Pholo language

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Black Phula
Native toChina
Native speakers
30,000 (2011)[1]
Language codes
ISO 639-3yip

Pholo (autonym: pʰo˥lo˥) is an unclassified Loloish language of Yunnan, China. Although culturally associated with the Phula languages, Pelkey (2011) does not consider it to be linguistically related to the Phula languages.

Pholo speakers are also referred to as Black Phula and Flowery Phula (Pelkey 2011:176).


Pelkey (2011:353)[3] specifically excludes Pholo, noting that it does not share the defining features of Southeastern Loloish. However, Lama (2012) classifies Pholo as a Southeastern Loloish language, and considers it to be most closely related to Zokhuo


Pholo speakers are most densely concentrated in (Pelkey 2011:176):

Other Pholo speakers are found in (Pelkey 2011:176):


The following Pholo lexical items along with their Proto-Ngwi (Proto-Loloish) reconstructed proto-forms are from Pelkey (2011:390).

Gloss Pholo Proto-Ngwi
bee bjɯ˧ *bya²
taro bjɑ˥˧ *blum²
silver pʰi˧ *plu¹
face pʰjɔ˥ *pyu²
destroy pe̠˦˥ *pyakH
change pʰjɑ̠˦˥ *C-plekL
pus ᵐbjɑ˧ *m-bliŋ¹
full phɑ̠˨˩ *m-bliŋ³
fly (v.) bi˥˧ *b-yam¹
lightning *b-lyapL
release pʰjɑ˧ *pyiŋ²
eagle to˧ *ʔ-glaŋ²
stab *m-gya²
excrement tʰæ˧ *ʔ-kle²
load (v.) ʦɯ˥ *ʔ-kun³/²

Most, but not all, of the Pholo words above do not share the following innovations that define Southeastern Ngwi (Pelkey 2011:365).

  1. Proto-Ngwi *ʔ-k and *ʔ-ɡl > Proto-Southeastern Ngwi * (modern reflexes: tɬ, kɬ, k, t, ɬ, etc.)
  2. Proto-Ngwi *pl/j and *ʔ-kl > Proto-Southeastern Ngwi *tɬʰ (modern reflexes: tɬʰ, kɬʰ, kʰ, tʰ, ɬ, etc.)
  3. Proto-Ngwi *bl/j and *ɡl > Proto-Southeastern Ngwi * (modern reflexes: dɮ, ɡɮ, ɡ, d, etc.)
  4. Proto-Ngwi *m-pl/j and *m-bl/j > Proto-Southeastern Ngwi *ndɮ (modern reflexes: ndɮ, ŋɡɮ, nd, etc.)

Other Pholo words from Pelkey (2011:301):

  • qɑ̠˦˥lɑ̠˦˥ (neck)
  • ᵐbjɑ˥ʑɛ˨˩ (pus)
  • phɑ̠˨˩ (full)
  • χɑ˥ (long)
  • mɑ˥ (name)
  • mɑ̠˦˥ (cooked)

More Pholo words are documented in YYFC (1983),[4] part of which are quoted in Lama (2012).


  1. ^ Pholo at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015)
  2. ^ Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2017). "Pholo". Glottolog 3.0. Jena, Germany: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History.
  3. ^ Jamin Pelkey, 2011, Dialectology As Dialectic: Interpreting Phula Variation
  4. ^ YYFC (Yunnan University for Nationalities and Guiding Committee of Studying and Working on Yunnan Minority Languages 云南民族大学格云南民族语文指导工作委员会编). 1983. 云南彝语方言 词语汇编 [A Collection of Yi Dialects’ Lexicon in Yunnan] (Handwritten Mimeograph).
  • Lama, Ziwo Qiu-Fuyuan. 2012. Subgrouping of Nisoic (Yi) Languages. Ph.D. thesis: University of Texas at Arlington.