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Kulung language (Nepal)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

kulu riŋ
Native toNepal
Native speakers
33,000 (2011 census)[1]
Language codes
ISO 639-3kle
Glottologkulu1253  Kulung[2]

Kulung (autonym: Kulu riŋ, [kulu rɪŋ]) is a Kiranti language spoken by an estimated 33,000 people.


Kulung in some ten villages along the upper reaches of the Huṅga or Hoṅgu river (a tributary of the Dūdhkosī), in Solu Khumbu District of Sagarmāthā Zone, Nepal. The main Kulung-speaking villages are Chhemsi and Chheskam. The particular dialect of the language spoken in these two villages is considered by the Kulung to be the most original form of their language. Downstream, on both sides of the Huṅga river, in villages that are now called Luchcham, Gudel, Chocholung, Nāmluṅg, Pilmo, Bung, Chhekmā, and Sātdi, less prestigious varieties of Kulung are spoken.

Ethnologue lists the following Kulung villages.



Kulung has six short vowels and six long vowels:

Kulung vowels
  Front Central Back
short long short long short long
Close i   u
Mid e ə əː ɔ ɔː
Open   a  
  • Front and central vowels are unrounded, whereas back vowels are rounded.


Example words for consonant phonemes
IPA Example
/k/ /koŋ/ [kɔŋ] 'I'
/kʰ/ /kʰoŋ/ [kʰɔŋ] 'brass bowl'
/g/ /goŋ/ [gɔŋ] 'division of a clan'
/p/ /mampai/ [mampai] 'It didn't leak.'
/pʰ/ /mampʰai/ [mampʰai] 'He didn't reverse it.'
/b/ /mambai/ [mambai] 'He didn't come.'
/t/ /tite/ [tite] 'It burns.'
/tʰ/ /tʰite/ [tʰite] 'He is awake.'
/d/ /dite/ [dite] 'It lays an egg.'
/tɕ/ /tɕi/ [tɕi] 'poison'
/tɕʰ/ /tɕʰi/ [tɕʰi] 'marrow'
/dʑ/ /dʑi/ [dʑi] 'happiness'
/s/ /si/ [si] 'louse'
/m/ /ma/ [ma] 'mother'
/n/ /na/ [na] 'elder sister'
/ŋ/ /ŋa/ [ŋa] 'fish'
/ɾ/ /ɾiŋ/ [ɾiŋ] 'language, word'
/l/ /liŋ/ [liŋ] 'yeast'
/j/ /ja/ [ja] 'edge of a blade'
/w/ /wa/ [wa] 'rain'
/ɦ/ /ɦu/ [ɦu] 'arm'
/Ɂ/ /Ɂa/ [Ɂa] '(ergative case marker)'
Consonant phonemes
Bilabial Dental Palatal Velar Glottal
Nasals m n ŋ
voiceless unaspirated p t k
voiced b d g Ɂ
voiceless aspirated tɕʰ
Fricatives voiceless s
voiced ɦ
Flaps ɾ
Approximants w l j

Dialects of the Kulung language include Sotang (Sotaring, Sottaring), Mahakulung, Tamachhang, Pidisoi, Chhapkoa, Pelmung, Namlung, and Khambu. Kulung distinguishes among eight vowels and 11 diphthongs. There are three series of stops: dorso-velar, dental, and labial, each series having an unaspirated voiceless, aspirated voiceless, and unaspirated voiced variant. There are three voiced nasals, four approximants, one vibrant, one fricative, and three affricates.[3]

Nominal morphology

To the nominal categories belong the following parts of speech: nouns, adjectives, pronouns and numerals. There are unambiguous morphological criteria for distinguishing between nouns and verbs. Whereas nouns can be marked for case and number, finite verbs are marked for person, number, and tense. There is no grammatical gender in Kulung.

Personal pronouns

The ten Kulung personal pronouns have three number distinctions (singular, dual, and plural) and three person distinctions (first person, second person and third person) as well as an inclusive/exclusive distinction. There are no gender distinctions.

Kulung personal pronouns
Singular Dual Plural
1st exclusive koŋ 'I' kaska 'we (he/she and I)' keika 'we (all of them, and I)'
1st inclusive - kas 'we (you and I)' kei 'we (all of you, and I)'
2nd an 'you' anci 'you (two)' anni 'you (guys)'
3rd ŋkə 'he/she' - ŋkəs 'they'


Kulung has thirteen cases. Case endings are attached to nouns with or without the non-singular suffix. Allomorphy of case endings depends on whether the noun ends in a vowel or consonant. Below the case endings of the noun lam 'road' are presented.

Kulung cases
Case Suffix English prep. Example Translation
absolutive - - lam road
genitive -mi of / 's lam-mi of (a) road/ road's
ergative -ʔa - lam-ʔa road
instrumental -ʔa by lam-ʔa by the road
vocative -ʔa - lam-ʔa o road
locative 1 -pi at, on, in lam-pi on the road
locative 2 -to at, on, in lam-to on the road (at a higher level)
locative 3 -pu at, on, in lam-pu on the road (at a lower level)
locative 4 -pa at, on, in lam-pa on the road (at same level)
comitative -lo with lam-lo with the road
ablative -ka from lam-ka from the road
elative -pika from out of lam-pika from out of the road
mediative -la via, by way of lam-la by the road

Verbal morphology

The Kulung verb is characterised by a system of complex pronominalisation, in which paradigmatic stem alternation is found. Personal endings consist of morphemes expressing notions like tense, agent, patient, number, and exclusivity. Depending on the number of verbal stems and their position in the verbal paradigm, every verb in Kulung belongs to a certain conjugation type.[3] Complete conjugations of verbs belonging to the different conjugation types are presented in the second appendix. Like in other Kiranti languages, compound verbs are found in Kulung. These compound verbs consist of a verb stem and an auxiliary that adds semantic notions to the main verb. Other verbal constructions found in Kulung are a gerund, imperative, supine and an infinitive.[3]

The intransitive verb per-ma 'to fly'
Non-preterite Preterite Negated preterite
1s per-o: pero man-per-ŋa
1di per-ci per-a-ci man-per-ci
1de per-ci-ka per-a-ci-ka man-per-s-ka
1pi per-ya per-i man-per-i
1pe per-ya-ka per-i-ka man-per-i-ka
2s per-e per-a man-per-na
2d per-ci per-a-ci man-per-nci
2p per-ni per-a-ni man-per-ni
3 per-e per-a man-per


  1. ^ Kulung at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015)
  2. ^ Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2017). "Kulung (Nepal)". Glottolog 3.0. Jena, Germany: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History.
  3. ^ a b c Himalayan Languages Project Archived October 6, 2007, at the Wayback Machine


Tolsma, Gerard Jacobus (2006). A Grammar of Kulung. Languages of the Greater Himalayan Region. 5/4. Leiden, Boston. ISBN 9789004153301.

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Kulung language (Nepal)
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