Bumthang language

Native speakers
20,000 (2011)[1]
Tibetan script
Language codes
ISO 639-3kjz

The Bumthang language (Dzongkha: བུམ་ཐང་ཁ་, Wylie: bum thang kha); also called "Bhumtam", "Bumtang(kha)", "Bumtanp", "Bumthapkha", and "Kebumtamp") is an East Bodish language spoken by about 20,000 people in Bumthang and surrounding districts of Bhutan.[2][3] Van Driem (1993) describes Bumthang as the dominant language of central Bhutan.[3]

Related languages

Historically, Bumthang and its speakers have had close contact with speakers of the Kurtöp, Nupbi and Kheng languages, nearby East Bodish languages of central and eastern Bhutan, to the extent that they may be considered part of a wider collection of "Bumthang languages."[4][5][6]

Bumthang language is largely lexically similar with Kheng (92%), Nyen (75%–77%), and Kurtöp (70%–73%); but less so with Dzongkha (47%–52%) and Tshangla (40%–50%, also called "Sharchop").[2] It is either closely related to or identical with the Tawang language of the Monpa people of Tawang in India and China.[2]


Bumthang is an ergative–absolutive language. The ergative case is not used on every transitive subject, but, like in so many other languages of the region shows some optionality, discussed in detail by Donohue & Donohue (2016).[7]

Personal pronouns in Bumthang[8]
Absolutive Ergative
singular plural singular plural
1st ngat nget ngai (ngaile) ngei (ngeile)
2st wet yin wi (wile) yinle
3rd khit bot khi (khile) boi (boile)

See also


  1. ^ Bumthang at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015) (subscription required)
  2. ^ a b c "Bumthangkha". Ethnologue Online. Dallas: SIL International. 2006. Retrieved 2011-01-18.
  3. ^ a b van Driem, George L. (1993). "Language Policy in Bhutan". London: SOAS. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2010-11-01. Retrieved 2011-01-18.
  4. ^ Schicklgruber, Christian (1998). Françoise Pommaret-Imaeda (ed.). Bhutan: Mountain Fortress of the Gods. Shambhala. pp. 50, 53. ISBN 9780906026441.
  5. ^ van Driem, George (2007). "Endangered Languages of Bhutan and Sikkim: East Bodish Languages". In Moseley, Christopher (ed.). Encyclopedia of the World's Endangered Languages. Routledge. p. 295. ISBN 978-0-7007-1197-0.
  6. ^ van Driem, George (2007). Matthias Brenzinger (ed.). Language diversity endangered. Trends in linguistics: Studies and monographs, Mouton Reader. Vol. 181. Walter de Gruyter. p. 312. ISBN 978-3-11-017050-4.
  7. ^ Donohue, Cathryn; Donohue, Mark (2016). "On ergativity in Bumthang". Language. 92 (1): 179–188. doi:10.1353/lan.2016.0004. hdl:10722/224966. ISSN 1535-0665. S2CID 147531925.
  8. ^ van Driem 1995, p. 13.


  • van Driem, George (1995). Grammar of Bumthang - A Language of Central Bhutan. Dzongkha Development Commission.
  • van Driem, George. 2015. Synoptic grammar of the Bumthang language. Himalayan Linguistics. Open access

External links

  • Bumthang language project
  • Himalayan Languages Project
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