|Southern China, Northern Vietnam|
The Kra languages (//; also known as the Geyang or Kadai languages) are a branch of the Kra–Dai language family spoken in southern China (Guizhou, Guangxi, Yunnan) and in northern Vietnam (Hà Giang Province).
The name Kra comes from the word *kraC "human" as reconstructed by Ostapirat (2000), which appears in various Kra languages as kra, ka, fa or ha. Benedict (1942) used the term Kadai for the Kra and Hlai languages grouped together and the term Kra-Dai is proposed by Ostapirat (2000).
The Kra branch was first identified as a unified group of languages by Liang (1990), who called it the Geyang 仡央 languages. Geyang 仡央 is a portmanteau of the first syllable of Ge- in Gelao and the last syllable of -yang in Buyang. The name Kra was proposed by Ostapirat (2000) and is the term usually used by scholars outside China, whereas Geyang is the name currently used in China.
Several Kra languages have regionally unusual consonant clusters and sesquisyllabic or disyllabic words, whereas other Kra–Dai languages tend to have only have single syllables. The disyllables in Buyang have been used by Sagart (2004) to support the view that the Kra-Dai languages are a subgroup within the Austronesian family. Unlike the Tai and Kam–Sui languages, most Kra languages, including Gelao and Buyang, have preserved the proto-Kra–Dai numerical systems. The only other Kra–Dai branch that preserves this is Hlai. Most other Kra–Dai languages adopted Chinese numerals over 1000 years ago.
As noted by Jerold A. Edmondson, the Kra languages contain words in metalworking, handicrafts and agriculture that are not attested in any other Kra–Dai language. This suggests that the Kra peoples may have developed or borrowed many technological innovations independently of the Tai and Kam-Sui peoples.
Main article: Proto-Kra language
The Proto-Kra language has been reconstructed by Weera Ostapirat (2000).
Morphological similarities suggest the Kra languages are closest to the Kam–Sui branch of the family. There are about a dozen Kra languages, depending on how languages and dialects are defined. Gelao, with about 8,000 speakers in China out of an ethnic population of approximately 500,000, and consists of at least four mutually unintelligible language varieties, including Telue (White Gelao), Hagei (Blue or Green Gelao), Vandu (Red Gelao), A'ou (Red Gelao), and Qau (Chinese Gelao).
The internal classification below is from Weera Ostapirat (2000), who splits the Kra branch into the Eastern and Western branches.
According to Jerold Edmondson (2002), Laha is too conservative to be in Western Kra, considered it to constitute a branch of its own. However, Edmondson (2011) later reversed his position, considering Laha to be more closely related to Paha.
Ethnologue mistakenly includes the Hlai language Cun of Hainan in Kra; this is not supported by either Ostapirat or Edmondson.
Hsiu's (2014) classification of the Kra languages, based on computational phylogenetic analysis as well as Edmondson's (2011) earlier analysis of Kra, is given below, as cited in Norquest (2021).
Andrew Hsiu (2013, 2017) reports that Hezhang Buyi, a divergent, moribund Northern Tai language spoken by 5 people in Dazhai 大寨, Fuchu Township 辅处乡, Hezhang County 赫章县, Guizhou, China, has a Kra substratum.
Maza, a Lolo–Burmese language spoken in Mengmei 孟梅, Funing County, Yunnan, is also notable for having a Qabiao substratum (Hsiu 2014:68-69).
According to Li Jinfang (1999), the Yang Zhuang people of southwestern Guangxi may have been Kra speakers who had switched to Zhuang.
The Kra languages have a total of about 22,000 speakers. In Vietnam, officially recognized Kra peoples are the Cờ Lao, La Chí, La Ha and Pu Péo. In China, only the Gelao (Cờ Lao) have official status. The other Kra peoples are variously classified as Zhuang, Buyi, Yi, and Han.
Within China, "hotspots" for Kra languages include most of western Guizhou, the prefecture-level city of Baise in western Guangxi, Wenshan Zhuang and Miao Autonomous Prefecture in southeastern Yunnan, as well as Hà Giang Province in northern Vietnam. This distribution runs along a northeast-southwest geographic vector, forming what Jerold A. Edmondson calls a "language corridor."
Multilingualism is common among Kra language speakers. For example, many Buyang can also speak Zhuang.
|Proto-Kra||*tʂəm C||*sa A||*tu A||*pə A||*r-ma A||*x-nəm A||*t-ru A||*m-ru A||*s-ɣwa B||*pwlot D|
|Buyang, Ecun||pi53||θa24||tu24||pa24||ma44||nam24||tu44||ma0 ðu44||va55||put55|
|Buyang, Langjia||am35||ɕa54||tu54||pa54||ma312||nam54||ðu312||ma0 ðu312||va11||put55|
|En (Nung Ven)||ʔam332||θa243||tu243||pa33||ma243||nəm243||ʔam332 tu243||me332 ru33||wa54||θət33|
|Qabiao||tɕia33||ɕe53||tau53||pe53||ma33||ma33 nam35||ma33 tu53||ma33 ʐɯ33||ma33 ɕia31||pət31|
|Laha, Wet||tɕɐm31||sa343||tu343||pɑ343||mɑ33||dɐm343||tʰo343||ma33 hu33||so33 wa24||pɤt23|
|Gelao, Bigong||sɿ55 təɯ33||səɯ31 təɯ33||tɔ31||pɔ31||mɔ31||nai31||tʰɔ31||ʑɔ31||ʑɔu31||hui13|
|Gelao, Red||tsə44||se33||tua44||pu44||maŋ44||ɬoŋ44||te44||wu35||ʂe35||la51 kwe44|
|Gelao, Sanchong||ʂɿ43||ʂa45||tau45||pu45||mei21||ȵaŋ21||tʂau45||ʑau21||ʂo43||sɿ43 pie43|
|Gelao, Banliwan||i53||ɑ53||ɑ53 muŋ53||ɑŋ44||-||-||-||-||-||-|
|Gelao, Zunyi||失 (shi)||沙 (sha)||刀 (dao)||波 (bo)||媒 (mei)||娘召 (niangshao)||召 (shao)||饶 (rao)||署 (shu)||失不 (shibu)|
|Gelao, Renhuai||思 (shi)||沙 (sha)||刀 (dao)||波 (bo)||差 (cha)||良 (liang)||-||绕 (rao)||素 (su)||死比 (sibi)|
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