A language of China

Alternate Names
Chedi, Cheli, Chung, Khae, Leisu, Leshuoopa, Lesuo, Li, Li-Hsaw, Li-Shaw, Lip’a, Lisaw, Lishu, Liso, Lissu, Loisu, Lu-Tzu, Lusu, Yao Yen, Yaw Yin, Yaw-Yen, Yeh-Jen
LI-SU‎ (Li-su), Lisu

600,000 in China (2000 census), increasing. Ethnic population: 703,000 (2010 census). Total users in all countries: 942,700.


Sichuan province: southwest Liangshan prefecture; Yunnan province: 11 prefectures, 63 counties, upper reaches of Mekong and Salween rivers.

Language Status

3 (Wider communication). Language of recognized nationality: Lisu. Some 7,000 members of the Nu nationality in China, and more in Myanmar, speak only Lisu.


Bai Lisu (White Lisu), Dechang Lisu, Hei Lisu (Black Lisu), Hua Lisu (Flowery Lisu), Lu Shi Lisu, Ninglang Lisu, Northern Lisu, Nujiang Lisu, Shibacha Lisu, Western Lisu. Much dialectal variation; some do not understand each other.


SOV; postpositions; classifiers; isolating language; no passives; aspect markers; causatives; topic markers; 28 consonants and 10 vowels; tonal (6 tones).

Language Use

Vigorous. Speakers of other languages in the area use Lisu for administration, religion, and bilingual education in schools. In Drung and Nu areas, oral and written Lisu are used for Christian activities. All domains. Used by all. Positive attitudes. Also use Central Bai [bca], Central Tibetan [bod], Jingpho [kac], Lü [khb], Naxi [nxq]. Also use Mandarin Chinese [cmn], especially in secondary schools. Used as L2 by Anong [nun], Central Bai [bca], Drung [duu], Northern Pumi [pmi], Nusu [nuf], Southern Pumi [pmj], Zaiwa [atb], Zauzou [zal].

Language Development

Literacy rate in L1: High. Literacy rate in L2: Moderate in Chinese. Literacy taught through churches, rather than schools. Taught in primary schools. Literature. Newspapers. Radio. Dictionary. Grammar. Bible: 1968–1986.


Latin script [Latn], used in 1915–1918, 1958–1966, and from 1981. Lisu (Fraser) script [Lisu], used since 1918, primary usage.

Other Comments

Traditional religion, Christian.

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