|Native to||Yunnan, China; Thailand; Laos; Myanmar|
Official language in
|Lancang Lahu Autonomous County, Yunnan|
Lahu (autonym: Ladhof [lɑ˥˧xo˩]) is a Tibeto-Burman language spoken by the Lahu people of China, Thailand, Myanmar, Vietnam and Laos. It is widely used in China, both by Lahu people, and by other ethnic minorities in Yunnan, who use it as a lingua franca. However, the language is not widely used nor taught in any schools in Thailand, where many Lahu are in fact refugees and illegal immigrants, having crossed into Thailand from Myanmar.
The Lahu language, along with the closely related Kucong language, is classified as a separate branch of Loloish by Ziwo Lama (2012), but as a Central Loloish language by David Bradley (2007). Lahu is classified as a sister branch of the Southern Loloish branch in Satterthwaite-Phillips' (2011) computational phylogenetic analysis of the Lolo-Burmese languages.
A few dialects are noted, which are each known by a variety of names:
Phạm Huy (2013:13) lists the following 3 branches.
Yunnan (1998:280) lists 5 Lahu dialects.
Traditionally Lahu folk taxonomy splits the Lahu people into the two groups of Black Lahu and Yellow Lahu; Red Lahu and White Lahu are new dialect clusters originating in messianic movements within the past few centuries. Black Lahu is the standard dialect in China, as well as the lingua franca among different groups of Lahu in Thailand. However, it is intelligible to speakers of Yellow Lahu only with some difficulty.
Based on the numbers of shared lexical items, Bradley (1979) classifies the Lahu dialects as follows:
Lama (2012) gives the following tentative classification for what he calls Lahoid.
Jin Youjing (2007) classifies the Lahu dialects as follows.
Jin Youjing (1992) covers Lahu linguistic geography and dialectology in detail.
Heh (2008) lists Lahu Shi (Yellow Lahu) dialects as:
Lahu Aga was classified as Lahu Shi by Bradley (1979), but Heh (2008) found that it is actually linguistically closer to Lahu Na (Black Lahu). In Laos, there are about 9,000 Lahu Aga located in Bokeo Province (Tonpheung district, Muang Muang district, Houj Xai district, and the special region of Nam Yut) and Luang Namtha Province (Vieng Phoukha district, Boten district, and Muang Long district) (Heh 2008:161). In Laos, the Lahu Aga are most numerous in Tonpheung district (in Baan Dong Keap, Baan Sam Sip, Baan Khi Lek, Baan Beu Neong, Baan Hoe Ong, and Baan Nan Fa villages) and Vieng Phoukha district (in Baan Na Kat Tai, Baan Na Kat Neua, Baan Pamak, Baan NaNoi, Baan NaVa, Baan NaPhe, and Baan Na Shin villages) (Heh 2008:161-162). The Yellow Lahu are also called Lahu Kui Lung in Laos (Schliesinger (2003:110), with Kui meaning 'people'. There are about 21 Lahu Aga villages in Bokeo and Luang Namtha provinces, including in Ban Don Keao, Bokeo, and Ban Na Kat Neua, who had originally migrated from Yunnan, China. (Heh 2008:8). There are also 11 Lahu Aga families living in Baan Son Pu Nong, Chiang Saen District, Chiang Rai Province, Thailand. Heh (2008) provides comparative Lahu Aga dialectal data for:
Lama (2012) lists the following sound changes from Proto-Loloish as Lahu innovations.
Lahu is a typical Tibeto-Burman language.