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Spoken in Nepal. India
Total speakers 15,000 - 18,868
Language family Sino-Tibetan
Language codes
ISO 639-1 None
ISO 639-2
ISO 639-3 kle

The Kulung are the people of Rai and Kirant descent and their language of the same name, inhabiting Nepal and parts of northeastern India. The Kulung people trace lineage to the Mongoloids and the language belongs to the Sino-Tibetan language family.[1][2] It is closely related to the fellow Kiranti languages Bantawa and Puma. Alternate names for the language include Khulunge Rai, Kulu Ring, Khulung and Kholung.[1]



The Kulung trace their lineage to the Mongol race and the broader family of Kiranti communities spread across eastern Nepal, claiming descent from the Kiranti ruler Khambu.[2] The early Kulung people migrated from the Tarai - the lowlands of Nepal and settled in the Hongu valley.[3] The ethno-linguistic region inhabited by the Kulungs is called the "Mahakulung" (Greater Kulung) is located in the Sagarmatha Zone.[1] It specifically refers to the Hongu valley, comprising of Gudel, Chheskam, Bung and Sotang, as well as villages in the Sankhuwasawa District and the valleys of the Hongu, Sangkhuwa and Siswa rivers.[1]


According to the 2001 census in Nepal, the Kulung-speaking peoples number 18,686; other estimates state about 15,000 speakers.[4][1] There are tendencies of small communities considering themselves Kulung, but not necessarily belonging to the same origin; these are possibly absorbed into the wider Kulung peoples. The Kulung practise exogamous clan marriage and are protective in their language use.[4] Up to 50% of the population can understand the Nepali language at a basic level.[1] Only Kulung people who live on the border with other language groups speak other languages. The Kulung people are primarily engaged in agriculture, cultivating millet and maize, as well as being hunters and fishermen.[4] They practise traditional religion as well as Hinduism and Buddhism.[1] Unlike most Hindus and Buddhists in Nepal, the Kulung bury their dead instead of cremating.[4]

Language and grammar

Dialects of the Kulung language include Sotang (Sotaring, Sottaring), Mahakulung, Tamachhang, Pidisoi, Chhapkoa, Pelmung, Namlung and Khambu.[1] Kulung distinguishes between eight vowels and 11 diphthongs. There are three series of stops: dorso-velar, dental and labial, each serie having an unaspirated voiceless, aspirated voiceless and an unaspirated voiced variant. There are three voiced nasals, four approximants, one vibrant, one fricative and three affricates.[5]

In Kulung, a distinction can be made between the categories nouns, adjectives and personal pronouns. The 13 cases found in Kulung are absolutive, ergative, instrumental, genitive, vocative, and four different locatives (depending on deictic categories like 'up', 'down', etc.), comitative, ablative, elative and mediative.[5] Personal pronouns are distinguished for three persons, three numbers, and in the non-singular first person between inclusive and exclusive. Possessive pronouns appear as prefixes that may appear before the noun. Adjectives form a separate category in Kulung and are formed by the addition of an affix to a verb stem.[5]

The Kulung verb is characterised by a system of complex prominalistan, in which paradigmatic stem alternation is found. Personal endings consist of morphemes expressing notion 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.[5] 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.[5]




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