Amdo Tibetan

The Amdo Tibetan (Tibetan script: ཨ་མདོའི་སྐད་, Wylie: A-mdo’i skad, Lhasa dialect: [ámtokɛ́ʔ]; also called Am kä) is the Tibetic language spoken in Amdo (now mostly in Qinghai, some in Ngawa and Gannan). It has two dialects, the farmer dialect and the nomad dialect.[2]

ཨ་མདོའི་སྐད།, A-mdo’i skad
Native toChina
RegionQinghai, Gansu, Tibet Autonomous Region, Sichuan, Amdo
Native speakers
1.8 million (2005)[1]
Tibetan script
Language codes
ISO 639-3adx
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Amdo is one of the three branches of traditional classification of Tibetic languages (the other two being Khams Tibetan and Ü-Tsang).[3] In terms of mutual intelligibility, Amdo could not communicate even at a basic level with the Ü-Tsang branch (including Lhasa Tibetan).[3]

The nomad dialect of Amdo Tibetan is closer to classical written Tibetan as it preserves the word-initial consonant clusters and it is non-tonal, both now elided in the Ü-Tsang branch (including Lhasa Tibetan). Hence, its conservatism in phonology becomes a source of pride among Amdo Tibetans.[4][2]


Dialects are:[5]

  • North Kokonor (Kangtsa, Themchen, Arik, etc.)
  • West Kokonor (Dulan, Na'gormo, etc.),
  • Southeast Kokonor (Jainca, Thrika, Hualong, etc.)
  • Labrang (Labrang, Luchu)
  • Golok (Machen, Matö, Gabde)
  • Ngapa (Ngapa, Dzorge, Dzamthang)
  • Kandze

Bradley (1997)[6] includes Thewo and Choni as close to Amdo if not actually Amdo dialects.

Hua (2001)[7] contains word lists of the Xiahe County 夏河, Tongren County 同仁, Xunhua County 循化, Hualong County 化隆, Hongyuan County 红原, and Tianjun County 天峻 dialects of Amdo Tibetan in Gansu and Qinghai provinces.



Labial Alveolar Retroflex (Alveolo-)
Velar Uvular Glottal
Stop voiceless p t ʈ ʈʰ k
voiced b d ɖ ɡ
Affricate voiceless ts tsʰ tɕʰ
voiced dz
Fricative voiceless s ʂ ɕ x h
voiced z ʐ ʑ ʁ ʁʷ
lateral ɬ
Lateral l
Nasal m n ɲ ŋ
Approximant w j
  • Retroflex stop sounds /ʈ, ʈʰ, ɖ/ may also be pronounced as affricate sounds [ʈʂ, ʈʂʰ, ɖʐ] in free variation.[8]
  • Voiced consonants are often heard as pre-breathy-voiced (i.e. /d/ [ʱd]) among different dialects.
  • /ʐ/, typically written phonemically as /r/, can be heard as an alveolar flap [ɾ] in word-medial positions.
  • /x/ may also be heard as a palatal [ç] in free variation.
  • Labio-dental fricatives /f/ and /v/ may also occur in words of foreign origin.


Front Central Back
Close i ɨ u
Mid e ə o
Open a
  • Amdo Tibetan typically has a four-vowel system as /e, ə, a, o/, as all close vowels [i, ɨ, u] have merged to one vowel /ə/. However, when there is a consonant sound within the coda position, the pronunciation of /ə/ is changed, thus realizing one of the three close sounds [i, ɨ, u], depending on the consonant in place.
  • /a/ may typically be heard as more fronted before a mid vowel /e/, and may also be realized as an open-mid [ɛ] in some environments.[9]


Inside China
  • The Qinghai Tibetan Radio (མཚོ་སྔོན་བོད་སྐད་རླུང་འཕྲིན།) station broadcasts in Amdolese Tibetan on FM 99.7.[10]
  • Radio Free Asia broadcasts in three Tibetan languages: Standard Tibetan, Khams language and Amdolese language.[11]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Amdolese at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015)
  2. ^ a b Reynolds, Jermay J. (2012). Language variation and change in an Amdo Tibetan village: Gender, education and resistance (PDF) (PhD thesis). Graduate School of Arts and Sciences of Georgetown University. p. 19-21. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2017-08-12.
  3. ^ a b Gelek, Konchok (2017). "Variation, contact, and change in language: Varieties in Yul shul (northern Khams)". International Journal of the Sociology of Language (245): 91-92.
  4. ^ Makley, Charlene; Dede, Keith; Hua, Kan; Wang, Qingshan (1999). "The Amdo Dialect of Labrang" (PDF). Linguistics of the Tibeto-Burman Area. 22.1: 101. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2016-03-05.
  5. ^ N. Tournadre (2005) "L'aire linguistique tibétaine et ses divers dialectes." Lalies, 2005, n°25, p. 7–56 [1]
  6. ^ Bradley (1997) Archived December 8, 2006, at the Wayback Machine
  7. ^ Hua Kan 华侃主编 (ed). 2001. Vocabulary of Amdo Tibetan dialects [藏语安多方言词汇]. Lanzhou: Gansu People's Press [甘肃民族出版社].
  8. ^ Ebihara, Shiho (2011). Amdo Tibetan. Yamakoshi, Yasuhiro (ed.), Grammatical Sketches from the Field: Research Institute for Languages and Cultures of Asia and Africa, Tokyo University of Foreign Studies. pp. 43–48.
  9. ^ Rgyal, Lha-Byams; Sung, Kuo-ming (2005). Colloquial Amdo Tibetan : A Complete Course for Adult English Speakers. National Press for Tibetan Studies.
  10. ^ 青海藏语广播网 མཚོ་སྔོན་བོད་སྐད་རླུང་འཕྲིན། - 青海藏语广播网 མཚོ་སྔོན་བོད་སྐད་རླུང་འཕྲིན།
  11. ^ "བོད་སྐད་སྡེ་ཚན།".


  • Norbu, Kalsang, Karl Peet, dPal Idan bKra shis, & Kevin Stuart, Modern Oral Amdo Tibetan: A Language Primer. Edwin Mellen Press, 2000.
  • Hua Kan 华侃主编 (ed). 2001. Vocabulary of Amdo Tibetan dialects [藏语安多方言词汇]. Lanzhou: Gansu People's Press [甘肃民族出版社]. (Contains word lists of the Xiahe County 夏河, Tongren County 同仁, Xunhua County 循化, Hualong County 化隆, Hongyuan County 红原, and Tianjun County 天峻 dialects in Gansu and Qinghai provinces.)

External linksEdit