Helambu Sherpa


A language of Nepal

Alternate Names
Hyolmo, Yholmo, Yohlmu Tam, Yolmo

10,200 (2011 census). Very few monolinguals.


Bagmati Zone, northern Nuwakot and northwestern Sindhupalchok districts.

Language Maps
Language Status

6a (Vigorous). Language of recognized indigenous nationality: Hyolmo.


Eastern Helambu Sherpa, Lamjung Yohlmo, LangDang Yohlmo, Western Helambu Sherpa. Melamchi river divides dialects. Understand other dialects even for abstract and complex subjects, including possibly Tarke Ghyang, Kahng-Kharka, Pahndang, but not Kagate [syw]. Lexical similarity: 66% with Dolpo [dre] and Walungge [ola]; 65% with Lhasa Tibetan [bod], Jirel [jul], and Kyerung (Kyirong) [kgy]; 63% with Loke [loy] and Sherpa [xsr]; 61% with Nubri [kte]; 60% with Lhomi [lhm].


SOV; postpositions; head noun initial; genitives, relatives before noun heads; articles, adjectives, numerals mostly after noun heads; no noun classes or genders; content q-word is usually the second word in the clause; maximum number of prefixes 1; maximum number of suffixes 4; clause constituents indicated primarily by case-marking, but word order distinguishes subject, object, indirect object some, but normally marked by postpositions; case of noun phrase indicated by postposition; split ergativity; rich system of tense and aspect; no passives or voice; causatives; comparatives; CV, CVC, CVV, CCV, CCVV, CVVC; tonal (4 tones); 36 consonant and 10 vowel phonemes.

Language Use

Home; mixed use: Friends, religion, work. Older adults and elderly. Some use among children, adolescents, and young adults. Helambu Sherpa more prestigious and has more original culture preserved than Kagate [syw]. Shermathang-Chhimi area and east is prestigious. Many lamas live there. Not much contact with Kagate. Also use Nepali [npi], viewed as useful. Also use Central Tibetan [bod], Hindi [hin].

Language Development
Literacy rate in L1: Below 1%. Literacy rate in L2: 15%–25%. Literacy motivation not high, except in English [eng]. Radio programs. Dictionary. Grammar. NT: 2000.

Devanagari script [Deva].

Other Comments

They go to northern India as laborers or resettle in Kathmandu or in India. Buddhist (Lamaist), Christian, traditional religion.