Hmong Language: Where Is It Used And Who Speaks It?
Hmong is a Hmong-Mien language spoken by about 2.6 million people in China, Vietnam, Sichuan, Yunnan, Guizhou, Guangxi, Laos, Thailand, and French Guiana. Hmong is actually the common name for a group of dialects of the West Hmongic (Chuanqiandian) branch of the Hmong-Mien/Miao-Yao language family spoken by the Hmong people.
The total number of speakers worldwide has been estimated to be more than 4 million, including over 200,000 individuals speaking Hmong in the United States.
The Spoken Language
There are 3 major dialects in the Hmong language:
- Hmong Daw (also called White Miao or Hmong Der),
- Mong Njua (also called Blue or Green Miao or Mong Leng),
- Dananshan (Standard Chinese Miao).
However, Hmong Daw and Mong Njua are the two major dialects which are more commonly used. The names of these 2 dialects, the White Hmong and the Green/Blue Hmong, are derived from the traditional colors worn by women of the different groups. Although mutually intelligible, the dialects differ in both lexicon and certain aspects of phonology.
It is important to note that the most Hmong people in the United States speak the dialects of the White Hmong – about 60% – and 40% speak the Green Hmong.
The Written Hmong
The Hmong is said to be a spoken language and doesn’t have its own script because the Qing Dynasty practically had caused it to go extinct. This is when in the 1600s the Qing Dynasty stated that the death penalty would be imposed on those Hmong speakers who would write the script down.
Over the years, the Hmong people of different countries use different alphabets to write Hmong. For instance, in China Hmong is known as Miao and is written with Chinese characters or with an alphabet known as Pollard Miao. In Vietnam, Hmong is sometimes written with the Pahawh Hmong alphabet, and in Thailand, it is written with the Thai alphabet. During the 1980s and 1990s, several other alphabets were invented to write Hmong such as the Ntawv Paj Ntaub, based on Thai letters and Chinese characters, and Ai Ao Lo.
Now, most of the Hmong is written in the Romanized Popular Alphabet with Latin letters. This version of the alphabet was developed mainly by American missionary linguists in the 1950s in Laos.
ULS Services in Hmong
At United Language Services we work with a wide array of certified professional translators and interpreters that have mastered the Hmong language in all its forms. So if you need translation, interpretation, localization, or transcription of the language, please do not hesitate to contact us.