A language of Thailand

Alternate Names
Lawa, Lua, Mbisu, Mibisu

Population total all countries: 240. Ethnic population: 700 (Bradley 2007).


Chiang Rai Province, Doi Chomphu and Pui Kham villages.

Language Maps
Language Status

6b (Threatened).


None known. Similar to Laomian [lwm] and Pyen [pyy]. Lexical similarity: 36% with Hani [hni], 32% with Lahu [lhu], 31% with Lisu [lis].


SOV; simple syllable structure; certain obstruent onsets may be prenasalized, aspirated, or palatalized, but otherwise no consonant clusters; syllables may be closed by stop or nasal; 3 tones, tone sandhi; words have 1 or 2 syllables; modifiers follow heads; loanwords from Dai and Chinese.

Language Use

Not all young people speak Bisu (Bradley 2007). Younger generations are bilingual in Northern Thai [nod].

Language Development
Literacy rate in L1: Below 1%. Literacy rate in L2: Below 5%. Literacy classes held at weekend in Doi Chompu. Oral and written materials developed. Bible portions: 2009–2011.

Latin script [Latn], used since 2002, used in Myanmar. Thai script [Thai], used since 1998, used in Thailand.

Other Comments

The terms ‘Lawa’ and ‘Lua’ generally refer to Waic language varieties in Thailand: sometimes outsiders have classified unrelated languages such as Bisu in this category. Traditional religion, Christian.