Ugong language

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Region Western Thailand
Ethnicity 500 (2000?)[1]
Native speakers
80 (2000, David Bradley)[2]
Language codes
ISO 639-3 ugo
Glottolog ugon1239[3]

The Ugong language (also 'Ugong, Gong, Lawa, or Ugawng) is an endangered Tibeto-Burman language of Western Thailand, spoken in isolated pockets in Uthai Thani and Suphanburi provinces.


The ethnic group was first known to Westerners in the 1920s, when the language was already considered in severe decline. In the 1970s, a linguist began working on the language in the several areas where it was still used, by which time it was already extinct in two of the locations given by the surveyor 50 years earlier. The people were then forced from two of these villages when the Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand built dams over the Kwae Yai and Khwae Noi River. Because of the displacement of the people of an already declining language, the language is considered especially vulnerable to extinction. The last children speakers were in the 1970s, and the children now speak Thai as their first language.


The classification of Ugong with Tibeto-Burman is uncertain, although Bradley (1989) suggests that it is a divergent Lolo-Burmese language that does not fit into either the Burmish or Loloish branches.


The Ugong language consists of two dialects (Ethnologue).

Ugong was once also spoken in western Kanchanaburi Province, but is now extinct in that province (Ethnologue).


Ugong families now live in the following 3 villages.[4]

There are around 500 ethnic Gong people and 50 speakers of the Gong language. There are also many Lao Krang people living in the Gong areas.


Gong has SOV (verb-final) word order.


  1. ^ Gordon, Raymond G.; Barbara F. Grimes, eds. (2005). Ethnologue: Languages of the World (15th ed.). Dallas, Texas: SIL International. 
  2. ^ Ugong at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015)
  3. ^ Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2017). "Ugong". Glottolog 3.0. Jena, Germany: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History. 
  4. ^ Mayuree, Thawornpat. 2006. Gong: An endangered language of Thailand. Doctoral dissertation, Mahidol University.


  • Daniel Nettle and Suzanne Romaine. Vanishing Voices: The Extinction of the World's Languages. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000. Page 10.
  • Thawornpat, Mayuree. 2006. Gong: An endangered language of Thailand. Doctoral dissertation, Mahidol University.
  • Thawornpat, Mayuree. 2007. Gong phonological characteristics. The Mon-Khmer Studies Journal 37. 197-216.

Further reading[edit]

  • Bradley, David. 1993. Body Parts Questionnaire (Ugong). (unpublished ms. contributed to STEDT).
  • Bradley, David. "The Disappearance of the Ugong in Thailand", in Investigating Obsolescence: Studies in Language Contraction and Death, Nancy C. Dorian, ed. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1992. pp 33–40
  • Bradley, David (1989). Dying to be Thai: Ugong in western Thailand. La Trobe Working Papers in Linguistics 2:19-28
  • Rujjanavet, Pusit. (1986). The Phonology of Ugong in Uthaithani Province. M.A. Thesis in Linguistics, Faculty of Graduate Studies, Mahidol University.
  • Thawornpat, Mayuree. "Gong phonological characteristics", in Mon-Khmer studies: a journal of Southeast Asian languages and cultures, Thailand: Mon-Khmer Studies, 2007.