Lisu is a Tibeto-Burman language spoken by about 942,000 people in southern China, northern Myanmar (Burma), northern Thailand and northern India. In the year 2000 there were about 600,000 speakers of Lisu in China, mainly along the Mekong and Salween rivers in Sichuan and Yunnan provinces. Lisu speakers are taught to read and write their language in churches. The language is also taught in schools, and used in literature, newspapers and on the radio.
In 2007 there were about 300,000 Lisu speakers in Kachin and Shan states in northern Myanmar. There were also 40,000 speakers of Lisu in Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai, Kamphaeng Phet, Mae Hong Son, Phayao, Sukhothai and Tak provinces in Thailand, and about 2,700 in Arunachal Pradesh state in northern India.
Lisu is also known as Chedi, Cheli, Chung, Khae, Leisu, and by various other names. It is closely related to Lahu and Akha, and also to Burmese, Kachin and Yi.
Lisu has been written with a number of different scripts, including the Pollard Script, the Fraser alphabet, the Lisu syllbary and the Latin Lisu alphabet. The Lisu syllabary was created by Ngua-ze-bo, a Lisu farmer, between 1924 and 1930 and was based on the Chinese, Dongba and Geba scripts. In Myanmar a way to write Lisu with the Burmese alphabet has been developed.
The Lisu Latin alphabet is based on Pinyin and was introduced in China in 1964, however most Lisu speakers continued to use the Fraser alphabet.
Page last modified: 30.10.23
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