Total speakers: 640,000
Official language in
|Regulated by||Dzongkha Development Commission|
Districts of Bhutan in which the Dzongkha language is spoken natively are highlighted in yellow.
Dzongkha (རྫོང་ཁ་; [dzòŋkʰɑ́]) is a Sino-Tibetan language that is the official and national language of Bhutan. It is written using the Tibetan script.
The word dzongkha means "the language of the fortress", from dzong "fortress" and kha "language". As of 2013[update], Dzongkha had 171,080 native speakers and about 640,000 total speakers.
Dzongkha is a South Tibetic language. It is closely related to and partially intelligible with Sikkimese, and to some other Bhutanese languages such as Chocha Ngacha, Brokpa, Brokkat and Lakha. It has a more distant relationship to Standard Tibetan. Spoken Dzongkha and Tibetan are around 50 to 80 percent mutually intelligible.
Dzongkha and its dialects are the native tongue of eight western districts of Bhutan (viz. Wangdue Phodrang, Punakhacode: dzo promoted to code: dz , Thimphu, Gasa, Paro, Ha, Dagana and Chukha). There are also some native speakers near the Indian town of Kalimpong, once part of Bhutan but now in North Bengal, and in Sikkim.
Dzongkha was declared the national language of Bhutan in 1971. Dzongkha study is mandatory in all schools, and the language is the lingua franca in the districts to the south and east where it is not the mother tongue. The Bhutanese films Travellers and Magicians (2003) and Lunana: A Yak in the Classroom (2019) are in Dzongkha.
Main articles: Tibetan script, Dzongkha numerals, and Dzongkha Braille
The Tibetan script used to write Dzongkha has thirty basic letters, sometimes known as "radicals", for consonants. Dzongkha is usually written in Bhutanese forms of the Uchen script, forms of the Tibetan script known as Jôyi "cursive longhand" and Jôtshum "formal longhand". The print form is known simply as Tshûm.
There are various systems of romanization and transliteration for Dzongkha, but none accurately represents its phonetic sound. The Bhutanese government adopted a transcription system known as Roman Dzongkha, devised by the linguist George van Driem, as its standard in 1991.
Dzongkha is a tonal language and has two level tones (high and low), and two contour tone distinctions, totaling four tones. The tone of a syllable determines the allophone of the onset and the phonation type of the nuclear vowel.
All consonants may begin a syllable. In the onsets of low-tone syllables, consonants are voiced. Aspirated consonants (indicated by the superscript h), /ɬ/, and /h/ are not found in low-tone syllables. The rhotic /r/ is usually a trill [r] or a fricative trill [r̝], and is voiceless in the onsets of high-tone syllables.
/t, tʰ, ts, tsʰ, s/ are dental. Descriptions of the palatal affricates and fricatives vary from alveolo-palatal to plain palatal.
Only a few consonants are found in syllable-final positions. Most common among them are /m, n, p/. Syllable-final /ŋ/ is often elided and results in the preceding vowel nasalized and prolonged, especially word-finally. Syllable-final /k/ is most often omitted when word-final as well, unless in formal speech. In literary pronunciation, liquids /r/ and /l/ may also end a syllable. Though rare, /ɕ/ is also found in syllable-final positions. No other consonants are found in syllable-final positions.
|Close||i iː yː||u uː|
|Mid||e eː øː||o oː|
Many words in Dzongkha are monosyllabic. Syllables usually take the form of CVC, CV, or VC. Syllables with complex onsets are also found, but such an onset must be a combination of an unaspirated bilabial stop and a palatal affricate. The bilabial stops in complex onsets are often omitted in colloquial speech.
The following is a sample text in Dzongkha of Article 1 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights:
འགྲོ་ བ་ མི་ རིགས་ ག་ ར་ དབང་ ཆ་ འདྲ་ མཏམ་ འབད་ སྒྱེཝ་ ལས་ ག་ ར་ གིས་ གཅིག་ ལུ་ སྤུན་ ཆའི་ དམ་ ཚིག་ བསྟན་ དགོ།
’Gro- ba- mi- rigs- ga- ra- dbaṅ- cha- ’dra- mtam- ’bad- sgyew- las- ga- ra- gis- gcig- lu- spun- cha’i- dam- tshig- bstan- dgo
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.
Traditional orthography and modern phonology are two distinct systems operating by a distinct set of rules.