Tibetan, Central


A language of China

Alternate Names
Bhotia, Dbus, Dbusgtsang, Phoke, Tibetan, U, Wei, Weizang, Zang

1,070,000 in China (1990 census). 86% monolinguals. 570,000 Dbus, 460,000 Gtsang, 40,000 Mngahris out of 4,593,000 in the official nationality. Population total all countries: 1,178,470.


Tibet Autonomous Region, Sichuan and Qinghai provinces. Also in Bhutan (Tibetan), Taiwan (Tibetan), India (Tibetan), Nepal (Tibetan), Norway (Tibetan), Switzerland (Tibetan), United States (Tibetan).

Language Status

2 (Provincial). Statutory provincial language in Xizang Autonomous Region (Tibet) (1984, Ethnic Regional Autonomy Act, Articles 10 and 21).


Dbus, Deqing Zang, Gtsang (Lhasa, Tsang), Mngahris (Ngari). In the exile community a so-called diaspora Tibetan has developed.


SOV; tonal, 4 tones

Language Use

Vigorous. Speakers of other languages in the area can also speak Tibetan. All domains. All ages. Positive attitudes.

Language Development
Literacy rate in L2: 30%. Motivation for literacy is high. Taught in primary and secondary schools. Magazines. Newspapers. Radio programs. Dictionary. Grammar. Bible: 1948.
Phags-pa script. Tibetan script, Uchen, Umed and a less-widely known and more priestly style.
Other Comments

Officially classified within Tibetan nationality called Zang. Xifan (Hsifan) and Bhotia are general terms for Tibetan. Probably includes many languages: Groma, Niarong, Lhomi, Panang, Sherpa, Tseku, Tinan Lahul. Nomads in central and northern Tibet in Phala on the 4,500-meter Chang Tang plateau are known as Drokba. They number around 500,000. Written Tibetan is reportedly based on a southern dialect. Buddhist (Lamaist), Muslim.

Also spoken in:

Expand All Collapse All