Tibetan language

Sino-Tibetan language spoken by more than five million people in Tibet (Xizang), Qinghai, Sichuan, and Gansu provinces in China; Bhutan; northern Nepal; and the Kashmir region of India and Pakistan.

Since the occupation of Tibet by China in 1959, enclaves of Tibetan speakers have dispersed to India and other parts of the world. Spoken Tibetan comprises a very diverse range of dialects, conventionally divided into several groups: Western, including Balti and Ladakhi in Jammu and Kashmir; Central, including the speech of Lhasa and most of the Nepalese dialects (including Sherpa); Southern, including the dialects of Sikkim and Bhutan; Khams, or Southeastern, including the dialects of the interior plateau, southern Qinghai, eastern Tibet, and parts of western Sichuan; and Amdo or Northeastern, including the dialects of northern Qinghai, southern Gansu, and northern Sichuan. Most Tibetans share a common literary language, written in a distinctive script of disputed origin first attested in the 8th century AD.

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      Tibetic (or Bodic) language belonging to the Tibeto-Burman group of the Sino-Tibetan language family; it is spoken in Tibet, Bhutan, Nepal, and in parts of northern India (including Sikkim). The language is usually divided by scholars into four dialect groups: Central, Southern, Northern (in northern Tibet), and Western (in western Tibet). The widely used dialect of Lhasa, the capital of Tibet, belongs to the Central group, while the Southern group is found primarily in Sikkim, Bhutan, and Nepal. The Western dialects are more conservative in their sound systems, having best preserved the initial consonant clusters and the final stops (sounds formed with complete closure in the vocal tract) of Old Tibetan and having less development of tones than the other dialects.

      Tibetan is written in a very conservative script of Indian origin, its present form having been used since the 9th century. The orthography reflects the pronunciation of the language as it was in about the 7th century and therefore does not adequately represent present-day standard Tibetan pronunciation.

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Universalium. 2010.

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