Conference paper Open Access

Mondzish: a new subgroup of Lolo-Burmese

Andrew Hsiu


The Mondzish languages were recently identified by Ziwo Lama (2012) as a coherent subgroup of Lolo-Burmese, and its most divergent branch as well. They are spoken primarily in Wenshan Prefecture, Yunnan Province, southwestern China. However, Lama (2012) only identified two lects, Maang and Mondzi, as Mondzish languages, and did not classify many other nearby lects that I am convinced are also Mondzish. Here, I will demonstrate that these other lects display the lexical and phonological innovations that Lama (2012) had given for the Mondzish branch, such as the deaffrication of Proto-Lolo-Burmese (PLB) *tsh- > s-. I will propose a preliminary internal classification scheme for Mondzish, and also briefly consider the position of Mondzish within Lolo-Burmese.

Mondzi, Maang (Lama 2012), Mantsi (Edmondson 2003), and Kathu (Wu Zili 1994) are among the Mondzish languages that have been previously documented. There are also several previously undocumented Mondzish lects, including Muangphe (muɑŋ⁵⁵phɛ³³), Mango (ma³³ŋo¹¹), and Maza (ma³³zɑ⁵³), which I had collected word lists of in April 2013. Mango and Maza are highly endangered, each with fewer than 50 elderly speakers each; Maza may have a Qabiao (Kra-Dai) substratum as well. Kathu is the most divergent Mondzish language, and also preserves many archaic clusters, including /kl-/, that are found in only a few Lolo-Burmese languages such Written Burmese, Marma, and Jinuo. David Bradley (1994) had previously identified Kathu to be crucial for the reconstruction of Proto-Lolo-Burmese, especially PLB medial *-l-. Thus, further research needs to be done on the Mondzish branch in order to gain a better understanding of Lolo-Burmese linguistic prehistory and reconstruction.

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