Michelle Miller, Tim Miller

SIL International, Thailand

<michelle_miller@sil.org>, <timothy_miller@sil.org> [CHECK]



A study of language use and literacy practices to inform local language literature development among Khmu in Thailand


Khmu is a Mon-Khmer language spoken in Thailand, Laos, Vietnam and China. During the past 30 years, there has been extensive linguistic research conducted among Khmu speakers in Thailand, and there have been experimental efforts to apply this research toward the development of an orthography to serve these Khmu communities (Cooper & Cooper 1999; Supatra 1988; Suwilai 1979, 1990), but currently there is not an orthography that has been developed and accepted through a community process and used for the development of Khmu language literature. In this paper we share key findings from a sociolinguistic study of five Khmu communities in Nan Province, Thailand, that was conducted during 2008 to gather data to inform the process and products of a potential community-based local language development effort (Miller & Miller 2009).

During this sociolinguistic study, particular attention was given to gaining an understanding of the attitudes of Khmu community members toward development of a Thai script-based orthography, their perceptions of and reflections on changing social patterns that influence language use and maintenance of their cultural identity, and how local language literature could benefit community members. Data regarding adult Thai language literacy skills and practices were also gathered. And, as part of an effort to develop a well-rounded understanding of language use in the Khmu community context, teachers in government schools serving Khmu children were also interviewed regarding their perceptions of Khmu children’s language use patterns, the influence language may have on educational outcomes, and how local language literature could be used in the school setting to benefit Khmu children.



Cooper, Michael and Susan Cooper. 1999. Tri-lingual phrasebook: Khmu -Thai -English (Technical Paper No. 41). Chiang Mai: Payap Research and Development Institute and the Summer Institute of Linguistics.

Miller, Tim and Michelle. 2009. A sociolinguistic and literacy study of Khmu communities in Thailand: toward the process and products of language development. Chiang Mai: Payap University Linguistics Institute.

Supatra Jirananthanaporn. 1988. An experiment using Thai orthography with Khmu phonology at Ban Nam Pan in Nan. Salaya: Institute of Language and Culture for Rural Development, Mahidol University M.A. thesis.

Suwilai Premsrirat. 1979. Thai-Khmu’ dictionary. Bangkok: Mahidol University.

_____. 1990. Khmu traditional medicine and Khmu-Thai medical conversation. Salaya: Institute of Language and Culture for Rural Development, Mahidol University.