Population and Society, Language and Religion
Daic, animists, social center, Animism, Buddhist temple
The official language of Laos is Lao, which is written with an alphabet derived from a southern Indian script. The indigenous languages of Laos fall into four major groups: the Daic or Tai-Kadai languages, Mon-Khmer (a subgroup of the Austro-Asiatic languages family), Tibeto-Burman (a subgroup of the Sino-Tibetan languages family), and Hmong-Mien. A number of the languages and dialects spoken in Laos have never been properly studied by linguists. Some of these languages are spoken by only a few thousand people.
As a state that nominally embraces Communism, with its opposition to religion, Laos has no official religion. Nevertheless, a large majority of the population practices Theravada Buddhism. Even members of the ruling Lao People’s Revolutionary Party attend Buddhist ceremonies. The wat (Buddhist temple and associated monastery) forms both the religious and social center of most lowland Lao Lum villages. Animism (a belief in spiritual forces) was once practiced throughout Southeast Asia and is still practiced by many upland dwellers. Most Lao Thoeng and Lao Sung are animists, although some have converted to Buddhism. Among the Lao Lum, only a few Tai groups are animists. A few Lao practice Christianity, both Protestant and Catholic, and there is a mosque in Vientiane for the tiny Indian Muslim community.
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