Tilung language

Tilung (Nep. Tiluṅ) is the name of an unwritten Kiranti language, which is also known from the literature as ‘Tiling’ or ‘Tilling’ (Hanßon 1991). Based on my own research (Opgenort, forthcoming), Tilung occupies an independent position within the Kiranti language family and can be placed roughly between the Western languages Thulung, Khaling and Dumi, on the one side, and the Southern Central Kiranti languages Kulung, Chamling and Bantawa, on the other.

The Tilung-speaking area

Tilung is spoken by a few elderly people living in several small settlements in Cyāsmiṭār Village Development Committee (VDC), on the northern bank of the Sunkośī river, Khoṭāṅ district, eastern Nepal. According to the 2001 Census of Nepal (with data from 1991), Cyāsmiṭār VDC had a population of 2,167 persons living in 412 households and there were some 310 speakers of Tilung. However, recent investigations have shown that there are only a few native fluent speakers of Tilung remaining. These speakers are all older than 60 years and fully bilingual in Nepali, which is the dominant language among the Tilung ethnic community.

Map of the Tilung-speaking area
The last speakers of Tilung, returning home after having performed a pujā (2011)
The last speakers of Tilung, returning home after having performed a pujā (2011)

Descriptions of Tilung

My 2011 article ‘A note on Tilung and its position within Kiranti’ discusses the existence of phonological and lexical isoglosses in Tilung and other Kiranti groups on the basis of the scanty materials available to me before my fieldwork in the Tilung-speaking area in June 2011.

My 2013 article ‘Initial grammatical sketch of Tilung’ presents the results of the research which I conducted among the Tilung in June 2011. The aim of this publication is to make accessible the available data collected thus far and hence to boost our knowledge of this poorly studied language. The article discusses topics such as phonology, nominal morphology, verbal morphology, adverbs and syntax. A Tilung-English word list is also included.

Central Bureau of Statistics
2001. Population census. Kathmandu: National Planning Commission.

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.

Opgenort, Jean Robert
2013. ‘Initial grammatical sketch of Tilung’, pp. 329–392 in Trans-Himalayan Linguistics. Historical and Descriptive Linguistics of the Himalayan Area. Trends in Linguistics. Studies and Monographs 266. Thomas Owen-Smith, Nathan Hill, eds. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter.

Opgenort, Jean Robert
2011b. ‘A note on Tilung and its position within Kiranti’, in Himalayan Linguistics, Vol. 10.1: 253-271.