Limbu

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A language of Nepal

Alternate Names
Yakthung Pan
Population

344,000 in Nepal (2011 census), increasing. Relatively few monolinguals. Total users in all countries: 381,300.

Location

Eastern hills, east of Arun river; Kosi Zone, Dhankuta, Sankhuwasabha, Terhathum, Dhankuta, and Morang districts; Mechi Zone, Taplejung, Panchthar, Ilam, and Jhapa districts.

Language Status

5 (Dispersed). Language of recognized indigenous nationality: Limbu.

Dialects

Panthare, Phedappe, Tamorkhole (Taplejunge), Chaubise (Charkhole), Chhatthare (Chatthare, Chhathar), Yanggrokke (Yanggruppe). Yanggrokke, Chaubise and Charkhole are minor variants of the Panthare dialect; Phedappe and Tamorkhole are similar. Chattare is less well understood by other dialect speakers. The dialect spoken in Sikkim, India, is same as Panthare. Intelligibility among all varieties 84% and higher.

Typology

SOV; postpositions; genitives, articles, adjectives, numerals before noun heads; noun head final; content question word in situ; bipolar question word final; maximum of 3 prefixes, 6 suffixes; affixes indicate case of noun phrases; verb affixes mark subjects, objects, indirect objects—obligatory; verbal affixation marks person and number; split ergativity; reflexes conjugated intransitively can be used as a kind of passive; passives and voice; antipassives; causatives; comparatives; 16 consonant and 13 vowel phonemes; V, CV, CVC, CCV, CCVC; nontonal.

Language Use

Vigorous. Limbu is not replaced in any domain, though children now speak more Nepali than Limbu (UNESCO 2002). A main group in eastern Nepal. Home, religion; mixed use: Friends, work, education. Older adults and elderly. Some use among children, adolescents, and young adults. Positive attitudes. Many also use Nepali [npi], especially among youth and educated. Some also use Yakkha [ybh], especially women due to intermarriage.

Language Development
Many adult speakers completed 5 years of school, and have good proficiency in Nepali [npi]. Motivation for development is high among all. Literacy programs in progress to teach Sirijonga script (Salminen 2007). Poetry. Magazines. Newspapers. New media. Radio programs. Films. TV. Videos. Dictionary. Grammar. NT: 2009.
Writing

Devanagari script [Deva], primary usage. Limbu (Kiranti, Sirijonga) script [Limb], dating to early 18th century.

Other Comments

Priestly high language, known by some older people and priests, is called Mundumban. Traditional religion.

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