Nyen language

Region Bhutan
Native speakers
8,700 (2010)[1]
Tibetan script
Language codes
ISO 639-3 neh
Glottolog nyen1254[2]

Nyenkha (Dzongkha: འནྱེན་ཁ་; Wylie: 'Nyen-kha; also called "'Nyenkha", "Henkha", "Lap", "Nga Ked", and "Mangsdekha") is an East Bodish language spoken by about 10,000 people in the eastern, northern, and western areas of the Black Mountains.[1] Speakers live primarily between the Tang Chuu to the east and Mangde Chhu to the west, from the town of Trongsa in Trongsa District; along Black River passes in the Trongsa District villages of Taktse and Usar; to in Ridha and Tashiding villages, and Phobji, Dangchu, and Sephu Gewogs and surrounding villages in southeast Wangdue Phodrang District.[3][4]

Nyenkha is related to the East Bodish Bumthangkha and Kurtöpkha,[4] with 75–77% and 69% lexical similarity, respectively,[1]:76 however they are not mutually intelligible. Dialects within Nyenkha show variation in tone and vocabulary. Dialects are generally named for their villages, such that names for the overall language are largely confined to academia.[1]:72–74


The 1991 census revealed 11,472 Nyenkha speakers in six gewogs of Bhutan. In 1993, the number of speakers was around 10,000 according to van Driem.[3] A 2010 study showed about 8700 speakers in 10 gewogs, which had been redrawn several times since 1991. The decline in numbers may be attributed to population shifts as landless families and former slash-and-burn agriculturalists relocate to areas opened for settlement. In addition to migration and movement, modernization trends have served to limit the practicality of Nyenkha as a fully functional language. Despite the decline in numbers and a shift toward bilingualism, the majority of young people remain fluent in the language.[1]:81–82

Many speakers of Nyen have extensive contact with other languages of Bhutan, often through trade. Traditionally, Nyen speakers raised sheep and other livestock for Labi speakers in exchange for cereals from lower altitudes. The communities also traditionally shared Bonpo orators.[1]:76


Nyenkha basic vocabulary shows significant difference to Kurtöp (Zhake), a sister East Bodish language, and to Dzongkha, the national language.[1]:78–79

Nyenkha Kurtöp Dzongkha English
dasu dasum/dusum dari today
dawl dangla khatsa yesterday
naembae yamba naba tomorrow
doe/doegyi dodlai nyaeda sleep
zoo/zayee zooye za eat
chhung thrung chhum rice
nes nad naa barley
zeng kar kaa wheat
kapch kebtang kebta bread
kheh khoe chhu water


Nyenkha has no grammatical gender. Nouns and pronouns may be singular or plural.[1]:80

Nyenkha personal pronouns
Singular Plural
1p སྔ་
2p གཡེ་
3p ཁི་

Unlike Dzongkha and most other languages of Bhutan, Nyenkha verbs inflect according to subject number: སྔ་ལཱེག་དོ་ nga laeg-do, "I am going;" ནེ་ལཱ་ཆུག་དོ་ ney laachhug-do, "We are going;" ཁི་ལས་ཤི་ khi las-shi, "He/she has gone"; བོས་ལཱ་ཆུག་ཤི་ boe laachhug-shi, "They have gone."[1]:79–80

See also


  1. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 Dorji, Jagar (Summer 2011). "Hen Kha: A Dialect of Mangde Valley in Bhutan" (PDF). Journal of Bhutan Studies. 24: 69–86.
  2. Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin; Bank, Sebastian, eds. (2016). "Nyenkha". Glottolog 2.7. Jena: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History.
  3. 1 2 van Driem, George L. (1993). "Language Policy in Bhutan" (PDF). London: SOAS. Retrieved 2011-01-18.
  4. 1 2 "Nyenkha". Ethnologue Online. Dallas: SIL International. 2006. Retrieved 2011-01-18.
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