Zo, Kuki
Zou, Kuki
'Zo Lai' in Zolai alphabet
Native toManipur, India
RegionTonzang: Chin State, Chin Hills;
In India: Mizoram and Manipur, Chandel, Singngat subdivision and Sungnu area; Churachandpur districts; Assam.
EthnicityZou Kuki
Native speakers
88,000 (2012)[1]
Latin, Zoulai alphabet[3]
Language codes
ISO 639-3zom
A Zou speaker, recorded in Myanmar.

Zo (also spelled Zou and also known as Zokam) is a Northern Kuki-Chin-Mizo language[2] originating in western Burma and spoken also in Mizoram and Manipur in northeastern India.

The name Zou is sometimes used as a cover term for the languages of all Mizo people (Zo people) i.e.Kukish and Chin peoples, especially the Zomi people.

The term 'Zo' has been employed in many books to denote the word 'Zo', for simple reason of phonetic usage.

The Zo themselves employ the various terms Zo, Zou, and Jo to mean their tribe.[1]


The set of 23 Zou consonantal phonemes can be established on the basis of the following minimal pairs or overlapping words. Besides these 23 Phonemes, 1 consonant is a borrowed phoneme (i.e. /r/), which is found only in loan words, in very rare cases (e.g. /r/ in /rəŋ/ "color"). Along with these consonants, Zou has 7 vowels: i, e, a, ɔ, o, u, ə.[4]

Consonant Phonemes
Labial Dental/
Palatal Velar Glottal
Plosive voiceless p t c k ʔ
voiced b d ɟ g
Fricative voiceless v s h
voiced z
Nasal m n ŋ
Lateral l
Semivowel w j
Front Central Back
Close i u
Close-mid e ə o
Open-mid ɔ
Open a




Types of Zo verbs

The Zo verbs can be classified into three types: Stem (1), Stem (2), Stem (3) as given below:[7]

Types of Zo Verbs
Stem 1 Stem 2 Stem 3 Stem 4
piê-give pie? pe- pieh
puo-carry puo? po- pua-

Sample text

The following is a sample text in Zou.

Zou English
Maw na sung ma naw in, amaw sa pi ma in leimi in i piang a, a khawh ma ma - gam lua a i lua suhsuh ih mawnate ma ei bawl in eima pumpi ei man muda maithei, Ih mawnate -eeng taang gol lua a hi man in khat veivei eima mawnate eimon maisah zolo maithei va-ia kim lai, tuate lip khap sih saang a pamai eisa, ei khua tua ngeet-nguut ngeng ngong man a ih dial dual liang luang mawna nei van nuai ei mai sah thop valong, abieh huai tapo ma Jehova ki chi Pasian khat a na om ngang tangh hi. As we are born in sin, we cannot even love ourselves and there is no knowledge about what is forgiveness, because of the enormous sins inherited in us. Even though we are in this situation, in spite of our enormous sins the one who has mercy, sympathises us and forgives us our sins is the God called Jehovah.

There are four major dialects of Zou in Myanmar and India: Haidawi, Khuongnung, Thangkhal, and Khodai.


Zomi numbers are counted as follows:[8]

Zou English Hindi
Bem Zero Sunna
Khat One Ek
Nih Two Do
Thum Three Tin
Li Four Char
Nga Five Panch
Guk Six Chhe
Sagih Seven Sat
Giat Eight Ath
Kua Nine Naw
Sawm Ten Das
Sawmlehkhat Eleven Gyarah
Sawmlehkua Nineteen Unnis
Sawmnih Twenty Bis
Sawmthum Thirty Tis
Sawmkua Ninety Nabbe
Za Hundred Ek Saw
Zanga Five hundred
Tul(khat) One thousand Hazar
Tulsawm Ten thousand Das Hazar
Tulza Hundred thousand/One lakh Lakh
Then Million Das Lakh
Thensawm Ten million Ek Crore
Thenza Hundred million Das Crore
Awn Billion Ek Arab
Awn sawm Ten billion Das Arab
Awn za Hundred billion Ek Kharab

Writing systems

Zou is often written in a Latin script developed by Christian missionary J.H. Cope. In 1952, M. Siahzathang of Churachandpur created an alternative script known as Zolai or Zoulai, an alphabetic system with some alphasyllabic characteristics. The user community for the script is growing- Zou cultural, political, and literary organizations began to adopt the script beginning in the 1970s, and more recently, the Manipur State Government has shown support for both Siahzathang and the script.[9][10]

Linguistic relations

As can be seen from the name Zo ("of the hills") and Mizoram ("people of the hill country"), Zo among the Northern Kuki-Chin-Mizo languagess is closely related to the Central languages such as the Duhlian (Lusei/Lushai) or Mizo language (endonym in Duhlian or Lushai is Mizo ṭawng), the lingua franca language of Mizoram.

Zou as spoken in India is similar to the Paite language of the Paite, though Zou lacks the word-final glottal stops present in Paite.[11][12]

Geographical extent

At its largest extent, the geographic area covered by the language group is a territory of approximately 60,000 square miles (160,000 km2) in size, in Burma, India and Bangladesh.[13] However political boundaries and political debates have distorted the extent of the area in some sources.[14]

In Burma

It is used in Chin State, Tiddim, and the Chin Hills. Use of Burmese has increased in the Zo speaking Chin State since the 1950s.[15] Ethnologue reports that Zou is spoken in the following townships of Myanmar.

In India

In Bangladesh

In Bangladesh it is used by the Bawm people(Mizo people).[17][18]


  1. ^ a b Zo, Kuki at Ethnologue (25th ed., 2022) closed access
  2. ^ a b Haokip, Pauthang (2011). Socio-linguistic Situation in North-east India. Concept Publishing Company. p. 55. ISBN 978-8180697609.
  3. ^ "Zoulai". Omniglot.com.
  4. ^ Singh, Yashawanta; Himmat, Lukram (February 2013). "Zou Phonology" (PDF). Language in India. 13 (2): 683–701.
  5. ^ "Zou language, script, and pronunciation". Omniglot.
  6. ^ "Zou language, script, and pronunciation". Omniglot.
  7. ^ Philip Thanglienmang Tungdim (2012). "A Descriptive Grammar of the Zo Language". Academia. Retrieved 22 March 2019.
  8. ^ Philip Thanglienmang Tungdim (2011). "Zo-English-Hindi Kizilna Laibu Selftutor 2011". Academia. Retrieved 20 August 2019.
  9. ^ Pandey, Anshuman (29 September 2010). "Introducing the Zou Script" (PDF). Retrieved 30 December 2019.
  10. ^ Ian James; Mattias Persson (March 2012). "Script for Zou". skyknowledge.com. Retrieved 19 February 2019.
  11. ^ Bareh, Hamlet (2001). "Zou". Encyclopaedia of North-East India: Manipu. Mittal. pp. 260ff. ISBN 978-81-7099-790-0. Retrieved 22 November 2010.
  12. ^ Their language is called Zou which is similar to the language spoken by the Paite. Unlike the Zou, the Paite possess the terminal glottal stop 'h'. For example, a word for 'good' is hoih in Paite while it changes into hoi in the Zou language. Sannemla (Zou folksongs) are also popular among the Paite, although they are rendered in their individual dialect bearing the characteristic phonetic differences. Singh, Kumar Suresh; Horam, M. & Rizvi, S. H. M. (1998). People of India: Manipur. Anthropological Survey of India by Seagull Books. p. 253. ISBN 978-81-7154-769-2.
  13. ^ Encyclopaedia of South-Asian tribes - Volume 8 - Page 3436 Satinder Kumar - 2000 "According to the 1981 census, 12,515 persons speak the Zou language"
  14. ^ Gopalakrishnan, Ramamoorthy (1996). Socio-political framework in North-East India. New Delhi: Vikas Publishing House. p. 150. OCLC 34850808. But against the background of all such conflict the Zomi National Congress went a step further in its argument for a Zomi identity by claiming Thado language as Zomi language. In the Kuki-Chin group of tribes, numerical strength has played ...
  15. ^ Nang Khen Khup (2007). Evaluating the Impact of Family Devotions Upon Selected Families from the Zomi Christian Community of Tulsa (Thesis). Oral Roberts University. p. 7. OCLC 645086982. The Zomi language is descended from the Tibeto-Burman language domain. Though each tribal group speaks its own dialect, Burmese is widely used in Zoland (Chinland) due to Burmanization of military regime for over five decades
  16. ^ Shyamkishor, Ayangbam. "In Search of Common Identity: A Study of Chin-Kuki-Mizo Community in India" (PDF). International Journal of South Asian Studies: A Biannual Journal of South Asian Studies. 3 (1): 131–140. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2012-03-21. Retrieved 2014-02-03.
  17. ^ Loncheu, Nathan (2013). Dena, Lal (ed.). Bawmzos: A Study Of The Chin-Kuki-Zo Tribes Of Chittagong. New Delhi: Akansha Publishing House. ISBN 978-81-8370-346-8.
  18. ^ Reichle, Verena (1981). Bawm language and lore: Tibeto-Burman area. Europäische Hochschulschriften series 21, Linguistik: volume 14. Bern, Switzerland: P. Lang. ISBN 978-3-261-04935-3.

Further reading