Native to Bhutan
Ethnicity Ngalop people
Native speakers
171,080 (2013)[1]
Second language: 470,000
Tibetan alphabet
Dzongkha Braille
Official status
Official language in
Regulated by Dzongkha Development Commission
Language codes
ISO 639-1 dz
ISO 639-2 dzo
ISO 639-3 dzoinclusive code
Individual codes:
lya – Laya
luk – Lunana
Glottolog nucl1307[2]
Districts of Bhutan in which the Dzongkha language is spoken natively are highlighted in light beige.
Jakar Dzong, representative of the distinct dzong architecture from which Dzongkha gets its name

Dzongkha (རྫོང་ཁ་; Wylie: rdzong-kha, Roman Dzongkha: Dzongkha[3]), occasionally Ngalopkha ("language of the Ngalop people"), is the national language of Bhutan.[4] The word "dzongkha" means the language (kha) spoken in the dzong "fortresses"—the fortress-like dzong architecture characterises monasteries established throughout Bhutan by its unifier, Ngawang Namgyal, 1st Zhabdrung Rinpoche, in the 17th century.


  • Classification and related languages 1
  • Usage 2
  • Writing 3
  • Romanization 4
  • See also 5
  • References 6
  • Bibliography 7
  • External links 8
    • Vocabulary 8.1
    • Grammar 8.2

Classification and related languages

Dzongkha is a South Tibetic 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 the Chocangaca language, the Brokpa language, the Brokkat language and the Lakha language.

Dzongkha bears a close linguistic relationship to J'umowa, which is spoken in the Chumbi Valley of Southern Tibet, and to Sikkimese.[5] It has a much more distant relationship to Standard 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.[6]

Although descended from Classical Tibetan, Dzongkha shows a great many irregularities in sound changes that make the official spelling and standard pronunciation more distant from each other than is the case with Standard Tibetan. "Traditional orthography and modern phonology are two distinct systems operating by a distinct set of rules."[7]


Dzongkha and its dialects are the native tongue of eight western districts of Bhutan (viz. Wangdue Phodrang, Punakha, Thimphu, Gasa, Paro, Ha, Dagana and Chukha).[8] There are also some speakers found near the Indian town of Kalimpong, once part of Bhutan but now in West Bengal.

Dzongkha was declared as the national language of Bhutan in 1971.[3] 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 Uchen script forms of the Tibetan alphabet known as Jôyi (Wylie: mgyogs yig) "cursive longhand" and Jôtshum (Wylie: mgyogs tshugs ma) "formal longhand". The print form is known simply as Tshûm (Wylie: tshugs ma).[9]


Roman Dzongkha is the standard romanization of the Dzongkha language. It is a phonological

  • Dzongkha transliteration - site National Library of Bhutan (en - dz)
  • Dzongkha, The National Language of Bhutan - site Dzongkha Linux (en - dz)
  • Romanization of Dzongkha
  • Dzongkha : Origin and Description
  • Dzongkha language, alphabet and pronunciation
  • Dzongkha in WorldHeritage: Русский, Français, 日本語, Eesti, English
  • Pioneering Dzongkha Text To Speech Synthesis(pdf)
  • Dzongkha Grammar & other materials - site The Dzongkha Development Commission (en - 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)


  • Online searchable dictionary (Dz-En, En-Dz, Dz-Dz) or Online Dzonkha-English Dictionary - site Dzongkha Development Commission (en - 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)


  • 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
  • Dzongkha Unicode - site The National Library of Bhutan (en - dz)

External links

  • Watters, Stephen A. 1996. A preliminary study of prosody in Dzongkha. Arlington: UT at Arlington, Masters Thesis
  • 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
  • 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
  • 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
  • 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. 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
  • Dzongkha Development Authority (2005). English-Dzongkha Dictionary (ཨིང་ལིཤ་རྫོང་ཁ་ཤན་སྦྱར་ཚིག་མཛོད།). Thimphu: Dzongkha Development Authority, Ministry of Education. 
  • - A language textbook with three audio compact disks.  


  1. ^ Dzongkha at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015)
    [2]Laya] at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015)
    [ Lunana] at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015)
  2. ^ Nordhoff, Sebastian; Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2013). "Nuclear Dzongkhic".  
  3. ^ a b c "Guide to Official Dzongkha Romanization" by G. van Driem
  4. ^ "Constitution of the Kingdom of Bhutan. Art. 1, § 8" (PDF). Government of Bhutan. 2008-07-18. Retrieved 2011-01-01. 
  5. ^  
  6. ^  
  7. ^ Driem, George van (1998). Dzongkha = Rdoṅ-kha. Leiden: Research School, CNWS. p. 110.  
  8. ^  
  9. ^ Driem, George van (1998). Dzongkha = Rdoṅ-kha. Leiden: Research School, CNWS. p. 47.  


See also