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Title: Dzonkha  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
Language: English
Subject: Tibetan Braille
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia


Region Bhutan, Sikkim (India)
Ethnicity Ngalop
Native speakers 170,000  (2006)
Second language: 470,000
Language family
Writing system Tibetan script
Dzonkha Braille
Official status
Official language in  Bhutan
Regulated by Dzongkha Development Commission
Language codes
ISO 639-1 dz
ISO 639-2 dzo
ISO 639-3 Either:
adp – Adap
Linguist List
Districts of Bhutan in which the Dzongkha language is spoken natively are highlighted in light beige.

Dzongkha (; Wylie: rdzong-kha, Jong-kă), occasionally Ngalopkha, is the national language of Bhutan.[1] The word "dzongkha" means the language (kha) spoken in the dzongdzong being the fortress-like monasteries established throughout Bhutan by Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyal in the 17th century.

"Bhutani" is not another name for Dzongkha, but the name of a dialect of the Balochi language spoken by the people of the Bhutani (Urdu: بھوتانی‎) tribe. The two are sometimes confused, even in some published ISO 639 codelists.

Classification and related languages

Linguistically, Dzongkha is a South Tibetan language. It is closely related to and partially intelligible with Sikkimese (Wylie: 'Bras-ljongs-skad), the national language of the erstwhile kingdom of Sikkim; and to some other Bhutanese languages such as Cho-cha-na-ca (khyod ca nga ca kha), Brokpa (me rag sag steng 'brog skad), Brokkat (dur gyi 'brog skad), and Lakha (la ka).

Dzongkha bears a close linguistic relationship to J'umowa spoken in the Chumbi valley of Southern Tibet and to the Dranjongke language of Sikkim.[2] It has a much more distant relationship to standard modern Central Tibetan. Although spoken Dzongkha and Tibetan are largely mutually unintelligible, the literary forms of both are both highly influenced by the liturgical (clerical) Classical Tibetan language, known in Bhutan as Chöke, which has been used for centuries by Buddhist monks. Chöke was used as the language of education in Bhutan until the early 1960s when it was replaced by Dzongkha in public schools.[3]


Dzongkha and its dialects are the native tongue of eight western districts of Bhutan (viz. Phodrang, Punakha, Thimphu, Gasa, Paro, Ha, Dagana and Chukha).[4] There are also some speakers found near the Indian town of Kalimpong, once part of Bhutan but now in West Bengal. Dzongkha study is mandatory in all schools in Bhutan, and the language is the lingua franca in the districts to the south and east where it is not the mother tongue. The 2003 Bhutanese film Travellers and Magicians is entirely in Dzongkha.


Dzongkha is usually written in Bhutanese forms of the Tibetan script known as Joyi (mgyogs yig) and Joshum (mgyogs tshugs ma). Dzongkha books are typically printed using Ucan fonts like those to print the Tibetan abugida.

See also



  • - A language textbook with three audio compact disks.
  • Mazaudon, Martine. 1985. “Dzongkha Number Systems.” S. Ratanakul, D. Thomas & S. Premsirat (eds.). Southeast Asian Linguistic Studies presented to André-G. Haudricourt. Bangkok: Mahidol University. 124-57
  • Mazaudon, Martine & Boyd Michailovsky. 1988. “Lost syllables and tone contour in Dzongkha (Bhutan).” David Bradley, Eugénie J.A. Henderson & Martine Mazaudon (eds.). Prosodic analysis and Asian linguistics: to honour R.K. Sprigg. (Pacific Linguistics, Series C-104). 115-36
  • Mazaudon, Martine & Boyd Michailovsky. 1989. “Syllabicity and suprasegmentals: the Dzongkha monosyllabic noun.” D. Bradley et al. (eds.). Prosodic analysis and Asian linguistics: to honour R.K. Sprigg. Canberra. (Pacific Linguistics). 115-36
  • Michailovsky, Boyd. 1989. “Notes on Dzongkha orthography.” D. Bradley et al. (eds.). Prosodic analysis and Asian linguistics: to honour R.K. Sprigg. Canberra. (Pacific Linguistics). 297-301
  • Tournadre, Nicolas. 1996. “Comparaison des systèmes médiatifs de quatre dialectes tibétains (tibétain central, ladakhi, dzongkha et amdo).” Z. Guentchéva (ed.). L’énonciation médiatisée. Louvain_Paris: Peeters (Bibliothèque de l’Information Grammaticale, 34). 195-214
  • Watters, Stephen A. 1996. A preliminary study of prosody in Dzongkha. Arlington: UT at Arlington, Masters Thesis

Resources for Dzongkha


  • dz)
  • Dzongkha Computer Terms(pdf)
  • English-Dzongkha Pocket Dictionary(pdf)
  • Rigpai Lodap: An Intermediate Dzongkha-English Dictionary(pdf)
  • Kartshok Threngwa: A Book on Dzongkha Synonyms & Antonyms(pdf)
  • Names of Countries and Capitals in Dzongkha(pdf)
  • A Guide to Dzongkha-Translation(pdf)


  • dz)
  • dz)
  • Romanization of Dzongkha
  • Dzongkha : Origin and Description
  • Dzongkha language, alphabet and pronunciation
  • Dzongkha in World Heritage Encyclopedia: Русский, Français, 日本語, Eesti, English
  • Pioneering Dzongkha Text To Speech Synthesis(pdf)
  • dz)
  • Коряков Ю.Б. Практическая транскрипция для языка дзонг-кэ
  • Guide to Official Dzongkha Romanization - by Dr. George van Driem(pdf)
  • Classical Tibetan-Dzongkha Dictionary(pdf)

External links

  • Dzongkha Development Commission Thimphu, Bhutan
  • Dzongkha-English Dictionary
  • Dzongkha podcast
  • Dzongkha Romanization for Geographical Names
  • Free textbooks and dictionaries published by Dzongkha Development Commission
  • Bhutan National Policy and Strategy for Development and Promotion of Dzongkha
  • dz)

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