Nicolas Tournadre and Hiroyuki Suzuki. 2023.

The Tibetic Languages: an introduction to the family of languages derived from Old Tibetan

LACITO-Publications, Linguistic Diversity 2, 1151 p., 17 maps, ISBN : 978-2-490768-08-0

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This book is an introduction to the family of languages derived from Old Tibetan. These languages are spoken on the Tibetan plateau, in the Himalayas and the Karakoram. The Tibetic-speaking area is nowadays located in six countries: China, Pakistan, India, Nepal, Bhutan, and Myanmar. Some of the smallest languages are seriously endangered, and likely to disappear soon.

In the first chapters, sociolinguistic and anthropological aspects of the Tibetic societies are presented, as well as information about the main religions of the Tibetic area – Buddhism, Bön, and Islam.

The book includes a presentation of the main phonological and grammatical characteristics found in the Tibetic languages, and also provides information about the Tibetan script and the written languages used in the area.

A whole chapter is devoted to dialectology and the presentation of the main linguistic characteristics for each section of the Tibetic area – Southeastern, Eastern, Northeastern, Central, Southern, South-western, Western, and Northwestern.

The book also includes a historical and comparative dictionary presenting the main lexical differences between the modern languages, as well as their etymologies in Classical Tibetan. It presents the lexical correspondences between the major Tibetic languages: Central Tibetan, Tsang, Amdo, Kham, Dzongkha, Lhoke (Sikkim), Sherpa, Balti, Central Ladaks, Purik and Spiti. In order to explain the interactions with other language families, we have provided a presentation of the contact languages, which essentially belong to other Tibeto-Burman branches, as well as Sinitic, Mongolic, Turkic, Indo-Aryan, Iranic, Germanic (English) and Burushaski language families.

This work includes three appendices. The first two deal with toponymic information and provides the names of the main mountains, rivers and lakes of the Tibetic area. The third appendix includes several detailed maps presenting the locations of the Tibetic languages and dialects. It also offers maps of the natural and human environments, as well as the administrative units of the area.


Nicolas Tournadre is a linguist, member of the Academic Institute of France (iuf ), and Professor emeri- tus at Aix-Marseille University. During the last 35 years, he has conducted extensive fieldwork research in Tibet and the Himalayas, as well as in Central Asia. He has been an invited keynote speaker in numerous conferences, and has given talks on the five continents. Among his prominent publications are L’ergativité en tibétain moderne : Approche morphosyntaxique de la langue parlée [Ergativity in Modern Tibetan, mor- phosyntactic approach of the spoken language] (1996), the Manual of Standard Tibetan [with S. Dorje] (2003), Le grand livre des proverbes tibétains [with F. Robin] (2006), Sherpa-English and English-Sherpa dictionary [with L. N. Sherpa, G. Chodrak and G. Oisel] (2009), Le prisme des langues [The prism of languages] (2014) and Vegetal meditations and mineral reflections (2022).
He is a polyglot, and knows many languages affiliated to nine language families across Eurasia.

Hiroyuki Suzuki (D. Litt. in linguistics) is a lecturer in Chinese language studies at Kyoto University, Japan. He has conducted fieldwork for more than 20 years in the eastern Tibetosphere, focusing on mino- rity languages and communities. His main research interests are descriptive linguistics, geolinguistics, dialectology, and sociolinguistics of the languages in the Tibetosphere. He is the author of the following monographs: Dongfang Zangqu zhuyuyan yanjiu [Study on languages in the eastern Tibetosphere] (2015), 100 linguistic maps of the Swadesh word list of Tibetic languages from Yunnan (2018), and Geolinguistics in the eastern Tibetosphere: An introduction (2022). He is also the co-editor of Linguistic atlas of Asia (2021) and The Oxford guide to the Tibeto-Burman languages (forthcoming).

The book includes originals maps designed by Xavier Becker and digitized by Alain Brucelle.



Nicolas Tournadre and Hiroyuki Suzuki, 2023. The Tibetic Languages: an introduction to the family of languages derived from Old Tibetan, Villejuif, LACITO-Publications, Series Linguistic Diversity, 1151 p. 17 maps, ISBN : 978-2-490768-08-0