Muong language

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Thiểng Mường
Native to Vietnam
Region west of Hanoi
Native speakers
1.1 million (1999 census)[1]
Language codes
ISO 639-3 mtq
Glottolog muon1246[2]

Muong (thiểng Mường[3]) is a group of dialects spoken by the Mường people of Vietnam. They are in the Austroasiatic languages family and closely related to Vietnamese. According to Phan (2012), the Mường dialects are not a single language, or even most closely related to each other, but rather are an ethnically defined and paraphyletic taxon.[4]

Mường dialects are primarily spoken in mountainous regions of the northern Vietnamese provinces of Hòa Bình, Thanh Hóa, Vĩnh Phúc, Yên Bái, Sơn La, and Ninh Bình.

Mường has all six tones of Vietnamese; however, the nặng (heavy) tone is present only in Phú Thọ and Thanh Hóa provinces while in Hòa Bình Province, it is merged with the sắc (sharp) tone.[5]

Mường is written in a modified Vietnamese alphabet that includes additional consonants like w and allows different consonant pairs and final consonants than Vietnamese.[3]


Consonant inventory

The following table details the consonants of those dialects that show a full voiced-voiceless distinction in the stops (being Mường Bi, Mường Thành, Mường Động, and Ba Trại).[6] The spelling is given in italics.

Bilabial Alveolar Palatal Velar Glottal
Nasal m /m/ n /n/ nh /ɲ/ ng /ŋ/
Stop voiceless p /p/ t /t/ ch /c/ c /k/
aspirated ph /pʰ/ th /tʰ/ kh /kʰ/
voiced b /b/ đ /d/ g /ɡ ~ ɣ/
Fricative voiceless x /s/ h /h/
voiced v/w/o/u /β/ d/gi/i/y /z ~ j/
Lateral l, tl /l, tl ~ kl/

The Mường Vang dialect completely lacks the distinction between the voiced and unvoiced stop pairs /p b/, /t d/, /k ɡ/, having only the voiceless one of each pair. The Mường Khói and Mường Ống dialects have the full voiceless series, but lack /ɡ/ among the voiced stops. The Thạch Sơn dialect on the other hand lacks /p/.

Furthermore, the Mường Khói dialect lacks the aspirated alveolar /tʰ/, but has a /hr/ instead. This dialect is also described as having the labio-velars /kʷ/ and /kʷʰ/.

All of these consonants can appear syllable-initially. At the end of syllables only the nasals /m n ɲ ŋ/, the voiceless stops /p t c k/, the lateral /l/, and the glides /j w/ are allowed.[7] Of these phonemes, the palatals /c ɲ/ have been analysed as glide + velar /ʲk ʲŋ/.[8] Furthermore, the distribution of syllable-final /c ɲ l/ seems to be more restricted than the distribution of the other final consonants.[9]

Vowel inventory

The vowel inventory is given in the following table. It appears to be quite uniform among the different dialects.[6] Two of the vowels (/ɤ/ and /a/) can be long or short.

Front Back
unrounded rounded
High i /i/ ư /ɯ/ u /u/
Higher mid ê /e/ ơ, â /ɤ, ɤ̆/ ô /o/
Lower Mid e /ɛ/ o /ɔ/
Low a, ă /a, ă/

Apart from these monophthongs, there are also three diphthongs /iə, ɯə, uə/.


  1. ^ Thiểng Mường at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015)
  2. ^ Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2017). "Muong". Glottolog 3.0. Jena, Germany: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History. 
  3. ^ a b Hà Quang Phùng 2012, p. 1.
  4. ^ Phan, John D. 2012. "Mường is not a subgroup: Phonological evidence for a paraphyletic taxon in the Viet-Muong sub-family." Mon-Khmer Studies 40:1-18.
  5. ^ Hà Quang Phùng 2012, p. 2.
  6. ^ a b Nguyễn Văn Tài 1982, I.2
  7. ^ Nguyễn Văn Tài 1982, II.3.3.2
  8. ^ Nguyễn Văn Tài 1982, II.3.3.1
  9. ^ Nguyễn Văn Tài 1982, II.3.3.3

Further reading

  • Hà Quang Phùng (2012-09-06). "Tìm hiểu về ngữ pháp tiếng Mường (Thim hiếu wuê ngử pháp thiểng Mường)" [Understanding Muong grammar] (FlashPaper) (in Vietnamese and Muong). Thanh Sơn–Phú Thọ Province Continuing Education Center.  (More)
  • Nguyễn, Văn Khang, Bùi Chi, and Hoàng Văn Hành. (2002). Từ điển Mường-Việt (A Mường-Vietnamese dictionary). Hà Nội: Nhà Xuất Bản Văn Hoá Dân Tộc.
  • Nguyễn Văn Tài (1982). Ngữ âm tiếng Mường qua các phương ngôn [Phonetics of the Mường language through its dialects] (Ph.D.) (in Vietnamese). 
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