Khams Tibetan

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Not to be confused with Kham language.
Khams Tibetan
Region China, Bhutan
Native speakers
1.4 million  (1994)[2]
Tibetan script
Language codes
ISO 639-3 Variously:
khg – Khams
kbg – Khamba[1]
tsk – Tseku
Glottolog kham1299[3]
This article contains IPA phonetic symbols. Without proper rendering support, you may see question marks, boxes, or other symbols instead of Unicode characters.

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 Tibetic languages, the other three being those of U-Tsang (ü kä), Amdo (am kä) and Ladakhi (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 Tibetan, Central Tibetan, or Ladakhi. Like Central Tibetan, it is a tonal language.[citation needed]

Khampa Tibetan is also spoken by about 1,000 people in two enclaves in Eastern Bhutan, the descendants of pastoral yakherding communities.[4]


There five dialects of Khams Tibetan proper:

  • 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 that they are usually considered a single language. Khamba and Tseku are more divergent, but classified with Khams by Tournadre (2013).

Several other languages are spoken by Tibetans in the Khams region: Muya, rGyalrong, and Dongwang.[5]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ George van Driem, Languages of the Himalayas, p 892
  2. ^ Khams at Ethnologue (17th ed., 2013)
    at Ethnologue (17th ed., 2013)
    Tseku at Ethnologue (17th ed., 2013)
  3. ^ Nordhoff, Sebastian; Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2013). "Khams–Hor". Glottolog 2.2. Leipzig: Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology. 
  4. ^ van Driem, George L. (1993). "Language Policy in Bhutan" (PDF). London: SOAS. Retrieved 2011-01-18. 
  5. ^ N. Tournadre (2005) "L'aire linguistique tibétaine et ses divers dialectes." Lalies, 2005, n°25, p. 7–56 [1]

External links[edit]