Tibetan language
Overview
 
The Tibetan languages are a cluster of mutually-unintelligible Tibeto-Burman languages
Tibeto-Burman languages
The Tibeto-Burman languages are the non-Chinese members of the Sino-Tibetan language family, over 400 of which are spoken thoughout the highlands of southeast Asia, as well as lowland areas in Burma ....

 spoken primarily by Tibetan people
Tibetan people
The Tibetan people are an ethnic group that is native to Tibet, which is mostly in the People's Republic of China. They number 5.4 million and are the 10th largest ethnic group in the country. Significant Tibetan minorities also live in India, Nepal, and Bhutan...

s who live across a wide area of eastern Central Asia bordering the Indian subcontinent
Indian subcontinent
The Indian subcontinent, also Indian Subcontinent, Indo-Pak Subcontinent or South Asian Subcontinent is a region of the Asian continent on the Indian tectonic plate from the Hindu Kush or Hindu Koh, Himalayas and including the Kuen Lun and Karakoram ranges, forming a land mass which extends...

, including the Tibetan Plateau
Tibetan Plateau
The Tibetan Plateau , also known as the Qinghai–Tibetan Plateau is a vast, elevated plateau in Central Asia covering most of the Tibet Autonomous Region and Qinghai, in addition to smaller portions of western Sichuan, southwestern Gansu, and northern Yunnan in Western China and Ladakh in...

 and the northern Indian subcontinent in Baltistan
Baltistan
Baltistan , also known as بلتیول བལིུལ་ in the Balti language, is a region in northern Pakistan which forms Gilgit-Baltistan, bordering the Xinjiang Autonomous Region of China. In addition, a part of Baltistan also falls into Jammu and Kashmir of India. It is situated in the Karakoram mountains...

, Ladakh
Ladakh
Ladakh is a region of Jammu and Kashmir, the northernmost state of the Republic of India. It lies between the Kunlun mountain range in the north and the main Great Himalayas to the south, inhabited by people of Indo-Aryan and Tibetan descent...

, Nepal
Nepal
Nepal , officially the Federal Democratic Republic of Nepal, is a landlocked sovereign state located in South Asia. It is located in the Himalayas and bordered to the north by the People's Republic of China, and to the south, east, and west by the Republic of India...

, Sikkim
Sikkim
Sikkim is a landlocked Indian state nestled in the Himalayan mountains...

, and Bhutan
Bhutan
Bhutan , officially the Kingdom of Bhutan, is a landlocked state in South Asia, located at the eastern end of the Himalayas and bordered to the south, east and west by the Republic of India and to the north by the People's Republic of China...

. The classical written form
Classical Tibetan
Classical Tibetan refers to the language of any text written in Tibetan after the Old Tibetan period and before the modern period, but in particular refers to the language of early canonical texts translated from other languages, especially Sanskrit...

 is a major regional literary language, particularly for its use in Buddhist
Buddhism
Buddhism is a religion and philosophy encompassing a variety of traditions, beliefs and practices, largely based on teachings attributed to Siddhartha Gautama, commonly known as the Buddha . The Buddha lived and taught in the northeastern Indian subcontinent some time between the 6th and 4th...

 literature.

For political reasons, the dialects of central Tibet (including Lhasa
Lhasa
Lhasa is the administrative capital of the Tibet Autonomous Region in the People's Republic of China and the second most populous city on the Tibetan Plateau, after Xining. At an altitude of , Lhasa is one of the highest cities in the world...

), Kham
Kham
Kham , is a historical region covering a land area largely divided between present-day Tibetan Autonomous Region and Sichuan province, with smaller portions located within Qinghai, Gansu and Yunnan provinces of China. During the Republic of China's rule over mainland China , most of the region was...

s, and Amdo
Amdo
Amdo is one of the three traditional regions of Tibet, the other two being Ü-Tsang and Kham; it is also the birth place of the 14th Dalai Lama. Amdo encompasses a large area from the Machu River to the Drichu river . While culturally and ethnically a Tibetan area, Amdo has been administered by a...

 in China
China
Chinese civilization may refer to:* China for more general discussion of the country.* Chinese culture* Greater China, the transnational community of ethnic Chinese.* History of China* Sinosphere, the area historically affected by Chinese culture...

 are considered dialects of a single Tibetan language, while Dzongkha, Sikkimese, Sherpa
Sherpa language
Sherpa is a language spoken in parts of Nepal and Sikkim mainly by the Sherpa community. About 130,000 speakers live in Nepal , some 20,000 in India , and some 800 in Tibet ....

, and Ladakhi
Ladakhi language
The Ladakhi language , now also called Bhoti, and by linguists more generally called Western Archaic Tibetan when the Balti and Burig or Purig or Purki dialects are included, is the predominant language in the Ladakh region of the Jammu and Kashmir state of India, and is also spoken in Baltistan...

 are generally considered to be separate languages, although their speakers may consider themselves to be ethnically Tibetan.
Encyclopedia
The Tibetan languages are a cluster of mutually-unintelligible Tibeto-Burman languages
Tibeto-Burman languages
The Tibeto-Burman languages are the non-Chinese members of the Sino-Tibetan language family, over 400 of which are spoken thoughout the highlands of southeast Asia, as well as lowland areas in Burma ....

 spoken primarily by Tibetan people
Tibetan people
The Tibetan people are an ethnic group that is native to Tibet, which is mostly in the People's Republic of China. They number 5.4 million and are the 10th largest ethnic group in the country. Significant Tibetan minorities also live in India, Nepal, and Bhutan...

s who live across a wide area of eastern Central Asia bordering the Indian subcontinent
Indian subcontinent
The Indian subcontinent, also Indian Subcontinent, Indo-Pak Subcontinent or South Asian Subcontinent is a region of the Asian continent on the Indian tectonic plate from the Hindu Kush or Hindu Koh, Himalayas and including the Kuen Lun and Karakoram ranges, forming a land mass which extends...

, including the Tibetan Plateau
Tibetan Plateau
The Tibetan Plateau , also known as the Qinghai–Tibetan Plateau is a vast, elevated plateau in Central Asia covering most of the Tibet Autonomous Region and Qinghai, in addition to smaller portions of western Sichuan, southwestern Gansu, and northern Yunnan in Western China and Ladakh in...

 and the northern Indian subcontinent in Baltistan
Baltistan
Baltistan , also known as بلتیول བལིུལ་ in the Balti language, is a region in northern Pakistan which forms Gilgit-Baltistan, bordering the Xinjiang Autonomous Region of China. In addition, a part of Baltistan also falls into Jammu and Kashmir of India. It is situated in the Karakoram mountains...

, Ladakh
Ladakh
Ladakh is a region of Jammu and Kashmir, the northernmost state of the Republic of India. It lies between the Kunlun mountain range in the north and the main Great Himalayas to the south, inhabited by people of Indo-Aryan and Tibetan descent...

, Nepal
Nepal
Nepal , officially the Federal Democratic Republic of Nepal, is a landlocked sovereign state located in South Asia. It is located in the Himalayas and bordered to the north by the People's Republic of China, and to the south, east, and west by the Republic of India...

, Sikkim
Sikkim
Sikkim is a landlocked Indian state nestled in the Himalayan mountains...

, and Bhutan
Bhutan
Bhutan , officially the Kingdom of Bhutan, is a landlocked state in South Asia, located at the eastern end of the Himalayas and bordered to the south, east and west by the Republic of India and to the north by the People's Republic of China...

. The classical written form
Classical Tibetan
Classical Tibetan refers to the language of any text written in Tibetan after the Old Tibetan period and before the modern period, but in particular refers to the language of early canonical texts translated from other languages, especially Sanskrit...

 is a major regional literary language, particularly for its use in Buddhist
Buddhism
Buddhism is a religion and philosophy encompassing a variety of traditions, beliefs and practices, largely based on teachings attributed to Siddhartha Gautama, commonly known as the Buddha . The Buddha lived and taught in the northeastern Indian subcontinent some time between the 6th and 4th...

 literature.

For political reasons, the dialects of central Tibet (including Lhasa
Lhasa
Lhasa is the administrative capital of the Tibet Autonomous Region in the People's Republic of China and the second most populous city on the Tibetan Plateau, after Xining. At an altitude of , Lhasa is one of the highest cities in the world...

), Kham
Kham
Kham , is a historical region covering a land area largely divided between present-day Tibetan Autonomous Region and Sichuan province, with smaller portions located within Qinghai, Gansu and Yunnan provinces of China. During the Republic of China's rule over mainland China , most of the region was...

s, and Amdo
Amdo
Amdo is one of the three traditional regions of Tibet, the other two being Ü-Tsang and Kham; it is also the birth place of the 14th Dalai Lama. Amdo encompasses a large area from the Machu River to the Drichu river . While culturally and ethnically a Tibetan area, Amdo has been administered by a...

 in China
China
Chinese civilization may refer to:* China for more general discussion of the country.* Chinese culture* Greater China, the transnational community of ethnic Chinese.* History of China* Sinosphere, the area historically affected by Chinese culture...

 are considered dialects of a single Tibetan language, while Dzongkha, Sikkimese, Sherpa
Sherpa language
Sherpa is a language spoken in parts of Nepal and Sikkim mainly by the Sherpa community. About 130,000 speakers live in Nepal , some 20,000 in India , and some 800 in Tibet ....

, and Ladakhi
Ladakhi language
The Ladakhi language , now also called Bhoti, and by linguists more generally called Western Archaic Tibetan when the Balti and Burig or Purig or Purki dialects are included, is the predominant language in the Ladakh region of the Jammu and Kashmir state of India, and is also spoken in Baltistan...

 are generally considered to be separate languages, although their speakers may consider themselves to be ethnically Tibetan. However, this does not reflect linguistic reality: Dzongkha and Sherpa, for example, are closer to Lhasa Tibetan than Khams or Amdo are.

The Tibetan languages are spoken by approximately 6 million people. Lhasa Tibetan is spoken by approximately 150,000 exile speakers who have moved from modern-day Tibet to India
India
India , officially the Republic of India , is a country in South Asia. It is the seventh-largest country by geographical area, the second-most populous country with over 1.2 billion people, and the most populous democracy in the world...

 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 Qiangic peoples of Kham
Kham
Kham , is a historical region covering a land area largely divided between present-day Tibetan Autonomous Region and Sichuan province, with smaller portions located within Qinghai, Gansu and Yunnan provinces of China. During the Republic of China's rule over mainland China , most of the region was...

 are classified by the People's Republic of China
People's Republic of China
China , officially the People's Republic of China , is the most populous country in the world, with over 1.3 billion citizens. Located in East Asia, the country covers approximately 9.6 million square kilometres...

 as ethnic Tibetans, Qiangic languages
Qiangic languages
Qiangic or Kiangic, formerly known as Dzorgai, is a language group of the northeastern Tibeto-Burman branch of the Sino-Tibetan language family, spoken mainly in Southwestern China, including Sichuan, Tibet, and Yunnan....

 are not Tibetan, but rather form their own branch of the Tibeto-Burman language family.

Classical Tibetan
Classical Tibetan
Classical Tibetan refers to the language of any text written in Tibetan after the Old Tibetan period and before the modern period, but in particular refers to the language of early canonical texts translated from other languages, especially Sanskrit...

 was not a tonal language, but some varieties such as Central and Khams Tibetan have developed tone. (Amdo and Ladakhi/Balti are without tone.) Tibetan morphology can generally be described as agglutinative, although Classical Tibetan was largely analytic.

Languages

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.


According to Bradley, these languages cluster as follows:
  • Ladakhi
    Ladakhi language
    The Ladakhi language , now also called Bhoti, and by linguists more generally called Western Archaic Tibetan when the Balti and Burig or Purig or Purki dialects are included, is the predominant language in the Ladakh region of the Jammu and Kashmir state of India, and is also spoken in Baltistan...

     ("Western Archaic Tibetan", including Balti
    Balti language
    Balti is a language spoken in Baltistan, in Gilgit-Baltistan of Pakistan and adjoining parts of Ladakh. Baltistan, before 1948, was part of Ladakh province. The Balti language is a dialect of the Ladakhi language, a form of Tibetan. It is mutually intelligible with Ladakhi proper and Burig...

     and Purik
    Burig
    The Burig, or Purik, are another group of Tibetan Muslims with small Dardic admixture, who live south of the Balti in Ladakh. Most of them live in Ladakh and Baltistan, especially in Kargil, although significant numbers reside in Leh....

    ) (non-tonal)

  • Central Tibetan
    Central Tibetan languages
    The Central Tibetan languages are the tonal varieties of Tibetan apart from Khams.The composition of the Central Tibetan languages per Bradley , with dialect information from the Tibetan Dialects Project at the University of Bern, is:...

     (tonal)
    • Western Innovative Tibetan, primarily in Ladakh
      Ladakh
      Ladakh is a region of Jammu and Kashmir, the northernmost state of the Republic of India. It lies between the Kunlun mountain range in the north and the main Great Himalayas to the south, inhabited by people of Indo-Aryan and Tibetan descent...

       and the border areas
    • Dbus Ü (alternate romanisations of y˧˥˧ʔ) (Central Tibetan proper), in Ngari, Ü-Tsang
      Ü-Tsang
      Ü-Tsang , or Tsang-Ü, is one of the three traditional provinces of Tibet, the other two being Amdo and Kham. Geographically Ü-Tsang covered the central and western portions of the Tibetan cultural area, including the Tsang-po watershed, the western districts surrounding and extending past Mount...

       (including Lhasa
      Lhasa
      Lhasa is the administrative capital of the Tibet Autonomous Region in the People's Republic of China and the second most populous city on the Tibetan Plateau, after Xining. At an altitude of , Lhasa is one of the highest cities in the world...

      ), and northern Nepal border areas
    • Northern Tibetan: Nagchu and southern Qinghai
      Qinghai
      Qinghai ; Oirat Mongolian: ; ; Salar:) is a province of the People's Republic of China, named after Qinghai Lake...

    • Southern Tibetan: Southern Ü-Tsang, Sikkim
      Sikkim
      Sikkim is a landlocked Indian state nestled in the Himalayan mountains...

      , and Bhutan
      Bhutan
      Bhutan , officially the Kingdom of Bhutan, is a landlocked state in South Asia, located at the eastern end of the Himalayas and bordered to the south, east and west by the Republic of India and to the north by the People's Republic of China...

      , such as Dzongkha
      Dzongkha language
      Dzongkha , occasionally Ngalopkha, is the national language of Bhutan. The word "dzongkha" means the language spoken in the dzong, – dzong being the fortress-like monasteries established throughout Bhutan by Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyal in the 17th century."Bhutani" is not another name for...

      , Sherpa
      Sherpa language
      Sherpa is a language spoken in parts of Nepal and Sikkim mainly by the Sherpa community. About 130,000 speakers live in Nepal , some 20,000 in India , and some 800 in Tibet ....

      , Sikkimese
      Sikkimese language
      The Sikkimese language, also called Sikkimese Tibetan, Bhutia, Dranjongke , Dranjoke, Denjongka, Denzongpeke, and Denzongke, belongs to the Southern Tibetan language family. It is spoken by the Bhutia nationality in Sikkim...


  • Khams Tibetan
    Khams Tibetan language
    Khams Tibetan is the Tibetan language used by the majority of the people in the Kham region of eastern Tibet . It is one of the four main spoken languages of Tibetan, the other three being those of U-Tsang , Amdo and Western Tibetan...

     (tonal); spoken in Qinghai
    Qinghai
    Qinghai ; Oirat Mongolian: ; ; Salar:) is a province of the People's Republic of China, named after Qinghai Lake...

    , Chamdo
    Chamdo
    Qamdo , or Chamdo, officially organised as Chengguan of Qamdo County , population in 1999 about 86,280, is a major town in the historical region of Kham in the eastern Tibet Autonomous Region of the People's Republic of China. The capital of Qamdo County and Qamdo Prefecture, it is Tibet's third...

    , Sichuan
    Sichuan
    ' , known formerly in the West by its postal map spellings of Szechwan or Szechuan is a province in Southwest China with its capital in Chengdu...

    , Yunnan
    Yunnan
    Yunnan is a province of the People's Republic of China, located in the far southwest of the country spanning approximately and with a population of 45.7 million . The capital of the province is Kunming. The province borders Burma, Laos, and Vietnam.Yunnan is situated in a mountainous area, with...


  • Amdo Tibetan
    Amdo Tibetan language
    The Amdo language is the spoken language of the majority of the people of Amdo in northeastern Tibet, in Chinese states of Qinghai and some parts of Sichuan and Gansu . It is one of the four main spoken languages of Tibetan, the other three being Standard Tibetan Kham and Ladakhi...

     (non-tonal); spoken in Qinghai, Gansu
    Gansu
    ' is a province located in the northwest of the People's Republic of China.It lies between the Tibetan and Huangtu plateaus, and borders Mongolia, Inner Mongolia, and Ningxia to the north, Xinjiang and Qinghai to the west, Sichuan to the south, and Shaanxi to the east...

    , Sichuan


Varying classifications are found. Some group Khams and Amdo together as Eastern Tibetan (not to be confused with East Bodish
East Bodish languages
The East Bodish languages are those Bodish languages not covered by the name Tibetan, such as those spoken by the Monpa. They include:*Dakpa*Dzala*Bumthang *Tawang*Black Mountain Monpa .The most divergent is Dakpa...

, which is not ethnically Tibetan). Others 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 tonal lects apart from Khams; 'Western Bodish' may be used for the non-tonal western lects while 'Western Tibetan' is used for the tonal lects, or 'Bodish' may even be used for other branches of the Tibeto-Kanauri languages
Tibeto-Kanauri languages
The Tibeto-Kanauri languages, also called Bodish–Himalayish and Western Tibeto-Burman, are a proposed intermediate level of classification of the Tibeto-Burman languages, centered on the Tibetan and Kanauri languages...

.

The Tibetan languages used for broadcasting within China are Standard Tibetan
Standard Tibetan
Standard Tibetan is the most widely used spoken form of the Tibetan languages. It is based on the speech of Lhasa, an Ü-Tsang dialect belonging to the Central Tibetan languages. For this reason, Standard Tibetan is often called Central Tibetan...

 (based on the Ü dialect of Lhasa
Lhasa
Lhasa is the administrative capital of the Tibet Autonomous Region in the People's Republic of China and the second most populous city on the Tibetan Plateau, after Xining. At an altitude of , Lhasa is one of the highest cities in the world...

 used as a lingua franca
Lingua franca
A lingua franca is a language systematically used to make communication possible between people not sharing a mother tongue, in particular when it is a third language, distinct from both mother tongues.-Characteristics:"Lingua franca" is a functionally defined term, independent of the linguistic...

 throughout Ü-Tsang
Ü-Tsang
Ü-Tsang , or Tsang-Ü, is one of the three traditional provinces of Tibet, the other two being Amdo and Kham. Geographically Ü-Tsang covered the central and western portions of the Tibetan cultural area, including the Tsang-po watershed, the western districts surrounding and extending past Mount...

), Khams
Khams Tibetan language
Khams Tibetan is the Tibetan language used by the majority of the people in the Kham region of eastern Tibet . It is one of the four main spoken languages of Tibetan, the other three being those of U-Tsang , Amdo and Western Tibetan...

, and Amdo
Amdo
Amdo is one of the three traditional regions of Tibet, the other two being Ü-Tsang and Kham; it is also the birth place of the 14th Dalai Lama. Amdo encompasses a large area from the Machu River to the Drichu river . While culturally and ethnically a Tibetan area, Amdo has been administered by a...

.

Writing systems

Most Tibetan languages are written in an Indic script, with a historically conservative orthography (see below) that helps unify the Tibetan-language area. However, some Ladakhi
Ladakhi language
The Ladakhi language , now also called Bhoti, and by linguists more generally called Western Archaic Tibetan when the Balti and Burig or Purig or Purki dialects are included, is the predominant language in the Ladakh region of the Jammu and Kashmir state of India, and is also spoken in Baltistan...

 and Balti
Balti language
Balti is a language spoken in Baltistan, in Gilgit-Baltistan of Pakistan and adjoining parts of Ladakh. Baltistan, before 1948, was part of Ladakh province. The Balti language is a dialect of the Ladakhi language, a form of Tibetan. It is mutually intelligible with Ladakhi proper and Burig...

 speakers write with the Urdu script. The Tibetan script fell out of use in Pakistani Baltistan hundreds of years ago upon the region's adoption of Islam
Islam
Islam . The most common are and .   : Arabic pronunciation varies regionally. The first vowel ranges from ~~. The second vowel ranges from ~~~...

. However, increased concern among Pakistani Baltis
Balti people
The Balti are an ethnic group of Tibetan descent with some Dardic admixture located in Gilgit-Baltistan, Pakistan and Ladakh, a region in Jammu & Kashmir, India; as well as scattered in Pakistan's major urban centres of Lahore, Karachi and Islamabad/Rawalpindi. The Balti language belongs to the...

 for the preservation of their language
Balti language
Balti is a language spoken in Baltistan, in Gilgit-Baltistan of Pakistan and adjoining parts of Ladakh. Baltistan, before 1948, was part of Ladakh province. The Balti language is a dialect of the Ladakhi language, a form of Tibetan. It is mutually intelligible with Ladakhi proper and Burig...

 and traditions, especially in the face of strong Panjabi cultural influence throughout Pakistan
Pakistan
Pakistan , officially the Islamic Republic of Pakistan is a sovereign state in South Asia. It has a coastline along the Arabian Sea and the Gulf of Oman in the south and is bordered by Afghanistan and Iran in the west, India in the east and China in the far northeast. In the north, Tajikistan...

, has fostered renewed interest in reviving the Tibetan script and using it alongside the Arabic-Persian script. Many shops in Baltistan
Baltistan
Baltistan , also known as بلتیول བལིུལ་ in the Balti language, is a region in northern Pakistan which forms Gilgit-Baltistan, bordering the Xinjiang Autonomous Region of China. In addition, a part of Baltistan also falls into Jammu and Kashmir of India. It is situated in the Karakoram mountains...

's capital Skardu
Skardu
Skardu , is the main town of the region Baltistan and the capital of Skardu District, one of the districts making up Pakistan's Gilgit Baltistan....

 in Pakistan's "Northern Areas" region have begun supplementing signs written in the Arabic-Persian script with signs written in the Tibetan script
Tibetan script
The Tibetan alphabet is an abugida of Indic origin used to write the Tibetan language as well as the Dzongkha language, Denzongkha, Ladakhi language and sometimes the Balti language. The printed form of the alphabet is called uchen script while the hand-written cursive form used in everyday...

. 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 neighbors like Kashmiris
Kashmiri people
The Kashmiri people are a Dardic linguistic group living in Kashmir Valley in Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir and parts of the Pakistani territory of Azad Kashmir who speak the Kashmiri language...

 and Panjabis
Punjabi people
The Punjabi people , ਪੰਜਾਬੀ ), also Panjabi people, are an Indo-Aryan group from South Asia. They are the second largest of the many ethnic groups in South Asia. They originate in the Punjab region, which has been been the location of some of the oldest civilizations in the world including, the...

 since the arrival of Islam in the region many centuries ago.

Historical phonology

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, Srong rtsan Sgam po would have been pronounced [sroŋrtsan zɡampo] (now pronounced [soŋtsɛn ɡampo] in Lhasa Tibetan) and babs would have been pronounced [mbaps] .

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
Middle Chinese
Middle Chinese , also called Ancient Chinese by the linguist Bernhard Karlgren, refers to the Chinese language spoken during Southern and Northern Dynasties and the Sui, Tang, and Song dynasties...

 but also Uyghur
Uyghur language
Uyghur , formerly known as Eastern Turk, is a Turkic language with 8 to 11 million speakers, spoken primarily by the Uyghur people in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region of Western China. Significant communities of Uyghur-speakers are located in Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan, and various other...

.

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 Tibeto-Chinese
Chinese language
The Chinese language is a language or language family consisting of varieties which are mutually intelligible to varying degrees. Originally the indigenous languages spoken by the Han Chinese in China, it forms one of the branches of Sino-Tibetan family of languages...

 treaty of 821–822 found in front of Lhasa
Lhasa
Lhasa is the administrative capital of the Tibet Autonomous Region in the People's Republic of China and the second most populous city on the Tibetan Plateau, after Xining. At an altitude of , Lhasa is one of the highest cities in the world...

's Jokhang
Jokhang
The Jokhang, , also called the Qokang Monastery, Jokang, Jokhang Temple, Jokhang Monastery or Zuglagkang , is located on Barkhor Square in Lhasa. For most Tibetans it is the most sacred and important temple in Tibet. It is in some regards pan-sectarian, but is presently controlled by the Gelug school...

, 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
Retroflex consonant
A retroflex consonant is a coronal consonant where the tongue has a flat, concave, or even curled shape, and is articulated between the alveolar ridge and the hard palate. They are sometimes referred to as cerebral consonants, especially in Indology...

 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
Aspiration (phonetics)
In phonetics, aspiration is the strong burst of air that accompanies either the release or, in the case of preaspiration, the closure of some obstruents. To feel or see the difference between aspirated and unaspirated sounds, one can put a hand or a lit candle in front of one's mouth, and say pin ...

 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.

See also

  • Standard Tibetan
    Standard Tibetan
    Standard Tibetan is the most widely used spoken form of the Tibetan languages. It is based on the speech of Lhasa, an Ü-Tsang dialect belonging to the Central Tibetan languages. For this reason, Standard Tibetan is often called Central Tibetan...

  • Modern Standard Tibetan grammar
    Modern Standard Tibetan grammar
    Tibetan grammar describes the morphology, syntax and other grammatical features of the Tibetan language, the language and dialects of the Tibetan people spoken across a wide area of eastern Central Asia. Generally considered a member of the Tibeto-Burman language family, typologically Tibetan is...

  • Languages of China
    Languages of China
    China's many different ethnic groups speak many different languages, collectively called Zhōngguó Yǔwén , literally, "speech and writing of China", which span eight primary language families. Most of them are dissimilar morphologically and phonetically. Even within each family, most are mutually...

  • Tibetan transcription (PRC)
  • Tibetan transcription (THDL)
  • Tibetan transliteration (Wylie)


Tibetan languages and dialects
  • Standard Tibetan
    Standard Tibetan
    Standard Tibetan is the most widely used spoken form of the Tibetan languages. It is based on the speech of Lhasa, an Ü-Tsang dialect belonging to the Central Tibetan languages. For this reason, Standard Tibetan is often called Central Tibetan...

  • Khams Tibetan language
    Khams Tibetan language
    Khams Tibetan is the Tibetan language used by the majority of the people in the Kham region of eastern Tibet . It is one of the four main spoken languages of Tibetan, the other three being those of U-Tsang , Amdo and Western Tibetan...

  • Amdo Tibetan language
    Amdo Tibetan language
    The Amdo language is the spoken language of the majority of the people of Amdo in northeastern Tibet, in Chinese states of Qinghai and some parts of Sichuan and Gansu . It is one of the four main spoken languages of Tibetan, the other three being Standard Tibetan Kham and Ladakhi...

  • Balti language
    Balti language
    Balti is a language spoken in Baltistan, in Gilgit-Baltistan of Pakistan and adjoining parts of Ladakh. Baltistan, before 1948, was part of Ladakh province. The Balti language is a dialect of the Ladakhi language, a form of Tibetan. It is mutually intelligible with Ladakhi proper and Burig...

  • Ladakhi language
    Ladakhi language
    The Ladakhi language , now also called Bhoti, and by linguists more generally called Western Archaic Tibetan when the Balti and Burig or Purig or Purki dialects are included, is the predominant language in the Ladakh region of the Jammu and Kashmir state of India, and is also spoken in Baltistan...

  • Dzongkha language
    Dzongkha language
    Dzongkha , occasionally Ngalopkha, is the national language of Bhutan. The word "dzongkha" means the language spoken in the dzong, – dzong being the fortress-like monasteries established throughout Bhutan by Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyal in the 17th century."Bhutani" is not another name for...

  • Sherpa language
    Sherpa language
    Sherpa is a language spoken in parts of Nepal and Sikkim mainly by the Sherpa community. About 130,000 speakers live in Nepal , some 20,000 in India , and some 800 in Tibet ....

  • Groma language
    Groma language
    Groma is a language spoken in Sikkim and Tibet. It belongs to the southern group of Tibetan languages. Its speakers identify as Tibetans.-References: See online version: ....

  • Sikkimese Tibetan language

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