Languages of Myanmar

  (Redirected from Languages of Burma)

There are approximately a hundred languages spoken in Myanmar (also known as Burma).[1] Burmese, spoken by two thirds of the population, is the official language.[2]

A map of languages used in Burma

Languages spoken by ethnic minorities represent six language families: Sino-Tibetan, Austro-Asiatic, Tai–Kadai, Indo-European, Austronesian and Hmong–Mien,[3] as well as an incipient national standard for Burmese sign language.[4]


A Burmese speaker, recorded in Taiwan.

Burmese is the native language of the Bamar people and related sub-ethnic groups of the Bamar, as well as that of some ethnic minorities in Burma like the Mon. Burmese is spoken by 36 million people as a first language. Burmese is spoken as a second language by another 10 million people, particularly ethnic minorities in Burma and those in neighbouring countries.

Burmese is a Sino-Tibetan language belonging to the Southern Burmish branch of the Tibeto-Burman languages. Burmese is the most widely spoken of the Tibeto-Burman languages and among the Sino-Tibetan languages, the second most widely spoken, after the Sinitic languages.[5] Burmese was the fourth of the Sino-Tibetan languages to develop a writing system, after Chinese, Tibetan, and Tangut.[5]

As far as natural language processing research dealing with interaction of computers and Burmese human-spoken language is concerned, during the period spanning more than 25 years, from 1990 to 2016, notable work has been done and annotated in the areas of Burmese language word identification, segmentation, disambiguation, collation, semantic parsing and tokenization followed by part-of-speech tagging, machine translation systems , text keying/input, text recognition and text display methods.[6] The scope for further research too has been explored for areas of parallel corpus development as well as development of search engine and WordNet for the Burmese language.[6]

Indigenous languagesEdit

Aside from Myanmar (Burmese) and its dialects, the hundred or so languages of Myanmar include Shan (Tai, spoken by 3.2 million), Karen languages (spoken by 2.6 million), Kachin (spoken by 900,000), Thamizh (spoken by 1.1 Million), various Chin languages (spoken by 780,000), and Mon (Mon–Khmer, spoken by 750,000).[1][3] Most of these languages use the Myanmar (Burmese) script.

In Myanmar, usage of its minority languages is discouraged.[7]

It's not clear if there are one or two Burmese sign languages.[citation needed]







English as a second languageEdit

Newspapers in the street of Yangon (February 2006) including publications also in English

Today, Burmese is the primary language of instruction, and English is the secondary language taught.[7] English was the primary language of instruction in higher education from late 19th century to 1964, when Gen. Ne Win mandated educational reforms to "Burmanise".[8] English continues to be used by educated urbanites and the national government.

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ a b Goddard 2005
  2. ^ Burmese at Ethnologue
  3. ^ a b Simons and Fennig 2018, Languages of Myanmar
  4. ^ Mathur & Napoli, 2010, Deaf around the World: The Impact of Language
  5. ^ a b Bradley 1993, p. 147.
  6. ^ a b Saini 2016, p. 1.
  7. ^ a b Lintner 2003, p. 189
  8. ^ Thein 2004, p. 16


  • Saini, Jatinderkumar R. (30 June 2016). "First Classified Annotated Bibliography of NLP Tasks in the Burmese Language of Myanmar". Revista InforComp (INFOCOMP Journal of Computer Science). Lavras, MG, Brazil: University of Lavras. 15 (1): 1–11.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
  • Bradley, David (Spring 1993). "Pronouns in Burmese–Lolo" (PDF). Linguistics of the Tibeto-Burman Area. Melbourne: La Trobe University. 16 (1).CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)


External linksEdit