Pa'O language

Pa'o Karen
Native to Burma, Thailand
Ethnicity Pa'O people
Native speakers
1.8 million (2014)[1]
Mon script (Pa'o alphabet)
Karen Braille
Language codes
ISO 639-3 blk
Glottolog paok1235[2]

Pa'o is a Karen language spoken by a million Pa'o in Burma. Dialects are Southern Pa’o and Northern Pa’o. Northern Pa’o is the only Karen language that has final stop consonants.[3]


Ethnologue lists the alternate names Black Karen, Northern Taungthu, Taungsu, Pa Oh, Pa-O, Pa’o Karen, Pa-U, Kula.

The language is also referred to by the exonym "Black Karen", a term dating from colonial times and used in contrast to the Karenni (or "Red Karen") and the S'gaw (or "White Karen"), even though the Taungthu often rejected the term "Karen" to refer to themselves.[4] The Christian missionary website Ethnologue categorizes the language as "BLK", abbreviating "Black Karen".[5]



The language is primarily written using a system of phonetics devised by Christian missionaries,[6][7] and many of the materials now available for it on the internet derive from Christian missionary involvement, although the majority of the Pa'o are generally reported to be Buddhists (without real statistics, etc.).


  1. Pa'o Karen at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015)
  2. Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2017). "Pa'o Karen". Glottolog 3.0. Jena, Germany: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History.
  3. Shintani Tadahiko. 2015. The Kadaw language. Linguistic survey of Tay cultural area (LSTCA) no. 106. Tokyo: Research Institute for Languages and Cultures of Asia and Africa (ILCAA).
  4. Sir George Scott. Among the Hill Tribes of Burma – An Ethnological Thicket. National Geographic Magazine, 1922, p. 293
  5. Accurate as of Feb. 2013, cf.
  6. A Pa'o wordlist: "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2013-11-05. Retrieved 2013-02-15.
  7. Some remarks on Pa'o Orthography: "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2013-11-05. Retrieved 2013-02-15.

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