Jero language

The Jero (Nep. Jero) are a Kiranti ethnic group of Nepal who speak a Kiranti language of the same name. The Jero language is known from the literature by the names ‘Jerung’, ‘Jero’, ‘Jerum’, ‘Zero’, ‘Zerum’ or ‘Jerunge’ (Hanßon 1991). The consultants whom I consulted preferred the term ‘Jero’ to designate their language. The term ‘Jerung’ is a toponym used in the names of several villages within the Jero-speaking area as well as the name of a village in the Wambule-speaking area. The language most closely related to Jero is Wambule.

The Jero-speaking area

Jero is spoken by more than 2,000 people living in Okhalḍhuṅgā and Sindhulī districts of eastern Nepal. Gerd Hanßon (1991) claims that there are three to four dialects. However, my consultants claimed that there are only two major dialects:

  • The northern dialect is spoken around the Mauluṅ Kholā in Okhalḍhuṅgā district, i.e. in the area roughly to the west of the Bhāḍāre Kholā, to the south of the Ḍhā̃ḍ Kholā, to the north of the Sunkosī river, and as far west as the village of Āmboṭ.
  • The southern dialect is spoken in Sindhulī district in several villages along the west bank of the Bahādur Kholā, to the south of the Sunkosī river as far south as the village of Mohanṭār.

Map of the Jero-speaking area
A house at the Jero village of Dalse Mohanṭār
A house at the Jero village of Dalse Mohanṭār (1998)

Documenting the Jero language

I gathered the first comprehensive data on the little-known Jero language during a two week trip to the southern Jero village of Mohanṭār in March 1998. The data on the northern Jero dialect of Āmboṭ village were collected in Kathmandu in January 2003 (VS 2059), where I had the chance of working together with Rām Kumār Rāī, born in VS 2040, and Gam Bahādur Rāī, born in VS 2017.

Jero grammar

The book A Grammar of Jero is the most important spin-off of my descriptive research on the Wambule language. This book offers the first-ever published analysis of the phonology, morphology, syntax and lexicon of the previously undescribed and endangered Jero language. The book also contains a short historical comparative study of thirteen Kiranti languages and a reconstruction of Proto-Kiranti initials. The grammar of Jero is published in Brill’s Tibetan Studies Library. Languages of the Greater Himalayan Region and can be ordered from Brill’s online shop.

Hanßon, Gerd
1991. The Rai of eastern Nepal: ethnic and linguistic grouping. Findings of the Linguistic Survey of Nepal. Edited and provided with an introduction by Werner Winter. Kirtipur/Kathmandu: Linguistic Survey of Nepal and Centre for Nepal and Asian Studies, Tribhuvan University.

Hodgson, Brian Houghton
1857. ‘Comparative vocabulary of the languages of the broken tribes of Népál’, in Journal of the Asiatic Society of Bengal XXVI: 333-371.

Opgenort, Jean Robert
2005d. A grammar of Jero. With a historical comparative study of the Kiranti languages. Brill’s Tibetan Studies Library. Languages of the Greater Himalayan Region, 3. Leiden: Koninklijke Brill.