Kiranti Languages: An Overview

Authored by: Karen H. Ebert

The Sino-Tibetan Languages

Print publication date:  December  2002
Online publication date:  May  2006

Print ISBN: 9780700711291
eBook ISBN: 9780203221051
Adobe ISBN: 9781135797188


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The area where the thirty-two Kiranti languages are spoken stretches over eastern Nepal roughly from the Likhu river in the west into Darjeeling and Sikkim in the east. Hayu and Sunwar are situated a bit further west. The Kiranti people and languages between the rivers Likhu and Arun, including some small groups east of the Arun, are usually referred to as ‘Rai’, which is a somewhat vague geographic grouping rather than a genetic grouping. Most Kiranti languages have less than 10,000 speakers and are threatened by extinction. Some are spoken only by elderly people. Practically all Kiranti speakers are also fluent in Nepali, the language of literacy and education and the national language of Nepal. Kiranti languages have been heavily influenced by Nepali.

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