Karen, Bwe


A language of Myanmar

Alternate Names
Baghi, Bghai Karen, Blimaw, Bwe, Dareh, Manaw

17,200 (1997 F. Bennett), decreasing. No monolinguals.


Kayin State, Thandaung township, about 100 villages; Kayah State, Hpruso township.

Language Maps
Language Status

6b (Threatened).


Eastern Bwe Karen, Western Bwe Karen. Most comprehend Western Bwe Karen dialect; some comprehend Geba [kvq] and Kayaw [kvl]; no inherent intelligibility with Kayah [eky] or Geko [ghk]. Lexical similarity: 82%–100% with Geba Karen [kvq].



Language Use

Some shift to S’gaw Karen [ksw] or Burmese [mya]. Most domains, except church. All ages. Positive attitudes. Also use S’gaw Karen [ksw] and Burmese [mya]; S’gaw Karen used in church.

Language Development
Literacy rate in L1: Below 1%. Some S’gaw Karen [ksw] literacy classes held. Bible portions: 1857–1862.
Myanmar (Burmese) script.
Other Comments

Western Bwe Karen more widely understood, more prestigious. Bwe is sometimes used as an overarching cover term for all high-dwelling Central Karennic groups, who are not S’gaw Karen or Pwo Karen. Bwe people are very similar to the Mobwa people in lifestyle and culture. Christian.