Central Tai
China, Vietnam
Linguistic classificationKra–Dai
deba1238  (Debao–Jingxi–Nung)
Geographic distribution of Central Tai languages

The Central Tai languages include southern dialects of Zhuang, and various Nung and Tày dialects of northern Vietnam.

Central Tai languages differ from Northern Tai languages in that Central Tai distinguishes unaspirated and aspirated onsets, while Northern Tai generally does not (Li 1977). Southwestern Tai also displays this kind of aspiration contrast.


William Gedney considers Central Tai to be more closely related to Southwestern Tai than to Northern Tai, while André-Georges Haudricourt argues for a closer relation to Northern Tai. Pittayaporn's (2009) tentative tree of the Tai branch, however, considers Central Tai to be paraphyletic.

Certain languages in predominantly Central Tai-speaking areas, such as Caolan and Nùng An[1] in northern Vietnam, display Northern Tai features as well. These appear to be mixed languages that are not fully Central Tai or Northern Tai. Jerold A. Edmondson calls Caolan a "tertium quid".[2]

Jerold Edmondson's (2013)[3] computational phylogenetic analysis of the Tai languages shows Tay and Nung to be coherent branches under Central Tai.


Many Central Tai languages are known as Nong 侬 (Nùng in Vietnamese) or Dai 岱 (Tày in Vietnamese).





  1. ^ Nicolson, Beth (2000), "The Nung An Language of Vietnam: Stepchild or Aberrant Son?" (PDF), The Fifth International Symposium on Languages and Linguistics
  2. ^ Gregerson, Kenneth J., and Jerold A. Edmondson. 1998. Some puzzles in Cao Lan. University of Texas at Arlington.
  3. ^ Edmondson, Jerold A. Tai subgrouping using phylogenetic estimation. Presented at the 46th International Conference on Sino-Tibetan Languages and Linguistics (ICSTLL 46), Dartmouth College, Hanover, New Hampshire, United States, August 7–10, 2013 (Session: Tai-Kadai Workshop).


  • Li, Fang-kuei. 1977. Handbook of Comparative Tai. Honolulu, Hawaii: University of Hawaiʼi Press.
  • Pittayaporn, Pittayawat. 2009. The Phonology of Proto-Tai. Ph.D. dissertation. Department of Linguistics, Cornell University.