Hlai languages

Native to China
Region Hainan
Ethnicity Li people
Native speakers
(700,000 cited 1987–1999)[1]
  • Southern

    • Hlai
Early forms
Proto-Hlai (reconstructed)
  • Hlai
Language codes
ISO 639-3 Either:
lic  Hlai
cuq  Cun
Glottolog nucl1241[2]

The Hlai languages (Chinese: 黎语; pinyin: Lí yǔ) are a primary branch of the Tai–Kadai language family spoken in the mountains of central and south-central Hainan in China. They include Cun, whose speakers are ethnically distinct.[3] A quarter of Hlai speakers are monolingual. None of the Hlai languages had a writing system until the 1950s, when the Latin script was adopted for Ha.


Norquest (2007) classifies the Hlai languages as follows.[4] Individual languages are highlighted in bold. There are some 750,000 Hlai speakers.

The Fuma 府玛 dialect is spoken in 1 village north of Changcheng 昌城, Hainan. It had by 800 speakers in 1994.[5]

Jiamao 加茂 (52,000), although ethnically Hlai, is not a Hlai language. It is currently unclassified.


Main article: Proto-Hlai language

See also


  1. Hlai at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015)
    Cun at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015)
  2. Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin; Bank, Sebastian, eds. (2016). "Nuclear Hlaic". Glottolog 2.7. Jena: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History.
  3. Ethnologue mistakenly lists Cun among the Kra languages.
  4. Norquest, Peter K. (2007). A Phonological Reconstruction of Proto-Hlai (Ph.D. dissertation). Department of Anthropology, University of Arizona.
  5. http://asiaharvest.org/wp-content/themes/asia/docs/people-groups/China/chinaPeoples/F/Fuma.pdf


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