New Tai Lü

Updated 19 September, 2021

This page gathers basic information about the New Tai Lü script and its use for the Tai Lü language. It aims (generally) to provide an overview of the orthography and typographic features, and (specifically) to advise how to write Tai Lü using Unicode.

Phonetic transcriptions on this page should be treated as an approximate guide, only. Many are more phonemic than phonetic, and there may be variations depending on the source of the transcription.

Font issues: New Tai Lü vowels are all ordinary spacing letters, including prescript vowels, which need to be inserted before the consonant in the text stream. However, some fonts incorrectly attempt to reorder those vowels for display. This includes Noto Sans New Tai Lue, and Dai Banna SIL Book/Light. Another SIL font, Nokyung, appears to render the text correctly.

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Sample (Tai Lü)

Select part of this sample text to show a list of characters, with links to more details.
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Usage & history

The New Tai Lue script is a simplified version of the Tai Tham (Lanna) script, created in the 1950s, and mainly used by the Tai Lü people of Southern China for writing the Lü language. In 1987 the Old Tai Lü script was revived and widely used. However, the Chinese government once again promoted use of the New Tai Lü script in 1997, with the result that both scripts are currently in use in China.

The script is also known as Xishuangbanna Dai or Simplified Tai Tham.

ᦟᦲᧅᦷᦎᦺᦑᦟᦹᧉ ḻik̽o͕ta͕ʲṯḻɯ² (ḻik̽ to ṯaʲ ḻɯ²)

Although it is used for shop and street signs in some areas, few people can read the script.

Basic features

The New Tai Lü script is an abugida, ie. consonants carry an inherent vowel sound that is overridden using vowel signs. In New Tai Lü, consonants carry an inherent vowel a. See the table to the right for a brief overview of features for the modern Tai Lü orthography.

The orthography is syllable-based, and the language tonal.

New Tai Lü text runs left to right in horizontal lines.

Words are separated by spaces.

Each basic consonant is one of a pair, denoting either a high or low tonal register for the same phonetic sound. This is very regular – each sound is represented by 2 consonant letters. Tone is indicated by a combination of the consonant class and tone

No conjuncts are used for consonant clusters. Although, some clusters in Tai Tham are represented as single characters in New Tai Lü, in particular high tone variants such as and (ᩉᩖ and ᩉ᩠ᨾ in Tai Tham).

Syllable-initial clusters use 6 dedicated letters (for 3 pairs of consonants:ᦦᦨ ᦧᦩ ᦪᦫ There are no medial consonant letters.

Syllable-final consonant sounds use 7 dedicated letters, which cover all needs.

The New Tai Lü orthography has an inherent vowel, and represents vowels using 17 vowel-signs (including 4 prescripts). However, unlike many other SE Asian scripts, all vowel-signs are ordinary spacing characters (no combining marks), and are stored before or after the base character, as needed.

??? There are no independent vowels, and standalone vowel sounds are written using vowel-signs applied to [U+1022 MYANMAR LETTER SHAN A].

This page lists 9 composite vowels (made from 8 vowel signs). Composite vowels can involve up to 3 glyphs, and can surround the base consonant(s) on up to 2 sides (left and right only).

Tone is also marked by spacing characters, and only after unchecked syllables. There are 6 tones, which are marked by the onset class, the type of syllable, and where needed one of 2 tone marks.

One distinguishing feature of New Tai Lü is the regularity, and simplicity described above compared to Tai Tham, which can also be used for the Tai Lü language. Many of the glyphs resemble Tai Tham, but they are also simplified, commonly combining into a single code point what would be multiple characters in Tai Tham. For example, , , and .

Character index



Basic consonants


Final consonants











Character lists show:


These are sounds for the Tai Lü language.

Click on the sounds to reveal locations in this document where they are mentioned.

Phones in a lighter colour are non-native or allophones. Source Wikipedia.

Vowel sounds

Plain vowels

i iː ɯ ɯː ɯ ɯː u uː e eː ɤ ɤː ɤ ɤː o oː ɛ ɛː ː ɔ ɔː a aː


ɯi̯ ɯi̯ ui̯ ɤi̯ ɤi̯ oi̯ əi̯ əi̯ ɔi̯ ai̯ aːi̯

Vowels in open syllables are long, whereas ones in closed syllables are short, except for and .

All diphthongs are plain vowels followed by .

Consonant sounds

labial dental alveolar post-
palatal velar glottal
stop p b
t d
affricate   t͡s   t͡ɕ      
fricative f v   s
ɕ   x
nasal m   n     ŋ
approximant w   l   j  

Initials t͡s and s are palatalised before front vowels i, e, ɛ, and become t͡ɕ and ɕ, respectively. For example, t͡síŋ hard and si᷄p ten are pronounced as t͡ɕiŋ˥ and ɕip˧˥, respectively.


labial dental alveolar post-
palatal velar glottal
stop p t       k ʔ
nasal m   n     ŋ
approximant w       j  


The script is syllable-based.

A syllable's phonetic structure is C(ʷ)(V)(C) (unchecked) or C(ʷ)(V)C (checked). Unchecked syllables end with a vowel or one of the sonorants m, n, ŋ, w, j. Checked syllables end with one of ʔ, p, t, k.

The onset consonant sequence may be one of kʷ, xʷ, sʷ.

Tai Lü has 6 tones in unchecked syllables. In checked syllables there are two

The characters used to represent the phonetics follow the model
(pV) C (V) (VS) (Fs|Fp) (T)
where: pV is a prescript vowel, VS is the vowel shortener , Fs is one of the set of final sonorants, Fp is one of the set of final plosives, and T is a tone marker.

There are no medial consonant letters. Single characters are available for the onset sequences.

An onset consonant may represent a high or low register. Every consonant sound is represented by a pair of letters.

Syllable-final consonants are one of a small set of dedicated letters.

There are two tone marks, which combine with the register of the onset consonant to determine one of the 6 tone values.


??? There are no independent vowels, and standalone vowel sounds are written using vowel-signs applied to [U+1022 MYANMAR LETTER SHAN A].

Inherent vowel

a following a consonant is not written, but is seen as an inherent part of the consonant letter, so ka is written by simply using the consonant letter [U+1982 NEW TAI LUE LETTER HIGH KA].

Vowel signs

Non-inherent vowel sounds that follow a consonant can be represented using vowel-signs, eg. ki is written ᦂᦲ [U+1982 NEW TAI LUE LETTER HIGH KA + U+19B2 NEW TAI LUE VOWEL SIGN II].

New Tai Lue uses the following vowel-signs. They may be used on their own, or in combination with others (see composite_vowels).

ᦲ␣ᦹ␣ᦳ␣ᦴ␣ᦵ␣ᦷ␣ᦶ␣ᦸ␣ᦰ␣ᦱ␣ ␣ᦺ␣ᦻ␣ᦿ␣ᦼ␣ᦽ␣ᦾ␣ᧀ

All vowel signs in New Tai Lü are ordinary spacing characters, rather than combining characters, and may appear before or after the base.

In closed syllables, long vowels are usually pronounced short except for [U+19B1 NEW TAI LUE VOWEL SIGN AA] and [U+19B4 NEW TAI LUE VOWEL SIGN UU].ws

The typical use of [U+19B0 NEW TAI LUE VOWEL SIGN VOWEL SHORTENER] is to produce a short open a vowel, however it is also used to indicate shortness for the vowel-sign combinations described in the next section, in which case it represents just the glottal stop. It is also sometimes used to distinguish homonyms or for

Six of these single character vowel-signs represent diphthongs that combine the basic vowel sound with . (There is another in the list of prescript vowel-signs. and one more in the list of composite vowels.)

Prescript vowel signs

Four vowel-signs appear to the left of the base consonant letter or cluster, eg. မေး.

ᦵ␣ᦷ␣ᦶ␣ ␣ᦺ

Because New Tai Lü uses a fully visual encoding model (since Unicode 8.0)u, the 4 vowel signs that appear to the left of the consonant are therefore typed and stored before the consonant, even though they are pronounced after.

Note that [U+19B6 NEW TAI LUE VOWEL SIGN AE] should not be typed as two successive [U+19B5 NEW TAI LUE VOWEL SIGN E] characters.u

Composite vowels

All vowels represented by combinations of the above characters:

-ᦲᦰ␣-ᦹᦰ␣ᦵ-ᦰ␣ᦵ-ᦲᦰ␣ᦵ-ᦲ␣ᦷ-ᦰ␣ᦶ-ᦰ␣-ᦸᦰ␣ ␣ᦵ-ᧀ
Show which combinations contain a given character:
Show details about glyph positioning

The following list summarises where vowel-signs are positioned around a base consonant to produce vowels, and how many instances of that pattern there are. Numbers after the + sign represent combinations of vowel-signs.

  • 4 prescript, eg. ᦵᦂ e͕k (ke)
  • 13 postscript, eg. ᦂᦱ
  • +3 post+postscript, eg. ᦂᦲᦰ kiʔ
  • +4 pre+postscript, eg. ᦵᦂᦲ e͕ki (ke͕i)
  • +1 pre+post+postscript, eg. ᦵᦂᦲᦰ e͕kiʔ (ke͕iʔ)

Vowel-signs only appear to the left and/or right of a consonant.

Characters that don't appear in the combinations:



New Tai Lü has two tone marks, which are written at the end of an unchecked syllable. Because consonants come in pairs to denote two tonal registers, the two tone marks allow for representation of six specific

The tone marks are ordinary spacing characters.


Tai Lü has 2 tones in checked syllables, and 6 tones in unchecked

Register Checked? Mark Description Example
High checked - ˧˥ high-rising



unchecked - ˥ high ᦂᦱ
˧˥ high-rising ᦂᦱᧈ
˩˧ low-rising ᦂᦱᧉ


- ˧ mid



unchecked - ˥˩ falling ᦅᦱ
˧ mid ᦅᦱᧈ 
˩ low ᦅᦱᧉ

Vowel sounds mapped to characters

The following tables show how the above vowel sounds commonly map to characters or sequences of characters. The sounds are split to show whether they appear in open (o) or closed (c) syllables.

Plain vowels

Diphthongs and other combinations


Basic consonants

Stops & affricate

high class
low class


high class
low class


high class
low class


high class
low class


high class
low class

Final consonants

New Tai Lü has a set of dedicated syllable-final consonants. A small hook-like modification indicates that they have no inherent vowel.u




New Tai Lü has two ligatures, used for abbreviations.

[U+19DE NEW TAI LUE SIGN LAE] represents the syllable ws ᦶᦟᦰ ɛ͕ḻʔ lɛʔ

[U+19DF NEW TAI LUE SIGN LAEV] represents the syllable wsᦶᦟᧁᧉ ɛ͕ḻw̽² lɛu˩

Consonant clusters

Clusters of consonants do not occur regularlyu, so there is no virama.

Onset consonants can be labialised, but there are distinct code points for that, eg.

Clusters at syllable boundaries (final consonant followed by onset) don't interact and dedicated code points are available for syllable-final code points, so there is no confusion about syllable boundaries.

Consonant to script mapping

The following tables show how Tai Lü consonant sounds commonly map to characters or sequences of characters. The sounds are split to show high (h) and low (l) classes, and final consonants (f).


New Tai Lü has its own set of digits, derived from the Tai Tham hora set.u


[U+19DA NEW TAI LUE THAM DIGIT ONE] is an alternative glyph for [U+19D1 NEW TAI LUE DIGIT ONE] when it might otherwise be confused with the vowel [U+19B1 NEW TAI LUE VOWEL SIGN AA].u

Text direction

New Tai Lü text runs left to right in horizontal lines.

Show default bidi_class properties for characters in the New Tai Lü orthography described here.

Glyph shaping & positioning

This section brings together information about the following topics: writing styles; cursive text; context-based shaping; context-based positioning; baselines, line height, etc.; font styles; case & other character transforms.

You can experiment with examples using the New Tai Lüe character app.

Prescript vowels are visually ordered, and since there are no combining characters and no joining behaviour, the New Tai Lü script has no contextual variation or placement of glyphs. Nor is printed text cursive.

New Tai Lü has no special requirements for baseline alignment between mixed scripts and in general.

The script is monocameral, and no special transforms are needed to convert between characters.

Font styles


Punctuation & inline features

Grapheme boundaries


Since all New Tai Lü characters are spacing characters, they are all separate Unicode grapheme clusters. This means that, by default, operations such as forwards/backwards deletion, cursor movement & selection, and character counts all apply to individual characters, regardless of type or of syllabic context.

Word boundaries

Words are separated by spaces.

Phrase & section boundaries

Observation: New Tai Lü appears to use fullwidth Chinese punctuation. May include the following (needs to be checked). Not sure whether it also uses western punctuation.


Parentheses & brackets

Observation: New Tai Lü appears to use fullwidth Chinese punctuation, and therefore may include the following (needs to be checked). Not sure whether it also uses western parentheses & brackets.






Abbreviation, ellipsis & repetition


Inline notes & annotations


Other inline ranges


Other punctuation


Line & paragraph layout

Line breaking & hyphenation


Show (default) line-breaking properties for characters in the modern Tai Lü orthography.

Text alignment & justification


Letter spacing


Counters, lists, etc.


Styling initials


Page & book layout

This section is for any features that are specific to New Tai Lü and that relate to the following topics: general page layout & progression; grids & tables; notes, footnotes, etc; forms & user interaction; page numbering, running headers, etc.

Languages using the New Tai Lü script

According to ScriptSource, the New Tai Lü script is used for the following languages: