Lalo (Chinese: 腊罗; Western Yi) is a Loloish language cluster spoken in western Yunnan, China by 300,000 speakers. Speakers are officially part of the Yi nationality, and Chinese linguists refer to it as "Western Yi" due to its distribution in western Yunnan. Lalo speakers are mostly located in southern Dali Prefecture, especially Weishan County, considered the traditional homeland of the Lalo. Historically, this area is the home of the Meng clan, who ruled the Nanzhao Kingdom (737–902 CE). Many speakers of Core Lalo dialects claim to be descendants of the Meng clan.
Many Lalo are referred to by the exonym Menghua (蒙化), a name used during the Yuan Dynasty to refer to an area comprising modern-day Weishan County and Nanjian County (Yang 2010:12). They are also referred to as Tujia (土家) people (Yunnan 1956:14-15).
David Bradley (2007) refers to the Lalo language cluster, which includes the Samatu language of Zhenkang County and Yongde County, as Laloid.
Cathryn Yang (2010) gives the following demographic information for various Lalo languages. Combined, speakers of Lalo languages number fewer than 300,000 people.
Wang & Zhao (2013), citing Chen, et al. (1985), divide Western Yi (彝语西部方言) into two dialects, namely Dongshan and Xishan. In Lincang Prefecture, Western Yi speakers number approximately 30,000 people and have the autonyms la21 lo33 pɑ21 and mi13 sa21 pa21.
In Jianxing Township 建兴乡, Xinping County, Yunnan, Lalu 腊鲁 is spoken in the two administrative villages of Malutang 马鹿塘 and Mowei 磨味 by about 3,000 people (Wang 2011:11,20).
Lalu 腊鲁 (exonyms: Xiangtang 香堂 and Luoluo 罗罗) is also spoken in Sipsongpanna, including in Xiangmeng 象明乡, Yiwu 易武乡, Mengpeng 勐捧镇, and Jinghong 景洪市 townships.
Yunnan (1979) mentions the Datou 达头 of Pu'er and Simao (population: 254 as of 1960) as having traditions and festivals similar to those of the Yi people of Weishan County, who are mostly Lalo speakers.
The Aciga 阿次嘎 of Lancang County reside in Yakou Township 雅口乡 and Nanxian Township 南现乡 (now Nuozhadu Town 糯扎渡镇). They numbered 50 as of 1960. 100 years ago, they had migrated from Niujian Mountain 牛肩山, Zhenyue County 镇越县 (now renamed as Mengla County), and had spoken a different language that is now extinct. They now speak Chinese and "Yi" (presumably Lalo, as the Yi dialects of Lancang are mostly Lalo). Aciga is an exonym, as the Aciga do not have an autonym.
Lama (2012) splits Laluba into three dialects.
A recent dialectological survey by Cathryn Yang (2010) shows that the Lalo cluster comprises at least 7 closely related languages. Three of these (Eastern, Western, and Central) constitute the Core Lalo group and are located in the traditional Lalo homeland of southern Dali Prefecture. There are also four peripheral languages, Mangdi, Eka, Yangliu, and Xuzhang, whose ancestors migrated out of the Lalo homeland at different times.
All Lalo languages show a reflex of the Proto-Lalo autonym *la2lo̠Hpa̠L; i.e. the name that the Proto-Lalo called themselves are still preserved in the various modern Lalo languages. Eka speakers’ autonym is now o21 kʰa24, but elderly speakers report that their more archaic autonym is la21 lu̠33 po̠21 (Yang 2010).
Yang's (2010:209) phylogenetic tree of Lalo is as follows.
Alu may also be a peripheral Lalo language, but this is uncertain due to limited data.
|Mid||ɛ [ɛ̠]||ø [ø̠]||ə [ə̠]||o [o̠]|
|Close||i [iɛ]||y [yɛ]||ɨ||u|
The following are the tones in Central and Western Lalo: