|Ethnicity||Tibetans, Sikkimese, Ladakhis, Bhutanese, Sherpa, Jirel, Balti, Yolmo|
|China (Tibet Autonomous Region, Qinghai, Sichuan, Gansu, Yunnan); India (Ladakh, Sikkim, Uttarakhand, Himachal Pradesh, Arunachal Pradesh, Assam); Pakistan (Gilgit-Baltistan); Nepal; Bhutan|
Division of Tibetic Cultural Areas
The Tibetic languages are a cluster of Tibeto-Burman languages descended from Old Tibetan, spoken across the Himalayan Massif in East and South Asia, including the Tibetan Plateau and the Himalayas in Baltistan, Ladakh, Nepal, Sikkim, Bhutan, Assam and Arunachal Pradesh. Classical Tibetan is a major regional literary language, particularly for its use in Buddhist literature.
Tibetan languages are spoken by some 6 million people, not all of whom are Tibetans.With the worldwide spread of Tibetan Buddhism, the Tibetan language has spread into the western world and can be found in many Buddhist publications and prayer materials; with some western students learning the language for translation of Tibetan texts. Outside Lhasa itself, Lhasa Tibetan is spoken by approximately 200,000 exile speakers who have moved from modern-day Tibet to India and other countries. Tibetan is also spoken by groups of ethnic minorities in Tibet who have lived in close proximity to Tibetans for centuries, but nevertheless retain their own languages and cultures.
Although some of the Qiang peoples of Kham are classified by China as ethnic Tibetans (see rGyalrongic languages; rGyalrong people are identified as 'Tibetan' in China), the Qiangic languages are not Tibetan, but rather form their own branch of the Tibeto-Burman language family.
Classical Tibetan was not a tonal language, but some varieties such as Central and Khams Tibetan have developed tone registers. Amdo and Ladakhi-Balti are without tone. Tibetan morphology can generally be described as agglutinative.
Nicolas Tournadre (2008) describes the language situation of Tibetan as follows:
Based on my 20 years of field work throughout the Tibetan language area and on the existing literature, I estimate that there are 220 'Tibetan dialects' derived from Old Tibetan and nowadays spread across 5 countries: China, India, Bhutan, Nepal and Pakistan [which] may be classed within 25 dialect groups, i.e. groups which do not allow mutual intelligibility. The notion of ‘dialect group’ is equivalent to the notion of language but does not entail any standardization. Thus if we set aside the notion of standardization, I believe it would be more appropriate to speak of 25 languages derived from Old Tibetan. This is not only a terminological issue but it gives an entirely different perception of the range of variation. When we refer to 25 languages, we make clear that we are dealing with a family comparable in size to the Romance family which has 19 groups of dialects.
The 25 languages include a dozen major dialect clusters:
and another dozen minor clusters or single dialects, mostly spoken by a few hundred to a few thousand people:
In addition, there is Baima, which retains an apparent Qiangic substratum, and has multiple layers of borrowing from Amdo, Khams, and Zhongu, but does not correspond to any established branch of Tibetic.The more divergent dialects such as this are spoken in the north and east near the Qiangic and Rgyalrongic languages, and some, such as Khalong, may also be due to language shift.
The Tibetic languages used for broadcasting within China are Standard Tibetan (based on the Ü dialect of Lhasa and used as a lingua franca throughout Ü-Tsang), Khams and Amdo.
Marius Zemp (2018)hypothesizes that Tibetan originated as a pidgin with the West Himalayish language Zhangzhung as its superstratum, and Rgyalrongic as its substratum. Similarly, Tamangic also has a West Himalayish superstratum, but its substratum is derived from a different Sino-Tibetan branch.
Tournadre (2014)classifies the Tibetic languages as follows, with each branch constituting a geolinguistic continuum. The Eastern and Southeastern branches have lower internal mutual intelligibility, but it is more limited in the Northwestern branch and between certain southern and northern Khams dialects. These continua are spread across five countries with one exception, this being Sangdam, a Khams dialect in Kachin, Myanmar.
Tournadre (2005)classifies the Tibetic languages as follows.
The other languages (Thewo-Chone, Zhongu, Khalong, Dongwang, Gserpa, Zitsadegu, Drugchu, Baima) are not mutually intelligible, but are not known well enough to classify.
Tournadre (2013) adds Tseku and Khamba to Khams, and groups Thewo-Chone, Zhongu, Baima as an Eastern branch of Tibetic.
According to Bradley,the languages cluster as follows (dialect information from the Tibetan Dialects Project at the University of Bern):
Some classifications group Khams and Amdo together as Eastern Tibetan (not to be confused with East Bodish, whose speakers are not ethnically Tibetan). Some, like Tournadre, break up Central Tibetan. Phrases such as 'Central Tibetan' and 'Central Bodish' may or may not be synonymous: Southern (Central) Tibetan can be found as Southern Bodish, for example; 'Central Tibetan' may mean dBus or all dialects apart from Khams; Tibeto-Kanauri languages.
Most Tibetic languages are written in one of two Indic scripts. Standard Tibetan and most other Tibetic languages are written in the Tibetan script with a historically conservative orthography (see below) that helps unify the Tibetan-language area. Some other Tibetan languages (in India and Nepal) are written in the related Devanagari script, which is also used to write Hindi, Nepali and many other languages. However, some Ladakhi and Balti speakers write with the Urdu script; this occurs almost exclusively in Pakistan. The Tibetan script fell out of use in Pakistani Baltistan hundreds of years ago upon the region's adoption of Islam. However, increased concern among Balti people for the preservation of their language and traditions, especially in the face of strong Punjabi cultural influence throughout Pakistan, has fostered renewed interest in reviving the Tibetan script and using it alongside the Perso-Arabic script. Many shops in Baltistan's capital Skardu in Pakistan's "Northern Areas" region have begun supplementing signs written in the Perso-Arabic script with signs written in the Tibetan script. Baltis see this initiative not as separatist but rather as part of an attempt to preserve the cultural aspects of their region which has shared a close history with neighbours like Kashmiris and Punjabis since the arrival of Islam in the region many centuries ago.
Old Tibetan phonology is rather accurately rendered by the script. The finals were pronounced devoiced although they are written as voiced, the prefix letters assimilated their voicing to the root letters. The graphic combinations hr and lh represent voiceless and not necessarily aspirate correspondences to r and l respectively. The letter ' was pronounced as a voiced guttural fricative before vowels but as homorganic prenasalization before consonants. Whether the gigu verso had phonetic meaning or not remains controversial.
For instance, Srongbtsan Sgampo would have been pronounced [sroŋpʦan zɡampo] (now pronounced [sɔ́ŋʦɛ̃ ɡʌ̀mpo] in Lhasa Tibetan) and 'babs would have been pronounced [mbaps] (pronounced [bapˤ][ dubious ] in Lhasa Tibetan).
Already in the 9th century the process of cluster simplification, devoicing and tonogenesis had begun in the central dialects can be shown with Tibetan words transliterated in other languages, particularly Middle Chinese but also Uyghur.
The concurrence of the evidence indicated above enables us to form the following outline of the evolution of Tibetan. In the 9th century, as shown by the bilingual Tibetan–Chinese treaty of 821–822 found in front of Lhasa's Jokhang, the complex initial clusters had already been reduced, and the process of tonogenesis was likely well underway.
The next change took place in Tsang (Gtsang) dialects: The ra-tags were altered into retroflex consonants, and the ya-tags became palatals.
Later on the superscribed letters and finals d and s disappeared, except in the east and west. It was at this stage that the language spread in Lahul and Spiti, where the superscribed letters were silent, the d and g finals were hardly heard, and as, os, us were ai, oi, ui. The words introduced from Tibet into the border languages at that time differ greatly from those introduced at an earlier period.
The other changes are more recent and restricted to Ü and Tsang. In Ü, the vowel sounds a, o, u have now mostly umlauted to ä, ö, ü when followed by the coronal sounds i, d, s, l and n. The same holds for Tsang with the exception of l which merely lengthens the vowel. The medials have become aspirate tenues with a low intonation, which also marks the words having a simple initial consonant; while the former aspirates and the complex initials simplified in speech are uttered with a high tone, shrill and rapidly.
Proto-Tibetic, the hypothetical proto-language ancestral to the Tibetic languages, has been reconstructed by Tournadre (2014).Proto-Tibetic is similar to, but not identical to, written Classical Literary Tibetan. The following phonological features are characteristic of Proto-Tibetic (Tournadre 2014: 113).
Reconstructed Proto-Tibetic forms from Tournadre (2014) include:
Pre-Tibetic is a hypothetical pre-formation stage of Proto-Tibetic.
*ty-, *ly-, *sy- were not palatalized in Pre-Tibetic, but underwent palatalization in Proto-Tibetic (Tournadre 2014: 113-114). Posited sound changes from Pre-Tibetic to Proto-Tibetic include *ty- > *tɕ-, *sy- > *ɕ-, *tsy- > *tɕ-, and *ly- > *ʑ-. However, Tournadre (2014: 114) notes that many Bodish languages such as Basum, Tamang, and Kurtöp (East Bodish) have not undergone these changes (e.g., Bake (Basum) ti ‘what’ vs. Proto-Tibetic *tɕ(h)i and Bake tɨ ‘one’ vs. Proto-Tibetic *g(ǝ)-tɕ(h)ik; Kurtöp Hla: ‘iron’ and Bumthap lak ‘iron’ vs. Proto-Tibetic *ltɕaks).
Some Pre-Tibetic reconstructions, along with reconstructed Proto-Tibetic forms and orthographic Classical Literary Tibetan, from Tournadre (2014: 114-116) are listed below.
|Gloss||Pre-Tibetic||Proto-Tibetic||Classical Literary Tibetan|
|one||*g(ǝ)-tyik||*g(ǝ)-tɕ(h)ik||gcig / gchig གཅིག་ / གཆིག (Old Tibetan)|
|big||*tye||*tɕ(h)e||che ཆེ་ (Old Tibetan)|
|ten||*b(ǝ)-tyu||*b(ǝ)-tɕu||bcu / bchu བཅུ་ / བཆུ་ (Old Tibetan)|
|what||*tyi||*tɕ(h)i||ci / chi ཅི་ / ཆི་ (Old Tibetan)|
|to cut (past stem)||*b(ǝ)-tsyat||*b(ǝ)-tɕat||bcad བཅད་|
|flea||*ldi||*ldʑi||lji ལྗི་, ‘ji ་འཇི་|
|iron||*s(ǝ)-lak(s) > *l-sak(s) > *l-tsyak(s)||*ltɕaks||lcags ལྕགས་|
|to suppress||*bnans||*mnans||mnand (Old Tibetan)|
|eye||*d(ǝ)myik||dmyig དམྱིག་ (Old Tibetan); mig|
|flower||*mentok||men-tog མེན་ཏོག (Old Tibetan); ་me-tog|
The Numerals in different Tibetan/Tibetic languages are:
|GLOSA||Ü-Tsang (Middle)||Amdo||Khams||CLASSICAL TIBETAN|
The numbers include the tonelevel. For the middle or eastern languages:
The Tibetan script is a segmental writing system (abugida) of Indic origin used to write certain Tibetic languages, including Tibetan, Dzongkha, Sikkimese, Ladakhi, Jirel and Balti. It has also been used for some non-Tibetic languages in close cultural contact with Tibet, such as Thakali. The printed form is called uchen script while the hand-written cursive form used in everyday writing is called umê script. This writing system is used across the Himalayas, and Tibet.
The Tibetan people are an East Asian ethnic group native to Tibet. Their current population is estimated to be around 6.7 million. In addition to the majority living in Tibet Autonomous Region of China, significant numbers of Tibetans live in the Chinese provinces of Gansu, Qinghai, Sichuan and Yunnan, as well as in India, Nepal and Bhutan.
Dzongkha is a Sino-Tibetan language spoken by over half a million people in Bhutan; it is the country's sole official and national language. The Tibetan script is used to write Dzongkha.
The Ladakhi language is a Tibetic language spoken in Ladakh, a region administered by India as a union territory. It is the predominant language in the Buddhist-dominated district of Leh. Though a member of the Tibetic family, Ladakhi is not mutually intelligible with Standard Tibetan.
Purgi is the southern dialect of Balti language. Balti is a Tibetic language spoken in parts of Indian administered Ladakh and the Baltistan region of Pakistan administered Gilgit-Baltistan. Most of them are Shia Muslims by religion although significant Noorbakhshi and Sunni Muslims and a small minority of Buddhists and Bön followers reside in areas like Fokar valley, Mulbekh, Wakha. Like the Balti, they speak an archaic Tibetan dialect closely related to Balti and Ladakhi. Purki is more close to Balti than Ladakhi, so there are different opinions among linguists in considering Purki and Balti as different languages or simply different varieties of the same language.
Tshangla is a Sino-Tibetan language of the Bodish branch closely related to the Tibetic languages and much of its vocabulary derives from Classical Tibetan. Tshangla is primarily spoken in Eastern Bhutan and acts as a lingua franca in the country particularly among Sharchop/Tshangla communities; it is also spoken in Arunachal Pradesh, India, and Tibet. Tshangla is the principal pre-Tibetan (pre-Dzongkha) language of Bhutan.
Khams Tibetan is the Tibetic language used by the majority of the people in Kham. Khams is one of the three branches of the traditional classification of Tibetic languages. In terms of mutual intelligibility, Khams could communicate at a basic level with the Ü-Tsang branch.
The Sikkimese language, also called Sikkimese Tibetan, Bhutia, or Drenjongké, Dranjoke, Denjongka, Denzongpeke and Denzongke, belongs to the Southern Tibetic languages. It is spoken by the Bhutia in Sikkim, India and in parts of Province No. 1, Nepal. The Sikkimese people refer to their own language as Drendzongké and their homeland as Drendzong.
Lhasa Tibetan, or Standard Tibetan, is the Tibetan dialect spoken by educated people of Lhasa, the capital of the Tibetan Autonomous Region of China. It is an official language of the Tibet Autonomous Region.
This is a list of topics related to Tibet.
There are two dozen languages of Bhutan, all members of the Tibeto-Burman language family except for Nepali, which is an Indo-Aryan language, and Bhutanese Sign Language. Dzongkha, the national language, is the only language with a native literary tradition in Bhutan, though Lepcha and Nepali are literary languages in other countries. Other non-Bhutanese minority languages are also spoken along Bhutan's borders and among the primarily Nepali-speaking Lhotshampa community in South and East Bhutan.
Baima is a language spoken by 10,000 Baima people, of Tibetan nationality, in north-central Sichuan Province and Gansu Province, China. Baima is passed on from parents to children in Baima villages. It is spoken within the home domain and is not used in any media of mass communication.
Bodish, named for the Tibetan ethnonym Bod, is a proposed grouping consisting of the Tibetic languages and associated Sino-Tibetan languages spoken in Tibet, North India, Nepal, Bhutan, and North Pakistan. It has not been demonstrated that all these languages form a clade, characterized by shared innovations, within Sino-Tibetan.
The Amdo Tibetan is the Tibetic language spoken in Amdo. It has two dialects, the farmer dialect and the nomad dialect.
Nicolas Tournadre is a professor at the University of Provence specializing in morphosyntax and typology. He is a member of the LACITO lab of the CNRS.
Central Tibetan, also known as Dbus, Ü or Ü-Tsang, is the most widely spoken Tibetic language and the basis of Standard Tibetan.
ʼOle, also called ʼOlekha or Black Mountain Monpa, is a Sino-Tibetan language spoken by about 1,000 people in the Black Mountains of Wangdue Phodrang and Trongsa Districts in western Bhutan. The term ʼOle refers to a clan of speakers.
The Chocha Ngacha language or Chochangachakha or Tsamang is a Southern Tibetic language spoken by about 20,000 people in the Kurichu Valley of Lhuntse and Mongar Districts in eastern Bhutan.
The Lahuli–Spiti or Western Innovative Tibetan languages are a subgroup of the Tibetic languages spoken in the Lahaul and Spiti region of Himachal Pradesh, India. They are more closely related to Standard Tibetan than to the neighboring Ladakhi–Balti languages spoken further north.
The first portion of the Bible, the Gospel of John, in a Tibetic language was translated by Moravian Church missionaries William Heyde, Edward Pagel, and Heinrich August Jäschke, and later Dr. August Francke. It was printed in 1862 at Kyelang capital of Lahul in Kashmir. The whole New Testament was printed in 1885 in Ladakh. Another version was translated in 1903. So as not to have the problem of various dialectal differences it was translated into classical Tibetan, but this was not understood by most people. Yoseb Gergen, a Tibetan Christian translated the entire Bible, complete in 1935. This version was translated into a dialect of Tibetan Gergen had accidentally stumbled across, and which was understandable by all Tibetans. It was finally published in 1948. This is known in India as the Tibetan OV Bible. Eliya Tsetan Phuntshog published a New Testament in 1970. There is currently a project going on to translate the Bible into the East Tibetan dialect.
|Wikibooks has a book on the topic of: Research on Tibetan Languages: A Bibliography|