Tai/Dai women in Yunnan, China.
|Regions with significant populations|
|China (mainly Dai people), Burma (Shan people), Laos, Thailand, Vietnam and India (Ahom people)|
|Tai–Kadai languages, languages of resident countries|
|Theravada Buddhism, animism, or Hinduism|
Tai peoples refers to the population of descendants of speakers of a common proto-Tai language, including sub-populations which no longer speak a Tai language. Some 8-10 million people in Northeast India (not limited to Assam) descent from Ahom people but may have intermarried with others and now speak Assamese. Additional tens of thousands in India speak Tai languages (mostly in Arunachal Pradesh). Aside from India, Tai peoples can generally be identified through their language.
Speakers of the many languages in the Tai branch of the Tai–Kadai language family are spread over many countries in Southern China, Indochina and Northeast India. Unsurprisingly, there are many terms used to describe the distinct Tai peoples of these regions.
The name "Lao" is used almost exclusively by the majority population of Laos, the Lao people, and two of the three other members of the Lao-Phutai subfamily of Southwestern Tai: Isan speakers (occasionally), the Nyaw or Yaw and the Phu Thai.
In contrast, the term T(h)ai predominates among Southwestern Thai speakers: Northern branch:
Chiang Saen branch:
In a paper published in 2004, Linguist Laurent Sagart hypothesized that the proto-Tai–Kadai language originated as an Austronesian language that migrants carried from Taiwan to mainland China. Afterwards, the language was then heavily influenced by local languages from Sino-Tibetan, Hmong–Mien, or other families, borrowing much vocabulary and converging typologically. Much closer to the present, some peoples speaking Tai languages migrated southward over the mountains into Southeast Asia, perhaps prompted by the coming of the Han Chinese to south China.
Linguistic heritage is not synonymous with genetic heritage, because of language shift where populations learn new languages. Tai people tend to have very high frequencies of Y-DNA haplogroup O2a with moderate frequencies of Y-DNA haplogroups O2a1 and O1. However, it is believed that the O1 Y-DNA haplogroup is associated with both the Austronesian people and the Tai. The prevalence of Y-DNA haplogroup O1 among Austronesian and Tai peoples also suggests a common ancestry with speakers of the Austroasiatic, Sino-Tibetan, and Hmong–Mien languages some 30,000 years ago in China. Y-DNA haplogroup O2a is found at high frequency among most Tai peoples, which is a trait that they share with the neighboring ethnic Austroasiatic peoples of Yunnan in southern China. Y-DNA haplogroups O1 and O2a are subclades of O Y-DNA haplogroup, which itself is a subclade of Y-DNA haplogroup K, a genetic mutation that is believed to have originated 40,000 years ago, somewhere between Iran and Central China.
Recent studies suggest that while modern speakers of Tai languages are largely genetic descendants of the progenitor of the O2a haplogroup, the Proto-Tai language (along with the Proto-Austronesian language) may be distantly related to the Ongan languages of the Andaman Islands, and together with Austronesian and Ongan languages, the Tai-Kadai languages may be a relic of the language(s) spoken by descendants of the progenitor of Y-DNA haplogroup D (Blevins 2007).
Tai groups and names in China
|Chinese||Pinyin||Tai Lü||Tai Nüa||Thai||Conventional||Area(s)|
|tai˥˩ lɯː˩||ไทลื้อ||Tai Lü, Tai Lue||Xishuangbanna Tai Autonomous Prefecture (China)|
|ไทเหนือ, ไทใต้คง||Tai Nüa, Northern Tai, Upper Tai, Chinese Shan||Dehong (China); Burma|
|傣擔||Dǎidān||tai˥˩ dam˥||ไทดำ, ลาวโซ่ง, ผู้ไท||Tai Dam, Black Tai, Tai Lam, Lao Song Dam*, Tai Muan, Tai Tan, Black Do, Jinping Dai, Tai Den, Tai Do, Tai Noir, Thai Den||Jinping (金平) (China), Laos, Thailand|
|傣繃||Dǎibēng||tai˥˩pɔːŋ˥||ไทเมา||Tay Pong||Ruili (瑞丽), Gengma (耿马) (China),
along the Mekong
|傣端||Dǎiduān||tai˥˩doːn˥||ไทขาว||White Tai, Tày Dón, Tai Khao, Tai Kao, Tai Don, Dai Kao, White Dai, Red Tai, Tai Blanc, Tai Kaw, Tày Lai, Thai Trang||Jinping (金平) (China)|
|傣雅||Dǎiyǎ||tai˥˩jaː˧˥||ไทหย่า||Tai Ya, Tai Cung, Cung, Ya||Xinping (新平), Yuanjiang (元江) (China)|
|傣友||Dǎiyǒu||tai˥˩jiu˩||ไทยโยว||Yuanyang (元阳) (China),
along the Red River
|* lit. "Lao [wearing] black trousers"|
Other Tai peoples and languages
Listed below are various lesser-known Tai peoples and languages.
- Bajia 八甲 - 1,106 people in Mengkang Village 勐康村, Meng'a Township 勐阿镇, Menghai County, Yunnan, who speak a language closely related to Tai Lü.
- Han Tai - 55,000 people in the Mengyuan County, Xishuangbanna Prefecture, Yunnan, China. Many Han Tai also speak Tai Lu (Shui Tai), the local lingua franca.
- Huayao Tai - 55,000 people (as of 1990) in Xinping and Mengyang Counties, Yunnan. It may be similar to Tai Lu.
- Lao Ga - 1,800 people mostly in Ban Tabluang, Ban Rai District, Uthai Thani Province, Thailand. Their language is reportedly similar to Lao Krang and Isan.
- Lao Krang - 50,000+ people in the provinces of Phichit, Suphan Buri, Uthai Thani, Chai Nat, Phitsanulok, Kamphaeng Phet, Nakhon Pathom and Nakhon Sawan,Thailand. Their language is similar to Isan and Lao. Tai Krang is not to be confused with Tai Khang, a Tai-speaking group of Laos numbering 5,000 people.
- Lao Lom - 25,000 people in Dan Sai District of Loei Province (locally known as the Lao Loei or Lao Lei), Lom Kao District of Phetchabun Province, and Tha Bo District of Nong Khai Province (locally known as the Tai Dan). The Lao Lom were first studied by Joachim Schliesinger in 2001. Unclassified Southwestern Tai language.
- Lao Ngaew - 20,000 to 30,000 people in Lop Buri Province (especially Ban Mi and Khok Samrong districts), the Tha Tako District of Nakhon Sawan Province and scattered parts of Singburi, Saraburi, Chaiyaphum, Phetchabun, Nong Khai and Loei provinces. Originally from eastern Xiengkhouang and western Huaphan provinces of Laos. Their language is similar to Isan.
- Lao Ti - 200 people in the 2 villages of Ban Goh and Nong Ban Gaim in Chom Bung District, Ratchaburi Province, Thailand. Originally from Vientiane in Laos. Their language is similar to Lao and Isan.
- Lao Wieng - 50,000+ people in Prachinburi, Udon Thani, Nakhon Sawan, Nakhon Pathom, Chai Nat, Lopburi, Saraburi, Phetchaburi and Roi Et. Originally from Wieng (Vientiane) in Laos. Their language is similar to Lao.
- Paxi - 1,000+ people (as of 1990) in 2 villages 8 km from Menghai Town, at the foot of Jingwang Mountain in Xishuangbanna.
- Tai Bueng - 5,700 people in 2 villages of Phatthana Nikhom District, Lopburi Province, Thailand. The Tai Bueng live in the villages of Ban Klok Salung (pop. 5,000) and Ban Manao Hwan (pop. 600). Unclassified Tai language.
- Tai Doi ('mountain people') - 230 people (54 families) as of 1995 in Long District of Luang Namtha, Laos. Their language is likely Palaungic.
- Tai Gapong ('brainy Tai') - 3,200+ people; at least 2,000 people (500+ households) in Ban Varit, Waritchapum District, Sakhon Nakhon Province; also live with the Phutai and Yoy. The Tai Gapong claim to have originated in Borikhamxai Province, Laos.
- Tai He - 10,000 people in Borikhamxai Province, Laos: in Viangthong and Khamkeut Districts; also in Pakkading and Pakxan Districts. Unclassified Tai language.
- Tai Kaleun - 7,000 people mostly in Khamkeut District, Borikhamxai Province, Laos; also in Nakai District. 8,500 people in Thailand: the provinces of Mukdahan (Don Tan and Chanuman districts), Nakhon Phanom (Muang District) and parts of Sakhon Nakhon Province. The Tai Kaleung speak a Lao dialect.
- Tai Khang - 5,600+ people in Xam-Tai District, Houaphan Province, Laos; also in Nongkhet District of Xiangkhoang Province, and Viangthong District of Borikhamxai Province. Unclassified Tai language.
- Tai Kuan (Khouane) - 2,500 people in Viengthong District, Borikhamxai Province, Laos: near the banks of the Mouan River.
- Tai Laan - 450 people in a few villages of Kham District, Xiangkhoang Province, Laos. Unclassified Tai language.
- Tai Loi - 1,400 people in Namkham, Shan State, Burma; 500 people in Long District, Luang Namtha Province, Laos; possibly also in Xishuangbanna Prefecture, China, since some Tai Loi in Burma say they have relatives in China. Their language may be related to and probably also closely related to Palaung Pale.
- Tai Men - 8,000 people in Borikhamxai Province, Laos: mostly in Khamkeut District, but also in Vienthong, Pakkading, and Pakxan Districts. They speak a Northern Tai language.
- Tai Meuiy - 40,000+ people in Borikhamxai, Khammouan, Xiengkhouang, and Houaphan (just outside the town of Xam Neua) provinces of Laos. Their language is reportedly similar to Tai Dam and Tai Men.
- Tai Nyo - 13,000 people in Pakkading District, Borikhamxai Province, Laos; 50,000 people in northeastern Thailand, where they are better known as Nyaw. Similar to Lao of Luang Prabang.
- Tai Pao - 4,000 people in Viangthong, Khamkeut and Pakkading districts of Borikhamxai Province, Laos. They live near the Tai He and may be related to them. Unclassified Tai language.
- Tai Peung - 1,000 people in Kham District, Xiengkhouang Province, Laos. They live near the Tai Laan and Tai Sam. Unclassified Tai language.
- Tai Pong 傣棚 - perhaps as many as 100,000 people in along the Honghe River of southeastern, Yunnan, China, and possibly also in northern Vietnam. Subgroups include the Tai La, Tai You, and probably also Tai Ya (which includes Tai Ka and Tai Sai). Unclassified Tai language.
- Tai Sam - 700 people in Kham District, Xiengkhuoang Province, Laos. Neighboring peoples include the Tai Peung and Tai Laan. Unclassified Tai language.
- Tai Song - 45,000+ people in Phetchabun, Phitsanulok, Nakhon Sawan (Tha Tako District), Ratchaburi (Chom Bung District), Suphan Buri (Song Phinong District), Kanchanaburi, Chumphon and Nakhon, and Pathom (Muang District). Also called Lao Song. They are a subgroup of the Tai Dam.
- Tai Wang - 10,000 people in several villages in Viraburi District, Savannakhet Province, Laos; 8,000 in and around the city of Phanna Nikhom, Sakhon Nakhon Province, Thailand. Their language is related to but distinct from Phutai.
- Tai Yuan ('Northern Thai') - 6,000,000 people in Northern Thailand and possibly 10,000 people in Houayxay and Pha-Oudom districts of Bokeo Province, Luang Namtha District of Luang Namhta Province, Xai District of Oudomxai Province, and Xaignabouri District of Xaignabouri Province. They speak a Southwestern Tai language.
- Tak Bai Thai - 24,000 people in southern Thailand (in Narathiwat, Pattani, and Yala provinces) and northern Malaysia. Their name comes from the town of Tak Bai in Narathiwat Province. Their language is highly different from nearby Southern Thai dialects, and may be related to the Sukkothai dialect further up north.
- Yang - 5,000 people in Phongsaly, Luang Namtha, and Oudomxay provinces, Laos (Chazee 1998).
In Burma, there are also various Tai peoples that are often categorized as part of a larger Shan ethnicity (see Shan people#Tai groups).
Tai of North America
The United States is home to a significant population of Thai, Lao, Tai Kao, Isan, Lu, Phutai, Tai Dam, Tay and Shan people. There are a significant number of Thai and Lao people living in Canada as well.
Tai of Europe
The most significant communities of Tai peoples in Europe are in the Lao communities of the United Kingdom, France, Germany and Switzerland, the Isan communities of the United Kingdom and Iceland, the Thai communities of Finland, Iceland and Norway, the Tai Dam and Tay communities of France, and the Southern Thai community of the United Kingdom.
Thai of Oceania
Lao of Argentina
- Raendchen, Jana (October 10, 2005). "The socio-political and administrative organisation of müang in the light of Lao historical manuscripts" (PDF 316 KB). In paper 31. The Literary Heritage of Laos: Preservation, Dissemination and Research Perspectives, Vientiane: National Library of Laos. The Literary Heritage of Laos Conference, 2005. Website content written by Harald Hundius and David Wharton, Lao translation by Oudomphone Bounyavong, edited by Harald Hundius. Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin Preußischer Kulturbesitz: Digital Library of Lao Manuscripts. image 4, page 404. Retrieved September 12, 2013.
Traditionally, these people called themselves according to the place of their settlement, combining the term “Tai” (man) with the place name, as for example Tai Müang Phuan, Tai Müang Swa (Luang Phabang). Though it is sure that the name “Lao” is the short form of Tai Lao, the very origin of the name “Lao” is not clear.
- http://hal.archives-ouvertes.fr/docs/00/09/09/06/PDF/THE_HIGHER_PHYLOGENY_OF_AUSTRONESIAN.pdf Sagart, L. 2004. The higher phylogeny of Austronesian and the position of Tai–Kadai. Oceanic Linguistics 43.411-440.
- Stratification in the peopling of China: how far does the linguistic evidence match genetics and archaeology?
- Y-DNA Human Migration
- Chazee, Laurent. 1998. Rural and ethnic diversities in Laos with special focus on the northern provinces. Presented for the Workshop on "Rural and Ethnic diversities in Laos with special focus on Oudomxay and Sayabury development realities", in Oudomxay province, 4-5 June 1998. SESMAC projects Lao/97/002 & Lao/97/003: Strengthening Economic and Social Management Capacity, Sayabury and Oudomxay provinces.
Media related to Tai peoples at Wikimedia Commons