Kagate live in the northeastern corner of Ramechhap district in Janakpur Zone. Ramechhap lies between Solokhumbu and Dolakha districts. Kagate villages are located on the upper portions of the hills between Khimti and Likhu rivers, primarily in the Village Development Committees (VDCs) of Duragaun, Namadi, and Bhuji. The community is accessible year-round by bus. Figure 1 shows the Kagate language area within the context of the languages of eastern Nepal.
Language and identity
The term Kagate is the equivalent of Syuba in Nepali, which means "paper maker." In past generations, paper making was a primary profession for Kagate people. During informal interviews, people often used different words to refer to their language and ethnic group. When speaking with outsiders, the Kagate people often refer to themselves as Tamang, the name of a large Tibeto-Burman ethnic group and language in the area.
Many interview participants reported their family name as Tamang and their mother tongue as Kagate or Yholmo. Alternate names for Kagate include Kagate Bhote, Shuba, Shyuba, and Syuba (Lewis 2013). While the most common terms for respondents' mother tongue were Syuba, Yholmo, and Kagate, based on the current ISO designation for this language name, the term Kagate will be used for this language throughout this report.
Kagate is classified as Sino-Tibetan, Tibeto Burman, Western Tibeto-Burman, Bodish, Central Bodish, Central, gTsang (Bradley 1997: 8). It is closely related to Helambu Sherpa [scp], a language spoken to the north. Due to less use of the honorific system in verbs, intelligibility between the two groups is more of a challenge for Kagate speakers than for Helambu Sherpa speakers (Lewis 2012). There are reportedly no dialect variations within the Kagate language community itself (Isaac Tamang and Norsang Tamang, p.c. 2012).
In 2000, the Kagate population in Nepal was estimated to be 1,270 speakers (Ethnologue Languages of Nepal, 2012).
According to Kagate tradition, they originally migrated from the Helambu area in Chautara district. Hoehlig and Hari report that the migration to the current Kagate population center in Ramechhap occurred four generations prior to their research in the 1970s due to food shortages and lack of possibilities to support themselves. At the time of their research a second migration took place for the same reasons, moving Kagate people to Darjeeling and Assam in India (1976: 1).