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Zaiwa language

Tsaiwa, Tsaiva
PronunciationIPA: [tsau³¹va⁵¹]
Native toChina, Burma
Native speakers
150,000 (2021)[1]
Language codes
ISO 639-3atb

Zaiwa (autonym: tsau³¹va⁵¹; 载瓦; Burmese: ဇိုင်ဝါး/အဇီး) is a Burmish language spoken in parts of southwest China and eastern Burma. There are around 100,000 speakers. It is also known as Atsi, its name in Jingpo. Zaiwa may be spelled 'Tsaiva' or 'Tsaiwa', and Atsi may be spelled 'Aci', 'Aji', 'Atshi', 'Atzi' or 'Azi'. Other names include Atsi-Maru, Szi and Xiaoshanhua.[1] Pela (Bola), with 400 speakers, was once classified as a dialect. From the 1950s Zaiwa was written using the Roman script. A Gospel of Mark was published in Zaiwa in 1938 in the Fraser alphabet and in 1951 in the Roman script.[2][3]


There are more than 70,000 Zaiwa speakers in Yunnan, China, including in:[4]

The Ethnologue lists Bengwa, Longzhun and Tingzhu as dialects.[citation needed]

In Myanmar, the Sadon (Sadung) dialect is the standard variety.[5]



Zaiwa has the following consonant sounds:[6]

Labial Dental/
Palatal Velar
plain pal. plain sib. plain pal.
voiceless p t t͡s̪ t͡ʃ k
aspirated pʰʲ t͡s̪ʰ t͡ʃʰ kʰʲ
Fricative voiceless f ʃ x
voiced v ʒ
Nasal m n ŋ ŋʲ
Approximant w l j


Zaiwa distinguishes between tense throat and lax throat vowel sounds:

Front Central Back
lax tense lax tense lax tense
Close i i u u
Mid ɛ ɛ ə ə ɔ ɔ
Open a a
Syllabic ɹ̩ ɹ̩


Zaiwa has five tones. Three of these five tones are in unchecked syllables and the remaining two are in checked syllables.[3] The tones are distinguished through a numbering system of one to five; one being the lowest pitch and five the highest pitch.[7]


  1. ^ a b Zaiwa at Ethnologue (26th ed., 2023) Closed access icon
  2. ^ Marku Mau Sau (The Gospel According to St. Mark in Atsi). British & Foreign Bible Society, Burma Agency. 1951.
  3. ^ a b "Zaiwa". Ethnologue. Retrieved 2017-07-23.
  4. ^ Xu, Xijian 徐悉艰; Xu, Guizhen 徐桂珍, Jǐngpǒzú Zàiwǎyǔ jiǎnzhì 景颇族载瓦语简志 (in Chinese)
  5. ^ Yabu (1982), p. [page needed].
  6. ^ Zhu, Yanhua (2017). "Zaiwa". In Graham Thurgood; Randy J. LaPolla (eds.). The Sino-Tibetan Languages (2nd ed.). London & New York: Routledge. pp. 877–884.
  7. ^ Lustig (2010), p. [page needed].

Further reading

  • Cheng, Mei 程黙 (1956). "Zàiwǎyǔ jiǎnjiè" 載瓦語簡介 [Introduction to the Zaiwa Language]. Zhōngguó yǔwén 中国語文. 53: 41–44.
  • Hill, Nathan; Cooper, Douglas (2020). "A Machine Readable Collection of Lexical Data on the Burmish Languages" (Data set). Zenodo. doi:10.5281/zenodo.3759030.
  • Lustig, Anton (2010). A Grammar and Dictionary of Zaiwa. Leiden: Brill. ISBN 978-90-04-18489-3.
  • Yabu, Shirō 藪 司郎 (1982). アツィ語基礎語彙集 / Atsigo kiso goishū / Classified Dictionary of the Atsi or Zaiwa Language (Sadon Dialect) with Atsi, Japanese and English Indexes. Tokyo: 東京外国語大学アジア・アフリカ言語文化研究所 Tōkyō Gaikokugo Daigaku Ajia Afurika Gengo Bunka Kenkyūjo.
  • Yabu, Shirō 藪 司郎 (1988). "A Preliminary Report on the Study of the Maru, Lashi and Atsi Languages of Burma". In Ishizawa, Yoshiaki (ed.). Historical and Cultural Studies in Burma. Tokyo: Institute of Asian Studies, Sophia University. pp. 65–132.
  • Zhu, Yanhua 朱艳华; Lepaizaosha 勒排早扎著 Dai, Qingxia 戴庆厦 (2013). Zhēfàng Zàiwǎyǔ cānkǎo yǔfǎ 遮放载瓦语参考语法 [Reference Grammar of Zhefang Zaiwa] (in Chinese). Beijing: Zhongguo shehui kexue chubanshe. ISBN 978-7-5161-2257-0.
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Zaiwa language
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