Khams Tibetan (Tibetan: ཁམས་སྐད་, Wylie: Khams skad, Lhasa dialect IPA: [kʰâm kɛ]; also called Kham kä) is the Tibetic language used by the majority of the people in the Kham region of eastern Tibet (E. Tibet Autonomous Region, S. Qinghai, W. Sichuan, Yunnan). It is one of the four main spoken languages of Tibetan, the other three being those of U-Tsang (ü kä), Amdo (am kä) and Western Tibetan (tö kä). All four Tibetan language groups share the same written script, but their pronunciations, vocabularies and grammars are different. These differences may have emerged due to geographical isolation of the regions of Tibet. Khams Tibetan is used alongside Central Tibetan and Amdo Tibetan in broadcasting, but shares the classical Tibetan orthography with them. Khams Tibetan is, however, not intelligible with Amdo, Central Tibetan, or Ladakhi. Like Central Tibetan, it is a tonal language.
Khampa Tibetan is also spoken by about 1,000 people in two enclaves in Eastern Bhutan, the descendants of pastoral yakherding communities.
There five dialects of Khams Tibetan:
- Central Khams, spoken in the Dêgê (W. Sichuan & Tibet) and Chamdo (Tibet) areas
- Southern Khams, spoken in the Dêqên TAP (Yunnan & Tibet). There are several subdialects due to the mountainous terrain, as well as contact with neighboring language communities for trade.
- Northern or Northeastern Khams, spoken in Nangqên and Yüshu (S. Qinghai) areas
- Eastern Khams, spoken in the Dardo area
- Hor, or Western Khams, spoken in the Nagqu area
- Gêrzê dialect is sometimes considered as Western Khams
These have relatively low mutual intelligibility, but are close enough to be considered a single language. However, several varieties traditionally considered Khams, such as Dongwang, are not mutually intelligible and are best considered distinct languages.
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