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The Rgyalrongic languages (also rendered Jiarongic), constitute a branch of the Qiangic languages of Sino-Tibetan, although Randy LaPolla (2003) proposes that it may be part of a larger Rung languages group. They are spoken in Sichuan in China, mainly in the autonomous Tibetan and Qiang prefectures of Karmdzes and Rngaba. These languages are distinguished by their conservative morphology and their phonological archaisms, which make them valuable for historical linguistics.
The cluster of languages variously referred to as Stau, Ergong or Horpa in the literature are spoken over a large area from Ndzamthang county (in Chinese Rangtang 壤塘县) in Rngaba prefecture (Aba 阿坝州) to Rtau county (Dawu 道孚) in Dkarmdzes prefecture (Ganzi 甘孜州), in Sichuan province, China. At the moment of writing, it is still unclear how many unintelligible varieties belong to this group, but at least three must be distinguished: the language of Rtau county (referred as ‘Stau’ in this paper), the Dgebshes language (Geshizha 格什扎话) spoken in Rongbrag county (Danba 丹巴), and the Stodsde language (Shangzhai 上寨) in Ndzamthang.
Rgyalrongic languages are spoken predominantly in the four counties of Ma'erkang, Li, Xiaojin, and Jinchuan in Aba Prefecture, western Sichuan. Other Rgyalrongic lects are spoken in neighboring Heishui, Rangtang, Baoxing, Danba, and Daofu counties.
The Rgyalrongic languages share several features, notably in verbal morphology, and are classified into three groups:
The Rgyalrong languages in turn constitute four mutually unintelligible varieties: Eastern Rgyalrong or Situ, Japhug, Tshobdun, and Zbu.
Khroskyabs and Horpa are classified by Lin (1993) as a "western dialect" of Rgyalrong, along with Eastern Rgyalrong and the "northwestern dialect" (Japhug, Tshobdun, and Zbu). Otherwise, the scholarly consensus deems the distance between Khroskyabs, Horpa, and the Rgyalrong cluster is greater than that between the Rgyalrung languages. For example, Ethnologue reports 75% lexical similarity between Situ and Japhug, 60% between Japhug and Tshobdun, but only 13% between Situ and Horpa.
Huang (2007:180) found that Horpa (Rta’u) and Rgyalrong (Cogrtse) share only 15.2% cognacy, with 242 cognates out of a total of 1,592 words.