A language of Nepal

Alternate Names
Bantaba, Bantawa Dum, Bantawa Rai, Bantawa Yong, Bantawa Yüng, Bontawa

371,000 in Nepal (2001 census). Less than 5% monolinguals. Population total all countries: 404,600.


Koshi Zone, Morang, Dhankuta, Bhojpur, and Sunsari districts; Sagarmatha Zone, Khotang, Okhaldunga, and Udayapur districts; Mechi Zone, Ilam, Jhapa, Panchthar, and Taplejung districts. Amchoke dialect: Limbu area, especially Ilam district. Homeland is Eastern hills but many migrated to the Tarai. Also in Bhutan, India.

Language Status

6b (Threatened). Language of recognized nationality (2002, NFDIN Act, No. 20, Section 2C), Rai nationality.


Amchoke (Western Bantawa), Dhankuta (Eastern Bantawa), Dilpali (Northern Bantawa), Hatuwali (Southern Bantawa). Dialects are reportedly mutually inherently intelligible. Rungchenbung and Yangma are subvarieties of Dilpali. Eastern dialect is most divergent. Lexical similarity: Bantawa dialects and closely related languages form a continuum. Differences are primarily in meaning shifts and usage.


SOV; postpositions; noun heads initial; no noun classes or genders; content q-word in situ; genitives, adjectives, numerals before noun heads; polar questions marked only with rising intonation; content questions same word order as assertive sentences or question word directly before the verb; up to 2 prefixes, 10 suffixes; clause constituents indicated by word order; affixes indicate case of noun phrases; verbal affixation mark person, number, object—obligatory; tense and aspect; no passives or voice; split ergative; comparatives use Nepali word, bhanda; 25 consonant and 6 vowel phonemes; numbers above 3 are borrowed from Nepali [npi]; CV, CVC, CVCC; nontonal

Language Use

Some shift to Nepali [npi] evident, especially among northern dialect speakers (2003 SIL). Some varieties are used as traditional lingua franca among Rai minorities in eastern Nepal, Sikkim, India, and Bhutan, and as L1 among Rai of other origin. (Bradley 1996). Home, religion; mixed use: Friends, work. All ages. Positive attitudes. Most also use some Nepali [npi]. Wide range of proficiency. In some regions, young people prefer Nepali. Hindi [hin] common among ex-soldiers.

Language Development
Nepali literacy rapidly increasing. Taught in some primary schools. Poetry. Magazines. Newspapers. New media. Radio programs. Films. Videos. Dictionary. Grammar.
Devanagari script.
Other Comments

Traditional religion, Christian.

Also spoken in:

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