Manang language

Native to Nepal
Region Manang District
Ethnicity Gurung people
Native speakers
390 (2011 census)[1]
  • Manang
  • Gyasumdo
  • 'Nyishangba[2]
Language codes
ISO 639-3 nmm
Glottolog mana1288[3]

Manang, also called Manangba, Manange, Manang Ke, Nyishang, Nyishangte, and Nyishangba is a Sino-Tibetan language spoken in Nepal. Native speakers refer to the language as ŋyeshaŋ, meaning 'our language'.[4] It is one of half a dozen languages in the Tamangic branch of the Sino-Tibetan family. Manang and its most closely related languages are often written as TGTM in literature, referring to Tamang, Gurung, Thakali, and Manangba, due to the high degree of similarity in the linguistic characteristics of the languages.[5] The language is unwritten and almost solely spoken within the Manang District, leading it to be classified as threatened, with the number of speakers continuing to decline. Suspected reasons for the decline include parents not passing down the language to their children, in order to allow for what they see as more advanced communication with other groups of people, and thus gain more opportunities. Due to the proximity of the district to Tibet, as well as various globally widespread languages being introduced into the area, use of the native language is declining in favor of new languages, which are perceived to aid in the advancement of the people and region.[6]


The classification system of the language often varies throughout the literature, and multiple terms are often used to describe the same language family. The Tamangic branch is referenced as Western Bodish by some scholars. Although the existence of the Sino-Tibetan family is agreed upon, it is here that the breakdown can vary. Whereas some refer to the next subfamily as simply Tamangic, others have a slightly longer classification system. In this, Sino-Tibetan (or Tibeto-Burman) is broken down into Northeastern India, Western, Southeastern, and Northeastern. The Western group further breaks down into Bodic and Himalayan, each of which has its own subgroups, with Western Bodish being one of the four Bodic subgroups.[7]


There are 29 consonants in Manange, which are summarized in the table below. The contrastive status of the consonants in parentheses is questionable, as they are rare idiosyncratic in distribution.[4]

Labial Apico-Dental Retroflex Palatal Velar Glottal
Voiceless stop p t ʈ k (ʔ)
Aspirated stop ʈʰ
Labialized Plosive
Aspirated Labialized Plosive pʰʷ kʰʷ
Voiceless fricative s h
Voiceless affricate ts
Aspirated affricate tsʰ tʃʰ
Nasal m n ɲ ŋ
Labialized Nasal ŋʷ
Tap ɾ
Lateral Approximant l
Semivowel (w) j


There are six oral vowels and five nasalized vowels, which contrast with the oral vowels. Length is emergent and not phonemic.[8]

Front Mid Back
High i, ĩ u, ũ
Mid e, ē ɜ o, õ
Low ɑ, ɑ


Manangba, along with the related Tamangic languages, is semi-tonal and reliant on the pitch of the speaker. There are four distinct tones in the TGTM sub-family, each of which differs by the overall pitch, as well as how breathy the sound is. Using a rating of 1 to 5, which correlates to low to high pitch respectively, the beginning and ending sound of every monosyllabic Manang word can be rated in order to determine whether the speaker increases or decreases the pitch, as well as breathiness. Of the four tones, the first stays consistently mid-level throughout the entire word, whereas the second tonal type starts at a 4 and increases in pitch to a 5. The third and fourth types decrease from the start to finish of the word, although tone-3 is higher pitched overall. The four tone classification is used for every related language, although the exact pitch levels can vary between them. For example, tone-3 in Manang is high pitched and clear, as discussed above, while tone-3 of Gurung is low and breathy.[5] Essentially, every one of these languages has four potential tones in their words, but the exact pitch and clarity of each varies between languages. Words can have the same basic pronunciation, with the only difference being the pitch, making it possible to misinterpret words that have drastically different meanings. It is believed that a two toned system may have created the original makeup of these languages, although the original tones used are still unclear.[9]


The structure of syllables is represented as (C1)(C2)V(C3), with C1-3 corresponding to three consonants, and the V representing the vowel.[10] Native speakers tend to agree that the most emphasis is placed on the first syllable of a word. Vowels present in the first syllable of words are held slightly longer than if located later in the word. However, from the minimal field research carried out, there is often not a distinguishable difference between syllable emphasis, and exceptions are also present. Terms that are exceptions often show stress on the last syllable, have vowels held longer on the second syllable, or both.[4] Examples of exceptions include the Manang words for 'enemy', 'insect', 'forehead', 'button', 'graveyard', and 'leg'.


Nouns do not identify gender, or whether something is inanimate or alive. Rather, there are completely separate words to identify men from women, and girls from boys. The most common way of making nouns plural is by adding tse to the end. As with English, there are some exceptions, and the entire form of the word may change rather than having an ending attached. The structure of compound nouns varies. One interesting compound structural type is where the leftmost word gives additional meaning to the word on the right. For example, the word phémwi meaning 'coin', breaks down into phe meaning 'metal' and mwi meaning 'money'.[4] The money is being described as metallic, making it known that the currency is in coin form rather than a paper bill.


The status of this language is currently rated as a 6b according to the Ethnologue rating system, classifying it as threatened.[1] While the language is able to be spoken by older generations, and continuing to be passed onto newer ones, the rate at which it is being taught is sharply declining. The Nepalese Revolution of 1990 allowed for more freedom of languages, so identifying with a native ancestral language was of great importance to many. In reality however, fewer people actually spoke the languages they claimed to, leading to exaggerated speaker numbers being listed.[2] Despite the relatively small number of speakers, allowing the language to die out entirely will be detrimental to the world as a whole. Even the least spoken languages hold stories, traditions, and potentially useful knowledge of the world, which will be lost if the language is gone. The endangered status of Manang means that researchers should attempt to collect as much detailed documentation and audio recordings now, before the language is potentially lost.


  1. 1 2 Manang at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015)
  2. 1 2 George van Driem. Ed. Matthias Brenzinger. 2007. Language Diversity Endangered. Mouton de Gruyter: Berlin. Print.
  3. Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin; Bank, Sebastian, eds. (2016). "Manangba". Glottolog 2.7. Jena: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History.
  4. 1 2 3 4 Kristine A. Hildebrant. 2004."A Grammar and Dictionary of the Manange Language" in Tibeto-Burman Languages of Nepal: Manange and Sherpa, edited by Carol Genetti. 2-189. Canberra:Pacific Linguistics.
  5. 1 2 Martine Mazaudon. 1978. "Consonantal Mutation and Tonal Split in the Tamang Sub-Family of Tibeto-Burman." Kailash. 6:157-179.
  6. Martin Haspelmath, Uri Tadmor, and Kristine A. Hildebrandt. 2009. 'Loanwords in the World's Languages: A Comparative Handbook.' De Gruyter Mouton: Berlin. Print.
  7. David Bradley. 1997. "Tibeto-Burman Languages and Classification." In Papers in South East Asian Linguistics: Tibeto-Burman Languages of the Himalayas. 14:1-72. Canberra: Pacific Linguistics.
  8. Hildebrandt, Kristine (2005). "A Phonetic Analysis of Manange Segmental and Suprasegmental Properties". Linguistics of the Tibeto-Burman Area.
  9. Martine Mazaudon. 2005."On Tone in Tamang and Neighbouring Languages: Synchrony and Diachrony". Proceedings of the Symposium Cross Linguistic Studies of Tonal Phenomenon. 79-96.
  10. Isao Honda. 2002. "Seke Phonology: A Comparative Study of Three Seke Dialects". Linguistics of the Tibeto-Burman Area. 25:191-210.


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