Tai Laing
Tai Lai
Tai Nai
Native toBurma
RegionKengtung, Myitkyina
Native speakers
100,000 (2010)[1]
Burmese script (Tai Laing variant)
Language codes
ISO 639-3tjl

Tai Laing (lit.'red Tai', variously spelt Tai Lai or Tai Nai), also known as Shan-ni (Burmese: ရှမ်းနီ, lit.'red Shan'), is a Tai language of Burma, related to Khamti. It is written in its own variant of Burmese script, and though not taught in schools, is experiencing a cultural revival, albeit still small. There is no census of speakers, but they are estimated to number around 100,000.


The Tai Laing settled in the Indawgyi Lake valley, in modern-day Kachin State, Myanmar, establishing city-states including Mongyang, Mogaung, Wuntho, and Momeik.[2] Tai Laing has had long-term close contact with several Tibeto-Burman languages, including Burmese speakers to the south, Lolo-Burmese, Nungish, and Jingpho-Luish languages to the east and north and Naga languages to the west.[3] These languages have influenced the phonology and grammar of Tai Laing, including the frequency of disyllabic words and presence of different grammatical markers, and variation in word order.[3]

Following the 1962 Burmese coup d'état, restrictive language policies were promulgated by the military regime.[2] The Kachin Independence Organization also repressed Tai Laing speakers, who lived in contested territory.[2] In the 1990s, a military ceasefire enabled the Tai Laing to recover manuscripts, publish literacy books, and teach the language in summer schools.[2] During the 2011–2015 Myanmar political reforms, Khin Pyone Yee was appointed Kachin State's Minister of Shan Affairs.[2] She spearheaded a program to institutionalize Tai Laing education materials and curricula.[2]

While Tai Laing is experiencing a linguistic revival driven by youth, many Tai Laing are now bilingual or monolingual in Burmese, due to assimilation and intermarriage with Burmese speakers.[2]


Alternate names for Tai Laing are Red Tai, Shan Bamar, Shan Kalee, Shan-ni (ရှမ်းနီ), Tai Laeng, Tai Lai, Tai Lang, Tai Nai, and Tai Naing (Ethnologue).


Tai Laing is spoken in Homalin Township, Sagaing Region, along the Chindwin, Irrawaddy, and Uru rivers. It is also spoken in Kachin State from Bhamo to Myitkyina townships (Ethnologue).


There are two subgroups of Tai Laing, namely Tai Nai and Tai Lai. The Tai Nai live along the railway line between Myitkyina and Mandalay. The Tai Lai live along the river south of Myitkyina (Ethnologue).


  1. ^ Tai Laing at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015) (subscription required)
  2. ^ a b c d e f g Lovett, Lorcan (2018-07-30). "Once-taboo language lives again in rural Myanmar". Nikkei Asia. Retrieved 2021-11-01.((cite web)): CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  3. ^ a b Marseille, Carmen Eva (2019). "Shan-Ni grammar and processes of linguistic change". Leiden University Libraries.((cite web)): CS1 maint: url-status (link)