The Ladakhi language (Tibetan: ལ་དྭགས་སྐད་, Wylie: La-dwags skad), also called Bhoti or Bodhi, is a Tibetic language spoken in the Ladakh union territory of India. It is the predominant language in the Buddhist-dominated district of Leh of the Union territory of Ladakh. Though a member of the Tibetic family, Ladakhi is not mutually intelligible with Standard Tibetan.
Ladakhi has approximately 30,000 speakers in India, and perhaps 20,000 speakers in the Tibet Autonomous Region of China, mostly in the Qiangtang region. Ladakhi has several dialects: Lehskat after Leh, where it is spoken; Shamskat, spoken in the northwest of Leh; Stotskat, spoken in the Indus valley and which is tonal unlike the others; and Nubra, spoken in the north of Leh. It is a distinct language from the related Purigi and Balti spoken in the adjacent Kargil district.
Nicolas Tournadre considers Ladakhi, Balti, and Purgi to be distinct languages on the basis of mutual intelligibility (Zangskari is not as distinct). As a group they are termed Ladakhi–Balti or Western Archaic Tibetan.
Zangskari is a dialect of Ladakhi spoken in Zanskar and also spoken by Buddhists in the upper reaches of Lahaul (Himachal Pradesh) and Paddar (Paldar). It has four subdialects, Stod, Zhung, Sham, and Lungna. It is written using the Tibetan script.
Ladakhi is usually written using Tibetan script with the pronunciation of Ladakhi being much closer to written Classical Tibetan than most other Tibetic languages. Ladakhis pronounce many of the prefix, suffix and head letters that are silent in many other Tibetic languages, such as Amdo, Khams, and Central Tibetan. This tendency is more pronounced to the west of Leh, and on the Pakistani side of the Line of Control, in Baltistan. For example, a Tibetan would pronounce sta 'axe' as [tá], but a Lehpa would say [sta],and a purgi would pronounce [stare]. While a Tibetan would pronounce འབྲས་ (’bras) 'rice' as [ɳʈɛ́ʔ], Lehpa say [ɖas], and the purgii pronounce it as [bras].
The question of whether to write colloquial Ladakhi in the Tibetan script or to write only a slightly Ladakhified version of Classical Tibetan is controversial in Ladakh. Muslim Ladakhis speak Ladakhi but most do not read the Tibetan script and most Buddhist Ladakhis can sound out the Tibetan script but do not understand Classical Tibetan, but some Ladakhi Buddhist scholars insist that Ladakhi must be written only in a form of Classical Tibetan. A limited number of books and magazines have been published in colloquial Ladakhi.
The medium of instruction in most schools in Ladakh is English, with either Hindi or Urdu as a compulsory second language, and a choice of Arabic or classical Tibetan as the compulsory third language. Government schools in Ladakh are under JK SBOSE, which calls the Tibetan subject Bodhi. Private schools under the CBSE and the Central Institute of Buddhist Studies, Leh call it Tibetan.
A section of Ladakhi society has been demanding inclusion of a newly named language, Bhoti, to be added to the 8th Schedule of the Indian Constitution. They claim that Bhoti is spoken by Ladakhis, Baltis, Tibetans, and throughout the Himalayas from Baltistan to Arunachal Pradesh. However, Bhoti may be one of the Lahuli–Spiti languages rather than Ladakhi. In the Indian census, most Ladakhi speakers registered their mother tongue under "Bhoti."