Xuni Kwang language

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Xuni Kwang
Mbuƅ Goзƞ Šuƅƞ
Pronunciation[ᵐbūˀ gó̞̃ ɕū̃ˀ]
EthnicityXuni Kwang people
Language family
Ngerupic languages
  • Kwangic
    • Xuni Kwang
CWS codexkwan

Xuni Kwang is a variety of the Kwang language spoken primarily in northern Quaxin Xun, with some speakers in Qonklaks, Bosato, Nyatol, and Zaizung. Due to large chain shifts in vowels, tones, and consonant phonations, it is not mutually intelligible with standard Kwang.



Xuni Kwang has six register tones, traditionally denoted by tone letters derived from the Letso-Terminian numerals.

transcription pitch phonation example
1 (unmarked) low rising modal ža [d͡ʑä̌] ant
ƨ low ballistic ndłayƨ [ndɮàjˀ] child
з high modal byoз [bjó] many
ч mid falling modal yaч [jä᷆] courtesy
ƽ low creaky baƽƞ [bã̰] liver
ƅ mid ballistic biƅ [bīˀ] smoke

(Due to IPA having no symbol for ballistic syllables, they have been transcribed with <ˀ>, however, they are not truly glottalized, but pronounced with additional subglottal pressure.)


The syllable structure of Xuni Kwang is strictly (C)(j,w)V, with no coda consonants allowed. (This is under the analysis that [aj], [aw]—the only rimes that might be analyzed as containing consonants—are diphthongs, rather than vowels followed by glides.) Words in other languages with final consonants are usually borrowed with nasalized vowels (for nasal consonants), ballistic phonation (for stops), or with the final consonant simply dropped.



Xuni Kwang is an isolating language, with little-to-no word internal morphology. However, it has very rich compounding.

In compounds with an indecomposable multisyllabic word, the multisyllabic word is usually collapsed into its first syllable. For instance, tsi oз disaster is a compound of tsi fire and oз luч flood (a loan from Ndxiixun wo¹lu²). It drops the second syllable luч from the second morpheme. This is one of many dvandva compounds in Xuni Kwang.

Some forms of compounding in Xuni Kwang force tone sandhi to occur even in careful or isolated speech. For instance, the compound quчƞ quзƞ round, a repetition of the morpheme quзƞ, will never be pronounced as *quзƞ quзƞ. This is an argument for some Xuni Kwang compounds actually being single phonological words.


Topic markers

There are three different topic markers in Xuni Kwang, similar to other Kwang varieties. These are nžeз, used for realis imperfective clauses, nduч, used for realis perfective clauses, and nže, used for all irrealis clauses.

ABAC constructions

A very rich and productive type of construction in Xuni Kwang is the ABAC construction. In this, a morpheme, usually a verb, will be repeated twice with different arguments each time. The arguments themselves may form a dvandva compound. Since this is a syntactic construction, tone sandhi does not apply in careful speech, and so the words are usually written with their underlying tone. An example of this is the phrase buз guчƞ buз duзƞ "cross river cross mountain", meaning to wander or travel widely. These constructions are very productive and are not restricted to a set list of idiomatic coinages.

Unless the arguments form a dvandva compound or the phrase itself has become idiomatic, there is not a set order to the arguments. Thus, a phrase like žaзƞ duз žaзƞ mbaƅƞ "watch stone watch pool", meaning to tidepool, is just as likely to appear as žaзƞ mbaƅƞ žaзƞ duз. However, if an order has been established—either by an underlying dvandva compound or by occurrence previously in discourse—then the reversal of this order, called an ACAB construction, alters the meaning. This may be sarcastic or may indicate that the action is only imitated or pretended. For example, the question Ndiƽ nžeз žaчƞ koзƞ žaчƞ łoз, baзƞ nžayч žaчƞ łoз žaчƞ koзƞ? contains the ABAC construction žaчƞ koзƞ žaчƞ łoз work "carry wood carry water", followed shortly by its reversal žaчƞ łoз žaчƞ koзƞ. Thus it could be roughly translated as "Are you working hard, or hardly working?"

See also