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Tibetan (or Bodic) language belonging to the Tibeto-Burman group of the Sino-Tibetan language family; it is spoken in Tibet, Bhutan, Nepal, and in parts of northern India (including Sikkim).


The Tibetan language area covers a substantial territory ranging from Pakistan (Baltistan) in the west to India (Ladakh, Sikkim, Arunachal Pradesh) and China (Tibet Autonomous Region, Qinghai, Sichuan, Yunnan) in the east. A Tibetan language, Dzongkha, is the national language of the independent kingdom of Bhutan. In total, there are estimated to be around twenty-five dialect groups within Tibetan, representing in excess of six million people.


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Tibetan is written in a very conservative script of Indian origin, its present form having been used since the 9th century. The orthography reflects the pronunciation of the language as it was in about the 7th century and therefore does not adequately represent present-day standard Tibetan pronunciation.


Modern Tibetan is spoken and studied both in its place of origin and by Tibetans in exile. The variety acknowledged as the standard form is often referred to as ‘Central Tibetan’ and is based on the usage of Lhasa. Unlike the Tibetan spoken in Ladakh, Central Tibetan has evolved a tone distinction not attested in Classical Tibetan. This feature, known as tonogenesis, is of great interest to linguists.


The language is usually divided by scholars into four dialect groups: Central, Southern, Northern (in northern Tibet), and Western (in western Tibet). The widely used dialect of Lhasa, the capital of Tibet, belongs to the Central group, while the Southern group is found primarily in Sikkim, Bhutan, and Nepal. The Western dialects are more conservative in their sound systems, having best preserved the initial consonant clusters and the final stops (sounds formed with complete closure in the vocal tract) of Old Tibetan and having less development of tones than the other dialects. Key Dialects are Lhasa, Classical


Number of Speakers 

According to different accounts, it has about 8 million speakers.



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