Lahu language

Lahu (autonym: Ladhof [lɑ˥˧xo˩]) is a Tibeto-Burman language spoken by the Lahu people of China, Thailand, Myanmar, and Laos. It is widely used in China, both by Lahu people, and by other ethnic minorities in Yunnan, who use it as a lingua franca.[3] However, the language is not widely used nor taught in any schools in Thailand, where many Lahu are in fact refugees and illegal immigrants, having crossed into Thailand from Myanmar.[4]

Native toYunnan, China; Thailand; Laos; Myanmar
Native speakers
600,000 (2007–2012)[1]
Latin script
Official status
Official language in
Lancang Lahu Autonomous County, Yunnan
Language codes
ISO 639-3Variously:
lhu – Lahu
lhi – Lahu Shi
lkc – Kucong


The Lahu language, along with the closely related Kucong language, is classified as a separate branch of Loloish by Ziwo Lama (2012),[5] but as a Central Loloish language by David Bradley (2007).[6] Lahu is classified as a sister branch of the Southern Loloish branch in Satterthwaite-Phillips' (2011) computational phylogenetic analysis of the Lolo-Burmese languages.[7]


Matisoff (2006)

A few dialects are noted, which are each known by a variety of names:[8]

  • Lahu Na (Black Lahu, Musser Dam, Northern Lahu, Loheirn)
  • Lahu Shi (Yellow Lahu, Kutsung); the divergent la˥˧xu˧˩ sɯ˧ dialect is spoken in Nanduan 南段村 (Lahu: na˧˩tɔ˧˥) Village, Nuofu Township 糯福乡, Lancang County, China[9][10]
  • Lahu Nyi (Red Lahu, Southern Lahu, Musseh Daeng, Luhishi, Luhushi), Shehleh
  • Lahu Shehleh

Pham (2013)

Phạm Huy (2013:13) lists the following 3 branches.

  • La Hủ Phu (White Lahu): only found in Lüchun County, Yunnan, China
  • La Hủ Năk (Black Lahu)
  • La Hủ Nê Thu

Yunnan (1998)

Yunnan (1998:280)[11] lists 5 Lahu dialects.

  • Lancang (standard) dialect 澜沧标准音区片 (in most of Lancang, Ximeng, Menglian, Cangyuan, and Shuangjiang counties)
  • Nanmei dialect 南美土语群片 (in Nanmei Township 南美乡, Lincang County; Gengma County, and other nearby areas)
  • Mojiang dialect 墨江土语群片 (in Pu'er, Simao, Mojiang, Xinping counties, etc.; Lahu Shi)
  • Menghai dialect 勐海土语群片 (in Menghai, Jinghong, Mengla, Lancang counties (in Jiujing 酒井, Yakou 雅口, Qianliu 谦六 townships, etc.); Lahu Shi)
  • Jinping-Lüchun dialect 金绿土语群片 (in Jinping and Lüchun counties)

Traditionally Lahu folk taxonomy splits the Lahu people into the two groups of Black Lahu and Yellow Lahu; Red Lahu and White Lahu are new dialect clusters originating in messianic movements within the past few centuries.[12] Black Lahu is the standard dialect in China,[3] as well as the lingua franca among different groups of Lahu in Thailand.[4] However, it is intelligible to speakers of Yellow Lahu only with some difficulty.[3]

Bradley (1979)

Based on the numbers of shared lexical items, Bradley (1979) classifies the Lahu dialects as follows:[13]

Common Lahu
  • Black Lahu
    • Shehleh
    • (Core)
      • Black Lahu proper
      • Red Lahu
  • Yellow Lahu
    • Bakeo
    • Banlan

Lama (2012)

Lama (2012) gives the following tentative classification for what he calls Lahoid.

  • Lahu-Xi (Yellow Lahu)
  • (Black Lahu cluster)
    • Lahu-Na (Black Lahu)
    • Lahu-Ni (Red Lahu)
    • Lahu-Pu (White Lahu)
    • Lahu-Shehleh

Jin (2007)

Jin Youjing (2007)[14] classifies the Lahu dialects as follows.

  • Lahu Na 拉祜纳 (Black Lahu 黑拉祜): about 80% of all Lahu
    • Xia'nanxian 下南现 (Nanling Township 南岭乡) dialect
    • Dongkahe 东卡河 (Laba Township 拉巴乡) dialect
  • Lahu Xi 拉祜西 (Yellow Lahu 黄拉祜): about 20% of all Lahu
    • Northern dialect: Donghe 东河, Xincheng 新城, Qianliu 谦六, Wendong 文东, Fudong 富东, and Dashan 大山 townships
    • Central dialect: Yakou 雅口, Qianmai 谦迈, and Yingpan 营盘 townships
    • Southern dialect: Southern Nuofu 糯福(南), Northern Nuofu 糯福(北), and Huimin 惠民 townships
  • Lahu Alai 拉祜阿莱: located in Alai Dazhai 阿莱大寨, Fubang Township 富邦乡, Lancang County and a few other nearby villages
  • Kucong 苦聪: located in Jinping, Lüchun, Zhenyuan, and other counties

Jin Youjing (1992)[15] covers Lahu linguistic geography and dialectology in detail.

Heh (2008)

Heh (2008)[16] lists Lahu Shi (Yellow Lahu) dialects as:

  • Mikeng
  • Nakeo
  • Lahu Aga (also called Aphubele; spoken in Laos)
  • Bakeo
  • Balan

Lahu Aga was classified as Lahu Shi by Bradley (1979), but Heh (2008) found that it is actually linguistically closer to Lahu Na (Black Lahu). In Laos, there are about 9,000 Lahu Aga located in Bokeo Province (Tonpheung district, Muang Muang district, Houj Xai district, and the special region of Nam Yut) and Luang Namtha Province (Vieng Phoukha district, Boten district, and Muang Long district) (Heh 2008:161). In Laos, the Lahu Aga are most numerous in Tonpheung district (in Baan Dong Keap, Baan Sam Sip, Baan Khi Lek, Baan Beu Neong, Baan Hoe Ong, and Baan Nan Fa villages) and Vieng Phoukha district (in Baan Na Kat Tai, Baan Na Kat Neua, Baan Pamak, Baan NaNoi, Baan NaVa, Baan NaPhe, and Baan Na Shin villages) (Heh 2008:161-162). The Yellow Lahu are also called Lahu Kui Lung in Laos (Schliesinger (2003:110), with Kui meaning 'people'. There are about 21 Lahu Aga villages in Bokeo and Luang Namtha provinces, including in Ban Don Keao, Bokeo, and Ban Na Kat Neua, who had originally migrated from Yunnan, China. (Heh 2008:8). There are also 11 Lahu Aga families living in Baan Son Pu Nong, Chiang Saen District, Chiang Rai Province, Thailand. Heh (2008) provides comparative Lahu Aga dialectal data for:

  • Na Kat Neua village, Vieng Phoukha district, Luang Namtha province
  • Don Keao village, Tonpheung district, Bokeo province
  • Na Kha village, Muang Muang Township, Bokeo province

Sound changes

Lama (2012) lists the following sound changes from Proto-Loloish as Lahu innovations.

  • *s-l- > x-
  • *z- > ʣ-
  • *ŋ- > x-

See also


  1. ^ Lahu at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015)
    Lahu Shi at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015)
    Kucong at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015)
  2. ^ Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2017). "Lahoid". Glottolog 3.0. Jena, Germany: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History.
  3. ^ a b c Gordon 2005, Lahu
  4. ^ a b Reh 2005
  5. ^ Lama, Ziwo Qiu-Fuyuan. 2012. Subgrouping of Nisoic (Yi) Languages. Ph.D. thesis, University of Texas at Arlington.
  6. ^ Bradley, David. 2007. East and Southeast Asia. In Moseley, Christopher (ed.), Encyclopedia of the World's Endangered Languages, 349-424. London & New York: Routledge.
  7. ^ Satterthwaite-Phillips, Damian. 2011. Phylogenetic inference of the Tibeto-Burman languages or On the usefulness of lexicostatistics (and "Megalo"-comparison) for the subgrouping of Tibeto-Burman. Ph.D. dissertation, Stanford University.
  8. ^ Matisoff 2006, p. xiii
  9. ^ Lahuyu Jianzhi 拉祜语简志 (1986)
  10. ^
  11. ^ Yunnan Gazetteer Commission [云南省地方志编纂委员会] (ed). 1998. Yunnan Provincial Gazetteer, Vol. 59: Minority Languages Orthographies Gazetteer [云南省志. 卷五十九, 少数民族语言文字志]. Kunming: Yunnan People's Press [云南人民出版社].
  12. ^ Bradley 1979, p. 41
  13. ^ Bradley 1979, p. 159
  14. ^ Jin Youjing [金有景]. 2007. "Guanyu Lahuyu de fangyan" [关于拉祜语的方言]. Minzu Yuwen 民族语文 2007:3.
  15. ^ Jin Youjing 金有景, et al. 1992. 中国拉祜语方言地图集 = Cokawr Ladhof khawd fayer diqthurcir = the linguistic atlas of Lahu in China. Tianjin: Tianjin she hui ke xue yuan chu ban she 天津社会科学出版社.
  16. ^ Heh, Sa Mollay Kya. 2008. ;;A sociolinguistic comparison of Lahu Aga with Lahu Na. Master’s thesis.


  • Bradley, David (1979). Lahu dialects. Oriental monograph series #23. Canberra: Faculty of Asian Studies, Australian National University. OCLC 6303582.
  • Matisoff, James A. (2006). English-Lahu Lexicon. Berkeley, California: University of California Press. ISBN 0-520-09855-2.
  • Phạm Huy (1997). Một phần chân dung: dân tộc La Hủ (nhật ký điền dã). Lai Châu: Sở văn hóa thông tin Lai Châu.
  • Reh, Louis (August 2005). "Silenced Minorities". The Irrawaddy. Archived from the original on 2006-01-27. Retrieved 2006-12-29.

Further reading

External links

Index of China-related articles (0–L)

The following is a breakdown of the list of China-related topics.

James Matisoff

James Alan Matisoff (Chinese name: 马蒂索夫 Mǎdìsuǒfū or 马提索夫 Mǎtísuǒfū; born July 14, 1937) is a professor emeritus of Linguistics at the University of California, Berkeley and noted authority on Tibeto-Burman languages and other languages of mainland Southeast Asia.


Lahu may refer to:

Lahu people

Lahu language

Lahu people

The Lahu people (Chinese: 拉祜族; Lahu: Ladhulsi / Kawzhawd; Vietnamese: La Hủ) are an ethnic group of China and Mainland Southeast Asia.

Lancang Lahu Autonomous County

Lancang Lahu Autonomous County (simplified Chinese: 澜沧拉祜族自治县; traditional Chinese: 瀾滄拉祜族自治縣; pinyin: Láncāng Lāhùzú Zìzhìxiàn) is an autonomous county under the jurisdiction of Pu'er City, in southwestern Yunnan province, China. Lancang is the same as Lan Xang, and refers to the Mekong River (known in Chinese as the Lancang) on its eastern borders and adopted by modern Laos, a Tai word meaning Million Elephants.

Nyi language

Nyi (Gni), another transcription for Yi (I), may refer to any of several Loloish languages, such as,

Sichuan Yi language

Red Lahu language

Official language
Semiofficial language
Indigenous languages
(by state or region)
Sign languages
Varieties of

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