A language of China

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

600,000 in China (2000 census), increasing. Population total all countries: 942,700.


West Yunnan Province, 11 prefectures, 63 counties, upper reaches of Salween and Mekong rivers; Sichuan Province, southwest Liangshan prefecture. Also in India, Myanmar, Thailand.

Language Status

5 (Developing).


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; tonal, 6 tones

Language Use

Vigorous. Speakers of other languages in the area use Lisu for administration, religion, and bilingual education in schools. Some 7,000 members of the Nu nationality in China, and more in Myanmar, speak only Lisu; many more Nu and others speak Lisu as a L2. In Drung and Nu areas, oral and written Lisu are used for Christian activities. All domains. All ages. Positive attitudes. Also use Chinese. 150,000 can also use Bai [bca], Tibetan [bod], Naxi [nxq], Lü [khb], or Jingpho [kac]. Chinese is used in secondary schools.

Language Development
Literacy rate in L1: High. Literacy rate in L2: Medium. Chinese. Literacy taught through churches, rather than schools. Taught in primary schools. Newspapers. Radio programs. Dictionary. Grammar. Bible: 1968–1986.
Latin script, consistent across country borders. Lisu (Fraser) script.
Other Comments

Officially classified within Lisu nationality. Traditional religion, Christian.

Also spoken in:

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