|80 (2000, David Bradley)|
The Gong language (also 'Ugong, Ugong, Lawa or Ugawng, with U- meaning 'person') is an endangered Tibeto-Burman language of Western Thailand, spoken in isolated pockets in Uthai Thani and Suphanburi provinces.
The ethnic group was first known to Westerners in the 1920s, when the language was already considered in severe decline (Kerr 1927). In the 1970s, David Bradley began working on the language in the several areas where it was still used, by which time it was already extinct in two of the locations given by Kerr (1927) about 50 years earlier. The people were then forced from two of these villages when the Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand built dams over the Kwae Yai and Khwae Noi River (Bradley 1989). Because of the displacement of the people of an already declining language, the language is considered especially vulnerable to extinction. The last children speakers were in the 1970s and the children now speak Thai as their first language.
The classification of Gong within Tibeto-Burman is uncertain, although Bradley (1989) suggests that it is a divergent Lolo-Burmese language that does not fit into either the Burmish or Loloish branches.
The Gong language consists of two dialects (Ethnologue).
Gong was once also spoken in western Kanchanaburi Province, but is now extinct in that province (Ethnologue). Word lists of two Gong varieties (namely Lawa of Kwê Yai and Lawa of Kwê Noi) from Kanchanaburi have been collected by Kerr (1927).
Gong families now live in the following 3 villages.
There are around 500 ethnic Gong people and 50 speakers of the Gong language. There are also many Lao Krang people living in the Gong areas.
Gong used to be much more widespread, and was found in the Khwae Noi River, Khwae Yai River, and Bo Phloi River watersheds (Bradley 1989). It was reportedly spoken in locations including:
In Kanchanaburi Province, many Gong have intermarried with Karen and Mon people. Sisawat and Sangkhlaburi have since been flooded by the construction of a dam, and the speakers have been dispersed to other places. As of 1991 in Kanchanaburi Province, Gong has not been spoken for 20-30 years, with most Gong people speaking Thai or Karen instead.
Gong has SOV (verb-final) word order.