Rare language fact file: Mang

Book with title 'Fact file: Mang' on orange background

Here at The Language Shop we like to shine a light on some of the rarer languages spoken across the world, many of which have long and fascinating histories. This month we take a closer look at Mang.

Native to: Jinping, on the Chinese border with Vietnam.

Number of native speakers: Approximately 600 (speakers of the Vietnamese variety are greater in number).

Spoken by: The Mang people.

Learn some Mang: If you were to spend time with the Mang people, a useful word to know would be ‘ʑum’ (pronounced ‘zum’), which means ‘water’.

Interesting facts:

  • The Mang, meaning ‘mountain people’, historically lived in the sparsely populated mountainous regions of Honghe and Wenshan, in south-eastern Yunnan, bordering Vietnam.
  • In the 1950s, the Chinese government relocated the Mang people from their mountain huts to newly built houses on lower land. This was carried out in the name of improving hygiene.
  • Although they have had their way of life substantially altered by this state intervention, they were exempt from the land reforms, which forced many rural Chinese to hand over their land to the state. This has meant that the Mang have been able to continue many of their traditional customs in way that other non-Han Chinese groups have not.
  • The closest ethnic relatives of the Mang are the Palaungic people. It is thought both groups may have been part of the same kingdom in ancient times before splitting into two separate groups, which may explain the similarity in their languages.

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