Khmu (ກຶມຫມຸ‎)

Khmu is a member of the Khmuic branch of the Austroasiatic language family. It is spoken mainly in northern Laos, and also in nearby parts of Vietnam, Thailand and China. In 2015 there were 708,000 speakers of Khmu in Laos. There were 72,900 speakers in Vietnam in 2009, 7,000 speakers in China in 2010, 6,250 speakers in Thailand in 2007, and in 2010 there were about 8,000 speakers of Khmu in the USA.

There are two groups of Khmu dialects: Western and Eastern. Dialects spoken in neighbouring areas are more or less mutually intelligble, however speakers of more distant dialects may have difficulties communicating with each other. The written language is based on Eastern dialects.

Khmu was first documented by French scholars in the late 19th century. Other scholars have studied the language since the 1950s. Ways to write it with Latin and Lao alphabets have been developed. The Lao script is currently used when teaching the language in schools in Laos.

Khmu alphabet and pronunciation

Khmu alphabet and pronunciation

Download an alphabet chart for Khmu (Excel)

Sample text

Kmhmu’ meh sqmeh dé’ môôy phav da’pa’-théét Laav(meh phav jwa Mon-Kmer) yo’ ge chrô’ pr’ôôm hrlo’ Mon-Kmer. Kmhmu’ meh phav sndraan dé’ pa-théét Laav pa’ no go’ meh phav hnam thi pé’(saam)da’ mwaq Laav. Rqgè’ taam kaan sook vwl hmmé’ lwaq phav da’ pa’-théét Laav dé’ thaan Laurent Chazee da’ pi 1991, ge bwp sah Kmhmu’ meh 32% dé’ pa’-sa-sôn pa’ lôôc, ah pa’-maan 1.4 laan gôn.Baq hnooq lav sah da’ pa’-maan pi 1230, ah môôy phav sqmeh phav Laav no du’caak luaq tal dé’ pa’-théét Ciin hôôc no guut yat da’ pté’ k`ni’ k’eey pa’-théét Laav. No guut rèèp `mèèp gôn bè sek bè tqma’(broom Kmhmu’) hôôc no rac Koon Kmhmu’ gôn hmaq dé’ pté’gni’du’ dar prsoor yat da’ môk môk jôq hrôq jru’, gôn gme’ du’ am than no go’ grwp moot tèèq khooy tèè`maav. Kmhmu’ daq keet meh phav ñè’, yat slé yat prsoor, yat ja’ hrlo’ riñ hrlo’ cleen,keet gôn briaq sr’oh briaq hmbri’.Yar ni’ Kmhmu’ daq am bwan lap sit meh pa’sa-sôn Laav kiñ hmwan briaq. Taq qwan ni’ yoh koon Kmhmu’ daq yat hmwan phav baq pooy baq trvayh,baq pnmeh phav yo’ ge hndé’ lut phav Laav yo’ ge pôk-khooq pa’-théét.Hôôc no go’taq sqmeh Kmhmu’`mèèp pa’-maat maak sqmeh hmwan: Kha, Laav-theq, Laav-Kaaq, Thay-hai pa’ kha’-mu’. Kha meh sqmeh jè’ Laav lav pa’-maat Kmhmu’hmwan i’ méc sqmeh Nigrô nam baq joq k’eey je’ hiaq da’ Amérika.


Khmu’ is the name of an ethnic group in Laos (an ethnic of the Mon-Khmer group) who speak the Mon-Khmer language. They are the native people of the country of Laos and are one of the three largest ethnic groups in Laos. According to the latest research of the Laos ethnic group by Laurent Chazee in 1991, the Khmu’ people represent 32% of the total population, about 1.4 million. In the 13th century, about the year 1230, an ethnic group called the Lao, immigrated from the southern portion of China into the territory now known as Laos. They came and invaded the territory as conquerors, driving some of the native inhabitants into the remote mountainous areas of their land and enslaved the rest of them. These highland outcast, known as the Khmu’ maintained their ethnic distinctiveness and lived as a secluded minority, far away from civilization.


Sample video


Information about the Khmer language

Languages written with the Lao script

Khmu, Kuy, Lao, Ta’Oi

Page last modified: 10.06.24


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