A language of Nepal

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

133,000 in Nepal (2011 census). Population total all countries: 166,600. 6,000 monolinguals.


Kosi 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.

Language Status

6b (Threatened). Language of recognized indigenous nationality: Rai.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).


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). Home, religion; mixed use: Friends, work. All ages. Positive attitudes. Also use Bahing [bhj]. Hindi [hin] common among ex-soldiers. Most also use some Nepali [npi]. Wide range of proficiency. In some regions, young people prefer Nepali. Used as L2 by Chhintang [ctn], Chhulung [cur], Dungmali [raa], Puma [pum].

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

Devanagari script [Deva].

Other Comments

Traditional religion, Christian.

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