The Karen languages, members of the Tibeto-Burman group of the Sino-Tibetan language family, consist of three mutually unintelligible branches: Sgaw, Eastern Pwo, and Western Pwo. The Karen languages are almost unique among the Tibeto-Burman languages in having a subject–verb–object word order; other than Karen and Bai, Tibeto-Burman languages typically feature a subject–object–verb order. This anomaly is likely due to the influence of neighboring Mon and Tai languages.
The Karen, Kawthoolese, Kayin, Kariang or Yang people (S'gaw Karen: ကညီကလုာ် pronounced [kɲɔklɯ], Burmese: ကရင်လူမျိုး, pronounced [kəjɪ̀ɰ̃ lù mjó]; Per Ploan Poe or Ploan in Pwo Karen and Pwa Guh Nyaw or Kanyaw in Sgaw Karen; Thai: กะเหรี่ยง) are an ethnolinguistic group of Sino-Tibetan language-speaking ethnic groups. The group as a whole is heterogeneous and disparate as many Karen ethnic groups do not associate or identify with each other culturally or linguistically. These Karen groups reside primarily in Kayin State, southern and southeastern Myanmar. The Karen make up approximately 7% of the total Burmese population with approximately five million people. Many Karen have migrated to Thailand, having settled mostly on the Thailand–Myanmar border. A few Karen have settled in Andaman and Nicobar islands, India and other South-East Asian and East Asian countries.
The Karen groups as a whole are often confused with the Padaung tribe, best known for the neck rings worn by their women, but they are just one sub-group of Red Karens (Karenni), one of the tribes of Kayah in Kayah State, Myanmar.
Some of the Karen, led primarily by the Karen National Union (KNU), have waged a war against the central Burmese government since early-1949. The aim of the KNU at first was independence. Since 1976 the armed group has called for a federal system rather than an independent Karen State. In Thailand, they are usually known as Thai: กะเหรี่ยง; RTGS: kariang 'Karen', while in Myanmar, there are known as Kayin.