The language varieties classified under the official ISO heading Jiarong [ISO 639-3: jya], a.k.a. rGyalrong, spoken in parts of the mountainous north-western Sìchuān province of China, have been generally accepted as a single, distinct, synchronic language belonging to the rGyalrongic subgroup within Tibeto-Burman. The research provided in this thesis casts doubt on the hypothesis that rGyalrong is a single synchronic language and reveals some of the previously undocumented variation within rGyalrongic.
The research in this study provides evidence that intelligibility of a represent-ative lect from the east-central rGyalrongic region is low among speakers of many lects in the southern rGyalrongic region. In addition, ethnic identity at the lowest embedded layer is not cohesive throughout the rGyalrongic regions. Language attitudes, contact, ethnohistory, perceptual dialectology, core lexical comparisons, and structural comparisons are also examined. As a result rGyalrong emerges as five distinct languages Situ, South-central, Japhug, Tshobdun, Zbuwith Situ and Japhug having the most robust evidence. This study integrates the field research of the authorincluding the first rigorous intelligibility testing among rGyalrongic language varieties as well as previous research by external sources.