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Documentation and grammatical description of Yakkha, Nepal


Language Yakkha
Depositor Diana Schackow
Affiliation Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology
Location Nepal
Collection ID 0293
Grant ID IGS0154
Funding Body ELDP
Collection Status Collection online
Landing Page Handle


Summary of the collection

This collection of Yakkha languages includes an annotated corpus of audio data, a trilingual dictionary, photos and kinship charts. The data were collected between 2009 and 2012 as a basis for a grammar of Yakkha.

Genres of the collected texts cover narratives, conversations, descriptions of traditions and material culture, songs, verbal paradigms and pear stories. The collection also includes legacy data from school books and other locally available materials that were scanned and will be included in this collection.


Group represented

This collection represents the Yakkha language (Tibeto-Burman, Kiranti). The recordings in this collection were gathered mainly in Tamaphok and the surrounding villages, as representatives from the entire community perceive this as the cultural centre of the Yakkha people and the home of the main dialect.
Owing to economic and educational factors, there exists a Yakkha diaspora in the capital Kathmandu and the southern plains on the border with India (the Tarai), concentrating in the towns of Dharan and Itahari. Some Yakkha people have also been living and working in Darjeeling (India) for at least a hundred years (Grierson 1909, Linguistic Survey of India, Vol. III). Reportedly, another small isolated Yakkha community lives in the town of Namsaling in the Ilam district (R. Kongren, p.c.).


Language information

Yakkha (ISO-639: ybh) belongs to the Kiranti family (Tibeto-Burman) and is spoken in the Sankhuwasawa District in Nepal. Though officially 14,000 people still speak it, the language is prone to Nepali influence, and scarcely used by the younger generation nowadays. Yakkha was virtually undocumented until the applicant began working on it in 2008.


Collection contents

When completed, this collection will include

  • an expanded corpus of natural language data, including traditional knowledge (especially of folk stories, old myths and songs), which is rapidly disappearing and hard to find among the population under 60 years of age
  • time-aligned annotations including transcriptions in the Every project orthography (based on Latin script and some IPA symbols), translation into Nepali (written in Devanagari) and into English, morphemes, morpheme gloss, word class and source language information
  • a detailed Yakkha grammar
  • a Yakkha learner’s grammar with English and Nepali translations as a contribution to language support and maintenance
  • a children’s book


Collection history

The materials in this collection were gathered between 2009 and 2012, with the aim of writing a grammar of Yakkha. During her field research in 2009 and 2010, Diana Schackow recorded and annotated a number of conversations, songs, descriptions, mythical narrations, folk stories, ritual incantations and five pear stories (altogether 2 hours, 1,700 clauses).
The remaining materials were gathered between 2011 and 2012 during fieldwork for her ELDP Individual Graduate Scholarship.


Other information

The recorded texts with their annotations will also be stored in the Tamaphok School Library and in the Kirant Yakkha Chumma office in Kathmandu (Lalitpur), and will additionally be archived with the Max-Planck-Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig.


Acknowledgement and citation

To refer to any data from the collection, please cite as follows:

Schackow, Diana. 2014. Documentation and grammatical description of Yakkha, Nepal. Endangered Languages Archive. Handle: Accessed on [insert date here].

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