LINGUIST List 8.666

Tue May 6 1997

Sum: Hmong

Editor for this issue: Susan Robinson <>


  1. Susan Meredith Burt, Summary:Hmong

Message 1: Summary:Hmong

Date: Tue, 06 May 1997 13:27:57 -0600
From: Susan Meredith Burt <>
Subject: Summary:Hmong

Hello, Fellow LINGUIST Listers!

A little more than two (or three?) weeks ago, I sent out a two-part
query: 1) asking whether the sounds represented in the Hmong (Roman)
orthography as Hm and Hn were voiceless nasals, and 2) asking for
references on Hmong in general.

First, my thanks to all who replied:

Marc Picard
Judith Fuller
Peter Daniels
Jakob Dempsy
Andreas Schramm
Kathy Sands
June Wickboldt
Phong Jakob Yang
Christina Eira

1) It would seem that there is disagreement among those who work on
Hmong as to the exact phonetics of the segments in question--in
addition to dialect variation as well. Judith Fuller, Peter Daniels,
Jakob Dempsey and Kathy Sands hear these segments as voiceless. On
the other hand, Phong Yang and Christina Eira analyze these as
preaspirated nasals. Christina also points out that there is
disagreement in the existing literature.

2) This brings us to the second part of my query: What is the existing
literature on Hmong? I will try to paste in the relevant parts of

>E.E. Heimbach's White Hmong-English Dictionary discusses the phonology, and
>has a reference list. There is also a Bibliography of the Hmong put out by
>the Southeast Asian Refugee Studies group at the University of Minnesota.
>Also several dissertations, including my own (U. of Minn) and that of
>Martha Ratliff (U of Chicago), available in U Microfilms. A group of us
>worked in this area in the 80's, but Martha Ratliff tells me that no one
>from that group continues to work on Hmong.
>Judy Fuller

>I've got a few books written in Chinese which discuss Hmong. Have you
>seen the Jianzhe series? There're also word lists, and several
>dictionaries out, as well as a grammar, and some English
>articles/dissertations (mainly on White Hmong, if in English). Again,
>lots of variation, so pieces here and there from a lot of different
>"languages." Some others who work primarily on Hmong: Martha Ratliffe,
>Ethel Wallis, Joichim (sp?) Envall (etc). Some others who work on Hmong
>along with other languages: Herb Purnell, Paul Benedict, Gerald
>Edmondson, Charles Li (etc). Plus Chinese linguists. Let me know if you'd
>like email address. I don't know of sociolinguistic work per se -- Martha
>Ratliff and Paul Benedict are doing historical reconstruction. Herb
>Purnell did a historical reconstruction of proto-Miao-Yao (Miao is the
>Chinese term for "Hmong"). Envall researched a lot of areas in China for
>his dissertation about the development of the Miao writing system, and so
>is very familiar with the variation. I collected word lists and texts
>from a number of different Miao areas in China in 1993 (more often from
>Miao located in the capital city, originally from elsewhere) and talked
>with a lot of Miao there about the language. There's also a Hmong center
>in Wisconsin that does a lot of work with Hmong who come to the U.S. --
>lots of good publications & materials. This is probably the most ready
>source of published materials on Hmong, but limited to US Hmong. (could
>find the address is you're interested)
>If you're interested in Hmong, the best place to talk with others
>researching Hmong and hear presentations on Hmong is at the Southeast
>Asian Linguistics Society conference, this year May 9-11 in Champaign, IL.
> SEALS c/o F.K. Lehman
> Dept of Anthropology
> University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
> 109 Davenport Hall
> 607 South Mathews Avenue
> Urbana, IL 61801
> (I don't have the email handy, but could find it)
>Hope this is helpful.

>American's leading experts on Hmong are Martha Ratliff at Wayne State
>(, Bruce Downing at Minnesota (bdowningmaroon.
>, and Mary Beth Clark (I don't know where she is; the LSA
>e-mail list has a Mary Clark in New Hampshire, but that probably isn't

>Bruce Downing at the U of Minnesota has done some socioling. work on
>Hmong. I don't have specific references, but my students have worked with
>his literature. Let me know if you have trouble getting specific
>information; I can get you in touch with him. Good luck! -Andreas

>The Indiana University Linguistics Club has one publication on Hmong--
>Judith Wheaton Fuller's _Topic and Comment in Hmong_, 1988, 125 pages,
>$6.00 (plus $3.50 post/handling). You can order by sending a note (or
>purchase order) and check,made payable to IULC, to IULC, 720 E. Atwater
>Ave., Bloomington, IN 47401-3634.
>If I remember correctly, Bruce Downing at the U of Minnesota has done
>work on Hmong.
>June Wickboldt

> I
>suggest you look up the Hmong Consonant Phonemes in Martha Ratliff's book:
>Meaningful Tone: A study of... in White Hmong.[1992: 9].

>In the first place, you will probably be interested to know that I've found
>differences of opinion on the aforementioned preaspirated nasala - Jaisser
>in 'Hmong for Beginners' (1995) definitely calls them voiceless nasals -
>and a few people refer to the voiceless lateral, which in RPA is <hl>.
>However, there are opinions which agree with me - eg that Smallley book,
>and in HLUG #13...It appears the issue is still negotiable.
>Two: some web addresses - a very vital one I thiniik is the HLUG email
>collection page at <> or <> - you can
>subscribe. Lots of interesting talk about which dialect to standardise,
>spelling conventions, learning problems etc.
>Back-copies can be obtained from <>
>HLUG also has a web page at <>;
>seassi (where you can do Hmong language intensives) is at
><>; is asite set up
>for Hmong language learning including info about talking dictionaries and
>stuff - targeted I think at Hmong kids - the contact person for that is
>Mark Thompson-email <>
>Some stuff gleaned from HLUG
>4. A nonspeaking Hmong-English dictionary
>5. A scholarly paper describing "white" Hmong tones
>6. A Hmong language tutorial (still under construction) containing
>some useful information
>7. A University of Minnesota list of colleges and universities that
>teach Hmong (

The Smalley book is Wm. Smalley et al. *Mother of Writing,* published by
the University of Chicago press.

That's the jist of what I have gleaned so far. Further contributions will
still be gratefully accepted! And thanks again to all who replied.


"Dancing is essential to a well-ordered society." Thoinot Arbeau

Susan Meredith Burt
September 1-December 15 and February 1-May 15:
Department of English
University of Wisconsin Oshkosh
800 Algoma Blvd.
Oshkosh WI 54901 USA

602 Normal Avenue
Normal, IL 61761
phone: 309-888-2704
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