Tibetan, Central


A language of China

Alternate Names
Bhotia, Lhasa Tibetan, Phoke, Tibetan, Wei, Weizang, Zang
བོད་ཡིག།‎ (bod.yig), བོད་སྐད།‎ (bod.skad)

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. Ethnic population: 6,280,000 (2010 census). Includes 24 Tibetan languages. Total users in all countries: 1,186,710 (as L1: 1,186,020; as L2: 690).


Xizang Autonomous Region; some in Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region.

Language Status

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


Gtsang (Lhasa, Tsang), Dbus (Dbusgtsang, Ü), 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. Used by all. 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], Shuhi [sxg], Southern Pumi [pmj], Tshangla [tsj], Tu [mjg], Yidu Luoba [clk].

Language Development

Literacy rate in L2: 30%. Motivation for literacy is high. Modern Literary Tibetan [bod] is the language of literature for other Tibetan varieties, including Khams Tibetan [khg] and Amdo Tibetan [adx]. Taught in primary and secondary schools. Newspapers. Periodicals. Radio. 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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