Kathu language

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Native to China
Region Guangnan County
Ethnicity Yi
Native speakers
5,000 (2007)[1]
Language codes
ISO 639-3 ykt
Glottolog kath1251[2]

Kathu (Thou; Chinese: 嘎苏话) is a Lolo-Burmese language of Balong (坝聋), Nanping Township (南屏镇), Guangnan County, Yunnan, China.[3] The Kathu are locally known as the White Yi (白彝). Wu Zili (2004) estimates that Kathu has a total of more than 7,000 speakers in Guangnan County (including in Dayashao 大牙少[4]), as well as in Jinping County, Yunnan. Ethnologue mentions a possible presence in Guangxi Province.

Kathu is notable for having initial consonant clusters, which within the Lolo-Burmese branch are also found in Written Burmese (Old Burmese) and Jinuo (Hsiu 2014:66).[5] Wu (2004) lists the onset clusters pl, pʰl, bl, ml, kl, kʰl, gl, ql, qʰl, ɢl, ŋl.


Hsiu (2014:65)[5] identifies two varieties, both spoken in Nanping Township (南屏镇).

  • Kathu (autonym: ka˧θu˧), spoken in Anwang village 安王村
  • Thou (autonym: θou̯˥˧), spoken in Balong village 坝聋村


Kathu vocabulary is largely similar to those of other Mondzish languages. However, there are various words that do not appear to be of Lolo-Burmese origin, and are derived from an unknown Tibeto-Burman branch (Hsiu 2014).[5] Hsiu (2014) suggests that Kathu could be added to George van Driem's list of Trans-Himalayan "fallen leaves."

Bradley (1997)[6] classified Kathu as a Northern Loloish language, while Bradley (2007)[7] classified it as a Southeastern Loloish language. However, Pelkey (2011:458)[8] notes that Kathu and Mo'ang are not Southeastern Loloish languages.


  1. ^ Kathu at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015)
  2. ^ Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2017). "Kathu". Glottolog 3.0. Jena, Germany: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History. 
  3. ^ http://www.ynszxc.gov.cn/villagePage/vIndex.aspx?departmentid=229605
  4. ^ http://www.ynszxc.gov.cn/villagePage/vIndex.aspx?departmentid=229567
  5. ^ a b c Hsiu, Andrew. 2014. "Mondzish: a new subgroup of Lolo-Burmese". In Proceedings of the 14th International Symposium on Chinese Languages and Linguistics (IsCLL-14). Taipei: Academia Sinica.
  6. ^ Bradley, David. 1997. "Tibeto-Burman languages and classification". In Tibeto-Burman languages of the Himalayas, Papers in South East Asian linguistics. Canberra: Pacific Linguistics.
  7. ^ Bradley, David. 2007. East and Southeast Asia. In Moseley, Christopher (ed.), Encyclopedia of the World's Endangered Languages, 349-424. London & New York: Routledge.
  8. ^ Pelkey, Jamin. 2011. Dialectology as Dialectic: Interpreting Phula Variation. Berlin: De Gruyter Mouton.