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The Hmong people and language
The Hmong people are originally from China, but over the years also settled in Vietnam, Laos, and Thailand. The Hmong community in the United States was founded in the 1970s with a wave of immigration of refugees (mostly from Laos) following the end of the Vietnam War. San Diego County has approximately 1,682 Hmong residents.
The Hmong language is part of the West Hmongic branch of Hmong-Mien language family spoken across China and Southeast Asia. There are two main dialects of the Hmong language spoken in the United States: White Hmong (Hmong Daw or Hmoob Dawb) and Green/Blue Mong (Mong Njua/Leng or Moob Ntsuab/Leeg). Both of these dialects originate from Hmong communities in Laos.
White Hmong and Green Mong are most often written in the Romanized Popular Alphabet (RPA). Some of the sounds in White Hmong are not found in Green Mong, and some sounds in Green Mong are not found in White Hmong. For example, White Hmong has a sound written as <hm>, which corresponds to <m> in Green Mong. For this reason, the word “Hmong” is also sometimes written as “Mong”, such as when referring to the dialect Green Mong, which has no sound <hm>. Words are largely CV+tone in structure; thus in the RPA orthography, a consonantal letter at the end of a word is a tonal marker.
Hmong folk songs and music
Many of the recordings below include folk songs, which play an integral role in important rites (funerals, courtship, New Year celebration, etc.) of Hmong life. These folk songs are traditionally unscripted, and the ones in this database are all sung from memory. Common folk songs include the kwv txhiaj in White Hmong or lug txaj in Green Mong, which are usually sung during courtship. Other types of songs include funeral chants (txiv xaiv) as well as wedding songs and chants (nkauj tshoob, zaj tshoob).
We are also in the process of recording Hmong musical instruments. One common instrument is the reed instrument called a kheng (qeej). Other instruments include bamboo flutes (lev les, raj nplaim, raj ntsia), mouth harps (ncas), and the Hmong violin (xim xaus). In Hmong music, each note is meant to represent a word's tone. For more information about research on Hmong folk songs and music, see this compilation from the Hmong Studies Journal.