161,500 in Nepal, all users. 133,000 (2011 census). 28,500 (2011 census). 6,000 monolinguals. Total users in all countries: 195,100 (as L1: 166,600; as L2: 28,500).
Kosi zone: Bhojpur, Dhankuta, Morang, and Sunsari districts; Mechi zone: Ilam, Jhapa, Panchthar, and Taplejung districts; Sagarmatha zone: Khotang, Okhaldunga, and Udayapur districts. Mechi zone: Limbu area, especially Ilam district (Amchoke dialect).
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).
Dhankuta (Eastern Bantawa), Dilpali (Northern Bantawa), Hatuwali (Southern Bantawa), Amchoke (Western 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.
Some shift to Nepali [npi] evident, especially among northern dialect speakers (2003 SIL). Home, religion; mixed use: Friends, work. All ages. Positive attitudes. Most also use Nepali [npi]. Also use Bahing [bhj]. Also use Hindi [hin], especially among ex-soldiers. Used as L2 by Chhintang [ctn], Chhulung [cur], Dungmali [raa], Puma [pum].
Devanagari script [Deva].
Homeland is Eastern hills but many migrated to the Tarai. Traditional religion, Christian.