IIAS-Brill Series on Languages of the Greater Himalayan Region

A Grammar of Lepcha

Heleen Plaisier

The Lepcha language has been shrouded in a veil of tantalising mystique ever since Colonel George Mainwaring in the 1870s disseminated the myth that Lepcha was the most perfect of tongues and represented the primordial language of men and fairies. The present book is the first ever comprehensive reference grammar of this language, spoken by the indigenous tribal people of Darjeeling, Sikkim and Kalimpong. Some popular lore about Lepcha has a firm basis in fact, however. Lepcha represents a branch unto itself within the Tibeto-Burman languages. Lepcha is written in its own unique script. This highly readable grammar explains the structure of the language, its sound system and salient features, and includes a lexicon and cultural history. With financial support of the International Institute for Asian Studies.

Heleen Plaisier defended her Ph.D. in Leiden in 2006. She published a descriptive catalogue of the extensive collection of old Lepcha manuscripts at Leiden in 2003 and is currently working on a critical edition of an unpublished late nineteenth-century Lepcha dictionary.