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The Australian National University

Bumthang

བུམ་ཐང་

Bumthang is a Tibeto-Burman language of the East Bodish group, largely spoken in the district of Bumthang in north-central Bhutan. There is some "spill" of the language outside the district of Bumthang into neighbouring districts (Trongsa, Lhuntse, Monggar and even Zhemgang), though it is far from clear that there are firm language boundaries between the named varieties in these districts (Khengkha, Kurtoep, Mangde/Hengkha/Nyenkha/Trongsa) and Bumthang, rather than there being a continuum between the different 'languages' and the different Bumthang dialects. Van Driem (1995: 1) writes that 'it is linguistically defensible to consider Bumthang, Kheng and Kurtoep as three distinct dialect groups of a single Greater Bumthang Languages. The differences between the various dialects of Kheng appear to be just as great as the differences between any one of these dialects and a randomly chosen dialect of Bumthang.' In light of the dialectal diversity that even Bumthang itself displays, evident in the lexicon, phonology, phonological rules, and morphological possibilities, it appears likely that this region contains much more underlying linguistic diversity than has been reported and presented.

In 2013 and 2015 we ran classes at The Australian National University investigating the Bumthang language; further, Mark has visited Bumthang and collected data in Ura and the other valleys. Here we (Ginny Dawson, Mark Donohue, Donna Holland, Tom Ovens, in 2013, and Mark Donohue, Bonnie Maclean, Yuka Morinaga, Naomi Peck, Catherine Prince, and Tom Wyatt - see here) report on our work into the Ura ([uɾəj]) dialect of Bumthang, from the extreme south-east of the language's range. In this area the area name is typically pronounced as [pṳmda̤ŋ], though this is not reflected in the Uchen script above. The language itself is known as [pṳmda̤ŋbekha].

Phonology

Notes on the phonology of Bumthang are here.

Morphosyntax

Notes on the morphology of Bumthang are here.

Conversational phrases

Basic Bumthang conversational phrases are here.

Texts

Some Bumthang texts are here.

Bibliography

  • van Driem, George. 1995. Een eerste grammaticale verkenning van het Bumthang, een taal van Midden-Bhutan: met een overzicht van de talen en volkeren van Bhutan (A first grammatical introduction to Bumthang, a language of central Bhutan, with an overview of the languages and peoples of Bhutan). Leiden: Research school CNWS. (PDF here (15.1MB))
  • Michailovsky, Boyd and Martine Mazaudon. 1994. Preliminary notes on languages of the Bumthang group. Proceedings from the 6th seminar of the Association for Tibetan Studies 2: 545-557. Fagernes: The Institute for Comparative Research in Human Culture. (PDF here (0.7MB))
  • Jakar

    Ura Ura

    More images of Ura and Bumthang.

    Some basic vocabulary: Bumthang numerals་རྙིས་

    one  thek ཐེག་
    two  zon ཟོན་
    three  sum སུམ་
    four  blé བླེའི་
    five  yanga ཡ་ང་
    six  grok གྼོག་
    seven  nyis ཉིས་
    eight  jat ཇད་
    nine  dogo དོ་གོ་
    ten  che ཆེ་

    The numerals from eleven to twenty, all in one file:

    11-20  choré ~ chwaré, chwangis ~ chonis, chusum, cheblé, chénga, chegrok, chirwnyis, chepjat, chedogo, khaére 

    Two additional numerals are found in the one to ten range, used only when counting round containers of liquid:

    one  bleng བླེང་
    two  gwa གྭ་

    Updated:  14 December 2015/ Responsible Officer:  Mark Donohue/ Page Contact:  Mark Donohue