Moken language

Native to Burma, Thailand
Region Mergui Archipelago, west of the Kra Isthmus
Ethnicity Moken people
Native speakers
(8,000 cited 1984–2007)[1]
Language codes
ISO 639-3 Either:
mwt  Moken
mkm  Moklen
Glottolog moke1241[2]

The Moken language is a half dozen closely related varieties spoken by the Moken "Sea Gypsies" off the coast of Burma and Thailand. It is somewhat divergent from other Austronesian languages, and has been strongly influenced by Mon–Khmer languages.


The Moken or Moklen–Moken dialects are typically divided into two languages, Moken and Moklen, corresponding to the two varieties spoken in Thai waters. However, Moklen is just one of half a dozen Moken dialects, most of which are spoken in Burma (Naw Say Bay 1995). The Burmese varieties have not been adequately investigated, but from north to south the known dialects are:

Dung through Niawi are spoken (mostly) in Burma, Jadiak and Moklen mostly in Thailand. (Jadiak is also spoken in a second area to the south of Moklen.)


Moken is often classified in a group with the other Malayo-Polynesian languages of Southeast Asia, Chamic and Malayic, but Larish (2005) concludes that they do not belong together. Another language spoken by Sea Gypsies of the same islands, Urak Lawoi’, is one of the Malayic languages.


  1. Moken at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015)
    Moklen at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015)
  2. Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin; Bank, Sebastian, eds. (2016). "Moken–Moklen". Glottolog 2.7. Jena: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History.
  3. 1 2 3 Naw Say Bay. 2015. The process of preserving Moken from extinction. Paper presented at SoLE-4, Payap University.

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