Sikkimese language

The Sikkimese language, also called "Sikkimese Tibetan", "Bhutia", "Drenjongké" (Tibetan: འབྲས་ལྗོངས་སྐད་, Wylie: 'bras ljongs skad, "Rice Valley language"),[3] Dranjoke, Denjongka, Denzongpeke and Denzongke, belongs to the Southern Tibetic languages. It is spoken by the Bhutia in Sikkim, India and in parts of Mechi Zone, Nepal. The Sikkimese people refer to their own language as Drendzongké and their homeland as Drendzong (Tibetan: འབྲས་ལྗོངས་, Wylie: 'bras-ljongs, "Rice Valley").[4]

Sikkimese is written using Tibetan alphabet, which it inherited from Classical Tibetan. Sikkimese phonology and lexicon differ markedly from Classical Tibetan, however. SIL International thus describes the Sikkimese writing system as "Bodhi style". According to SIL, 68% of Sikkimese Bhutia were literate in the Tibetan script in 2001.[4][5][6]

Speakers of Sikkimese can understand some Dzongkha, with a lexical similarity of 65% between the two languages. By comparison, Standard Tibetan, however, is only 42% lexically similar. Sikkimese has also been influenced to some degree by the neighbouring Yolmowa and Tamang languages.[4][5]

Due to more than a century of close contact with speakers of Nepali and Tibetan proper, many Sikkimese speakers also use these languages in daily life.[4]

Below is a chart of Sikkimese consonants, largely following Yliniemi (2005) and van Driem (1992).[6]

Devoiced consonants are pronounced with a slight breathy voice, aspiration, and low pitch. They are remnants of voiced consonants in Classical Tibetan that became devoiced. Likewise, the historical Tibetan phoneme /ny/ is realised as an allophone of /n/ and /ng/, which themselves have mostly lost contrast among speakers.[6]

Below is a chart of Sikkimese vowels, also largely following Yliniemi (2005).[6]

In the Tibetan script, an abugida, the inherent vowel /a/ is unmarked. In the above table, italicised [ɛ] /e/ is an allophone of [e] /e/, confined to appearing after [dʑ] /j/ in closed syllables.[6]