Karen, Bwe


A language of Myanmar

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

17,200 (1997 F. Bennett), decreasing. 0 monolinguals.


Kayin State, Thandaung township, about 100 villages; Kayah State, Hpruso township; Bago, Taungoo and Hpa-Ana townships.

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. 10,000 also use S’gaw Karen [ksw]. S’gaw Karen used in church. Also use Burmese [mya].

Language Development
Literacy rate in L1: Below 1%. Some S’gaw Karen [ksw] literacy classes held. Dictionary.

Myanmar (Burmese) script [Mymr].

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 (Roman Catholic), Christian (Protestant).