Ian James
November 2009

script name

The Shan script is used in Myanmar for the language of Tai Yai, a Tai language related to Thai and Lao. Across the border in China, a different script is used for the very similar Dehong Dai (Tai Le) language.

Notable Features


The font used here is a slightly compressed, modern style. The letters in blue are used only for dialects and foreign words.

consonants of Shan

Some common marks affect consonants: the final marker, the palatizer, and the wrap-around /r/. These last two appear in imported words. Here they are shown used with consonants /t/, /s/ and /ph/ in red:

consonants of Shan


Before a final consonant, we can see the simplest form of vowel. Here and below, an initial /m/ in red is used to hold the vowel mark:

medial vowels of Shan

Final vowels are slightly more complicated:

final vowels of Shan

Tone marks & punctuation

Tone marks come at the end of a syllable. Here are shown the marks following the syllable /kha:/ in red, with the voice contour in green; unmarked syllables are rising (24):

tone marks of Shan


In Myanmar, two sets of numerals may be used, a form of Burmese (top) and the Shan (bottom):

numerals of Shan


This is the first two verses of the gospel of John (missionary bible). A common, circular style font is used here:

example1 of Shan script

For the third verse, the font outlined above is used:

example2 of Shan script

Tai textile

This page © Ian James – last modified Nov.26,2009