A language of Thailand

Alternate Names
Lawa, Lua, Mbisu, Mibisu

700 (2016 K. Person). No monolinguals (2015 K. Person). Ethnic population: 700 (2018 K. Person).


Chiang Rai province: Doi Chomphu and Pui Kham villages.

Language Maps
Language Status

6a (Vigorous).


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

Used by all. All children learn the language along with Northern Thai [nod] from birth, but since some pre-school age children attend day care in Northern Thai-speaking facilities, there is some concern that the children at that age will develop a preference for Northern Thai over Bisu (Person 2005). Also use Northern Thai [nod], especially younger generations.

Language Development

Literacy rate in L2: Below 5%. Literacy classes held at weekend in Doi Chompu. Oral and written materials developed. Literature. NT: 2015.


Thai script [Thai], used since 1998.

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.

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