Ladakhi language

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ལ་དྭགས་སྐད། Ladaks Skat
Native to India, China, Pakistan
Region Leh, Baltistan
Native speakers
130,000  (2001)[1]
Tibetan script
Language codes
ISO 639-3 Either:
lbj – Ladakhi
zau – Zangskari

The Ladakhi language (Tibetan: ལ་དྭགས་སྐད་Wylie: La-dwags skad), also called Bhoti, is the predominant language in the Leh district of Ladakh, India. Ladakhi is a Tibetic language, although it is not mutually intelligible with Standard Tibetan.

Ladakhi has approximately 100,000 speakers in India, and perhaps 12,000 speakers in the Tibet Autonomous Region of China, mostly in the Qiangtang region. Ladakhi has several dialects, Ladakhi proper (also called Lehskat after the capital of Ladakh, Leh, where it is spoken); Shamskat, spoken to the northwest of Leh; Stotskat, spoken to the southeast in the Indus valley; and Nubra, spoken in the north. The varieties spoken in Upper Ladakh and Zangskar have many features of Ladakhi and many other features of western dialects of Central Tibetan.

Most dialects of Ladakhi lack tone, but Stotskat and Upper Ladakhi are tonal like Central Tibetan.


Tournadre (2005)[2] considers Ladakhi, Balti, and Purik to be distinct languages on the basis of mutual intelligibility. (Zangskari is not as distinct.) As a group they are termed Ladakhi–Balti or Western Archaic Tibetan, as opposed to Western Innovative Tibetan languages such as Spiti Bhoti.


Zanskari is a dialect of Ladakhi and has four subdialects, Stod, Zhung, Sham, and Lungna. It is written using the Tibetan script.


Ladakhi is usually written using Tibetan script with the pronunciation of Ladakhi being much closer to written Classical Tibetan than most other Tibetic languages. Ladakhis pronounce many of the prefix, suffix and head letters that are silent in Amdo, Kham, Ü-Tsang or Lhasa Tibetan. This tendency is more pronounced to the west of Leh, and on the Pakistani side of the Line of Control, in Baltistan. For example, a Tibetan would pronounce sta 'axe' as [tá], but a Ladakhi would say [sta]. While a Tibetan would pronounce ’bras 'rice' as [ɳʈɛ́ʔ], Ladakhis say [dras], and the Kargilpa (Burig) say [bras].

The question of whether to write colloquial Ladakhi in the Tibetan script or to write only a slightly Ladakhified version of Classical Tibetan is controversial in Ladakh.[3] Muslim Ladakhis speak Ladakhi but most do not read the Tibetan script and most Buddhist Ladakhis can sound out the Tibetan script but do not understand Classical Tibetan, but some Ladakhi Buddhist scholars insist that Ladakhi must be written only in a form of Classical Tibetan. A limited number of books and magazines have been published in colloquial Ladakhi.

Written Ladakhi is most often romanised using modified Wylie transliteration, with a th denoting an aspirated dental t, for example.


The medium of instruction of schools in Ladakh is Urdu, and then English, rather than Ladakhi. The textbooks often take examples from generic Indian culture that is unfamiliar to the environment of Ladakhis. As a result, there is a failure rate of over 90% in government schools.[3] On 27 Feb 2011, The Ladakh Autonomous Hill Development Council, Leh passed a resolution for the inclusion of the Bhoti language in the Eighth Schedule to the Constitution without any opposition.[4]


  1. ^ Ladakhi at Ethnologue (17th ed., 2013)
    Zangskari at Ethnologue (17th ed., 2013)
  2. ^ *N. Tournadre (2005) "L'aire linguistique tibétaine et ses divers dialectes." Lalies, 2005, n°25, p. 7–56 [1]
  3. ^ a b van Beek, Martijn (2008). "Imaginaries of Ladakhi Modernity". In Barnett, Robert; Schwartz, Ronald David. Tibetan Modernities: Notes from the Field on Cultural and Social Change. Brill. p. 178-179. 
  4. ^

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