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Sherpa language

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

शेर्वी तम्ङे, śērwī tamṅē,
ཤར་པའི་སྐད་ཡིག, shar pa'i skad yig
'Sherpa' in Devanagari and Tibetan scripts
Native toNepal, India
RegionNepal, Sikkim, Tibet
Native speakers
140,000 (2011 & 2021 census)[1]
Tibetan, Devanagari
Official status
Official language in
Language codes
ISO 639-3xsr
Sherpa is classified as Vulnerable by the UNESCO Atlas of the World's Languages in Danger

Sherpa (also Sharpa, Sherwa, or Xiaerba) is a Tibetic language spoken in Nepal and the Indian state of Sikkim, mainly by the Sherpa. The majority speakers of the Sherpa language live in the Khumbu region of Nepal, spanning from the Chinese (Tibetan) border in the east to the Bhotekosi River in the west.[3] About 127,000 speakers live in Nepal (2021 census), some 16,000 in Sikkim, India (2011) and some 800 in the Tibetan Autonomous Region (1994). Sherpa is a subject-object-verb (SOV) language. Sherpa is predominantly a spoken language, although it is occasionally written using either the Devanagari or Tibetan script.[3]


Sherpa is a tonal language.[4][5] Sherpa has the following consonants:[6]


Labial Dental Alveolar Retroflex Palato-
Palatal Velar Glottal
Nasal m m⟩ n n⟩ ɲ ny⟩ ŋ ng⟩
voiceless p p⟩ t⟩ t͡s ts⟩ ʈ ṭ⟩ t͡ʃ c⟩ c ཀྱ ky⟩ k k⟩
aspirated ph⟩ t̪ʰ th⟩ t͡sʰ tsh⟩ ʈʰ ṭh⟩ t͡ʃʰ ch⟩  ཁྱ khy⟩ kh⟩
voiced b  b⟩ d⟩ d͡z dz⟩ ɖ ḍ⟩ d͡ʒ j⟩ ɟ གྱ gy⟩ ɡ g⟩
Fricative s s⟩ ʃ sh⟩ h h⟩
Liquid voiceless l̪̥ ལྷ lh⟩ ɾ̥ ཧྲ hr⟩
voiced l⟩ ɾ r⟩
Semivowel w w⟩ j y⟩
  • Stop sounds /p, t̪, ʈ, k/ can be unreleased [p̚, t̪̚, ʈ̚, k̚] in word-final position.
  • Palatal sounds /c ɟ/ can neutralize to velar sounds [k ɡ] when preceding /i, e, ɛ/.
  • /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/.


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

Sample Text[edit]

The following is a sample text in Sherpa of Article 1 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights:

Sherpa in Devanagari script

मि रिग ते रि रङ्वाङ् दङ् चिथोङ गि थोप्थङ डडइ थोग् क्येउ यिन्। गङ् ग नम्ज्योद दङ् शेस्रब् ल्हन्क्ये सु ओद्दुब् यिन् चङ् । फर्छुर च्यिग्गि-च्यिग्ल पुन्ग्यि दुशेस् ज्योग्गोग्यि।

Sherpa in Tibetan script

མི་རིགས་ཏེ་རི་རང་དབང་དང་རྩི་མཐོང་གི་ཐོབ་ཐང་འདྲ་འདྲའི་ཐོག་སྐྱེའུ་ཡིན། གང་ག་རྣམ་དཔྱོད་དང་ཤེས་རབ་ལྷན་སྐྱེས་སུ་འོད་དུབ་ཡིན་ཙང་། ཕར་ཚུར་གཅིག་གིས་གཅིག་ལ་སྤུན་གྱི་འདུ་ཤེས་འཇོག་དགོས་ཀྱི།

Sherpa in IAST transliteration

Mi rig te ri raṅvāṅ daṅ cithoṅ gi thopthaṅ ḍaḍaï thog kyeu yin. Gaṅ ga namjyod daṅ śesrab lhankye su oddub yin caṅ, pharchur cyiggi-cyigla pungyi duśes jyoggogyi.

Sherpa in the Wylie transliteration

Mi rigs te ri rang dbang dang rtsi thong gi thob thang 'dra 'dra'i thog skyeu yin. Gang ga rnam dpyod dang shes rab lhan skyes su 'od dub yin tsang, phar tshur gcig gis gcig la spun gyi 'du shes 'jog dgos kyi.


Article 1: All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.


  1. ^ Sherpa  at Ethnologue (27th ed., 2024) Closed access icon
  2. ^ "50th Report of the Commissioner for Linguistic Minorities in India" (PDF). 16 July 2014. p. 109. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2 January 2018. Retrieved 6 November 2016.
  3. ^ a b "Sherpa | History & Culture". Encyclopedia Britannica. Retrieved 28 February 2021.
  4. ^ a b Graves, Thomas E. (2007). The Phonetics and Phonology of the Sherpa Language.
  5. ^ "Sherpa". Ethnologue. Retrieved 30 August 2019.
  6. ^ "Nepalese Linguistics" (PDF). Journal of the Linguistic Society of Nepal. 23: 371–380. November 2008. Retrieved 8 October 2021.

External links[edit]