Nyaw people

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Total population
Regions with significant populations
Parts of Isan, Central Laos
Isan/Lao, Thai
Theravada Buddhism
Related ethnic groups
Other Tai peoples.

The Nyaw or Thai Nyaw (Thai/Isan: ไทญ้อ, Thai pronunciation: [tʰāj jɔ́ː], Isan pronunciation:  [tʰɑj ɲɔː]) are an ethnic group of Thailand and Laos, scattered throughout the provinces of Isan such as Nong Khai, Sakon Nakhon, Nakhon Phanom, and parts of areas of Bolikhamxai and Khammouan provinces of Laos. They are also referred to as simply Nyaw or Yaw, depending on either the Lao, Isan, and Nyaw pronunciation, which all pronounce the initial consonant as [ɲ], or the Thai pronunciation, which pronounces the initial consonant as [j].


The Tai Nyaw believe that they are descendants of people originally from the northernmost part of Laos and Tonkin or immigrants during Tai migrations from Xishuangbanna region of Yunnan Province. Whatever the case may be, their dialect most closely resembles the Lao dialects from the regions east of Luang Prabang.


Native to Thailand, Laos
Region Isan, Mekong floodplain
Native speakers
50,000  (1990)[1]
Language codes
ISO 639-3 nyw
Glottolog nyaw1245[2]
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The Nyaw language is very similar to the Lao language, which is referred to as the Isan language in Thailand. It is most similar to the Phuthai language also spoken within the same regions. Most Nyaw are often also fluent in Thai and Lao, or its Thai variant Isan.


The Tai Nyaw practise Theravada Buddhism, but have also maintained their original animist religion. Important to the Nyaw people is the tutelary spirit of the village, known in the dialect as ผู้เจ้า  [pʰuː tɕaw].


In Thailand this language group is increasingly becoming integrated into the mainstream Issan language. This is due in large part to a campaign by the Thai government to modernize all Thai people, as well as due to outside influences of television, Internet and local radio broadcasts. Most younger members of this northeastern tribal group in Thailand prefer to be called Thai rather than by their traditional tribal group name.


  1. ^ Nyaw at Ethnologue (17th ed., 2013)
  2. ^ Nordhoff, Sebastian; Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2013). "Nyaw". Glottolog 2.2. Leipzig: Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology.