Nyah Kur
Native toThailand
Native speakers
1,500 (2006)[1]
Early form
  • Chaiyaphum
  • Petchabun
Thai script
Language codes
ISO 639-3cbn

The Nyah Kur language, also called Chao-bon (Thai: ชาวบน), is an Austroasiatic language spoken by remnants of the Mon people of Dvaravati, the Nyah Kur people, who live in present-day Thailand. Nyah Kur shares 69% lexical similarity with Mon, the only other language in the Monic language family.[2]


Nyah Kur (ɲɑ̤h kur) is spoken by a few thousand people in the central and northeastern provinces (Sidwell 2009:113-114). According to Premsrirat (2002), there are 4,000 to 6,000 speakers of Nyah Kur, the vast majority living in Chaiyaphum Province. The northern dialects of Phetchabun Province are highly endangered.

Southern dialects
Northern dialects

The northern-southern bipartite classification is from Theraphan L-Thongkum's 1984 multi-dialectal Nyah Kur dictionary. However, Gerard Diffloth considers Nyah Kur to be made up of three dialects, namely North, Central, and South.


Being the only languages of the Monic branch of the Mon–Khmer language family, Mon and Nyah Kur are very closely related.


The modern-day speakers of Nyah Kur are the descendants of the Mon who did not flee west when the Khmer overran their empire in the 9th and 11th centuries. Consequently, modern Mon and Nyah Kur have both developed directly from Old Mon independently for almost a millennium.

Nyah Kur was discovered by linguists early in the 20th century, but was not recognized as being related (in fact a "sister" language) to Mon for nearly 70 years.

Due to integration into Thai society, the number of speakers of Nyah Kur as a first language is rapidly decreasing and some predict the language will become extinct within the next century unless the current course is reversed. Language change influenced by Thai is also occurring as younger generations pronounce certain phonemes different from older generations. For instance, final -/r/ and -/l/, which do not occur as finals in Thai, are now often pronounced as -[n] by younger generations (Premsrirat 2002). However, since the younger generations also generally have positive attitudes about their language and support the idea of having an orthography for Nyah Kur, the language may be preserved (Premsrirat 2002).



Bilabial Dental Palatal Velar Glottal
Stops p b t d c k ʔ
Fricatives (f) (s) ç h
Nasals m n ɲ ŋ̊ ŋ
Approximant ʍ w l j
Trill r


Front Central Back
unround round
Close i iː ɯ ɯː u uː
Mid e eː ɤ ɤː o oː
Open ɛ ɛː a aː ʌ ɔ ɔː


Front Back
unround round
Close ia ua ɯa


Nyah Kur is written in the Thai alphabet. Here the Thai Nyah Kur orthography will be shown side by side with a mix of traditional Mon and Khamti script. Mon being the only extant linguistic relative of Nyah Kur within the Monic branch of Austronesian languages and Khamti being close relative of Standard Thai, the likes of which has influenced Nyah Kur greatly in terms of phonology, but unlike Thai, uses a derivative of the Mon-Burmese script similar to Mon.



Further reading


  1. ^ Nyah Kur at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015) (subscription required)
  2. ^ "Myanmar". Ethnologue: Languages of the World. 2016. Archived from the original on 2016-10-10.
  3. ^ "Upsid Nyah Kur".
  4. ^ "Nyah Kur language". Omniglot. Retrieved 9 September 2021.

Further reading