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Not to be confused with Hakka Chinese.
Hakha Chin
Native to Burma, India, Bangladesh[1]
Ethnicity Chin
Native speakers
130,000  (1991–2001)[2]
Latin script (Hakha alphabet)
Language codes
ISO 639-3 cnh
Glottolog haka1240[3]

Hakha Chin (Baungshe, Lai), or Pawi, is a language spoken in southern Asia by 446,264 people.[1] The total figure includes 2,000 Zokhua, and 60,100 Lai speakers.[1] The speakers are largely concentrated in Mizoram in eastern India and Burma, with a small number of speakers in Bangladesh.

Even though there is no official language in Chin State (Burma), Lai holh is used as a communication language or lingua franca in most parts of Chin State. It is used as a native language in Hakha and Thantlang area. And it is used as a communication language or lingua franca in Matupi. As Hakha and Falam dialects are from the same Lai dialect and 85% of the phonetic and accent are exactly the same, people from Falam can easily communicate with Hakha language. Strictly speaking, as Hakha is the capital of Chin State; Chins people from many parts of Chin State settle down in Hakha, or serve or work temporarily as a government employee or business men and eventually they including their children learn and speak Hakha. In this way, nowadays Hakha (Lai) dialect is used as a communication or lingua franca in the present day Chin State.


Syllable structure[edit]

Words in the Hakha Chin language are predominantly monosyllabic, with some sesquisyllables featuring a "reduced syllable.[4]" Full syllables are either open or closed, with a tone.


The Hakha Chin language differentiates between voiced, voiceless and voiceless aspirated obstruents. Additionally, two sets of sonorants are realized.[5]

  Labial Alveolar Retroflex Palatal Velar Glottal
Nasals voiced m n ŋ  
voiceless ŋ̊  
Plosives tenuis p t ʈ k ʔ
aspirated t ʈʰ  
voiced b (ɡ)  
Central affricates tenuis t͡s
aspirated t͡sʰ  
Lateral affricates tenuis
aspirated tɬʰ
Fricatives voiceless f   h
voiced v  
Approximants voiced l j
Trills voiced r

Consonants allowed in syllable codas are /p, t, k, m, n, ŋ, l, r, j, w/.

The unattested parent language, Proto-Chin, featured a voiced velar plosive ɡ. The phoneme itself was lost in all of its daughter languages, due to a spirantization to ɣ, which a labialization followed afterwards.[5] No native words has the voiced velar plosive and it is presently found in loanwords.

In the Hakha alphabet, h transcribes the glottal fricative in initial position, but a glottal stop in coda position.[6] Voiceless approximants are distinguished in writing from their voiced counterparts with a prefixed h.


There are five vowels in Hakha Chin and may either be long or short. Allophones occur for closed syllables.[5]

Front Central Back
Close i u
Mid e o
Open a

Additionally, diphthongs exist in the Hakha language.[5]

Front Near-Front Central Near-Back Back
Close ia iu ui ua
Mid ei eu oi
Open ai au


Literacy and literature[edit]

The literacy rates are lower for the older people and higher in the younger generations.[1] The Hakha-Chin language uses the Latin script, unlike most languages of India and Bangladesh who use Devanagari or other southeast-Asian alphabets. Between 1978 and 1999 the Bible was translated into the language.[1]


There are many dialects varied from village to village usage.


The Hakha-Chin people and the Hakha-Chin speaking people are largely of the Lai tribe of people.[1] In the nation of India, they are a Scheduled Tribe, that is to say they have official government status as a separate and distinct community, people, and culture. These remote areas are very hilly and mountainous.[1] The livelihoods of most of them are based on swidden agriculture.[1] The predominant religion in practice by Hakha-Chin speakers is Christianity.[1]


The language is spoken by 100,000 in Burma in 1991 according to UBS.[1] In Burma, the language is also known as Haka, Hakha, Baungshe, and Lai.[1]


In 2000 1,264 spoke it in Bangladesh, according to WCD.[1] The language is also known as simply Haka, Baungshe, or Lai here.[1] Bangladesh is where Shonshe is spoken and it may be a language in its own right.[1]


There were 345,000 speakers in India according to UBS in 1996.[1] It is also known as: Haka, Baungshe, Lai, Lai Pawi, Lai Hawlh.[1] The majority of the youth is literate in India.[1] It is taught in primary schools in this nation.[1] In India it is spoken in the Mizoram District, Chhimtuipui District and Aizawl district in addition to Meghalaya at the southernmost tip of Assam area.[1]


  • Peterson, David A. (2003). "Hakha Lai" In Graham Thurgood and Randy J. LaPolla, eds. The Sino-Tibetan Languages, 409-426. London: Routledge

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s Hakha-China, Ethnologue, 1983, 1991, 1996, 2000, access date August 9, 2008
  2. ^ Hakha Chin at Ethnologue (17th ed., 2013)
  3. ^ Nordhoff, Sebastian; Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2013). "Haka Chin". Glottolog 2.2. Leipzig: Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology. 
  4. ^ http://www.ling.sinica.edu.tw/files/publication/j2004_4_05_8112.pdf
  5. ^ a b c d http://ic.payap.ac.th/graduate/linguistics/theses/Khoi_Lam_Thang_Thesis.pdf
  6. ^ http://hobugt.dk/ordbog/artikler/pronunciation.htm

External links[edit]

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