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Kurtöp: An East Bodish Language from Bhutan


Language Kurtöp, Chocangaca, Dzala, Bumthap, Khengkha, Chali, Dakpa
Depositor Kuenga Lhendup
Affiliation University of Sydney
Location Bhutan
Collection ID 0658
Grant ID
Funding Body
Collection Status Forthcoming
Landing page Handle


Summary of the collection

The deposit is a result of data collected and analysed as part of the requirement for my PhD studies at the University of Sydney.


Group represented

Kurtoe is a Gewog or block under Lhuentse District in Northeastern Bhutan, bordered by the districts of Bumthang to the West, Tashi Yangtse to the East, Mongar to the South and by the Tibetan Autonomous Region of China to the North. It also refers to the community of people who speak the language Kurtöp or Kurtoebikha or Kurtotpikha. While the people there are generally referred to as Kurtöps, there are a few dialects that are spoken in this region and each unique on its own. One is Kurtöp (also called Zhake) spoken in all the villages under Kurtoe Gewog and some villages under Gangzur Gewog such as Ney, Shawa, Gangzur and Jang and also in some villages under Menbi Gewog. It is generally called Kurtöp but technically Kurtöp refers to the people in Kurtoe region or those who speak Kurtöp and the dialect/language itself is called Kurtoebikha (by people who speak Dzongkha) and Kurtotpikha, by the Kurtöps themselves. The suffix -kha literally refers to ‘mouth’ and when affixed with the name of a region refers to the language spoken in that region. For example, Mangduebikha- language spoken by people in the Mangdue region; Gonduebikha- language spoken by the Gongdueps; and Lhotshambikha- the language spoken by people in the south (southern districts of Bhutan).

The other dialects in the Kurtoe region are Chocangaca, a Central Bodish language spoken in lower regions of Lhuentse, and Dzalakha, a separate East Bodish language spoken in Khoma Gewog (also spoken in the neighbouring district of Tashi Yangtse). All these dialects are collectively also referred to as Kurtöp locally, and thus all the people who speak the above dialects call themselves Kurtöps as well. Lexically ‘kurtoe’ means those residing upstream of the Kuri river (known as Kurichu where ‘chu’ means water in Dzongkha). In Kurtöp, Kurichu is Kurikhwe or often shortened as Kurkhwe, where khwe refers to ‘water’. Those residing downstream are called ‘ḿatpas’ literally meaning “those from the south’ and Kurtöps refer to the languages spoken downstream as ‘matpikha’ though as mentioned earlier, all speakers of the three languages prefer to call themselves Kurtöps.


Special characteristics

In the process of documenting the language, many aspects of the culture and tradition of the communities have been recorded and documented as well.


Collection contents

The collection contains Audio and Video files, texts, transcriptions, and translations.


Collection history

Data Collection started in 2021 as part of my PhD research.


Acknowledgement and citation

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

Lhendup, Kuenga. Forthcoming. Kurtöp: An East Bodish Language from Bhutan. Endangered Languages Archive. Handle: Accessed on [insert date here].

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