Ladakhi language

The Ladakhi language is the predominant language in the Ladakh region of the Jammu and Kashmir state of India. Ladakhi is closely related to Tibetan, and the Ladakhi people share cultural similarities with Tibetans, including Tibetan Buddhism. Scholars disagree, but most would accord Ladakhi the status of being a separate language because Ladakhi and Tibetan are not mutually intelligible, though they share a written form. Ladakhi has approximately 200,000 speakers in India, and perhaps 12,000 speakers in the Tibet region of China, mostly in the Changthang region. Ladakhi has several dialects, Ladakhi proper (also called Lehskat after the capital of Ladakh, Leh, where it is spoken); Shamskat, spoken to the northwest of Leh; Stotskat, spoken to the south east in the Indus valley; and Nubra, spoken in the north. A variant of Ladakhi is also spoken by most people in Zangskar.

Most dialects of Ladakhi lack the tonal elements of Tibetan, but Stotskat is tonal.

Written Ladakhi is most often romanised using Wylie transliteration, with a'th' denoting an aspirated 't,' for example. To represent the pronunciation of Ladakhi, different authors each use different systems, usually related to Wylie, with modifications.


Ladakhi is usually written using Tibetan script. The phenomenon of diglossia is very much present in Ladakhi, with Ladakhi being much closer in pronunciation to written Tibetan than most other Tibetan dialects. Ladakhis pronounce many of the prefix, suffix and head letters that are silent in Amdo, Kham, Ü-Tsang or Lhasa Tibetan. This tendency is more pronounced to the west of Leh, and on the Pakistani side of the Line of Control, in Baltistan, all the prefix letters are pronounced. For example, a Tibetan would pronounce sta, axe, as 'ta', but a Ladakhi would say 'sta'. While a Tibetan would pronounce 'bras, or rice, as 'dre', Ladakhis say 'dras', and Kargilpa will say 'bras'.

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