|lus Hmoob / lug Moob / lol Hmongb|
|Native to||China, Vietnam, Laos, Myanmar and Thailand.|
|3.7 million (1995-2009)
not counting Vietnam
|Hmong writing: inc. Pahawh Hmong, multiple Latin standards|
Hmong (RPA: Hmoob) or Mong (RPA: Moob), known as First Vernacular Chuanqiandian Miao in China (Chinese: ; pinyin: ), is a dialect continuum of the West Hmongic branch of the Hmongic languages spoken by the Hmong of Sichuan, Yunnan, Guizhou, Guangxi, northern Vietnam, Thailand, and Laos. There are some 2.7 million speakers of varieties that are largely mutually intelligible, including over 280,000 Hmong Americans as of 2013. Over half of all Hmong speakers speak the various dialects in China, where the Dananshan () dialect forms the basis of the standard language. However, Hmong Daw (White Miao) and Mong Njua (Green Miao) are widely known only in Laos and the United States; Dananshan is more widely known in the native region of Hmong.
Hmong, in the narrow sense, is sometimes known ambiguously as the Chuanqiandian Cluster. That term is also used for Chuanqiandian Miao as a whole, or it may be restricted to the varieties of Hmong spoken in China.
Mong Njua (Hmoob Ntsuab) and Hmong Daw (Hmoob Dawb) are part of a dialect cluster known in China as Chuanqiandian Miao, that is, "Sichuan-Guizhou-Yunnan Miao", called the "Chuanqiandian cluster" in English, as West Hmongic is also called Chuanqiandian. Mong Njua and Hmong Daw are just those varieties of the cluster that migrated to Laos; the Western names Mong Njua, Mong Leng, Hmong Dleu/Der, and Hmong Daw are also used in China for various dialects of the Chuanqiandian cluster.
Ethnologue once distinguished only the Laotian varieties (Hmong Daw, Mong Njua), Sinicized Miao (Hmong Shua), and the Vietnamese varieties (Hmong Do, Hmong Don). The Vietnamese varieties are very poorly known; population estimates are not even available. In 2007, Horned Miao, Small Flowery Miao, and the Chuanqiandian cluster of China were split off from Mong Njua [blu]. These varieties are as follows, along with some alternate names ('Ch.' = Chinese name, 'auto.' = autonym [self name]):
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) stated that the White and Green dialects "are said to be mutually intelligible to a well-trained ear, with pronunciation and vocabulary differences analogous to the differences between British and American English."
Many of the above names used outside (White Miao, Blue/Green Miao, Flowery Miao, Mong Leng, etc.) are also used in China. Several Chinese varieties may be more distinct than the varieties listed above:
In the 2007 request to establish an ISO code for the Chuanqiandian cluster, corresponding to the "first local dialect" (?) of the Chuanqiandian cluster in Chinese, the proposer made the following statement on mutual intelligibility:
A colleague has talked with speakers of a number of these closely-related lects in the US, in Thailand and in China, and has had many discussions with Chinese linguists and foreign researchers or community development workers who have had extensive contact with speakers of these lects. As a result of these conversations this colleague believes that many of these lects are likely to have high inherent mutual intelligibility within the cluster. Culturally, while each sub-group prides itself on its own distinctives, they also recognize that other sub-groups within this category are culturally similar to themselves and accept the others as members of the same general ethnic group. However, this category of lects is internally varied and geographically scattered and mixed over a broad land area, and comprehensive intelligibility testing would be required to confirm reports of mutual intelligibility throughout the cluster.
The CDC stated "although there is no official preference for one dialect over the other, White Hmong seems to be favored in many ways." The agency stated that the Romanized Popular Alphabet (RPA) is closest to that of White Hmong, most educated Hmong speak White Hmong, and that most Hmong dictionaries only include the White Hmong dialect. Younger generations of Hmong are more likely to speak White Hmong. Speakers of Green Hmong are more likely to learn White Hmong than speakers of White Hmong learning Green Hmong.
Most Hmong in the United States speak the dialects White Hmong and Green Hmong with about 60% speaking White Hmong and about 40% speaking Green Hmong. The CDC stated that "though some Hmong report difficulty understanding speakers of a dialect not their own, for the most part, White and Green Hmong speakers seem to understand one another".
The three dialects described here are known as Hmong Daw (also called White Miao or Hmong Der), Mong Njua (also called Blue or Green Miao or Mong Leng), and Dananshan (Standard Chinese Miao). Hmong Daw and Mong Njua are the two major dialects spoken by Hmong Americans. Although mutually intelligible, the dialects differ in both lexicon and certain aspects of phonology. For instance, Mong Njua lacks the voiceless/aspirated /m?/ of Hmong Daw (as exemplified by their names) and has a third nasalized vowel, /ã/; Danashan has a couple of extra diphthongs in native words, numerous Chinese loans, and an eighth tone.
The vowel systems of Hmong Daw and Mong Njua are as shown in the following charts. Phonemes particular to each dialect are color-coded respectively:
|Close component is front||ai||i?|
|Close component is central||a?|
|Close component is back||au||u?|
The Dananshan standard of China is similar. Phonemic differences from Hmong Daw and Mong Njua are color-coded.
|Close component is front||aj [ai]|
|Close component is back||aw [au]||w? [ua]|
Dananshan [?] occurs only after non-palatal affricates, and is written [i], much like Mandarin Chinese. /u/ is pronounced [y] after palatal consonants. There is also a triphthong /je?/ [ieu], as well as other i- and u-initial sequences in Chinese borrowings, such as /je, waj, jaw, wen, wa?/.
Hmong makes a number of phonemic contrasts unfamiliar to English speakers. All non-glottal stops and affricates distinguish aspirated and unaspirated forms, most also prenasalization independently of this. The consonant inventory of Hmong is shown in the chart below. (Consonants particular to Hmong Daw and Mong Njua are color-coded respectively.)
The Danashan standard of China is similar. (Phonemic differences from Hmong Daw and Mong Njua are color-coded. Minor differences, such as the voicing of prenasalized stops, or whether /c/ is an affricate or /h/ is velar, may be a matter of transcription.) Aspirates, voiceless fricatives, voiceless nasals, and glottal stop only occur with yin tones (1, 3, 5, 7). Standard orthography is added in [brackets]. Glottal stop is not written; it is not distinct from a zero initial. There is also a /w/, which occurs only in foreign words.
|Nasal||voiceless||m? [hm]||n? [hn]||[hni]|
|voiced||m [m]||n [n]||? [ni]||? [ngg]|
|Plosive||tenuis||p [b]||(p?) [bl]||t [d]||(t?) [dl]||? [dr]||k [g]||q [gh]||(?)|
|aspirated||p? [p]||(p) [pl]||t? [t]||(t) [tl]||[tr]||k? [k]||q? [kh]|
|prenasalized**||?p [nb]||(?p?) [nbl]||?t [nd]||[ndr]||?k [ng]||?q [ngh]|
|?p? [np]||(?p) [npl]||?t? [nt]||[ntr]||?k? [nk]||?q? [nkh]|
|Affricate||tenuis||ts [z]||t? [zh]||t? [j]|
|aspirated||ts? [c]||t [ch]||t [q]|
|prenasalized**||?ts [nz]||?t? [nzh]||?t? [nj]|
|?ts? [nc]||?t [nch]||?t [nq]|
|Fricative||voiceless||f [f]||s [s]||? [hl]||? [sh]||? [x]||x [h]|
|voiced||v [v]||? [r]||? [y]|
^* The status of the consonants described here as single phonemes with lateral release is controversial. A number of scholars instead analyze them as biphonemic clusters with /l/ as the second element. The difference in analysis (e.g. between /p?/ and /pl/) is not based on any disagreement in the sound or pronunciation of the consonants in question, but on differing theoretical grounds. Those in favor of a unit-phoneme analysis generally argue for this based on distributional evidence (i.e. if clusters, these would be the only clusters in the language, although see below) and dialect evidence (the laterally released dentals in Green Mong, e.g. /tl/, correspond to the voiced dentals of White Hmong), whereas those in favor of a cluster analysis tend to argue on the basis of general phonetic principles (other examples of labial phonemes with lateral release appear extremely rare or nonexistent).
^** Some linguists prefer to analyze the prenasalized consonants as clusters whose first element is /n/. However, this cluster analysis is not as common as the above one involving /l/.
Hmong syllables have a very simple structure: onsets are obligatory (except in a few particles), nuclei may consist of a monophthong or diphthong, and coda consonants apart from nasals are prohibited. In Hmong Daw and Mong Njua, nasal codas have become nasal vowels, though they may be accompanied by a weak coda [?]. Similarly, a weak coda [?] may accompany the low-falling creaky tone.
Dananshan has a syllabic /l?/ (written ?l?) in Chinese loans, such as lf 'two' and lx 'child'.
|Tone||Hmong Daw example||Hmong/Mong spelling|
|High ?||/p/ 'ball'||pob|
|Mid ?||/p?/ 'spleen'||po|
|Low ?||/p/ 'thorn'||pos|
|Mid-rising||/p/ 'to throw'||pov|
|Low checked (creaky) tone ?
(phrase final: long low rising )
|/p/ 'to see'||pom|
|Mid-falling breathy tone||/p/ 'grandmother'||pog|
The Dananshan tones are transcribed as pure tone. However, given how similar several of them are, it is likely that there are also phonational differences as in Hmong Daw and Mong Njua. Tones 4 and 6, for example, are said to make tenuis plosives breathy voiced (), suggesting they may be breathy/murmured like the Hmong g-tone. Tones 7 and 8 are used in early Chinese loans with entering tone, suggesting they may once have marked checked syllables.
Because voiceless consonants apart from tenuis plosives are restricted to appearing before certain tones (1, 3, 5, 7), those are placed first in the table:
|1 high falling||43||b|
|3 top||? 5||d|
|5 high||? 4||t|
|7 mid||? 3||k|
|2 mid falling||31||x|
|4 low falling (breathy)||21||l|
|6 low rising (breathy)||13||s|
|8 mid rising||24||f|
So much information is conveyed by the tones that it is possible to speak intelligibly using musical tunes only; there is a tradition of young lovers communicating covertly this way by playing on a jew's harp (though this method may also convey vowel sounds).
Robert Cooper, an anthropologist, collected a Hmong folktale saying that the Hmong used to have a written language, and important information was written down in a treasured book. The folktale explains that cows and rats ate the book, so, in the words of Anne Fadiman, author of The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down, "no text was equal to the task of representing a culture as rich as that of the Hmong." Therefore, the folktale states that the Hmong language was exclusively oral from that point onwards.
Natalie Jill Smith, author of "Ethnicity, Reciprocity, Reputation and Punishment: An Ethnoexperimental Study of Cooperation among the Chaldeans and Hmong of Detroit (Michigan)", wrote that the Qing Dynasty had caused a previous Hmong writing system to die out when it stated that the death penalty would be imposed on those who wrote it down.
Since the end of the 19th century, linguists created over two dozen Hmong writing systems, including systems using Chinese characters, the Lao alphabet, the Russian alphabet, the Thai alphabet, and the Vietnamese alphabet. In addition, in 1959 Shong Lue Yang, a Hmong spiritual leader from Laos, created an 81 symbol writing system called Pahawh. Yang was not previously literate in any language. Chao Fang, an anti-Laotian government Hmong group, uses this writing system.
Other experiments by Hmong and non-Hmong orthographers have been undertaken using invented letters.
The Romanized Popular Alphabet (RPA), the most widely used script for Hmong Daw and Mong Njua, was developed in Laos between 1951 and 1953 by three Western missionaries. In the United States Hmong do not use RPA for spelling of proper nouns, because they want their names to be easily pronounced by people unfamiliar with RPA. For instance Hmong in the U.S. spell Hmoob as "Hmong," and Liab Lis is spelled as Lia Lee.
The Dananshan standard in China is written in a pinyin-based alphabet, with tone letters similar to those used in RPA.
The following is a list of pairs of RPA and Dananshan segments having the same sound (or very similar sounds). Note however that RPA and the standard in China not only differ in orthographic rules, but are also used to write different languages. The list is ordered alphabetically by the RPA, apart from prenasalized stops and voiceless sonorants, which come after their oral and voiced homologues. There are three overriding patterns to the correspondences: RPA doubles a vowel for nasalization, whereas pinyin uses ?ng?; RPA uses ?h? for aspiration, whereas pinyin uses the voicing distinction of the Latin script; pinyin uses ?h? (and ?r?) to derive the retroflex and uvular series from the dental and velar, whereas RPA uses sequences based on ?t, x, k? vs. ?r, s, q? for the same.
There is no simple correspondence between the tone letters. The historical connection between the tones is as follows. The Chinese names reflect the tones given to early Chinese loan words with those tones in Chinese.
|? or A||1||b||b ?|
|? or B||3||d ?||v|
|? or C||5||t ?||(unmarked) ?|
|? or D||7||k ?||s ?|
|8||f||m ~ d|
Tones 4 and 7 merged in Hmoob Dawb, whereas tones 4 and 6 merged in Mong Njua.
Example: lus Hmoob (White Hmong) / lug Moob (Green Hmong) / lol Hmongb (Dananshan) "Hmong language".
(possessive) + (quantifier) + (classifier) + noun + (adjective) + (demonstrative)
The Hmong pronominal system distinguishes between three grammatical persons and three numbers - singular, dual, and plural. They are not marked for case, that is, the same word is used to translate both "I" and "me", "she" and "her", and so forth. These are the personal pronouns of Hmong Daw and Mong Njua:
Hmong is an isolating language in which most morphemes are monosyllables. As a result, verbs are not overtly inflected. Tense, aspect, mood, person, number, gender, and case are indicated lexically.
Hmong verbs can be serialized, with two or more verbs combined in one clause. It is common for as many as five verbs to be strung together, sharing the same subject.
Here is an example from White Hmong:
Yam zoo tshaj plaws, nej yuav tsum mus nrhiav nug xyuas saib luag muaj kev pab hom dab tsi nyob ncig ib cheeb tsam ntawm nej.
Thing best, you (plural) must go seek, ask, examine, look others have services variations what on tour the area at you (plural)
'The best thing you can do is to explore your neighborhood and find out what services are available.'
Because the verb form in Hmong does not change to indicate tense, the simplest way to indicate the time of an event is to use temporal adverb phrases like "last year," "today," or "next week."
Here is an example from White Hmong:
Nag hmo kuv mus tom khw.
yesterday I go loc. market
'I went to the market yesterday.'
Aspectual differences are indicated by a number of verbal modifiers. Here are the most common ones:
Progressive: (Mong Njua) taab tom + verb, (White Hmong) tab tom + verb = situation in progress
Example: (Mong Njua)
Puab taab tom haus dlej.
they prog. drink water.
They are drinking water.
Taab/tab tom + verb can also be used to indicate a situation that is about to start. That is clearest when taab/tab tom occurs in conjunction with the irrealis marker yuav. Note that the taab tom construction is not used if it is clear from the context that a situation is ongoing or about to begin.
Perfective: sentence/clause + lawm = completed situation
Example (Green and White Hmong)
Kuv noj mov lawm.
I eat rice perf.
'I am finished/I am done eating.' 'I have already ate "rice".' Lawm at the end of a sentence can also indicate that an action is underway.
Example (White Hmong)
Tus tub tau rab hneev, nws thiaj mus ua si lawm.
clf. boy get clf. crossbow; he then go play perf.
'The boy got the crossbow and went off to play.' 'The boy went off to play because he got the bow.'
Another common way to indicate the accomplishment of an action or attainment is by using tau, which, as a main verb, means 'to get/obtain.' It takes on different connotations when it is combined with other verbs. When it occurs before the main verb (i.e. tau + verb), it conveys the attainment or fulfillment of a situation. Whether the situation took place in the past, the present, or the future is indicated at the discourse level rather than the sentence level. If the even took place in the past, tau + verb translates to the past tense in English.
Example (White Hmong)
Lawv tau noj nqaij nyug.
they attain eat meat beef
'They ate beef.'
Tau is optional if an explicit past time marker is present (e.g. nag hmo, last night). Tau can also mark the fulfillment of a situation in the future.
Example (White Hmong)
Thaum txog peb caug lawm sawv daws thiaj tau hnav khaub ncaws tshiab.
when arrive New Year perf. everybody then attain wear clothes new
'So when the New Year arrives, everybody gets to wear new clothes.'
When tau follows the main verb (i.e. verb + tau), it indicates the accomplishment of the purpose of an action.
Example (Mong Njua)
Kuv xaav xaav ib plag, kuv xaav tau tswv yim.
I think think awhile, I think get idea.
'I thought it over and got an idea.'
Tau is also common in serial verb constructions that are made up of a verb, followed by an accomplishment: (White Hmong) nrhiav tau, to look for; caum tau, to chase; yug tau, to give birth.
Future: yuav + verb
Example (Mong Njua)
Kuv yuav moog.
I will be going.
Yuav + verb may also be seen as indicative of the irrealis mood, for situations that are unfulfilled or unrealized. That includes hypothetical or non-occurring situations with past, present, or future time references.
Example (from a White Hmong folk tale)
Tus Tsov hais tias, "Kuv tshaib tshaib plab li kuv yuav noj koj.
clf. Tiger say, "I hungry hungry stomach int. I irrls. eat you
'The Tiger said, "I'm very hungry and I'm going to eat you."
Tus Qav tsis paub yuav ua li cas li.
clf. Frog neg. know irrls. do what int.
'The frog didn't know what to do.'
This section needs expansion. You can help by adding to it. (September 2016)
In 2012 McDonald's introduced its first Hmong language advertising in the United States on a commercial billboard in Saint Paul, Minnesota. However it was unintelligible to Hmong speakers due to an incorrect translation.