The word 'Gehay' (Dog) in Tangsa script
Native toBurma, India
EthnicityTangsa people
Native speakers
110,000 (2010-2012)[1]
  • Muklom
  • Pangwa Naga
  • Ponthai
  • Tikhak
Latin alphabet, Tangsa alphabet
Language codes
ISO 639-3Variously:
nst – Tangsa (multiple varieties)
nqq – Kyan-Karyaw
nlq – Lao Naga
Glottologtang1379  Tangsa

Tangsa, also known as Tase and Tase Naga, is a Sino-Tibetan language or language cluster spoken by the Tangsa people of Burma and north-eastern India. Some varieties, such as Shangge (Shanke[2]), are likely distinct languages. There are about 60,000 speakers in Burma and 40,000 speakers in India. The dialects of Tangsa have disparate levels of lexical similarity, ranging from 35%–97%.[3]

Geographical distribution

Tangsa is spoken in the following locations of Myanmar:[1]

In India, Tangsa is spoken in Arunachal Pradesh and Assam. Below are locations for some varieties of Tangsa.

Ethnologue also lists the following languages:[1]


There are four principal varieties:

Morey (2017)

Within Tangsa, the Pangwa group has about 20 subgroups in India. The Pangwa had migrated from Myanmar to India in the 20th century (Morey 2017). Pangwa subgroups are listed below, with autonyms listed in parentheses, where superscript digits are language-specific tone-marks.[8]

The Tikhak group consists of:[8]

Other subgroups that do not belong to either the Pangwa or Tikhak groups are:[8]

Besides Pangwa and Tikhak, other Tangsa groups are:[9]

Lann (2018)

Lann (2018:8) classifies the Tangsa language varieties as follows, and recognizes 11 subgroups.[10] IPA transcriptions for dialect names are also provided (Lann 2018:4-6), where superscript digits are language-specific tone-marks.[11]

Lann (2018:4) lists the Aktung, Angsü-Angsa, Giiyii, Gawngkaq, Khangcyu, Khangdo, Kumgaq, Punlam, Nukyaq, and Vangtak-Vangkaq dialects as being extinct or nearly extinct.[12]

Kaisan is a Northern Naga language variety spoken in several villages (including the village of Kaisan Chálám) in the Patkai area of Sagaing Region, Myanmar, as well as in Arunachal Pradesh, India.[13]



Labial Dental Alveolar Palatal Velar Glottal
Nasal m (n̪) n ɲ ŋ
Plosive voiceless p t k ʔ
aspirated t̪ʰ
voiced b d ɡ
Affricate voiceless t͡s t͡ɕ
aspirated t͡ɕʰ
Fricative voiceless s ʃ x h
voiced β ~ w ʒ ~ j (ɣ)
Approximant central ɹ
lateral l


Vowels in the Mueshaungx dialect
Front Central Back
Close i ɯ u
Close-mid e ə ɤ o
Open-mid ɔ
Open a

There are 12 diphthongs, noted as: /ui/; /ɯi, ɯu/; /əi, əu/; /oi/; /ɔə, ɔəi/; /ɤi, ɤu/; /ai, au/.[14]

Vowels in the Muklom dialect[15]
Front Central Back
Close i ɨ u, uː
Close-mid e
Open-mid ɛ ʌ ɔ, ɔː
Open a


Script type
CreatorLakhum Mossang
ISO 15924
ISO 15924Tnsa (275), ​Tangsa
Unicode alias

In 1990, Mr. Lakhum Mossang from Namphai Nong, Arunachal Pradesh in India created an alphabet for the Tangsa language. He taught the alphabet in public events and festivals, and promoted the script with community organisations and schools. In 2021, there were about 100 people who are using the script.[16] The Tangsa Script Development Committee was founded in 2019 and continues development of the script after the passing of Lakhum Mossang in order ensure accommodation to the wide range of Tangsa varieties spoken in the region. The script has not yet gained widespread adoption.

Beyond the use of Lakhum Mossang's script, Tangsa varieties are generally written in the Latin alphabet with multiple different spelling conventions in use. One such Roman orthography is that for Mossang, designed by Reverend Gam Win and used in the Mossang translation of the Bible. Different Roman orthographies are in use among different subtribes, often with considerable variation. These differences tend to follow Christian denominational divisions.

The Gam Win Romanization for Mossang is as follows:

Tonal vowels

Each vowel of the Tangsa alphabet notes a combination representing one of 11 phonemic base vowels:[17]

o [o]
v [ə]
i [i]
a [a]
e [e]
u [u]
aw [ɔ]
ue / ü [ɤ]
ui [ɯ]
uiu [ɯu]
m [m̩]

modified by one of four distinctive vocalic tones (noted in Latin transcriptions by trailing consonnants appended after the base vowel):

-c [˦] thuic tsanz (voice-hard) - mid-high level or rising
-x [˧] thuic hvlz (voice-middle) - mid-high falling
-z [˩] thuic nyenz (voice-soft) - low falling with creaky phonation
-q [ˀ] thuic htaq (voice-break/cut) - short, final glottal stop[18]

As well, the Tangsa alphabet includes a few additional separate letters for distinctive tonal vowels  :

-ng [ŋ] (final) - modifier written after the base vowel+tone
awx [ɔ̆˧] (short variant) - usually not distinguished in Latin transcriptions
uex [ɤː˧] (long variant) - usually not distinguished in Latin transcriptions
uez [ɤ̆˩] (short variant) - usually not distinguished in Latin transcriptions


Unlike Brahmic-derived abugidas most often used for languages in India and Burma, the 31 consonants of the Tangsa alphabet (used to write Sino-Tibetan languages and not Brahmic-based languages) don't carry any inherent vowel:[19]

k [k]
kh [kʰ]
g [g]
ng [ŋ]
s [s]
y [j]
w [w]
p [p]
ny [ɲ]
ph [pʰ]
b [b]
m [m]
n [n]
h [h]
l [l]
ht [tʰ]
t [t]
d [d]
r [r]
nh [n̪]
sh [ʃ]
c [t͡ɕ]
ts [t͡s]
gh [ɣ]
htt [t̪ʰ]
th [t̪]
x [x]
f [f]
dh [d̪]
ch [t͡ɕʰ]
z [z]


Main article: Tangsa (Unicode block)

The Tangsa alphabet was added to the Unicode Standard in September, 2021 with the release of version 14.0.

The Unicode block for Tangsa is U+16A70–U+16ACF. The 48 base vowels (with tones) are encoded in U+16A70–U+16A9F, the 31 base consonants are encoded in U+16AA0–U+16ABE, and ten decimal digits are encoded in U+16AC0–U+16AC9:

Official Unicode Consortium code chart (PDF)
  0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 A B C D E F
U+16A7x 𖩰 𖩱 𖩲 𖩳 𖩴 𖩵 𖩶 𖩷 𖩸 𖩹 𖩺 𖩻 𖩼 𖩽 𖩾 𖩿
U+16A8x 𖪀 𖪁 𖪂 𖪃 𖪄 𖪅 𖪆 𖪇 𖪈 𖪉 𖪊 𖪋 𖪌 𖪍 𖪎 𖪏
U+16A9x 𖪐 𖪑 𖪒 𖪓 𖪔 𖪕 𖪖 𖪗 𖪘 𖪙 𖪚 𖪛 𖪜 𖪝 𖪞 𖪟
U+16AAx 𖪠 𖪡 𖪢 𖪣 𖪤 𖪥 𖪦 𖪧 𖪨 𖪩 𖪪 𖪫 𖪬 𖪭 𖪮 𖪯
U+16ABx 𖪰 𖪱 𖪲 𖪳 𖪴 𖪵 𖪶 𖪷 𖪸 𖪹 𖪺 𖪻 𖪼 𖪽 𖪾
U+16ACx 𖫀 𖫁 𖫂 𖫃 𖫄 𖫅 𖫆 𖫇 𖫈 𖫉
1.^ As of Unicode version 15.1
2.^ Grey areas indicate non-assigned code points


  1. ^ a b c Tangsa (multiple varieties) at Ethnologue (25th ed., 2022) Closed access icon
    Kyan-Karyaw at Ethnologue (25th ed., 2022) Closed access icon
    Lao Naga at Ethnologue (25th ed., 2022) Closed access icon
  2. ^ Shintani, Tadahiko. 2015. The Shanke language. Linguistic survey of Tay cultural area (LSTCA) no. 104. Tokyo: Research Institute for Languages and Cultures of Asia and Africa (ILCAA).
  3. ^ "Myanmar". Ethnologue: Languages of the World. 2016. Archived from the original on 2016-10-10.
  4. ^ Rekhung, Winlang. 1988. Jugli Language Guide. Itanagar: Directorate of Research, Government of Arunachal Pradesh.
  5. ^ Rekhung, Winlang. 1988. Lungchang Language Guide. Itanagar: Directorate of Research, Government of Arunachal Pradesh.
  6. ^ Rekhung, Winlang. 1992. Tutsa Language Guide. Itanagar: Directorate of Research, Government of Arunachal Pradesh.
  7. ^ Rekhung, Winlang. 1999. Mungshang Language Guide. Itanagar: Directorate of Research, Government of Arunachal Pradesh.
  8. ^ a b c Morey, Stephen (2011), "Tangsa song language - art or history? a common language or a remnant?", Als2011 Australian Linguistics Society Annual Conference Conference Proceedings
  9. ^ Morey, Stephen (2015). "The internal diversity of Tangsa: vocabulary and morphosyntax". In Post, Mark; Konnerth, Linda; Morey, Stephen; et al. (eds.). Language and Culture in Northeast India and Beyond: In honor of Robbins Burling. Canberra: Asia-Pacific Linguistics. pp. 23–40. hdl:1885/38458. ISBN 9781922185259.
  10. ^ Lann 2018, p. 8
  11. ^ Lann 2018, pp. 4–6
  12. ^ Lann 2018, p. 4
  13. ^ van Dam, Kellen Parker. 2023. A first description of Kaisan, a North Patkaian language of Myanmar. 26th Himalayan Languages Symposium, 4-6 September 2023. Paris: INALCO.
  14. ^ a b Morey, Stephen (2017). Tangsa (2nd ed.). In Randy J. LaPolla and Graham Thurgood (eds.), The Sino-Tibetan languages: London: Routledge. pp. 350–368.
  15. ^ a b Mulder, Mijke (2020). A Descriptive Grammar of Muklom Tangsa. La Trobe University.
  16. ^ "Tangsa Alphabet and Language". Omniglot. Retrieved 4 March 2021.
  17. ^ "Tangsa Alphabet and Language". Omniglot. Retrieved 5 March 2021.
  18. ^ "Tangsa Alphabet and Language". Omniglot. Retrieved 5 March 2021.
  19. ^ "Tangsa Alphabet and Language". Omniglot. Retrieved 5 March 2021.