Tai Hang Tong

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Indications about the two dialects of Tai Hang Tong (=Tai Muong)

Alexis Michaud, Thu, 2014-12-04 21:11
ISO 639-3: 

Dear Ethnologue editors, This is to provide dialect information about Tai Hang Tong (=Tai Muong). In the classification by Michel Ferlus

(Ferlus, Michel. 2008. The Tai dialects of Nghệ An, Vietnam (Tay Daeng, Tay Yo, Tay Muong). In Anthony Diller, Jerold A. Edmondson & Luo Yongxian (eds.), The Tai-Kadai languages, 298–316. London & New York: Routledge.)

two dialects (=sub-varieties) are distinguished:

- Tai Pao and

- Tai Yo.

Tai Pao is a name which follows Vietnamese orthographic conventions: "ao" = International Phonetic Alphabet /aw/. A minor variant is Tai Paw. Since the entry for thc follows Vietnamese convention for "...Hang Tong", it would seem consistent to call the dialect "Tai Pao", but "Tai Paw" would be fully intelligible too. Tai Yo is also called "Tai Mene": Tai Mene is the name given in Laos to Tai Yo. The dialect is essentially the same. This is discussed in Chamberlain 1991. (Chamberlain, James R. 1991. Mène: A Tai Dialect Originally Spoken in Nghê An (Nghê Tinh), Viêtnam -- Preliminary Linguistic Observations and Historical Implications. Journal of the Siam Society 79. 103-123.) Historically, the scenario seems clear: when speakers of Tai Daeng (tyr) moved into the Tai Hang Tong (thc) area, they split an earlier dialect continuum into 2 areas, which evolved into present-day Tai Yo and Tai Pao. Telltale differences between these two varieties include a palatal ([-ic]) realization of final *-k after high front vowels in Tai Yo. Tai Pao retains velar realization. PS The reason why we are looking into this is because we are currently digitizing data on Tai Pao and Tai Yo (collected by Michel Ferlus and collaborators). The Lai Pao writing system, a Tai script unique to Vietnam, was re-discovered in the Tai Pao area in the 1990s; an electronic edition of the (only) original manuscript preserved to this day is in preparation and should be available online through the Pangloss Collection (http://lacito.vjf.cnrs.fr/pangloss/index_en.htm) by 2016 if not before.

Currently Tai Pao is present in Ethnologue, under the code tpo. It is presented as "a language of Laos" so in effect 2 different entries exist for the same language: Tai Pao as spoken in Laos has its distinct entry; Tai Pao in Vietnam (=identical dialect) is part of Tai Hang Tong.

Currently, "tpo" is classified directly under "Tai", and "thc" under Southwestern Tai. This veils the fact that Tai Pao (=Tai Paw) is a sub-dialect of "Tai Hang Tong" = "Tai Muong".

It would be great to

(i) add a code for Tai Yo, the other sub-dialect of "Tai Hang Tong", and

(ii) place these two (Tai Yo and Tai Pao) under a "Tai Hang Tong" lower-level node.

Currently we are tagging Tai Pao data from Vietnam; should we use the code "tpo"? It does not seem quite right to use the code "tpo" because this is described as "a language of Laos" and its referencing in Ethnologue is under-specific (it should appear within Southwestern Tai). On the other hand, "thc" is slightly under-specific. If the above changes were made, we would be able to use a more informative label.