Lachi language

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Native speakers
(7,000 cited 1990–2007)[1]
  • Kra
    • Ge–Chi
      • Lachi
Language codes
ISO 639-3Either:
lbt – Lachi
lwh – White Lachi

The Lachi language (Chinese: Laji 拉基, Vietnamese: La Chí; autonym in China: li˧˥pu˦ ljo˦; autonym in Vietnam: qu˧˨ te˦˥˧, where qu˧˨ means "person"[3]) is a Kra language spoken in Yunnan, China and in northern Vietnam. There were 9,500 Lachi speakers in Vietnam in 1990. Edmondson (2008) reports another 2,500 in Maguan County, Yunnan, China for 1995, but Li Yunbing (2000) reports 60 speakers in Maguan out of an ethnic population of 1,600.


Weera Ostapirat[4] proposed three major subdivisions for the Lachi language.

  • Northern (Chinese or Flowery Lachi)
  • Central (White Lachi)
  • Southern (Long Haired and Black Lachi)

Jerold A. Edmondson notes that Vietnamese researchers recently have not been able to locate White (Central) Lachi speakers. It is also the least studied variety of Lachi.

The Maguan County Gazetteer 马关县志 (1996) lists the following Lachi ethnic subdivisions.

  • Flowery Lachi 花拉基
  • White Lachi 白拉基
  • Black Lachi 黑拉基
  • Chinese Lachi 汉拉基
  • Manyou Lachi 曼忧拉基
  • Manpeng Lachi 曼棚拉基

The Maguan County Gazetteer 马关县志 (1996) also lists the following autonyms for the Lachi.

  • She 舍
  • Laguo 拉果
  • Heitu 黑土
  • Gudai 古逮
  • Yibi 依比
  • Yimei 依梅
  • Yiduo 依多
  • Yibeng 依崩

The Republic of China-era Maguan County Gazetteer 马关县志 gives the names Labo 剌僰 (with a dog radical 犭for La 剌) and Laji 拉鸡 (Li 2000: 5).

Geographic distribution[edit]

Kosaka (2000) reports 6,000–8,000 Lachi speakers in Vietnam, and 2,000 in China. The Lachi of Maguan County, China are currently classified as Zhuang (Li 2000), while the Lachi of Malipo County, China, along with the Qabiao, are classified as Yi. The Lachi of Vietnam have official status as a separate ethnic group.


The Lachi of China live in various locations in Maguan County (马关县), Yunnan, which is located in Wenshan Zhuang and Miao Autonomous Prefecture (文山壮族苗族自治州) near the border with Hà Giang Province, Vietnam. According to American linguist Jerold A. Edmondson, the Lachi of China are thought to have moved to their present location during the Qing Dynasty from places in Vietnam called Maibu 麥布, Maidu 麥督, and Maiha 麥哈.[5] Other Lachis are also found scattered in Yanshan, Qiubei, Xichou, and Malipo counties.

The subdivisions, with their respective locations, are as follows:

Flowery Lachi (autonym: li˧˥pu˦ ljo˦n̩˦tɕo˥)

  • Jinchang Township 金厂镇
    • Zhongzhai 中寨[6]
    • Sanjiajie 三家街[7]

Chinese Lachi (autonym: li˧˥pu˦ tɕo˦)

  • Jiahanqing Township 夹寒箐乡
    • Niulongshan 牛龙山[8]
    • Dujiaozhai 独脚寨[9]
    • Shi'er Daohe 十二道河[10]
    • Laozhai 老寨[11]
  • Renhe Township 仁和镇
    • Baishiyan 白石岩[12]
    • Shiqiao 石桥[13]
    • Huomuqing 火木箐[14]

Pocket Lachi (autonym: li˧˥pu˦ te˧˥)

  • Nanlao Township 南捞乡: Busu 布苏[15][16]

Red Lachi (autonym: li˧pu˦ ke˥)

  • Xiaobazi Township 小坝子镇
    • Tianpeng 田棚[17]
    • Laqie 拉劫 / Laqi 拉气[18]


The Lachi live mostly in Xín Mần District and Hoàng Su Phì District, Hà Giang Province, Vietnam. There are also many Lachi living in Bắc Quang District in southern Hà Giang Province, which is outside their home district of Hoàng Su Phì. Since the Lachi dialects of Vietnam have many Chinese loanwords, the Lachi of Vietnam must have migrated from areas to the north in China (Kosaka 2000). Similarly, the Lachi of Maguan County, Yunnan, China just across the border believed that their ancestors had migrated from Ami Prefecture 阿迷州, which is now Kaiyuan, Yunnan.[3] In Vietnam, Jerold Edmondson notes that the most common autonym used by his Lachi informants is qu˧˩ te˧˦˩, with qu˧˩ meaning 'people' (from Proto-Kra *khraC1 'people').[3]

The Lachi people are an officially recognized ethnic group in Vietnam, and are divided as such (Kosaka 2000, Edmondson 2008):

Long Haired Lachi (autonym: li˧˥pu˦ tjoŋ˦)

  • Bản Phùng, Hoàng Su Phì District — largest village; regarded as cradle site

Black Lachi (autonym: li˧˥pu˦ pi˥)

White Lachi (autonym: li˧˥pu˦ pu˥; language possibly extinct)

  • Bản Pắng, Hoàng Su Phì District — speakers have shifted to the Nùng language, the regional lingua franca
  • Bản Máy, Hoàng Su Phì District — speakers have shifted to the Nùng language, the regional lingua franca

Lachi is also spoken in (Kosaka 2000):

Kosaka (2000) describes the following migratory route that took the Lachi of Bản Phùng, Hoàng Su Phì District to other locations, all in Bắc Quang District, Hà Giang Province.

  1. Bản Phùng, Hoàng Su Phì District
  2. Xã Tân Lập (now called Xã Tân Thành)
  3. Xã Yên Bình
  4. Xã Vĩ Thượng
  5. Xã Xuân Giang (later divided into two parts, including Nà Khương, which has the higher concentration of Lachi people)

The Maguan County Gazetteer 马关县志 (1996) lists the following locations in Vietnam with ethnic Lachi.

  • Manyou 曼忧
  • Manpeng 曼棚
  • Manban 曼班
  • Manmei 曼美
  • Jiga 鸡嘎
  • Hualong 花隆
  • Mengkang 猛康


Like other Kra languages such as Gelao and Buyang, Lachi displays clause-final negation (Li 2000).


  1. ^ Lachi at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015)
    White Lachi at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015)
  2. ^ Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2017). "Lachic". Glottolog 3.0. Jena, Germany: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History.
  3. ^ a b c Edmondson, Jerold A. and Shaoni Li. 2003. "Review of Lajiyu Yanjiu by Li Yunbing." In Linguistics of the Tibeto-Burman Area, 26 , no. 1: 163-181.
  4. ^ Ostapirat, Weera (2000). "Proto-Kra". Linguistics of the Tibeto-Burman Area 23 (1): 1-251
  5. ^ Diller, Anthony, Jerold A. Edmondson, and Yongxian Luo ed. The Tai–Kadai Languages. Routledge Language Family Series. Psychology Press, 2008.
  6. ^
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  18. ^
  • Diller, Anthony, Jerold A. Edmondson, and Yongxian Luo ed. The Tai–Kadai Languages. Routledge Language Family Series. Psychology Press, 2008.
  • Hoàng Thanh Lịch. 2012. Người La Chí ở Việt Nam / The La Chi in Vietnam. Hà Nội: Nhà xuất bản thông tấn.
  • 李云兵 / Li Yunbing. 2000. 拉基语硏究 / Laji yu yan jiu (A Study of Lachi). Beijing: 中央民族大学出版社 / Zhong yang min zu da xue chu ban she.

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]