Southern China and Southeast Asia
Linguistic classificationSino-Tibetan
External image
image icon Map of the Lolo-Burmese Languages.[1]
Ethnolinguistic groups in Yunnan, China
Ethnolinguistic groups in Burma
  other Tibeto-Burman

The Lolo-Burmese languages (also Burmic languages) of Burma and Southern China form a coherent branch of the Sino-Tibetan family.


Until ca. 1950, the endonym Lolo was written with derogatory characters in Chinese, and for this reason has sometimes been avoided. Shafer (1966–1974) used the term "Burmic" for the Lolo-Burmese languages. The Chinese term is Mian–Yi, after the Chinese name for Burmese and one of several words for Tai, reassigned to replace Lolo by the Chinese government after 1950.[2]

Possible languages

The position of Naxi (Moso) within the family is unclear, and it is often left as a third branch besides Loloish and Burmish. Lama (2012) considers it to be a branch of Loloish, while Guillaume Jacques has suggested that it is a Qiangic language.

The Pyu language that preceded Burmese in Burma is sometimes linked to the Lolo-Burmese family, but there is no good evidence for any particular classification, and it is best left unclassified within Sino-Tibetan.

Löffler (1966) and Bradley (1997) consider the Mru language to be closely related to or part of Lolo-Burmese,[3][4] while Matisoff includes Mruic in the Northeast Indian areal group.[5]

Pai-lang, attested from the 3rd century, is Lolo-Burmese, perhaps Loloish.

External relationships

Guillaume Jacques & Alexis Michaud (2011)[6] argue for a Burmo-Qiangic branch with two primary subbranches, Na-Qiangic (i.e. Naxi-Qiangic) and Lolo-Burmese. Similarly, David Bradley (2008)[7] also proposes an Eastern Tibeto-Burman branch that includes the two subbranches of Burmic (a.k.a. Lolo-Burmese) and Qiangic.

Internal classification

Bradley (1997, quoted in Peiros 1997) gives the following classification for the Lolo-Burmese languages. In later publications, in place of Loloish, David Bradley instead uses the term Ngwi based on a conservative autonym in the Sanie language.[8]

Lama (2012), in a study of 36 languages, finds the Mondzish cluster (MondziMaang, Mantsi–Mo'ang) to be divergent. He did not include Mru or Ugong.

Lama (2012) recognizes 9 unambiguous coherent groups of Lolo-Burmese languages, whereas Bradley considers there to be 5 groups (Burmish, Southern Ngwi, Northern Ngwi, Southeastern Ngwi, and Central Ngwi).

  1. Mondzish
  2. Burmish
  3. Hanoish
  4. Lahoish
  5. Naxish
  6. Nusoish
  7. Kazhuoish
  8. Lisoish
  9. Nisoish

See also


  1. ^ "Research Foundation Language and Religion". Retrieved 2020-02-17.
  2. ^ Bradley, David (2012). "The Characteristics of the Burmic Family of Tibeto-Burman" (PDF). Language and Linguistics. 13 (1): 171–192.
  3. ^ Löffler, Lorenz G. (1966). "The contribution of Mru to Sino-Tibetan linguistics". Zeitschrift der Deutschen Morgenländischen Gesellschaft. 116 (1): 118–159. JSTOR 43369896.
  4. ^ Bradley, David (1997). "Tibeto-Burman languages and classification" (PDF). Tibeto-Burman languages of the Himalayas, Papers in South East Asian linguistics. Canberra: Pacific Linguistics. pp. 1–71.
  5. ^ Matisoff, James A. (2003). Handbook of Proto-Tibeto-Burman: System and Philosophy of Sino-Tibetan Reconstruction. Berkeley: University of California Press. p. 6. ISBN 978-0-520-09843-5.
  6. ^ Jacques, Guillaume; Michaud, Alexis (2011). "Approaching the historical phonology of three highly eroded Sino-Tibetan languages". Diachronica. 28: 468–498. doi:10.1075/dia.28.4.02jac.additional.
  7. ^ Bradley, David. 2008. The Position of Namuyi in Tibeto-Burman.
  8. ^ Bradley, David (2005). "Sanie and language loss in China". International Journal of the Sociology of Language. 2005 (173): 159–176. doi:10.1515/ijsl.2005.2005.173.159.