S'gaw Karen language

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S'gaw Karen
Pronunciation [sɣɔʔ]
Native to Myanmar, Thailand
Region Eastern Burma, Western Thailand
Ethnicity S'gaw
Native speakers
(4 million cited 1983–2011)[1]
Myanmar script
S'gaw Karen Script
(Karen alphabet)
Latin script
Karen Braille
Official status
Official language in
Kayin State
Recognised minority
language in
Language codes
ISO 639-2 ksw
ISO 639-3 kswinclusive code
Individual codes:
ksw – S'gaw
jkp – Paku
jkm – Mopwa
wea – Wewaw
Glottolog sout1554[2]
This article contains IPA phonetic symbols. Without proper rendering support, you may see question marks, boxes, or other symbols instead of Unicode characters.

S'gaw (S'gaw Karen: စှီၤ pronounced [sɣɔʔ], also known as S'gaw Karen and S'gaw Kayin, is a Karen language spoken by over four million S'gaw Karen people in Burma, and 200,000 in Thailand. S'gaw Karen is spoken in Tanintharyi Region's Ayeyarwady Delta, Yangon Division, Bago Division, Western Thailand, Northern Thailand, and Kayin State. It is written using the Mon script. A Bible translation was published in 1853.

Various divergent dialects are sometimes seen as separate languages: Paku in the northeast, Mopwa (Mobwa) in the northwest, Wewew, and Monnepwa.[3]

Distribution and varieties[edit]

S'gaw is spoken in Ayeyarwady delta area, in the Ayeyarwady, Bago, Kayin, and Rangon regions. S'gaw speakers are frequently interspersed with Pwo Karen speakers.

S'gaw dialects are:

  • Eastern dialect of S’gaw Karen (Pa’an)
  • Southern dialect of Western Kayah (Dawei)
  • Delta dialect of S’gaw Karen

Paku is spoken in:[1]

Paku dialects are Shwe Kyin, Mawchi, Kyauk Gyi, Bawgali, the names of which are based on villages.

Mobwa is spoken in 9 villages at the western foot of the Thandaung Mountains in Thandaung township, Kayin State.[1] There are also some in Taungoo township, Bago Region.

Mobwa dialects are Palaychi (Southern Mobwa) and Dermuha (Southern Mobwa).


The Karen alphabet consist of 25 consonats, 9 vowels, 5 tones and 5 medials. The Karen alphabet was adopted from the Burmese script. it wad created by the help of the English missionaries around the early 1960s. The Karen alphabet was created for the reason of translating the Bible into the Karen language. Karen script is written from left to right and requires no spaces between words, although modern writing usually contains spaces after each clause to enhance readability.

Grouped consonants
k (kaˀ)

kh (kʰaˀ)

gh (ɣ)

x (x)

ng (ŋ)

s (s)

hs ()

sh (ʃ)

ny (ɲ)

t (t)

hṭ ()

d (d)

n (n)

p (p)

hp ()

b (b)

m (m)

y (ʝ)

r (r)

l (l)

w (w)

th (θ)

h (h)

vowel holder (ʔ)


ah (a)

ee (i)

uh (ɣ)

u (ɯ)

oo (u)

ae or ay (e)

eh (æ)

oh (o)

aw (ɔ)
Tones S'gaw Karen
rising ၢ်
falling ာ်
high ၣ်
Medials S'gaw Karen
ှ (hg)
ၠ (y)
ြ (r)
ျ (l)
ွ (w)

The examples of writing the Karen alphabet are:

  • + ခံ, pronounced /ki/
  • + + လံး, pronounced /li/
  • က + +ကၠိ, pronounced /kʝo/
  • က + + + ၣ်ကျိၣ်, pronounced /klo/


  1. ^ a b c S'gaw Karen at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015)
    S'gaw at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015)
    Paku at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015)
    Mopwa at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015)
    Wewaw at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015)
  2. ^ Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin; Bank, Sebastian, eds. (2016). "Southern Karen". Glottolog 2.7. Jena: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History. 
  3. ^ Christopher Beckwith, International Association for Tibetan Studies, 2002. Medieval Tibeto-Burman languages, p. 108.

External links[edit]