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Central Lisu

  • Marija Tabain (a1), David Bradley (a2) and Defen Yu (a3)

Lisu (ISO 639-2 lis) is spoken by just over a million members of the group of this name in south-western China, north-eastern Burma, northern Thailand and north-eastern India. It formerly also had other names used by outsiders, including Yeren (Chinese yeren ‘wild people’), and Yawyin in Burma and Yobin in India (both derived from the Chinese term). Other names included Lisaw from the Shan and Thai name for the group, also seen in the former Burmese name Lishaw. About two-thirds of the speakers live in China, especially in north-western Yunnan Province, but also scattered elsewhere in Yunnan and Sichuan. About a quarter live in the Kachin State and the northern Shan State in Burma, with a substantial number in Chiangmai, Chiangrai and other provinces of Thailand, and a few thousand in Arunachal Pradesh in India. It is also spoken as a second language by many speakers of Nusu, Anung, Rawang and others in north-western Yunnan and northern Burma. Lisu has almost completely replaced Anung in China and is replacing Lemei in China. The Lisu are one of the 55 national minorities recognised in China, one of 135 ethnic groups recognised in Burma, a scheduled (officially listed and recognised) tribe in India, and one of the recognised hill tribe groups of Thailand. Figure 1 shows a map of the area where Lisu is spoken.

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Bradley, David. 2006. Lisu orthographies and email. In Saxena, Anju & Borin, Lars (eds.), Lesser-known languages of South Asia: Status and policies, case studies and applications of information technology, 125135. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter.
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Handel, Zev. 2016. Non-IPA symbols in IPA transcriptions in China. In Sybesma, Rint (ed.), Encyclopedia of Chinese language and linguistics. Consulted online at (15 March 2017).
Hope, Edward R. 1974. The deep syntax of Lisu sentences (Pacific Linguistics B-34). Canberra: Department of Linguistics, Research School of Pacific Studies, Australian National University.
Matisoff, James A. 1975. Rhinoglottophilia: The mysterious connection between nasality and glottality. In Ferguson, Charles A., Hyman, Larry M. & Ohala, John J. (eds.), Nasálfest: Papers from a Symposium on Nasals and Nasalization, 265287. Palo Alto, CA: Stanford University.
Yu, Defen. 2007. Aspects of Lisu phonology and grammar: A language of Southeast Asia (Pacific Linguistics 588). Canberra: Research School of Pacific and Asian Studies, Australian National University.
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Journal of the International Phonetic Association
  • ISSN: 0025-1003
  • EISSN: 1475-3502
  • URL: /core/journals/journal-of-the-international-phonetic-association
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