Himalayan Linguistics is a free peer-reviewed web journal and archive devoted to the study of the languages of the Himalayas.
Volume 12, Issue 2, 2013
Yolmo and Kagate are two closely related Tibeto-Burman languages of Nepal. This paper provides a general overview of these two languages, including several dialects of Yolmo. Based on existent sources, and my own fieldwork, I present an ethnographic summary of each group of speakers, and the linguistic relationship between their mutually intelligible dialects. I also discuss a set of key differences that have been observed in regards to these languages, including the presence or absence of tone contours, verb stems and honorific lexical items. Although Yolmo and Kagate could be considered dialects of the same language, there are sufficient historical and political motivations for considering them as separate languages. Finally, I look at the status of the "Kyirong-Kagate" sub-branch of Tibetic languages in Tournadre’s (2005) classification, and argue that for reasons discussed in this paper it should instead be referred to as "Kyirong-Yolmo."