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Humanities Computing Lab

SOAS, University of London

The Wa Dictionary Database


According to Gérard Diffloth, the world's foremost Mon-Khmer comparativist and the compiler of a large database of Mon-Khmer languages, a study of the lexicon of the Wa language is particularly important: "The Wa language, part of the Palaungic branch of Northern Mon-Khmer, plays a crucial role in determining the history of the Mon-Khmer family. The reason is simply that this language represents a very ancient state of affairs in the Southern Yunnan and Northern Shan State region, before the arrival of the currently dominating populations who speak unrelated languages (Tai, Tibeto-Burmese and Sinitic). It is therefore important, not only for linguists but also for historians, to have reliable and extensive lexical information on this language. The upheavals and displacements presently occurring within the Wa population make this task especially urgent."


  1. Production of a Wa->Burmese/Chinese/English Dictionary containing around 12,000 Wa etyma, with data fields including Wa orthographical variants, Burmese, Chinese and English glosses, compounds and their morphological structure, pronunciation, part-of-speech, source of loanwords and an example illustrating common collocations. From the source database is derived both the scholarly dictionary and a dictionary for Wa speakers, with entries tailored to suit both constituencies, as follows:

  2. Establishment of an Internet Database for Minority Languages of Burma. The Wa dictionary forms the foundation of a database for storing language corpora (the Wa corpus in the first instance) and lexicographical data for future lexicography or other research on other languages spoken in Burma. The resource is freely Internet-accessible and has the potential, where appropriate, to be contributed to and developed over the Internet by authorised and competent scholars and language fieldworkers.

It is anticipated to distribute the printed edition of the dictionary designed for Wa speakers free of charge in Wa-speaking areas.

Access to Current Draft Database

The on-line dictionary search pages are available for public inspection. Please send us your suggestions for improvement.

Arts and Humanities Research Council School of Oriental and African Studies

The Wa Dictionary Project is funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council and hosted at the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London.

Please send suggestions, queries or comments to Justin Watkins or Richard Kunst.