Burmese - Orientation

Identification. The Burmans speak Burmese (a Tibeto-Burman language) and live in the central plain of Burma, in the Union of Burma, which was renamed Myanmar in 1990. "Burman" is the name of the people of this region, while "Burmese" refers to the language and culture of these people and to other citizens of Myanmar. The Burmans are overwhelmingly adherents of Theravada Buddhism.

Location. Myanmar lies between India and China and also borders Thailand. The central plain formed by the Irrawaddy River and the Salween River is the home of the Burman, while the hill country around the plain is populated by Karen, Kachin, Chin, Shan, and some smaller tribal groups. The climate is dominated by the monsoon, which brings a rainy season lasting from June to October, followed by a brief cool season, and then a four- or five-month hot and dry season.

Demography. In 1992 the population of Myanmar was estimated at 42.6 million. The official count, at last census estimate (1988), was 33 million. Population growth is estimated at about 3 percent per year. Burmese speakers are about 70 percent of the national population.

Linguistic Affiliation. Burmese is a part of the Tibeto-Burmese Family, a Subfamily of the Sino-Tibetan Family. Outside the Sino-Tibetan Family—which includes Kachin, Chin, and several tribal languages on the China border—Tai (various dialects in the Shan states), Mon-Khmer (lower Burma), and some Indian languages on the western frontier are spoken in Myanmar.

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