Khams Tibetan

Not to be confused with Kham language.
Khams Tibetan
Region China, Bhutan
Native speakers
1.4 million (1994)[1]
Tibetan alphabet
Language codes
ISO 639-3 Variously:
khg  Khams
kbg  Khamba[3]
tsk  Tseku
Glottolog kham1299[4]

Khams Tibetan (Wylie: Khams skad, THL: Khamké ) is the Tibetic language used by the majority of the people in Kham, which is now divided between the eastern part of Tibet Autonomous Region, the western part of Sichuan, and the northwestern part of Yunnan, China. It is one of the five main spoken Tibetic languages, the other four being Central Tibetan language, Amdo, Ladakhi and Dzongkha. These Tibetic languages 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 Standard Tibetan and Amdo Tibetan in broadcasting Khams Tibetan is not mutually intelligible with other Tibetic languages.

Like Central Tibetan, Khams Tibetan is a tonal language.

Khampa Tibetan is also spoken by about 1,000 people in two enclaves in eastern Bhutan, the descendants of pastoral yak-herding communities.[5]


There five dialects of Khams Tibetan proper:

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: Dongwang Tibetan language and the Rgyalrong languages.[6]

See also


  1. Khams at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015)
    Khamba[2] at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015)
    Tseku at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015)
  2. George van Driem, Languages of the Himalayas, p 892
  3. George van Driem, Languages of the Himalayas, p 892
  4. Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin; Bank, Sebastian, eds. (2016). "Khams–Hor". Glottolog 2.7. Jena: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History.
  5. van Driem, George L. (1993). "Language Policy in Bhutan" (PDF). London: SOAS. Retrieved 2011-01-18.
  6. N. Tournadre (2005) "L'aire linguistique tibétaine et ses divers dialectes." Lalies, 2005, n°25, p. 7–56
Wikibooks has a book on the topic of: Research on Tibetan Languages: A Bibliography
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