Sherpa language

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शेर्वी तम्ङे, śērwī tamṅē,
ཤར་པའི་སྐད་ཡིག, shar pa'i skad yig
Sherpa language.png
'Sherpa' in Devanagari and Tibetan scripts
Native toNepal, Sikkim, Tibet
Native speakers
170,000 (2001 & 2011 census)[1]
Tibetan, Devanagari
Official status
Official language in
 India (Sikkim)
Language codes
ISO 639-3xsr

Sherpa (also Sharpa, Xiaerba, Sherwa) is a Sino-Tibetan language spoken in Nepal and the Indian state of Sikkim, mainly by the Sherpa. About 200,000 speakers live in Nepal (2001 census), some 20,000 in Sikkim (1997) and some 800 in Tibetan Autonomous Region (1994). Sherpa is a subject-object-verb (SOV) language. It is written using either the Devanagari or Tibetan script.


Sherpa is a tonal language.[3] Sherpa has the following consonants:[1][dead link]


Labial Dental Alveolar Retroflex Palatal Velar Glottal
Stop voiceless p ʈ c k
aspirated t̪ʰ ʈʰ
voiced b ɖ ɟ ɡ
Affricate voiceless ts
aspirated tsʰ tʃʰ
voiced dz
Fricative s ʃ h
Nasal m n ɲ ŋ
Lateral voiceless l̪̥
Trill voiceless
voiced r
Approximant w j
  • Stop sounds /p, t̪, ʈ, k/ can be unreleased [p̚, t̪̚, ʈ̚, k̚] in word-final position.
  • Palatal sounds /c cʰ ɟ/ can neutralize to velar sounds [k kʰ ɡ] when preceding /i/.
  • /n/ can become a retroflex nasal [ɳ] when preceding a retroflex stop.
  • /p/ can have an allophone of [ɸ] when occurring in fast speech.


Front Back
oral nasal oral nasal
High i ĩ u ũ
Mid-high e o õ
Mid-low ɛ ɛ̃ ɔ ɔ̃
Low a ã ʌ ʌ̃
  • Vowel sounds /i, u/ have the allophones [ɪ, ʊ] when between consonants and in closed syllables.[4]


There are four distinct tones; high /v́/, falling /v̂/, low /v̀/, rising /v̌/. Mid tones are unmarked.


Some grammatical aspects of Sherpa are as follows:

  • Nouns are defined by morphology when a bare noun occurs in the genitive and this extends to the noun phrase.[incomprehensible] They are defined syntactically by co-occurrence with the locative clitic and by their position in the noun phrase (NP) after demonstratives.
  • Demonstratives are defined syntactically by their position first in the NP directly before the noun.
  • Quantifiers: Number words occur last in the noun phrase with the exception of the definite article.
  • Adjectives occur after the noun in the NP and morphologically only take genitive marking when in construct with a noun.
  • Verbs may morphologically be distinguished by differing or suppletive roots for the perfective, imperfective, and imperative. They occur last in a clause before the verbal auxiliaries.
  • Verbal auxiliaries occur last in a clause.
  • Postpositions occur last in a postpositional NP.

Other typological features of Sherpa include split ergativity based on aspect, SO & OV (SOV), N-A, N-Num, V-Aux, and N-Pos.


The following table lists the days of the week, which are derived from the Tibetan language ("Pur-gae").

Days of the week in Sherpa
English Sherpa
Sunday ŋi`ma ( / ŋ / is the sound Ng')
Monday Dawa
Tuesday Miŋma
Wednesday Lakpa
Thursday Phurba
Friday Pasaŋ
Saturday Pemba


  1. ^ Sherpa at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015)
  2. ^ Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2017). "Solu-Khumbu Sherpa". Glottolog 3.0. Jena, Germany: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History.
  3. ^ "Sherpa". Ethnologue. Retrieved 30 August 2019.
  4. ^ Graves, Thomas E. (2007). The Phonetics and Phonology of the Sherpa Language.

External links[edit]