Guide to Official Dzongkha Romanization

© George van Driem, 1991

Dzongkha is the national language of the kingdom of Bhutan. This phonological system of romanization known as Roman Dzongkha was devised by the author at the behest of the Dzongkha Development Commission of the Royal Government of Bhutan. Roman Dzongkha is a phonologically adequate, accurate and consistent representation of the living phonology of the modern spoken language. Roman Dzongkha makes use of 22 letters of the Roman alphabet (F, V, Q and X are not used) and of three diacritic marks, i.e. the apostrophe, the circumflex accent and the diaeresis. Digraphs such as kh, ph and th are used, and just two trigraphs occur, i.e. pch and thr. In the original version of the romanization, a fourth diacritic mark was used, but this was replaced by the apostrophe for the sake of orthographic simplicity. In his forward to the Guide, His Excellency Minister ’Lönpo Dorji Tshering, Chairman of the Commission, writes that ‘all concerned are hereby advised that Roman Dzongkha is to be implemented with immediate effect as the official standard for rendering Dzongkha, the national language of the Kingdom of Bhutan, in the Roman script’ (26 September 1991, Trashichö Dzong, Thimphu). Roman Dzongkha is like the Hanyu Pinyin romanization used for Mandarin Chinese in that Roman Dzongkha is not intended to replace the official native Bhutanese orthography in ’Ucen script. A more up-to-date description of the romanization is included in the new grammar textbook, entitled Dzongkha. The latter is currently available (van Driem 1998a) and can be ordered electronically or by telephone.