The Lue Languange

Authored by: John F. Hartmann

The Tai-Kadai Languages

Print publication date:  June  2008
Online publication date:  November  2004

Print ISBN: 9780700714575
eBook ISBN: 9780203641873
Adobe ISBN: 9781135791162


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Lue 1 1

Lue is also spelled Lu or Lü. In Siamese, it is pronounced /líi/ with a high level tone. The Lue of Chieng Rung pronounce /lĩi/ with a low level tone that has a slight fall at the terminus. Contrary to common belief among many Thais and westerners, the Lue are not hill tribe people. They are lowland, wet rice producers who practice Buddhism and speak a Tai dialect closely related to Siamese, or standard Thai. U. S. I. S. (The United States Information Service) has produced a film for distribution in Thailand where in the Lue are classed as hill tribes (chaawkhăw), clearly an error.

is one of the dialects of the Tai language family, which in its totality stretches from the island of Hainan, 2 2

Many western scholars of comparative and historical Tai include Ong, Be and Li speech of Hainan in their studies. (See Benedict 1942, 1975; Haudricourt 1967 and Chamberlain 1971, for example.) The data on these languages appear to be very sketchy. Their similarity to other Tai languages is found in a handful of words, which may be fortuitous borrowings. In his study of ‘National languages’, Chang Kun (1967) shows Li as an intermediary language between Mia-Yao and Kam-Tai, a classification that I would favor, at least until better data are available. The possibility exists that these languages are Pidgins or Creoles. Mantaro Hashimoto (1980) has published the most reliable data on Be to date.

through much of the north of Vietnam and areas of southern China (chiefly Guangxi, Guizhou and Yunnan), through Laos and Thailand, across the northern reaches of Burma and finally into Assam 3 3

Ahom, the Tai language of Assam, India, died out about 1800 (Gedney 1974). An Ahom-Assamese-English Dictionary by Borua was published in Calcutta in 1920. Other materials include Ahom Lexicons, 1964, Ahom Buranji (Chronicles), an 1872 publication by Dalton of a descriptive ethnography of Bengal. A Thai university professor, Dr Banjob Phantumeetha has written, in Thai, a popular account of her travels in Assam. Grierson (1904) also refers to Ahom in his survey. Anthony Diller (personal communication 1981) reports that he found, during a recent visit of Assam, ‘several older men who could chant historical texts and ceremonial things for hours’. The chanting is apparently done from written texts with an Assamese pronunciation (phonology) and without preservation of the tonal distinctions of the original Ahom texts. Except for vestige phrases used for fun, ‘no one uses Ahom for daily life purposes’.

in India. A division of the entire family into three branches — Northern, Central and Southwestern — has been proposed by F. K. Li (1959) based on comparative lexicon. More recently, Gedney (1973) suggests a two-way division by combining the Central and Southwestern branches. The dialects of the Northern branch are found in the Guangxi-Guizhou region. The Central branch of dialects covers the border areas between China and the more easterly portions of the north of Vietnam. The Southwestern branch covers the remaining area of the Tai-speaking domain, by far the largest in terms of geographic area. The last is under consideration here, as it includes Lue and the related dialects of Lao, Shan, Khuen, Northern Thai, Siamese, White Tai, Black Tai, and Red Tai.

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