|ʼOlekha, Monkha, Monpa, ʼOle Mönpa|
|Black Mountain Monpa|
ʼOle, also called ʼOlekha or Black Mountain Monpa, is a Sino-Tibetan language spoken by about 1,000 people in the Black Mountains of Wangdue Phodrang and Trongsa Districts in western Bhutan. The term ʼOle refers to a clan of speakers.
Dialects are separated by the Black Mountains.
Black Mountain Monpa is spoken in at least 6 villages. The variety spoken in Rukha village, south-central Wangdi is known as ʼOlekha. Out of a population of 100-150 people (about 15 households) in Rukha village, there is only one elderly female fluent speaker and two semi-fluent speakers of ʼOlekha.
George van Driem (1992) reports a Western dialect (spoken in Rukha and Reti villages) and Eastern dialect (spoken in Cungseng village).
ʼOle was unknown beyond its immediate area until 1990, and is now highly endangered, and was originally assumed to be East Bodish. George van Driem described ʼOle as a remnant of the primordial population of the Black Mountains before the southward expansion of the ancient East Bodish tribes.
More recently, Gwendolyn Hyslop (2016), agreeing with van Driem, has suggested that ʼOle is an isolate branch of the Sino-Tibetan family that has been heavily influenced by East Bodish languages. Because of the small number of cognates with East Bodish languages once loans are identified, Blench and Post provisionally treat ʼOle as a language isolate, not just an isolate within Sino-Tibetan.
ʼOle forms a distinct branch of Sino-Tibetan/Tibeto-Burman. it is not closely related to Tshangla language of eastern Bhutan, also called "Monpa" and predating Dzongkha in the region, which belongs to a different branch of the family.
Gerber (2018) notes that Black Mountain Mönpa has had extensive contact with Gongduk before the arrival of East Bodish languages in Bhutan. The following comparative vocabulary table from Gerber (2018: 13-16) compares Gongduk, Black Mountain Mönpa, and Bjokapakha, which is a divergent Tshangla variety.
|Gloss||Gongduk||Black Mountain Mönpa||Bjokapakha|
|hair (on head)||θɤm||guluŋ||tsham|
|eye||mik||mek ~ mik||miŋ|
|tooth||ɤn||ʼaː ~ waː||sha|
|bone||rukɤŋ||ɦɤtphok ~ yöphok||khaŋ-|
|hand/arm||gur||lɤk ~ lok||gadaŋ|
|leg/foot||bidɤʔ||dɤkpɛŋ ~ tɛ̤kɛŋ||bitiŋ|
|dog||oki||cüla ~ khula||khu|
|bear||bekpələ||wɤm ~ wom||omsha|
|house||kiŋ||mhiː̤ ~ mhe̤ː||phai|
|fire||mi||’aːmik ~ ’aːmit||mɨ|
|to hear||lə yu-||goː-||nai tha|
|to look||məl- ~ mɤt-||mak-||gotto|
|to sit||mi- ~ mu-||buŋ- ~ bæŋ-||laŋ-|
|to die||komθ-||θɛː- ~ θɛʔ-||shi-|
|to kill||tɤt-||θüt- ~ θut- ~ θit-||she-|
|3sg pronoun||gon||hoʔma (mas.); hoʔmet (fem.)||dan|
|1pl pronoun||ðiŋ||ɔŋdat (incl.); anak (excl.)||ai|
Hyslop (2016) notes that ʼOlekha has borrowed heavily from East Bodish and Tibetic languages, but also has a layer of native vocabulary items. Numerals are mostly borrowed from East Bodish languages, while body parts and nature words are borrowed from both Tibetic and East Bodish languages. Hyslop (2016) lists the following ʼOlekha words of clearly indigenous (non-borrowed) origin.
Words whose origin is not certain (i.e., may or may not be borrowed) are: