Reconstruction ofKra languages
RegionSouth China

Proto-Kra is the reconstructed ancestor of the Kra languages. It was reconstructed in 2000 by Weera Ostapirat in his Ph.D. dissertation.

Lower-level reconstructions

Ostapirat (2000) provided preliminary phonological reconstructions for several lower-level groupings before attempting a reconstruction of Proto-Kra.



Proto-Kra has a total of 32 consonants, seven of which (marked in green) can occur as syllable finals (Ostapirat 2000:224, 236).

Proto-Kra consonants
Labial Alveolar Postalveolar Retroflex Palatal Velar Glottal
Unvoiced Stop p t ʈ c k ʔ
Voiced Stop b d ɖ ɟ ɡ
Nasal m n ɳ ɲ ŋ
Unvoiced Affricate ts ʈʂ
Voiced Affricate dz ɖʐ
Unvoiced Fricative s ʃ x
Voiced Fricative z ʒ ɣ
Approximant w l j
Rhotic r

Miyake (2008, 2021)

Marc Miyake (2008,[1] 2021[2]) proposes alternative reconstructions for Ostapirat's (2000) Proto-Kra retroflex consonants, suggesting that many of them were actually non-retroflexes that had been influenced by pre-syllables, in particular with alveolar consonants leniting in intervocalic position. In synchronic Kra languages, reflexes are often attested as voiced fricatives, which Miyake (2021) does not believe to have developed from historical initial retroflex consonants. Some examples of Miyake's (2008) revised Proto-Kra reconstructions are provided below.

Miyake (2021) reconstructs some disyllabic lexical forms for Proto-Kra, including *mataA 'eye', *manokD 'bird', and *kVtuA1 'louse'.

Additionally, Miyake (2008) revises Ostapirat's Proto-Kra *pwl- as *CV-pl-, *bwl- as *CV-bl-, *m-pl- as *pl-, *(p/d/k)-l- as *(p/d/k)V-l-, *ʈ-l- as k-l-, and *ɖ-l- as *(k/tV)-l-. Proto-Kra consonants in Miyake (2021)[2] as compared to Ostapirat (2000) are:

Ostapirat (2000) Miyake (2021)
*ʈ- *CVt-
*ɖ- *CVd-
*ɳ- *CVn-
*ɭ- *CVl-
*d-l- *CVl-
*tʂ- *CVts-
*dʐ- *CVdz-
*hr- *hr-
*r- *r-


Proto-Kra has a total of 6 vowels (Ostapirat 2000:235).

Proto-Kra vowels
Height Front Central Back
Close i u
Mid e ə o
Open a

Proto-Kra has 4 diphthongs, which are not found in closed syllables.


Proto-Kra had an A–B–C–D tonal system typical of other Tai–Kadai languages (see Proto-Tai language#Tones). The tonal descriptions below are from Ostapirat (2000:237).

  1. *A: *A is one of the most common tones.
  2. *B: *B and *D are phonetically similar, as reflexes of tone *D are often the same as those of *B. This regularly occurs in all Kra languages except for Qabiao.
  3. *C: *C is usually accompanied by glottal constriction and may have originally had a creaky or tense laryngeal quality. Some Gelao varieties and Yalang Buyang display the same reflex for *B and *C.
  4. *D: *D is the only tone to occur exclusively in closed syllables.

The following table of phonetic characteristics of Proto-Kra tones was adapted from Ostapirat (2000:237).

Proto-Kra Tonal Characteristics
*A *B *C *D
Type of final sonorants, vowels lax larynx (?) tense larynx stops
Voicing voiced unvoiced unvoiced unvoiced
Vocal cords vibrating wide open closed closed
Vowel duration long medium short medium


Below are reconstructed Proto-Kra forms from Ostapirat (2000).

Body parts and bodily functions
Material culture
Kinship and pronouns
Space, time, and deictics


  1. ^ Miyake, Marc. 2008. Did Proto-Kra have retroflex initials? (Parts 1, 2–6, 7–9, 10, 11)
  2. ^ a b Miyake, Marc (2021-05-20). "Chapter 9: Retroflexion or Disyllabism? A Kra Puzzle". In Kupchik, John; Alonso de la Fuente, José Andrés; Miyake, Marc Hideo; Vovin, Alexander (eds.). Studies in Asian historical linguistics, philology and beyond: festschrift presented to Alexander V. Vovin in honor of his 60th birthday. Leiden: Brill. pp. 115–136. ISBN 978-90-04-44856-8. OCLC 1250436437. Retrieved 2023-01-19.


See also