Palaung language

De'ang, Ta'ang
Native to Burma, China, Thailand
Ethnicity Palaung
Native speakers
(ca. 560,000 cited 1982–??)[1]
Tai Le
Language codes
ISO 639-3 Variously:
pll  Shwe
pce  Ruching
rbb  Rumai
Glottolog pala1336[2]

Palaung, or in Chinese De'ang, 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 these has their own language.[3][4] 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]


Yan & Zhou (2012)

Chinese linguists classify "Deang 德昂" varieties (spoken mostly in Santaishan Ethnic Deang Township 三台山德昂族乡, Mangshi and Junnong Township 军弄乡, Zhenkang County) as follows (Deangyu Jianzhi). Names in IPA are from Yan & Zhou (2012:154-155) [5]

  • Bulei 布雷 (pu le) (representative datapoint: Yunqian 允欠,[6] Mangshi): spoken in Luxi
    • Bulei 布雷 (pu le) dialect
    • Raojin 饶进 (rau dʑĕŋ) dialect
  • Liang 梁 (liaŋ) (representative datapoint: Xiaochanggou 硝厂沟): spoken in Longchuan and Ruili
  • Rumai 汝买 (ro mai, ro rau mai) (representative datapoint: Yechaqing 叶茶箐): spoken in Zhenkang and Baoshan

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

Liu (2006)[7] documents 3 Palaungic lects, namely:

  • Guangka Village, Mengxiu Township, Ruili City (瑞丽市勐休乡广卡村);[8] ru55 mai412; tonal
  • Mengdan Village, Santaishan Township (三台山勐丹村);[9] ʔaŋ; non-tonal
  • Guanshuang Village, Mengman Township, Xishuangbanna (西双版纳州勐满乡关双村);[10] ar31 vaʔ13; tonal

Ostapirat (2009)

Weera Ostapirat (2009:74) classifies the Palaung languages as follows.[11] 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)[12] 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


Shorto (1960) lists the following consonants for Palaung:

Mid tenseeo
Mid laxɛəɔ

According to Shorto (1960), /ə/ 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/, /eə/, /aə/, /ɔə/, /oə/, /uə/, and /iə/.

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.)


Nouns and noun phrases

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

Consider the following examples:

childwe twothis
this child of ours

Prepositions and prepositional phrases

Shwe Palaung has prepositions, as in the following example:

to the great king


Clauses in Shwe are generally in subject–verb–object (SVO) order:

a baby cried

Text sample

The following part of a story in Shwe Palaung is from Milne (1921:146-147)

The queen awoke and said to the king
ohnegeverdreamevenonetimerulerohwe twocomefastplacethis
'Oh, I never dreamed (like this) before, oh Ruler, (since) we two came to this place to fast
todayfullgoodsevendayIdreamgreatspiritcome down
seven days ago. I dreamed that the great spirit came down
dɛhɔɔhɔɔmmakmonkəəmŋaamhnjo hnjo
givemeeatlong mangogoldsweetvery
and gave me long mangoes of gold to eat. They were very sweet.'


  1. 1 2 Shwe at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015)
    Ruching at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015)
    Rumai at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015)
  2. Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2017). "Palaung". Glottolog 3.0. Jena, Germany: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History.
  3. Ray Waddington (2003). "The Palaung". The Peoples of the World Foundation. Retrieved 3 May 2012.
  4. 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) Saur, Munich, Germany, page 403, ISBN 3-598-11404-4
  5. Yan Qixiang [颜其香] & Zhou Zhizhi [周植志] (2012). Mon-Khmer languages of China and the Austroasiatic family [中国孟高棉语族语言与南亚语系]. Beijing: Social Sciences Academy Press [社会科学文献出版社].
  7. 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].
  11. Ostapirat, Weera. 2009. "Some phonological criteria for Palaung subgrouping". In Journal of Language and Culture Vol. 28 No. 1 (January – June 2009).
  12. Deepadung, Sujaritlak; Supakit Buakaw; Ampika Rattanapitak. 2015. A Lexical Comparison of the Palaung Dialects Spoken in China, Myanmar, and Thailand. Mon-Khmer Studies 44:19-38.

Further reading

  • Yan Qixiang [颜其香] & Zhou Zhizhi [周植志] (2012). Mon-Khmer languages of China and the Austroasiatic family [中国孟高棉语族语言与南亚语系]. Beijing: Social Sciences Academy Press [社会科学文献出版社].
  • 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].
  • 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.
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