Tibetan, Central


A language of China

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

1,070,000 in China (1990 census). 570,000 Dbus, 460,000 Gtsang, 40,000 Mngahris out of 4,593,000 in the official nationality. 920,000 monolinguals. Total users in all countries: 1,172,940.


Xizang Autonomous Region; some in Xinjiang Autonomous Region.

Language Status

2 (Provincial). Language of recognized nationality: Tibetan.


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


SOV; noun head initial; definite and indefinite articles; ergativity; comparatives; 28 consonant and 16 vowel phonemes; tonal (4 tones); 2 levels of honorifics.

Language Use

Vigorous. Speakers of other languages in the area can also speak Tibetan. All domains. All ages. Positive attitudes. Also use Mandarin Chinese [cmn], Narua [nru], Naxi [nxq]. Used as L2 by Boga’er Luoba [adi], Cuona Monba [twm], Darang Deng [mhu], Geman Deng [mxj], Horpa [ero], Jiarong [jya], Kangjia [kxs], Lisu [lis], Namuyi [nmy], Naxi [nxq], Northern Pumi [pmi], Northern Qiang [cng], Salar [slr], Shixing [sxg], Southern Pumi [pmj], Tshangla [tsj], Tu [mjg], Yidu Luoba [clk].

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.

Marchen script [Marc]. Phags-pa script [Phag]. Tibetan script [Tibt], Uchen and Umed styles.

Other Comments

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, Muslim.

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