2011), but is traditionally classified as a Northern Loloish language.

Bradley (1997)[2] also lists the endangered Kathu and Mo'ang languages of Wenshan Prefecture, Yunnan, China as Northern Loloish languages, but they were later classified as Mondzish by Lama (2012) and Hsiu (2014).[3]

Bradley (2007)

Within Northern Loloish, David Bradley (2007)[4] recognizes the Nosoid and Nasoid subgroups. Lama (2012) also recognizes a distinction between the Nuosu and Nasu clusters, with the Nuosu cluster including Nuosu and Niesu, and the Nasu cluster include Nasu, Gepu, and Nesu.

Samei, Samataw, and Sanie are classified as Nasoid by Bradley (2007), but as Kazhuoish languages by Lama (2012).

Chen (2010)

Chen (2010) recognizes two separate regional macrolanguages (Chinese: fangyan 方言), which are Nosu (Northern Yi) and Nasu (Eastern Yi). Also listed are the counties where each respective dialect is spoken.

  • Nosu 诺苏方言 (See)
  • Nasu 纳苏方言
    • Nàsū 纳苏次方言
      • Nàsū 纳苏 (na̱˧su˧pʰo˥): 400,000 speakers in Luquan, Wuding, Xundian, Huize, Dongchuan, Songming, etc.
      • Naso, Nàsuǒ 纳索 (na̱˧so˧pʰo˥): 300,000 speakers in Zhaotong, Ludian, Yiliang, Daguan, Yanjin, Suijiang, Yongshan, Qiaojia, Huize, etc.
      • Alo, Āluó 阿罗 (a̱˥lɒ˧): 100,000 speakers in Wuding, Fumin, Lufeng, etc.
      • Mongi, Mòqí 莫其 (mo˨˩ndʑi˨˩): 50,000 speakers in Wuding, Luquan, Songming, Kunming, Mile, etc.
    • Nersu, Nèisū 内苏次方言
      • Nersu, Nèisū 内苏 (nɤ˥su˩˧): 300,000 speakers in Weining, Shuicheng, Hezhang, Nayong, Yiliang, Huize, Xuanwei, Weixin, Zhenyong, etc.
      • Nipu, Nípǔ 尼普 (ɲi˥pʰu˥): 300,000 speakers in Bijie, Qianxi, Jinsha, Dafang, Zhijin, Nayong, Qingzhen, Pingba, Puding, Liuzhi, Guanling, Zhenning, etc.
    • Noso, Nuòsuǒ 诺索次方言
      • Noso, Nuòsuǒ 诺索 (nɔ˥so˧): 100,000 speakers in Panxian, Xingren, Pu'an, Xingyi, Qinglong, Shuicheng, Fuyuan, Luoping, etc.
      • Polo, Bǔluó 补罗 (pʰo̱˥lo̱˥): 50,000 speakers in Kaiyuan, Gejiu, Mengzi, Honghe, Wenshan, Yanshan, etc.

Li (2013:245)[5] lists the following autonyms for the Yi people of these counties.

Other autonyms listed by Dai (1998:218):[6]

The ne55 su33 phu55 of southwestern Guizhou reside in Pingdi 坪地, Pugu 普古, and Jichangping 鸡场坪 townships, Pan County; Longchang 龙场 and Fa'er 法耳 township, Shuicheng County (Chen 1987).[7]


Pelkey (2011:368) lists the following as Northern Ngwi innovations that had developed from Proto-Ngwi.

  • Proto-Ngwi tone categories H and L flipped (*L > ˩˧ in Nasu)
  • Proto-Ngwi tone categories *1 and *2 merged to mid-level
  • Proto-Ngwi tone category *3 > low-falling
  • Lexicalized family group classifiers with frequent monosyllabic forms
  • Burmic extentive paradigm is highly grammaticalized, with few lexical innovations


  1. Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2017). "Nisoid". Glottolog 3.0. Jena, Germany: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History.
  2. Bradley, D. 1997, "Tibeto-Burman languages and classification", in Papers in Southeast Asian Linguistics No. 14: Tibeto-Burman Languages of the Himalayas, ed. D. Bradley, vol. 14, pp. 1-72. Pacific Linguistics, the Australian National University.
  3. Hsiu, Andrew. 2014. "Mondzish: a new subgroup of Lolo-Burmese". In Proceedings of the 14th International Symposium on Chinese Languages and Linguistics (IsCLL-14). Taipei: Academia Sinica.
  4. Bradley, David. 2007. East and Southeast Asia. In Moseley, Christopher (ed.), Encyclopedia of the World's Endangered Languages, 349-424. London & New York: Routledge.
  5. Li Zeran [李泽然]. 2013. Haniyu cihuixue [哈尼语词汇学]. Beijing: Ethnic Publishing House.
  6. Dai Qingxia. 1998. Yiyu cihuixue [彝语词汇学]. Beijing: Minzu University Press.
  7. Chen Fuzhi 陈富智. 1987. 盘县特区坪地彝语语音浅探. In 贵州民族研究(季刊), Vol. 2 (No. 30). April 1987.
  • Bradley, David (1997). "Tibeto-Burman languages and classification". In Tibeto-Burman languages of the Himalayas, Papers in South East Asian linguistics. Canberra: Pacific Linguistics.
  • Chen Kang [陈康]. 2010. A study of Yi dialects [彝语方言研究]. Beijing: China Minzu University Press.
  • Lama, Ziwo Qiu-Fuyuan (2012). Subgrouping of Nisoic (Yi) Languages. Ph.D. thesis, University of Texas at Arlington.
  • Pelkey, Jamin. 2011. Dialectology as Dialectic: Interpreting Phula Variation. Berlin: De Gruyter Mouton.
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