'Olekha, also called the Black Mountain Monpa language, is a Tibeto-Burman language spoken by about 1,000 people in the Black Mountains of the Wangdue Phodrang and Trongsa Districts in western Bhutan. The term 'Ole refers to a clan of speakers.[1]

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The language was unknown beyond its immediate area until 1990, and is now the edge of extinction. George van Driem described 'Olekha as a remnant of the primordial population of the Black Mountains before the southward expansion of the ancient East Bodish tribes.[2] More recently, Gwendolyn Hyslop, with the agreement of van Driem, has suggested that the 'Olekha is an isolated Tibeto-Burman language heavily influenced by East Bodish.[3]

The distantly related Tshangla language language of eastern Bhutan, also called "Monpa" and predating Dzongkha, also belongs to the Tibeto-Burman languages.[2][4] While 'Olekha is most closely related to the Bumthang language, both being East Bodish languages, Tshangla and related languages form a sister branch not to the East Bodish group, but to its parent Bodish branch. Thus the ambiguous term "Monpa" risks separating languages that should be grouped together, while grouping languages together that are quite separate.[5]


  1. van Driem, George (July 1992). "In Quest of Mahākirānti" (PDF). Center of Nepal and Asian Studies Journal 19 (2): 241–247. Retrieved 2011-10-23. 
  2. 2.0 2.1 van Driem, George L. (1993). Language Policy in Bhutan (PDF). SOAS. Archived from the original on 01 November 2010. Retrieved on 2011-01-18.
  3. van Driem, George L. (2011). "Tibeto-Burman subgroups and historical grammar". Himalayan Linguistics Journal 10 (1): 31–39. 
  4. van Driem, George (2001). Languages of the Himalayas: An Ethnolinguistic Handbook of the Greater Himalayan Region. Brill. p. 915 et seq.. 
  5. Andvik, Erik E. (2009). A Grammar of Tshangla. Tibetan Studies Library. 10. Brill. pp. 4–7. ISBN 9004178279. 

Further reading

  • Namgyel, Singye. The Language Web of Bhutan. Thimphu: KMT. 
  • van Driem, George L; Karma Tshering of Gaselô (collab) (1998). Dzongkha. Languages of the Greater Himalayan Region. Leiden: Research School CNWS, School of Asian, African, and Amerindian Studies. ISBN 905789002X. 
  • van Driem, George (2001). Languages of the Himalayas: An Ethnolinguistic Handbook of the Greater Himalayan Region: Containing an Introduction to the Symbiotic Theory of Language. Brill. ISBN 9004120629. 
  • van Driem, George (2007). "Endangered Languages of Bhutan and Sikkim: East Bodish Languages". In Moseley, Christopher. Encyclopedia of the World's Endangered Languages. Routledge. p. 295. ISBN 070071197X. 

External links

Languages of Bhutan
East Bodish


pnb:اولیکھا بولی pms:Lenga Olekha

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