The Hlai languages (Chinese: 黎语; pinyin: Líyǔ) are a primary branch of the Kra–Dai language family spoken in the mountains of central and south-central Hainan in China by the Hlai people, not to be confused with the colloquial name for the Leizhou branch of Min Chinese (Chinese: 黎话; pinyin: Líhuà). They include Cun, whose speakers are ethnically distinct. A quarter of Hlai speakers are monolingual. None of the Hlai languages had a writing system until the 1950s, when the Latin script was adopted for Ha.
Norquest (2007) classifies the Hlai languages as follows. Individual languages are highlighted in bold. There are some 750,000 Hlai speakers.
The Fuma 府玛 dialect is spoken in one village north of Changjiang 昌城, Hainan. It had about 800 speakers in 1994.
Jiamao 加茂 (52,000) is a divergent Kra-Dai language with a Hlai superstratum and a non-Hlai substratum.
Main article: Proto-Hlai language
The Proto-Hlai language is the reconstructed ancestor of the Hlai languages. Proto-Hlai reconstructions include those of Matisoff (1988), Thurgood (1991), Ostapirat (2004), and Norquest (2007).
The following displays the phonological features of the modern Hlai dialects:
Liang & Zhang (1996:18-21) conclude that the original homeland of the Hlai languages was the Leizhou Peninsula, and estimate that the Hlai had migrated across the Hainan Strait to Hainan island about 4,000 years before present.