Tibetan is a major language of the Tibet Autonomous Region in the People’s Republic of China. It is also spoken in parts of India, Bhutan, and Nepal. In India, Tibetan is one of the 22 scheduled languages, with official status in the state of Arunachal Pradesh. Tibetan is the primary language of the Tibetan people; it is also spoken by some ethnic groups in Tibet Autonomous Region and Qinghai, such as the Monpa, Qiang, and Lhoba people. Tibetan is written in a script derived from the ancient Brahmi system, and most Tibetan literature is in Classical Tibetan.
Tibetan is closely related to the extinct language of the Kingdom of Zhangzhung, which was situated in the western and southwestern parts of the Tibetan Plateau. The last known speaker of Zhangzhung died in 2003, but some of its vocabulary has been preserved in Tibetan.
Tibetan has four main dialects: Lhasa, Kham, Amdo, and U-Tsang. The Lhasa dialect is spoken in Lhasa and the surrounding areas, and is the basis of Standard Tibetan, the official language of the Tibet Autonomous Region. Kham is spoken in the eastern Tibetan Plateau, in the Chinese provinces of Sichuan and Yunnan, and in the northern Indian state of Sikkim. Amdo is spoken in the northeastern Tibetan Plateau, in the Chinese province of Qinghai, and in the Indian states of Arunachal Pradesh and Sikkim. U-Tsang is spoken in the central Tibetan Plateau, in the Chinese province of Tibet Autonomous Region.
Tibetan is a tonal language, with six tones: high, mid, low, rising, falling, and neutral. Each tone is associated with a particular pitch and phonation. Tibetan has a complex system of grammatical particles and postpositions, which are used to modify the meaning of words and to indicate grammatical relationships.
Tibetan is written in a script derived from the ancient Brahmi system. The Tibetan alphabet has 30 consonants, four vowels, and four tones. The alphabet is written from left to right, and each character is written in a block of square or rectangular lines.
Tibetan literature consists of a body of religious and secular works in Tibetan, Chinese, and Sanskrit. The Tibetan Canon, a collection of Buddhist scriptures, is the largest body of Tibetan literature. It includes texts from Indian, Chinese, and Tibetan sources. The Tibetan Epic of King Gesar is the longest epic poem in the world, and is a popular folk epic in Tibet. Other Tibetan literary genres include poetry, drama, and treatises on a wide range of topics.