Hakha Chin
Native toMyanmar, India, Bangladesh[1]
Native speakers
170,000 (2011–2017)[1]
Language codes
ISO 639-3cnh
ELPHakha Chin

Hakha Chin, or Laiholh, is a Kuki-Chin language spoken by 446,264 people, mostly in Myanmar.[1] In Mizoram, the language is recognized as Pawi. The total figure includes 2,000 Zokhua and 60,100 Hakha speakers.[1] The speakers are largely concentrated in Chin State in western Myanmar and Mizoram in eastern India, with a small number of speakers in south-eastern Bangladesh.


The Hakha Chin (Lai) speakers are largely in Chin State, Burma and Mizoram in Northeast India, with a small number of speakers in south-eastern Bangladesh. Nowadays, more than fifty thousand Hakha Chin speakers are living in the Western countries, such as Canada, Denmark, Germany, Norway, and the United States, as well as Australia and New Zealand.[citation needed]

Mutual intelligibility

Hakha Chin serves as a lingua franca in most parts of Chin State and is a native language in Hakha, Thantlang, and parts of Matupi. Derived from the same Lai dialect and sharing 85% of their phonology, Falam Chin speakers can easily communicate with Hakha speakers. As the capital of Chin State, Hakha provides government employment and business opportunities to people living elsewhere in Chin State. These people live here temporarily or permanently, and their families eventually learn how to speak Lai holh (Hakha).

The Chin people use Latin script (Hakha alphabet) as their writing system.


Syllable structure

Words in the Hakha Chin language are predominantly monosyllabic with some sesqui syllables featuring a "reduced syllable".[2] Full syllables are either open or closed with a rising, falling, or low tone.[citation needed]


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The Hakha Chin language differentiates between voiced, voiceless, and voiceless aspirated obstruents. Additionally, two sets of sonorants are realised.[3]

Labial Alveolar Retroflex Palatal Velar Glottal
central lateral
Nasal voiced m n ŋ
voiceless ŋ̊
Plosive tenuis p t ʈ k ʔ
aspirated ʈʰ
voiced b d (ɡ)
Affricate tenuis t͡s
aspirated t͡sʰ tɬʰ
Fricative voiceless f s h
voiced v z
Liquid voiced r l
Semivowel w j

Consonants allowed in syllable codas are /p, t, k, m, n, ŋ, l, r, j, w/.

Consonants /m, n, ŋ, l, r/ occurring in syllable-final position may also occur as glottalized [mˀ, nˀ, ŋˀ, lˀ, rˀ].[4]

The unattested parent language, Proto-Chin, featured a voiced velar plosive ɡ. The phoneme itself was lost in all of its daughter languages, due to a spirantisation to ɣ, which a labialisation followed afterwards.[3] Only certain loanwords, not native words, have the voiced velar plosive.

In the Hakha alphabet, ⟨h⟩ transcribes the glottal fricative in initial position, but a glottal stop in coda position.[5] Voiceless approximants are distinguished in writing from their voiced counterparts with a prefixed ⟨h⟩.


The Hakha language features seven vowels which may be long or short. Allophones occur for closed syllables.[3]

Front Central Back
Close i u
Mid e ɔ
Open a

In final position, /e/ can be heard as [ɛ].[4]

The Hakha language also features diphthongs.[3]

Front Central Back
Close ia   iu ui   ua
Mid ei   eu ɔi
Open ai   au


Hakha-Chin is a subject-object-verb (SOV) language, and negation follows the verb.

Literacy and literature

Literacy rates are lower for older generations and higher in younger generations.[1] The Hakha-Chin language uses the Latin script and reportedly the Pau Cin Hau script, unlike most languages of India and Bangladesh which use Devanagari or other Southeast Asian alphabets. Between 1978 and 1999, the Bible was translated into the language.[1]


The Hakha-Chin language is also known as Haka, Baung-shè, and Lai in Burma, India, and Bangladesh.[1] The Hakha-Chin people are largely members of the Lai tribe. In India, they are a Scheduled Tribe, which means the government recognizes them as a distinct people. As they mostly live in hilly or even mountainous remote areas, most Hakha-Chin speakers rely on swidden agriculture.[1] Hakha-Chin speakers are predominantly Christian.[1]


As of 1991, there were 100,000 Hakha-Chin speakers in Burma.[1] Dialects vary from village to village.


As of 2000, there were 1,264 Hakha-Chin speakers in Bangladesh.[1] In Bangladesh, the Senthang dialect Shonshe is spoken and it may be a language in its own right.[1]


As of 1996, there were 345,000 Hakha-Chin speakers in India, mostly in the Lawngtlai, Lunglei, and Aizawl districts of Mizoram as well as the southernmost tip of Assam.[1] In India, the language is also known as Lai Pawi and Lai Hawlh and is taught in some primary schools. Most of its younger speakers in India are literate.[1]


See also


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n Hakha Chin at Ethnologue (25th ed., 2022) Closed access icon
  2. ^ Hyman, Larry M.; VanBik, Kenneth (2004). "Directional rule application and output problems in Hakha Lai tone" (PDF). Language and Linguistics. 5 (4): 821–861.
  3. ^ a b c d Khoi Lam Thang (2001). A phonological reconstruction of Proto-Chin (PDF) (MA thesis). Payap University. Archived from the original (PDF) on 26 October 2016. Retrieved 21 December 2016.
  4. ^ a b Lalremzani, C. (2013). Lai phonetics phonology and morphology: a descriptive study. North-Eastern Hill University.
  5. ^ "Pronunciation". hobugt.dk.