Tinkerlo, also known as Tinker or Tinkeri bhasha, belongs to the Tibeto Burman branch of the Sino-Tibetan (ST) language family. The ST language family comprises both Sinitic (constituting the Chinese dialects) and the Tibeto-Burman languages. The languages have garnered profound linguistic interest from scholars all across the globe.
A whole lot of languages of the Sino-Tibetan language family have not been properly documented and, thence, tenuously classified, since most of their speakers reside in remote areas. Closely related to Tinkerlo are the languages Ranglo and Byankhlo, which are spoken by the Rang and Byankho communities respectively. Tinkerlo is, perhaps, the least studied amongst these three.
Tinker language is spoken by a small group of people that reside mainly in the hilly and mountainous regions close to Nepal-China border as well as in the Darchula district of Nepal (located at the India-Nepal border).
Tinker is one of the endangered languages of the world. The language is struggling to pass from the old generation to the younger one, which is actually the main reason for its nearing extinction. The language is not a part of the academic curriculum of the regional schools, where children learn other languages like Nepali, Hindi and English. The language is not a preferred mode of communication even at home in most families. Consequently, not many young children know the language well.
Hindi and Nepali languages have had a tremendous influence on Tinker in the past and in the present times for most of the speakers of this language also have an exposure to the speakers of these languages, resulting into bilingualism in the Tinker community. English words have also entered the language from educated and literate Tinker speakers as well as via cross-border commerce and trading. Consequently, code mixing and code switching are common phenomena amongst the language speakers.
Surprisingly, Tinker is reported to be nearly free of abusive words. Slangs are also not very popular within the language. Tinker speakers are held together with strong ties and roots of community. The hostile climate and weather conditions, and limited food supply in their homeland at mountainous regions has generated a strong feeling of kinship and sharing in the members of the community.
Inevitably, it can be said that the endangerment of the language will ultimately pose a threat on the rich culture and traditions of the Tinker community that would die along with the language.
Spoken mainly by the small Tinker community in remote mountainous regions, the grammar and history of Tinker language is poorly and barely documented. The area inhabited by Tinker speakers is remote and not accessible to linguistic fieldwork, especially to scholars that come from foreign lands.
During peak winter season, the Tinker people travel several miles on foot to stay at lower altitudes where the climatic conditions are comparatively bearable. The study of language can be done during this time when language consultants are available at lower altitudes. Interestingly, this is also the point where the Tinker language gets influenced by and mixed with other local and native languages of that area.
Syntactically speaking, like most of the languages of the Sino-Tibetan language family, Tinker is a verb final language (Object-Verb), and confirms to a majority of typological characteristics shown by that of verb final languages. Besides this, Tinkerlo is a morphologically rich language. Palatalization of sounds at the end of the words is common in Tinkerlo.
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