A language of Bhutan

Alternate Names
Ken, Keng, Kenkha, Khen, Khenkha, Kyengkha

65,000, all users. L1 users: 50,000 (2003 SIL). L2 users: 15,000. 30,000 monolinguals.


Mongar district: southwest; eastern Sarpang and southeast Trongsa districts: smaller areas; Zhemgang district: widespread.

Language Maps
Language Status

6a (Vigorous).


Middle Kheng, Upper Kheng, Lower Kheng. Bumthangkha [kjz] reportedly most similar related language, but comprehension not sufficient for complex discourse. Comprehend Kurtokha [xkz] with difficulty. Lexical similarity: 75%–85% with Bumthangkha [kjz], 70% with Kurtokha [xkz] and Nyengkha [neh], 34% with Dzongkha [dzo], 40% with Tshangla [tsj], and 75%–100% between dialects.


SOV; postpositions; genitives, relatives before noun heads, articles, adjective after noun heads; maximum prefixes 1; maximum suffixes 4; affixes indicate case; ergative; passives; causatives; some comparatives; CCVC; tonal.

Language Use

Vigorous. Home, commerce, local politics, traditional religion, but not allowed in school. Used by all. Negative attitudes, especially toward Gonphu village speaking style. Lower Kheng considered most backward; Middle Kheng most prestigious. Also use Bumthangkha [kjz], especially those who travel or have intermarried. Also use Dzongkha [dzo], but only by educated people and some older men. Also use English [eng], especially some (10%) of the educated young people. Also use Kurtokha [xkz], especially those who travel or have intermarried. Also use Nepali [npi], especially some (20%) of those who live near the road. Also use Nyenkha [neh], especially those who travel or have intermarried. Also use Tshangla [tsj], especially those who travel east of Kheng area.

Language Development

Literacy rate in L2: 20% in Dzongkha [dzo]. Bible portions: 2008.


Tibetan script [Tibt], Uchen style, unofficial usage.

Other Comments

Middle Kheng region strongest and most developed economically; Lower Kheng least developed. Buddhist.

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