Khamti Language
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Khamti Language

RegionBurma, India
EthnicityKhamti people
Native speakers
13,000 (2000-2007)[1]
Language codes
Diorama of Khamti people in Jawaharlal Nehru Museum, Itanagar.

Khamti language (Khamti: (Khamti written), Khamti? (Khamti spoken)[clarification needed] is a Southwestern Tai language spoken in Burma and India by the Khamti people.


In Burma, Khamti is spoken by 3,500 in Sagaing Region, near Myitkyina and by 4,500 in Kachin State, Putao District (both reported in 2000). In India, it is spoken by 5,000 in Assam and Arunachal Pradesh, in the Dikrong Valley, Narayanpur, and north bank of the Brahmaputra (reported in 2007).[]

Three dialects of Khamti are known: North Burma Khamti, Assam Khamti, and Sinkaling Khamti. All speakers of Khamti are bilingual, largely in Assamese and Burmese.[3]


"Khamti" has been variously rendered Hkamti, Khampti, Khamti Shan, Khampti Shan, Khandi Shan, Kam Ti, Tai Kam Ti, Tai-Khamti, Kamti, Hkampti Shan, and Khampti Sam.[3]


The language seems to have originated around Mogoung in Upper Burma.[4] Mung Kang was captured, a large group of Khamtis moved to the north and east of Lakhimpur. In the year 1850, 300-400 Khamtis settled in Assam.[5]


Initial consonants

Khamti has the following initial consonants:[2][6]

Bilabial Alveolar Palatal Velar Glottal
voiceless voiced voiceless voiced voiceless voiced voiceless voiced voiceless voiced
Plosive Tenuis p t c k ?
Aspirated p? t? k?
Nasal m n ? ?
Fricative s h
Lateral l
Lateral r
Semi-vowel j w

Note: only the variety found in Myanmar uses the palatal nasal /?/ and the rhotic /r/.[6]

Final consonants

Khamti has the following final consonants:

Bilabial Alveolar Palatal Velar Glottal
voiceless voiced voiceless voiced voiceless voiced voiceless voiced voiceless voiced
Plosive Tenuis p t k ?
Nasal m n ?
Semi-vowel j w

-[w] occurs after front vowels and [a]-, -[j] occurs after back vowels and [a]-.[2]


The Khamti language as found in Myanmar uses the following vowels:[6]

Front Back
unr. unr. rnd.
short long short long short long
Close i i: ? ?: u u:
Mid e ? o
Open ? a a: ?
Diphthong ia a? ua


Khamti uses five tones, namely: low falling /21/, mid falling /42/, high falling /53/, mid rising /34/ and high level /55/.[6]



Unlike other Tai languages that display SVO word order, Khamti has SOV word order.[7]


Nouns are divided into common nouns and proper nouns.[8]

Common nouns

Common nouns can pluralized by adding /nai1 khau/ behind the noun. Common nouns are class categorized by using classifiers such as the generic /an3/, /ko1/ for people and /to1/ for animals.[8]

Proper nouns

People's names and place names are classified as proper nouns. Khamti prefixes people's names, depending on the social class or status of that person. These prefixes are gender specific. The prefix for Miss is /na:ng4/ and the prefix for Mr is /tsa:i3/. A prefix for Mr used to respectfully address a male of higher status is /tsau2/ or /tsau2 nuai/.[8]


Khamti uses a triparte pronoun system, consisting of singular, dual and plural forms. The dual form and the first person plural form are further divided between inclusive and exclusive forms. The following set of pronouns are the pronouns found in the Khamti language:[8]

Word Meaning
/kau3/ I (1sg)
/ha:4/ Me and you (1d inc)
/hang4 khe:u/ Me and him/her (1d exc)
/haw1/ We (1pl)
/maeu4/ You (2sg)
/suang khe:u/ You two (2d)
/man4/ He/She/It (3sg)
/suang kha:/ Those two (3d)
/khau/ They (3pl)


Khamti uses the following demonstratives:[8]

Demonstratives Singular Plural
Near /an3 nai1/, 'this' /an3 nai1 nai1 khau/, 'these'
Approximate /amaeu4 nai1/, 'that near you' /amaeu4 nai1 khau/, 'those by you'
Distal /an3 pu:n nai1/, 'that over there' /an3 pu:n nai1 nai1 khau/, 'those over there'

Writing system

The Tai Khamtis have their own writing system called 'Lik-Tai', which they share with the Tai Phake people and Tai Aiton people.[2] It closely resembles the Northern Shan alphabet of Myanmar, which is a variant of the Burmese script, with some of the letters taking divergent shapes.[6] Their script is evidently derived from the Lik Hto Ngauk script since hundreds of years ago. There are 35 letters including 17 consonants and 14 vowels. The script is traditionally taught in monasteries on subjects like tripitaka, Jataka tales, code of conduct, doctrines and philosophy, history, law codes, astrology, and palmistry etc. The first printed book was published in 1960. In 1992 it was edited by the Tai Literature Committee, Chongkham. In 2003 it was again modified with tone marking by scholars of Northern Myanmar and Arunachal Pradesh.[]

Further reading


  1. ^ Khamti at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015)
  2. ^ a b c d Diller, Anthony (1992). "Tai languages in Assam: Daughters or Ghosts". Papers on Tai Languages, Linguistics and Literatures: 16.
  3. ^ a b "Khamti". Endangered Languages Project. Retrieved 2015.
  4. ^ "Khamti". Khamti - A Language of Siamese-Chinese sub-family. Retrieved 2015.
  5. ^ Needham, J.F. (1894). Outline Grammar of the Khamti Language. Government Printing, Burma.
  6. ^ a b c d e Inglis, Douglas (2017). "Myanmar-based Khamti Shan Orthography". Journal of the Southeast Asian Linguistics Society.
  7. ^ Wilaiwan Kanittanan. 1986. Kamti Tai: From an SVO to an SOV language. In Bhadriraju Krishnamurti (ed.), South Asian Languages: Structure, Convergence and Diglossia, 174-178. Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass.
  8. ^ a b c d e Inglis, Douglas (2007). "Nominal Structure in Tai Khamti". Retrieved 2020.

External links

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