Talk:Standard Tibetan

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Deleted the POV paragraph inserted by a Free Tibet liar —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 13:01, 29 May 2008 (UTC)


There's really no point in creating a separate article for the written language. Why not merge? --Jiang|(Talk)

Most languages with distinct writing systems have them separated (Armenian alphabet, Chinese written language, Hangul, etc). Theoretically it too could be expanded to full article size. --Menchi 08:37, 6 Dec 2003 (UTC)

But is this limited only to the Tibetan language? Armenia alphabet is an alphabet system, like Latin alphabet and Hangul is only a subset of Korean writing, not the entire system. The English language, Spanish language, etc. all cover their written components on the same page. I don't see the rationale behind the separation. The page isn't near getting too long. --Jiang|(Talk) 08:42, 6 Dec 2003 (UTC)

I don't see how this case differs from Armenian alphabet, even if it's not alphabetic. I'm not familiar with Tibetan to know if it's truly alphabetic or not. If it soothes you, Esperanto calls it eo:Tibeta alfabeto. But then Esperanto also calls Hangul "Korean alphabet"-- and I know that's not the whole story. --Menchi 08:51, 6 Dec 2003 (UTC)

Maybe "Tibetan script" or "Tibetan alphabet" would be more representative of the article, like how we have an article on Chinese characters, since the grammar and most of everything else is still located in the main article. --Jiang|(Talk) 22:06, 6 Dec 2003 (UTC)

The Tibetan script is used to write other languages as well.

My preference would be for two separate articles ("Tibetan language", "Tibetan alphabet"). Note that "Tibetan alphabet" is more accurate than "Tibetan script" because "script" unnecessarily implies a cursive writing style. Omniglot, the best webpage on scripts and alphabets, prefers Tibetan alphabet, even though the system may be classified as a syllabary. -- technopilgrim 22:02, 31 December 2005 (UTC)

source citing[edit]


Please cite your sources. The Columbia Encyclopedia says the same thing. What have you got to say about this? --Jiang 21:59, 4 Apr 2004 (UTC)

Is Tibetan tonal? Agglutinating? a member of a language family?[edit]

Nanshu has proposed not describing Tibetan as tonal. I appreciate the fact that tones are less critical in Tibetan than in Mandarin, but I think it is a mistake to not classify the language as tonal. Two well-respected reference I can point to are the SIL Ethnologue and

You are right, but keep in mind that in Tibetan, tones are qualities of the consonants, whereas in Chinese they are qualities of the vowels.

Also, I think it is most accurate to describe Tibetan as primarily isolating although somewhat agglutinative. To describe it as purely agglutinative is clearly misleading. I take my lead on this from the the Columbia Encyclopedia entry on Sino-Tibetan languages [1] and another wonderful website that I can't seem to put my finger on right now.

Again, you are right.

On the topic of Sino-Tibetan as a proposed language family, we need to steer clear of Sino-Tibetan politics. While it is unfortunate that the PRC propaganda machine finds it useful to point to this language family as part of their political claims over Tibet, we must not loose sight of the fact that the vast majority of independent linguists also find the Sino-Tibetan family an appropriate family designation, based solely on the linguistic evidence. The 36th International Conference on Sino-Tibetan Languages was just held this last November with not a sign of Beijing party bosses calling the shots. So I'm tweaking the wording to reflect this and ignoring the politics of it. technopilgrim 19:25, 7 Apr 2004 (UTC)

It's the Tibeto-Burman language family, well-established. There are however loan-words from Chinese, like the word for "chair".

What is the most significant feature of Tibetan to be added to the first sentence? Maybe not adding it is better. Before offering my opinion, I notice you that I don't speak, read, or write Tibetan at all. My interests are the Tibetan script and Tibetans' political interactions with the Mongols.

Classifing the language as tonal is inappropriate. Tone characterizes most dialects but most Amdo dialects lack it. The emergence of tone was far later in Tibetan than in Chinese. In addition, written Tibetan doesn't reflect tone.

Wrong-o. Just because the Amdo dialects ("most"? How many are you familiar with?) lack tones doesn't mean it's not a tonal language. The native grammars tell us that the consonants have tones and the is most definitely reflected in the written language.

Isolating or agglutinative. Maybe Tibetan is a language which the traditional claffisication doesn't work for well. Sapir's old clafficiation is interesting. I don't know which is more significant, but I personally think Tibetan is more agglutinative than isolating.

It's not agglutinative. Turkish is agglutinative. Compare and contrast.
I wouldn't describe "Tibetan" as a tone language because not all of its dialects have tones. Verbs are obviously inflected for tense/aspect/mood, so I don't think that Tibetan can be described as agglutinating or isolating. —Babelfisch 03:26, 7 March 2006 (UTC)
If you know which dialects have lost (or never acquired) tones, I endorse adding that to the article. There's no need to classify the language as either completely tonal or non-tonal if the reality is more complex. Please include references to substantiate which dialects are indeed non-tonal to avoid any controversy. Also, from what I understand, the most accurate description is to say that Tibetan has isolating characteristics, but is not nearly as isolating as Chinese. technopilgrim 04:24, 7 March 2006 (UTC)
I believe Amdo and Kham don't have tones. Nor do Ladakhi and Balti to my knowledge. The isolating-agglutinative problem is similar. In Lhasa Tibetan it's pretty clear that it's agglutinative, because affixes don't recieve tone and are hence pretty easily recognisable as affixes. However, obviously that criterion can't really apply to the toneless dialects.

BovineBeast 15:33, 28 October 2007 (UTC)

What everyone seems to be missing here is that in Tibetan, unlike in Chinese, for example, the tones attach to the consonants themselves, and the vowels inherit them, whereas in Chinese the vowel sounds carry the tones.

A great deal of this article appears to have been lifted directly from Tournadre's Manual of Standard Tibetan, in violation of copyright.

The statement that adjectives follow nouns is quite simply wrong. Example - "" = black ( cat (shi.mi.) It should be noted that I am probably leaving out a silent letter or two, but if you read it as written you would be pronouncing correctly; a native speaker would understand you.

Interestly, the Tibetan word for table, "jok.tse." appears to be a Chinese loan-word (jwozi or chuo-tze).

The numbers 1-10 in Tibetan are clearly cognate with the same numbers in Cantonese. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 07:14, 4 July 2008 (UTC)

member of a family[edit]

Sino-Tibetan isn't so clear as the Indo-European language family, and I don't like to mention to it without noticing its uncertainty, maybe because I tend to be skeptical. Linguists were inclined to set up bigger language families but it is carefully reviewed today. They framed the Altaic language family and some built up the "Ural-Altaic language family". But today, almost no linguist supports the latter and many even question the former because the relationships between the Turkic, Mongolic, and Tungusic languages are not confirmed even though Altaic languages share several features. Thus at least Japanese linguists vaguely call them "Altaic languages" instead of using the term "language family." The same is true of Sino-Tibetan "languages", I think. Apparently, Chinese and Tibetan share some basic words, but their relationship isn't established yet. And I'd like to speficy the uncertainty. "Proposed" may not be good because all language families are nothing more than hypotheses. I hope someone find a better term. --Nanshu 23:06, 20 Apr 2004 (UTC)

This is incorrect. Sino-Tibetan is much more widely accepted than Altaic. What is essential here is not "shared words" but predictable sound changes between the two. This means that if "mother" is "mxxqqqkw" in one and "gbvpln" in the other, it is wrong to immediately assume there is no relation. Rather, you should dig deeper to look for other things. If "father" is "qqqmxxst" in one and "plgbvrz" in the other, and "horse" is "xxmstkw" in one and "bvgrzn" in the other, it becomes slowly apparent that there are regular sound correspondences between words with identical or extremely similar meaning.

To filter out borrowed words, a "Swadesh list" of 207 vocabulary words is often used. While a word like "encyclopedic", "astronomy", or "empire" is very likely to be borrowed from a different language, words on the Swadesh list such as "sun", "mother", "I", "skin", "tree", and the like are much less likely to be borrowed as they are the "core vocabulary" of the language, and studies have shown that on average, the words on the Swadesh list are the 207 slowest-changing words (ie, they have the lowest rate of being borrowed).

Thus the evidence is solid - this is not a proposed language family, the only people who disagree with it are non-linguists or highly nationalistic linguists. --Node 01:23, 9 Dec 2004 (UTC)

I agree that Sino-Tibetan is a well-established language family, though I would add the proviso that it doesn't seem to include Thai as some older books claim. FWIW, apparently Tibetan and Burmese are quite similar. --Marnen Laibow-Koser (talk) 15:59, 4 Mar 2005 (UTC)
No, Sino-Tibetan is not well established, for that mattter neither is Tibeto-Burman technically. A language family is well established when one can point to sound laws relating the relevant langauges. This can be easily done with indo-european e.g. Grimms law says a Indo-European K becomes H in germanic Germ. Haupt / Lat. Caput, Eng. hemp / Grk. Kannibas, Eng. heart / Gk. Kardia. etc. if anyone can point out such a soundlaw relating Chinese and Tibetan I will give him a hundred dollars.
I hereby name several prominent linguists who doubt the Sino-Tibetan hypothesis: Roy Andrew Miller, Christopher I. Beckwith, George van Driem. --Tibetologist 14:06, 23 May 2005 (UTC)
George van Driem does not, in fact, express any doubts at all that Chinese and Tibetan are related. Rather, he states that Chinese is, rather than being a primary branch, merely another language within Tibeto-Burman: his "Tibeto-Burman" thus has exactly the same membership as everyone else's "Sino-Tibetan". As for the sound laws, doesn't Sergei Starostin[2] claim to have them? - Mustafaa 18:33, 30 May 2005 (UTC)
All I said was that van Driem didn't support Sino-Tibetan. Also, Starostin's views are not at all widely accepted. Gong Hwang Cherng has apparently come up with some sound laws relating Burmese Tibetan and Chinese, but he writes in Chinese which I can't read. In any case the family is no where near as well established as Semetic and Indo-European and I think language articles and classifications should reflect this. --Tibetologist 12:41, 16 Jun 2005 (UTC)
That Tibetan and Chinese are related should be pretty much beyond doubt. The only real question is whether Chinese is an outgroup of that language family or deeper within the tree. BovineBeast 15:39, 28 October 2007 (UTC)
Can something that's not true be beyond doubt? I read and speak both languages and I disagree with you. Prove me wrong and I'll give you an imaginary kiss. [anon]
Speaking both languages won't tell you if they're related. Chinese is almost universally accepted as being related to Tibetan.
The relationship is not beyond doubt, as mentioned above Beckwith and Miller are working historical linguists who doubt the relationship. Until it is proven that a core vocabulary in the two languages can be related with exceptionless soundlaws, it will not be beyond doubt.Tibetologist (talk) 08:41, 24 July 2010 (UTC)
What in the world does it mean to say that the tones are based on consonants? Tones are independent of consonants, unless they're dependent on phonation, which AFAIK is not the case for Tibetan. Unless you mean that in the writing system, tones are indicated by choice of consonant letter, but that is completely arbitrary and irrelevant to a description of the phonology. — kwami (talk) 14:08, 23 July 2010 (UTC)
You are quite right, this should be writen differently, it is a historical change which is reflected in the orthography. Tibetologist (talk) 08:41, 24 July 2010 (UTC)

markup issues[edit]

There are markup issues in the last paragraph of Tibetan language#Evolution of Styles. It seems that there are issues with the number of ' used. I can't fix it myself, because I don't know if some of the ' are actually a part of a symbol, e.g. z'. If someone could fix this, that would be great, so it can be removed from Wikipedia:WikiProject_Wiki_Syntax/double-quotes-065.txt.

Foolip 13:26, 18 Nov 2004 (UTC)

It's text taken from an OCR of the 1911 EB. The only way to correct the text is to look at the 1911 EB, and I can't find actual scans online anywhere. The code is messed up, closing the italics isn't going to make it worse, so that's what I did. --Ben Brockert 00:52, Nov 19, 2004 (UTC)

Tibetan script[edit]

I will be going through and attempting to add Tibetan letters to the article where appropriate, but I don't know the language well enough to be fully confident of my accuracy. Any corrections will be most appreciated. Thanks!

Ouch. I just noticed I forgot to sign that previous comment. It was me. --Marnen Laibow-Koser (talk) 15:35, 4 Mar 2005 (UTC)

Missing group - Tibetic[edit]

Ethnologue lists the order of classification for the Tibetan language as Sino-Tibetan, Tibeto-Burman, Himalayish, Tibeto-Kanauri, Tibetic, and then the Tibetan language. Wikipedia seems to skip the group Tibetic. See this link: Any thoughts? ---User:Hottentot

Ethnologue has a lot of weird stuff on it. The most normal classification is that given by Benedict in his Conspectus, but I and many think that the subgrouping of the Tibeto-Burman laguages is merely speculation. --Tibetologist 18:38, 20 Jun 2005 (UTC)
I recommend amending Wikipedia to reflect the Ethnologue classification. At points where serious modern scholarship suggests a subclass is grouped incorrectly in the Ethnologue, it's sensible to include links at that point in Wikipedia hierarchy to the alternative scholarship. But we need at least a straw man hierarchy to start with, and the Ethnologue is the best candidate. Nathan, have you read the Conspectus or do you have a copy? From what I can find in a web search [3], PK Benedict did not disagree with the existence of a Tibeto-Burman language family. You must be referring to classification choices made further out in the tree. For our education can you give us the classification of Tibetan per Benedict to show where it differs from the Ethnologue? technopilgrim 18:33, 23 Jun 2005 (UTC)

Transliteration of Tibetan in Tibetan[edit]

What is the transliteration of བོད་ཡིག? I did some searching on Google, and I found the following names:

  • Bod-jig?
  • bod.yig
  • bod pa
  • bod skad
  • Poe-Skey

Please, can someone help me out? Thanks. --Hottentot

"bod yig", "bod pa", and "bod skad" are all words meaning "tibetan". However, "bod skad" is, in my opinion, most accurate. In this case though I think it says "bod yig".

"bod pa" = 'a Tibetan (person)', "bod skad" = 'Tibetan language', "bod yig" = 'Tibetan script'. The form "bod-jig" is preferred by some scholars, especially in central and eastern Europe.Jakob37 08:58, 7 January 2007 (UTC)

Hottentot, those letters say bod.yig. Moonsell (talk) 03:56, 15 March 2010 (UTC)

bon religion and tibetan language[edit]

i'm planning to do research on what, if any, influence the bon religion has had on the tibetan language and it's development. right now, i'm too busy doing research on the hebrew language- and trying to LEARN the hebrew language- to do much research on the tibetan language. Gringo300 11:25, 25 October 2005 (UTC)

And what will you be enjoying for dinner tonight? Enquiring minds want to know. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 07:27, 4 July 2008 (UTC)

tibetan font[edit]

does anyone know of a good tibetan font so I could see the characters properly? --Revolución (talk) 16:17, 25 October 2005 (UTC)

There are problems with the Tibetan script used on the main page; It may be because the font is just generic Unicode and not a specifically Tibetan font such as Tibetan Machine Uni. I am trying to find someone in the Wikipedia network who knows about how to specify fonts used in Wikipedia articles. "Tibetan Machine Uni" can be used both on Windows and Mac platforms, but more successfully on the former since it is an Open Type font. There is a font called Xenotype Tibetan which has been designed for the Mac, which is more attractive in a way since it also includes (by request?) a version of the dbu-med style which is more beautiful and also in common use in Tibet, unfortunately the keyboard entry program that goes with Xenotype fonts is much more primitive and awkward than the one available for Windows (Keyman).

--- Prof. Jakob Dempsey,YZU, Taiwan

Please don't specify a particular font. There are several Unicode Tibetan fonts for different platforms.[4] Specifying one particular font such as Tibetan Machine Uni wouldn't make sense. There have been similar discussions about IPA and Pe̍h-ōe-jī. —Babelfisch 06:23, 3 August 2006 (UTC)
Speaking of which, why don't we just use an image, like many other script pages, instead of the box-filled text there is not? —The preceding unsigned comment was added by (Golden West Telecommunications; talkcontribs) 08:26, 21 September 2006 2006.
I don't think that's necessary. Wylie transliteration should be added to every Tibetan term, and from that the original spelling can be easily inferred. There is a universal standard for Tibetan for computers (Unicode), and people who can read the Tibetan script will probably get their computers to display it. —Babelfisch 05:41, 21 September 2006 (UTC)
The Wylie system is a product of the 1950s when the prevailing idea was to restrict everything to the basic 26 letters. Although Prof. Wylie was once my Graduate Advisor, I don't think we need honor him by enshrining his system for all eternity. As a phonologist who often works with Tibetan, I find it convenient or instructive to use other romanisations at times, and anyone who deals a lot with Tibetan material from France, China, Germany, Hungary or other places will have to get used to a variety of transcriptions.Jakob37 13:37, 7 January 2007 (UTC)
Since the first serious study of the Tibetan language by a westerner happened in the early 1700's (Ippolito Desideri, perhaps you've heard of him), the 1950's don't seem that terribly long ago to me, and Wylie's system has several virtues: no need to learn additional symbols, already in widespread use, and complete lack of ambiguity; you look at a Wylie transliteration and you can write the Tibetan word 100% correctly, every trip of the train. Of course, that assumes one can write Tibetan. I can. Canoe? The very few users of the ENGLISH version of Wikipedia who have occasion to deal with "a lot with Tibetan material from France, China, Germany, Hungary or other places" are already "used to a variety of transcriptions". Of course, a REAL phonologist would know that Wylie's system is "transliteration" NOT "transcription". —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 07:44, 4 July 2008 (UTC)

Font issues: let's just put it simply: on the main article's page, the Tibetan script in the red panel at the top right does not display properly. (nor, as far as I can tell, anywhere else in Wikipedia where the script is displayed)Why not? and how can we fix it? (Also, I have no such problems with the script when using it in MS Word). Incidentally, some of this compliance with Unicode is browser-based. I cannot use my Unicode keyboard (Keyman) within Firefox, but it works within IE. But the Tibetan script in Wikipedia's articles appears faulty within both the Firefox and the IE environment.Jakob37 09:00, 7 January 2007 (UTC)

Further bafflement - I was correcting something on the main page about Lhasa vowels -- hope nobody minds---and noticed that there was some Tibetan script within the Wiki-edit material which was properly stacked. Amazing, it can be done in Wikipedia! So, noting the still unstacked "bod•skad" in the red panel, I thought I would try to find some way to correct it, but lo and behold, when I opened up the Wiki-edit on the main page, it was displayed (stacked) correctly -- but then in a few seconds, it unstacked -- right before my eyes!! What is going on?! Jakob37 14:15, 7 January 2007 (UTC)

Tibetan naming conventions[edit]

I thought that editors of this page might be interested to know that discussions are currently underway regarded naming conventions for Tibet-related articles. The main issue involved is how Tibetan words should be romanised, which means it could ultimately influence the style of every article where Tibetan names or words are used. See Wikipedia:Naming conventions (Tibetan) and Wikipedia_talk:Naming conventions (Tibetan). - Nat Krause(Talk!) 22:13, 16 April 2006 (UTC)

Closest language to Tibetan[edit]

Acording to Lonely Planet Tibetan Language is closest to Burmese. Krause seems to think otherwise but failed to prove that. So, Mr. Krause the Tibetan specialist, what language is closest to Tibetan? Me 04:22, 11 July 2006 (UTC)

The problem here is confusing "language" with "language family". The closest language family to the Tibetan language family may well be the Burmese-lolo language family (though I believe some would argue). The closest language to Tibetan would be another Tibetic language of the central Tibetic group. See the helpful language trees in the Tibeto-Burman languages article for a clear picture of the relationships. An analogous mistake would be to claim that the closest language to German is Greek instead of Yiddish. Oy vey, such nonsense. -- technopilgrim 06:19, 11 July 2006 (UTC)
I agree with technopilgrim. A tourist guidebook such as the Lonely Planet is not the best source. Fortunately, we have a concise comparison of different proposals of the relationship of Tibetan with the other languages in that branch in the Wikipedia article on the Tibeto-Burman languages, with a list of some more authoritative sources. —Babelfisch 06:37, 11 July 2006 (UTC)
Probably Tangut, but most Tangut speakers were massacred by Chinghis Qan in the 13th century. --Stephen Hodge 00:19, 12 July 2006 (UTC)

The Tibeto-Burman group has many sub-branches. Those that contain Tangut or Burmese are not particularly close to Tibetan. The languages to the west, south-west of Tibetan, such as Kinauri and Pattani, seem closer, but the languages closest to Tibetan are in the so-called Bodic sub-branch, which includes a number of small languages spoken in Nepal, Bhutan and Sikkim, for example Tamang and Gurung. Even closer are Kaike and Ghale, and then there are languages such as Sherpa (Nepal) and Monpa (east of Bhutan) which could actually be classed as Tibetan dialects. Tibetan proper has many dialects, often mutually unintelligible, but they all use the same script (although the script represents a different, more ancient dialect, and is only accessible to about 10% of the population).Jakob37 07:55, 7 January 2007 (UTC)

Could the Dalai lama, and educated Tibetans read and or understand Myanmar? —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 04:50, 6 April 2008 (UTC)

Burmese and Tibetan are not mutually intelligible. That goes for the written language too. Live for nothing or die for something. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 07:50, 4 July 2008 (UTC)

Excellent additions to the verbs section[edit]

Stephen Hodge, thanks for your excellent contributions explaining verbs in Tibetan. If I could speak Tibetan I would be addressing you with the honorific mdzad to show my respect. Thanks for your scholarly and concise contributions to Wikipedia, I am now going to take the time to read more of them. --technopilgrim 00:31, 12 July 2006 (UTC)

Thanks for the accolade ! It's late here, but I'll add some more info about noun honorifics in the next day or so, as well as anything else that seems useful.

Butter tea[edit]

Is pocha a Tibetan word? If so, can someone add the Tibetan script for this to the Butter tea article? Badagnani 09:27, 29 July 2006 (UTC)

I've put the word as it is in the Tibetan language (as best as it can be represented); as far as I remember, it's pronounced [pʰø̀dza] I've also added the Tibetan words in the Tsampa article. -Yupik 21:39, 6 September 2006 (UTC)

Obviously the word for tea is a loan word, as no tea is grown in Tibet. Dare I suggest that 'cha' came from Hanyu (Chinese)? (talk) 01:23, 4 November 2008 (UTC)

Clearly you dare. Without a reliable source to back you up, of course, you're just speculating, especially considering that the Hindi word is "chai". Not that your discussion has anything to do with this two year old topic. --Gimme danger (talk) 02:59, 4 November 2008 (UTC)

Tibetan tea is 'bod ja', though in Tibet the word for tea 'ja' means butter tea unless one specifies otherwise. The word 'ja' like all words in the world for tea, comes from Chinese. The Chinese word goes back to something like 'la' in Old Chinese, which Sagart suggests is a borrowing from a Tibeto-Burman word for leaf. He has a nice dicusssion about this word in Roots of Old Chinese (1999). Tibetologist (talk) 20:00, 9 November 2008 (UTC)

Aspect and Negative[edit]

Thank you for alerting me to this apparently important work which I have not yet seen, but how widely accepted is Zeisler's hypothesis ? If it does not yet have full acceptance as a normative explanation, the part dealing with aspect or otherwise should be worded appropriately.

One problem with this article is that it does not differentiate between Classical Tibetan (chos-skad), Medieval Tibetan and Modern Tibetan, spoken and literary. Thus the negative ma is most definitely used with the imperative stem in Classical Tibetan style, even if prohibitions use a present stem in Modern Tibetan.--Stephen Hodge 17:54, 14 September 2006 (UTC)

Zeisler's book is too new to be widely accepted. However, although the idea that the
Wait a minute. Zeisler's book is too new, and Wylie's TRANSLITERATION system is too old? Sounds like Little Red Riding Hood checking in.
Tibetan verbs express "aspect" is fairly wide spread, to my knowledge no one has argued for it explicitly. As for the negation with 'ma' I have never seen an example of the imperative negated with ma, but have seen a number of examples of the present negated with ma used for prohibitions, here is an example I happen to have on hand. pha-ma gnyis na-re | « nged•gnyis rgas-pas ma•shi bar-du rgya•gar-du ma•'gro ! » zer "My two parents said "because we are getting old, do not go to india until we have died!" this is fro the Shangs pa rnam thar in the Gangs can rig mdzod series, published in Lhasa at teh Tibetan academy of social sciences, pg. 5. The text is not dated but Mathew Kapstein argues for 12th century (if I recall correctly).
Small correction - it should be "ma•shi bar-du" , i.e. "bar" is connected with the following, not the preceding syllable, and means "interval", so "in the interval of not (yet) dying". I put a "•" between syllables to show close juncture, where the second syllable's tone is dependent on the first, and "-" for loose juncture, where the second tone more or less preserves its original form. I suggest either marking this way (which means you must know how to pronounce Tibetan) or otherwise just leaving everything unconnected because if you start putting in marks where they don't belong it will mislead others. I corrected your whole text above; feel free to restore the errors if you wish...p.s. I agree about the use of ma• . If interested, please see my long review of Zeisler's book at the Linguist network site.Jakob37 13:53, 7 January 2007 (UTC)
I think in Michael Hahn's text book "Lehrbuch der Klassische Tibetische Schriftsprache" he also says that prohibitons are formed with ma plus the present tense. If you have examples of prohibitions formed with ma plus the imperative I would love to have them. I dont feel comfortable putting my name or email address in such a public forum, but you already have enough information from the message I left on your talk page to figure out who I am. Or, you could just post the examples right here. --best

Lhasa Tibetan vowels[edit]

Long vowels also occur in some foreign loanwords, such as "Dalai Lama" (Tibetan: ཏ་ཱལའི་བླ་མ་Wylie: Taa-la’i Bla-ma; IPA: [taːlɛː lama]).

1) The above information, according to the authoritative Yu Dao-quan dictionary --- the only large dictionary I know of which has fairly accurate information on Lhasa Tibetan pronunciation, and don't mention Mel Goldstein, his information has been inaccurate for decades --- it's [talɛː lama], the "a-chung" is only written after the "t" because it's a foreign (Mongolian) word, so there's no traditional way. 2) The information on the vowels is incomplete: The two most extensive and detailed records of Lhasa Tibetan (the works of Chang and Shefts and the Tibetan-Chinese dictionary edited by Yu Dao-quan) both describe two additional vowels: an unrounded centralised mid-high front vowel, and a rounded centralised mid-high back vowel, heard for example in the verbs 'to arrive'<slebs> and 'to return' <log>. There may be other varieties of Central Tibetan which lack these spoken vowels, but since no other varieties have been extensively described, the issue remains moot. Also there is the central unrounded vowel as in "lab" (speak) which is also found extensively in vowel harmony environments. It's occurrence as a non-predictable phoneme may be somewhat marginal, but that's even more the case with the voiced "th" in English, which is nonetheless widely recognized as a phoneme. If agreeable, the above can be revised and distilled into properly formal text for the article. Jakob37 14:37, 7 January 2007 (UTC)

Thanks for your input on this, Jakob. It's clear that you know a lot more about this subject than I do; my knowledge is basically limited to what I've read in Tournadre and Dorje's Manual of Standard Tibetan, which I attempted to summarise to produce the "phonology of Lhasa Tibetan" section for this article. Regarding the pronunciation of "Dalai Lama", I trust you're correct; I couldn't find the pronunciation I had written anywhere. Tournadre and Dorje do state that, "The subscript ‘a chung has the effect of lengthening the vowel", but it's difficult to tell from the context whether he's referring to the modern spoken form.
Looking over Tournadre and Dorje's material on vowel phonology, it does seem that the article's current treatment is a bit incomplete. In fact, they describe roughly the same three vowels that you mention above; however, they describe them as a series of allophones which occur only in closed syllables. Thus, according to Tournadre and Dorje, [ε] is an allophone of [e] in closed syllables; [ɔ] is an allophone of [o] in closed syllables; and [ə] or [ʌ] is an allophone of [a]. Also, Tournadre and Dorje say that the allophone of [e] is identical to the umlauted form of [a] (in las, etc.); they are both described as [ε]. Consequently, it's not clear to me whether Wikipedia should describe these values as allophones or as distinct phonemes. Do minimal pairs exist for them?
In view of Jakob's expertise on the matter, I will ultimately go along with his recommendations.
You forgot to ask him if he actually SPEAKS the language. I have a native Tibetan informant who vouches for Goldstein, bolstering my opinion of his writings and dictionaries. The "don't mention Mel Goldstein, his information has been inaccurate for decades" remark implies a very recent change in pronunciation which Mr. Jakob has so far not documented, and almost certainly would not apply to older native speakers. Sounds like someone has at least one ax to grind. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 08:23, 16 July 2008 (UTC)
Well, I used to speak it fairly fluently years ago, but currently there's no one around to speak to. A professor from the University in Lhasa told me mypronunciation sounds just like a Lhasa native. - Be that as it may, one major defect in Goldstein's transcriptions is that syllables with nasal codas, such as 'khams' can have level or falling tones, just like with other types of codas. But Goldstein makes, in general, no distinction in such syllables. The tone, in this case, is not very predictable from the script, so over the years I bothered my Tibetan teacher countless times to verify what the tone was on syllables with nasal codas. Also, Goldstein's information on vowel harmony is just hit-or-miss. Chang and Shefts are the most accurate. As for an ax to grind, I think Prof. Goldstein may be a fine anthropologist, but his lack of interest in the details of pronunciation unfortunately detracts from his otherwise sound contributions to Tibetan lexicology. Jakob37 (talk) 08:26, 14 November 2010 (UTC)
By the way, in hindsight, I'm not sure whether or not it was wise for me to refer to the thing under discussion as "Lhasa Tibetan", since Tournadre and Dorje use "Standard Tibetan" or "Central Tibetan". I've found it difficult to clarify the precise implications of these different terms, but it seemed to me that the existence of a "Standard Tibetan" is a bit controversial, and I've gotten the impression that "Central Tibetan" is sometimes (usually?) used to refer to other Ü-Tsang dialects that differ from what Tournadre and Dorje describe (such as by having a retroflex stop phoneme instead of a retroflex affricate, and/or by preserving the older three-way plosive series).—Nat Krause(Talk!·What have I done?) 21:04, 7 January 2007 (UTC)


"kham" appears to be misspelled in the section on tones, with "na" replacing "ma". My computer doesn't deal well with Tibetan script, so I don't know how to correct this. --Gimme danger 09:02, 21 July 2007 (UTC)

It renders correctly for me.—Nat Krause(Talk!·What have I done?) 22:25, 21 July 2007 (UTC)

Tibetan Scouting[edit]

Can someone render "Be Prepared", the Scout Motto, into Tibetan script? Thanks! Chris 03:31, 12 August 2007 (UTC)

Last paragraph[edit]

Goes as follows: "The Chinese authorities occupying Tibet are making life impossible for Tibetans who are not fluent in Mandarin Chinese by passing laws to minimise teaching of Tibetan in schools and by replacing Tibetan language with Chinese language in many spheres of public life." That's not neutral. (talk) 23:18, 20 April 2008 (UTC)

While I fully support the idea that once you invoke Hitler it means you've lost the argument, I can't resist; "The German authorities occupying Poland are making life impossible for Jews by herding them into big honking ovens." Also not neutral. "The southern plantation owners are making life impossible for kidnapped Africans and their descendants by holding them as slaves." Also not neutral (though some of the big houses were quite lovely, I do declare). SOMETIMES TRUTH ISN'T NEUTRAL. That having been said, I would quarrel with the truth of the phrase "makng life impossible". Interesting that you're more concerned with neutrality than truth. Oh well, that's the world of Wikinerdia. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 08:14, 4 July 2008 (UTC)
I've got two other problems, one small and one big. First, doesn't anyone think the title of the last section is too long? We could easily do with "Possible threats posed to the survival of Tibetan language" or even "Possible survival threats". I'll opt for the second choice for now.
The second problem is more intriguing: when I read the discussion above, I went back into the article, and couldn't find the line they were referring to. Rather, I found two paragraphs stating how Tibetan is really not endangered at all, which struck me as odd because it seemed totally irrelevant, if not contradictory. What's even odder was the "Some scholars have questioned this claim, however": where's the claim? So I checked the page history, and miraculously, here we are, a missing paragraph, present in this revision but absent in this one. Now, the three-paragraph version might be untrue or poorly referenced, but at least it gives us something to edit on, but the two-paragraph version has the risk of giving the readers and editors a completely tilted view. had deleted that "bullshit POV paragraph inserted by a Free Tibet liar" paragraph, according to him. Yeah, that was *so* NPOV.
I'll leave it open because I'm not acquainted with the issue and the debate, but I do think that the three-paragraph version is a much better place to start with. Keith Galveston (talk) 09:24, 17 July 2008 (UTC)

Inflect for person?[edit]

Section Verbs says:

Verbs do not inflect for person or number.

But the link Tibetan language provides a grammar by Silvia Vernetto and Tenzin Norbu, that quite the contrary indicates that the verb is conjugated in person: 1st vs. 2nd/3rd (see p26 of PDF!). Is that statement in section Verbs, really quite correct? ... said: Rursus (bork²) 08:17, 19 March 2009 (UTC)

User:Tibetologist's comment on My discussion pages indicate that the text is correct, and that PDF gives such a simplified picture that one could erroneously conclude that there is a conjugation in person. So the article is correct. ... said: Rursus (bork²) 18:55, 19 March 2009 (UTC)

Renaming of title[edit]

I have looked at the two other Tibetan dialect pages - Kham and Amdo and have suggested these be renamed as Tibetan dialects. I wonder if this article is supposed to be focused on Central Tibetan dialect/U Ke/Lhasa Ke or is it supposed to be on "Standard Tibetan"? If it is supposed to be and article about "Standard Tibetan" then that is a bit contentious and has been debated and written about extensively by Tibetan scholars in Tibet, working in schools and universities etc, and those in the exile community. There appears to be no real consensus as to a "Standard Tibetan spoken language".--Anythingpossible (talk) 02:09, 23 December 2009 (UTC)

What is meant by "standard Tibetan" is the language which is described by N. Tournadre under this name. The relationship between that language and Lhasa dialect is confused and confusing. If you would like to make all of this clear in the article please feel free to, but until then renaming would be a mistake. Please consult Roy Andrew Miller's papers on Lhasa and Central Dialect Tibetan.
Standard Tibetan is what the Dalai Lama speaks. It is highly regarded by Tibetans and recommended by them to those who learn Tibetan. Moonsell (talk) 04:14, 15 March 2010 (UTC) It's their equivalent of BBC English. Moonsell (talk) 04:14, 15 March 2010 (UTC)

possible threats to the survival of Tibetan language[edit]

The Standard Tibetan article has a subsection to this effect that is well-written, if a bit terse. It would seem to be an issue that has been overlooked in the Tibet article. How to address it? Moonsell (talk) 08:58, 7 March 2010 (UTC) Sorry. I posted this on the wrong page. It was meant for the Tibet article's talk page. Moonsell (talk) 09:01, 7 March 2010 (UTC)

"dialect", not "language"[edit]

I've changed the definition in the introduction to read "...the official dialect...", not "language". Please see Talk:Khams_Tibetan_language and continue this discussion there. There is also a problem with Tibetan language redirecting to this article, as mentioned on that talk page. Moonsell (talk) 12:59, 14 March 2010 (UTC)

The Tibetan language family is as varied as the Romance family. Linguistic works on Tibetan languages refer to them as such. This article does not need to be changed. Tibetologist (talk) 14:16, 14 March 2010 (UTC)
Thanks for that. Discussion continued at Talk:Khams_Tibetan_language. —Preceding unsigned comment added by Moonsell (talkcontribs) 20:44, 14 March 2010 (UTC)

This discussion thread has been adjourned to Talk:Tibetan languages under "One language, a number of dialects". Please see the continuation of it there. Moonsell (talk) 11:03, 15 March 2010 (UTC)

Wrong Tibetan letters[edit]

The name of this dialect is ü kä ("central Tibetan"), not bö kä ("Tibetan language"). The Wylie for ü kä I believe is dbus-skad. (Correct me if I'm wrong.) Does anyone know how to correct the Tibetan letters? Moonsell (talk) 13:52, 14 March 2010 (UTC)

Ükä is dbus-skad, but do you have a source for what Tibetan people call it? This is sort of a complicated subject. When Chinese people are talking about Standard Mandarin, to take a parallel example, they might refer to it by different names. In some cases it would just be 汉语 (Hànyǔ, "Chinese"), even though that doesn't distinguish it from other dialects. To be more specific, they could say 普通话 (Pǔtōnghuà, "Standard Speech"), even though that arguably doesn't distinguish it from non-Chinese languages. Moreover, I'm not sure the term Pǔtōnghuà would even exist if it were not official government jargon, which means there may not be an equivalent term for Tibetan. My guess is that people probably use a variety of terms referring to several partially distinct, overlapping categories (Lhasa prestige dialect, Ü rural dialects, Ü-Tsang considered together, Tibetan exile koiné, some sort of standard which may have developed in the Tibetan media in Chinese, some sort of normative idea the speaker might have about Standard Tibetan should sound like). Tibetologist hopefully has more specific information than I do. I'm not sure that some Tibetans wouldn't use Bhökä to refer to a Central Tibetan dialect. I seem to recall reading somewhere the term Bod historically has some semantic ambiguity as to whether it refers to Central Tibet specifically or the Tibetan region generally (on a similar point, in this blog post,, van Schaik notes that it's unclear whether the phrase bod-khams in a medieval document was supposed to mean "Tibet and Kham" or—more likely in his opinion—"the land of Tibet", presumably including Kham—apparently khams can mean or could mean "the land").—Nat Krause(Talk!·What have I done?) 20:02, 14 March 2010 (UTC)
I don't know whether bod skad or dbus skad is the best Tibetan term (although I would think bod skad is a reasonable equivalent for Standard Tibetan), but the changes made by Moonsell are confusing, as the opening sentence now appears to say that ü kä is བོད་སྐད་ (bod skad) in Tibetan script. BabelStone (talk) 20:48, 14 March 2010 (UTC)
Sorry about the confusion but it's not mine. It was already implicit in the juxtaposition of central Tibetan and bod-skad. By me putting ü kä between them, it has become explicit. That's good, isn't it? Moonsell (talk) 21:39, 14 March 2010 (UTC)
Thanks, Nat. Tournadre (Manual of Standard Tibetan, Snow Lion 2003: 25) has this in the Introduction under "The language presented in this manual":

The language presented here is "Standard Tibetan" spyi-skad /cikä/.[4] It corresponds to the language spoken in Central Tibet in the region of Lhasa, as well as among the diaspora community. This language is a variety of the "Central Tibetan" dbus-dkad /ükä/, spoken around Lhasa, which has become the lingua franca among Tibetans. It allows Tibetans living in other regions of Tibet (Amdo, Kham, Ngari, etc) and indeed those residing in China, India, Bhutan, Europe and North America, to communicate with one another whatever their native dialect yul-skad /yü:kä'/. The general term bod-skad /phökä'/, "Tibetan language", [7] is also sometimes used to describe the lingua franca, as are kha-skad /khakä/ spoken language or phalskad /phä:kä/ "ordinary language" - which differentiates it from Literary Tibetan yig-skad /yikkä'/.

[I've left out the Tibetan letters, since I haven't learnt how to type them yet. Tournadre precedes each bit of Wylie with a bit of Tibetan]
Note that he says bod-skad is *sometimes* used. Although he mentions Central Tibetan (dbus-dkad) straight away in contrast, I guess he complicates the picture tangentially by treating standard Tibetan as a derivative of central Tibetan. Anyway, I don't think "sometimes used" is enough for us to make bod-skad what we put in Tibetan letters. Note that he doesn't give bod-skad as the term for standard Tibetan. He gives another term. Moonsell (talk) 21:17, 14 March 2010 (UTC)

Redirects from "Tibetan language"[edit]

Tibetan language currently redirects to Standard Tibetan. This is like having "English language" redirect to "BBC English". I feel we need a new page called "Tibetan language" which links here as well as to classical Tibetan, medieval Tibetan, etc, written Tibetan and the dialects of Kham, Amdo and . It should also include history of the Tibetan language. This redirection prevents creating such a page. Does anyone have a problem with requesting this redirection to be taken away? Moonsell (talk) 04:52, 15 March 2010 (UTC)

You're looking for Tibetan languages. BBC English is not a distinct language, but is intelligible to nearly the entire English speaking world. kwami (talk) 05:48, 15 March 2010 (UTC)
I see. The redirection should be from "Tibetan language"" to Tibetan languages. Moonsell (talk) 20:47, 20 March 2010 (UTC)
Moonsell, you are probably right. Articles on most other languages do discuss dialects and linguistic history. The Mysterious El Willstro (talk) 05:47, 16 August 2010 (UTC)
Done.--Pseudois (talk) 06:09, 4 February 2012 (UTC)

New proposal for Tibetan naming conventions[edit]

I have put up a new set of proposed Tibetan naming conventions. Please see Wikipedia:Naming conventions (Tibetan) and Wikipedia talk:Naming conventions (Tibetan)#New naming convention proposal. Your comments and feedback are requested.—Nat Krause(Talk!·What have I done?) 23:32, 25 April 2010 (UTC)

Writing system[edit]

Surely some reference to Tibetan pinyin being more commonly used for Tibetan placenames (particularly for smaller settlements, and for counties and prefectures) needs to be added to this section. Skinsmoke (talk) 17:52, 25 June 2010 (UTC)

"highly conservative"[edit]

On the last paragraph of the intro: what does it mean to say that a language is "highly conservative", and is there evidence for that about Written Standard Tibetan?

It means that it hasn't changed much over the years, and is still close to it's ancestral form. Presumably this is an effect of writing: when you learn to read and write from ancient texts, you learn the language as it was long ago. But the spoken language changes every generation. — kwami (talk) 20:05, 22 October 2010 (UTC)

Wikipedia:Naming conventions (Tibetan)[edit]

I wrote up a new proposal for Tibetan naming conventions in late April, which met with predominantly favorable responses on the proposal's talk page. On the Naming conventions talk page, I have raised the question of how we can move toward making this a policy.—Nat Krause(Talk!·What have I done?) 01:21, 10 October 2010 (UTC)


as for " Bod skad, IPA: [pʰø̀ʔ kɛ]; ", why is there a "ʔ" after the first syllable but not after the second? Jakob37 (talk) 08:31, 14 November 2010 (UTC)

Based on Tournadre and Sangda Dorje, I would have written [pʰø̀kɛʔ], since, as I understand it, the glottal stop (if it a residue of [d] or [s]) drops out word medially. I will update it to that for the time being.—Nat Krause(Talk!·What have I done?) 02:12, 16 November 2010 (UTC)
By the way, I forgot to mention that word medially the "dropping out" of d, s, or g usually, as in this case, leaves a LONG vowel. I don't know how Tournadre would transcribe that....Jakob37 (talk) 23:59, 16 November 2010 (UTC)

vowels section[edit]

"Three additional vowels are sometimes described as significantly distinct: ...and [ɛ̈] (an unrounded, centralised, mid front vowel), which is normally an allophone of [e]. These sounds normally occur in closed syllables;"

the only common allophone of [e] is [i]; where is this [ɛ̈] supposed to occur?
besides /ʌ/, the two other strictly speaking vowel phonemes to be mentioned are the centralised /ɪ/ and /ʊ/ described by me elsewhere on this talk page. They most often occur as vowel-harmony variants of /ɛ/ and [ɔ] respectively.

Sources vary on whether the [ɛ̈] phone (resulting from [e] in a closed syllable) and the [ɛ] phone (resulting from [a] through the i-mutation) are distinct or basically identical.

Vowel harmony, at least in Lhasa Tibetan, has nothing to do with whether the syllable is closed or not. By the way, any of the vowels can be short or long, not just certain ones.

The vowels [i], [y], [e], [ø], and [ɛ] each have nasalized forms:

Actually, all the vowels have nasalized forms.

In all these matters, it might help to consult sections of my article (actually a review of a book on Amdo Tibetan) in Himalayan Research Bulletin v.XI (1991) p. 142-149. Jakob37 (talk) 03:12, 15 November 2010 (UTC)

WP:IPA for Tibetan was based on this article. You might want to make corrections there: it would be quicker and easier than here, maybe, and it could really use some help. (That key lists significant allophones, not phonemes. "Significant" from the POV of a native speaker of English, that is.) — kwami (talk) 18:06, 15 November 2010 (UTC) -- Done! Jakob37 (talk) 22:38, 18 November 2010 (UTC)
See WP:IPA for Tibetan for latest changes; suggest revision of article. Jakob37 (talk) 03:19, 23 November 2010 (UTC)
Prof. Dempsey, the transcription [ɛ̈] comes purely from my misreading of your comments above: you wrote "an unrounded centralised mid-high front vowel" but I took it to mean an unrounded centralised open-mid front vowel, i.e. [ɛ̈]. Since the example you gave at the time was slebs, I concluded that you were referring to the closed-syllable realisation of /e/, which would be the same phone that Tournadre and Sangda Dorje mention (Manual of Standard Tibetan, pg. 444): "/e/ ... is also pronounced [ɛ], or ay as a closed syllable". The examples given are སླེབས་ (slebs), ཕེབས་ (phebs), and ཐེང་སང་ (theng-sang). I'm afraid I know next to nothing about Tibetan vowel harmony, which apparently complicates matters a lot more than I had been aware. The article you linked to looks excellent. I'll read it as soon as I get a chance.
Sorry for the misunderstanding which gave rise to the spurious [ɛ̈] . I have herein transcribed the two lower high(better than upper mid, I think) vowels as /ɪ/ and /ʊ/, similarly to some other scholars, but in the vast Chang and Shefts material they always use "e" and o" with a dot over the vowel. "slebs" is a good example, not so commonly heard in "phebs" as far as I know. "theng-sang" has just the regular [e]. /ɪ/ and /ʊ/ commmonly occur in vowel-harmony situations, but also very commonly as a result of fusion: ia > /ɪ:/ and ua > /ʊ:/, for example 'dir > 'dia >'tɪ: (here, to this) and duwa > thua > thʊ: (smoke) - both are low-tone.Jakob37 (talk) 10:30, 16 November 2010 (UTC)
Kwami, I hadn't been aware of WP:IPA for Tibetan before now. I'm not quite sure what to do with it, given that transcriptions of Tibetan on Wikipedia so far are quite inconsistent, at least as far as the fine points are concerned.—Nat Krause(Talk!·What have I done?) 02:41, 16 November 2010 (UTC)
Prof. Dempsey, having read your article linked to above, I'm quite pleased to have learned more about Tibetan linguistics, but I'm not sure how to proceed with editing Wikipedia. The two main issues are how we should describe Tibetan vowels in the Standard Tibetan article and how we should transcribe the pronunciations of Tibetan names into IPA in other articles. Regarding the former, Wikipedia protocols strongly discourage us from removing material which is cited to a reliable source in favour of uncited material, so it will be good if we can find a citation for any changes that contradict Tournadre and Sangda Dorje. I wouldn't know how to describe which environments vowel phonemes such as [ɔ] and [ɪ]/[ʊ] are found in. Is there a reliable pattern? This leads into the other problem. If we don't know where the vowels normally occur, then we can't transcribe names into IPA based on their Tibetan/Wylie spellings, which I generally can do based on Tournadre and Sangda Dorje's description (of course, we don't want that convenience to stand in the way of accuracy). We need some kind of dictionary with IPA spellings instead.
I haven't read any Chang and Shefts so far — do you have any suggestions as to where I should start with their writings?—Nat Krause(Talk!·What have I done?) 03:28, 3 December 2010 (UTC)


"But Tibetologist Elliot Sperling has noted that "within certain limits in the PRC does make efforts to accommodate Tibetan cultural expression" and "the cultural activity taking place all over the Tibetan plateau cannot be ignored.""

within certain limits in the PRC does make efforts — is this quoted correctly? Choyoołʼįįhí:Seb az86556 > haneʼ 05:48, 20 January 2011 (UTC)

No; there is no "in" there. I have corrected the quote. Quigley (talk) 06:47, 20 January 2011 (UTC)

Retroflex nasal[edit]

I do not speak Tibetan or know anyone who does, but the website states that their recordings are made by native speakers. If you follow this link you may find a peculiar sound which is written as the "n" letter with a subscribed "r". There's an audio file and it's quite clearly a retroflex nasal. As i said, i do not know Tibetan so i cannot confirm if the difference is phonemic or whether the sound is present anywhere in the language apart from perhaps borrowings from Sanskrit, but this poor little phoneme deserves some attention in the article, i think.

Good point. The pronunciation of nr does sound different from the pronunciation of n for that speaker, although the website transcribes both of the as "n". I think the relevant question here is what is and isn't standard. All sorts of pronunciations are to be heard from Tibetans, but which of them counts as "Standard Tibetan"? This is very difficult to answer, especially in the case of languages that aren't intensively documented. Personally, I speak basically standard General American, but there are definitely some non-standard elements to my pronunciation at times. This may be the case with this speaker's Standard Tibetan.—Greg Pandatshang (talk) 23:45, 20 March 2011 (UTC)


An IP changed the pronunciation of Dbus from [y] to [wy], but also the alt. transcription from Ü to Wü, which I reverted. Should we keep the change in IPA? — kwami (talk) 11:16, 2 July 2012 (UTC)

My understanding is that, for rounded vowels with low tones, initial [w] is in free variation with no initial sound. So, for example, 'od-zer is [ø̀seː] ~ [wø̀seː]. The latter is probably the more typical pronunciation so it could be a more precise transcription, but the former is arguably a cleaner representation of the underlying phonemes. Systematic romanisations like Tournadre, THDL, and Tibetan Pinyin seem to leave out this /w/.—Greg Pandatshang (talk) 11:48, 2 July 2012 (UTC)

the article Tibetan language[edit]

Until recently, the articles were arranged like this:

  1. Tibetan language was a redirect to Tibetan languages
  2. Tibetan languages was an article all the languages/dialects descended from Old Tibetan, including Khams, Amdo, Ladakhi, Dzongkha, etc.
  3. Standard Tibetan was an article about the incipient spoken Standard, based on moderately prestige registers of Central Tibetan; Classical Tibetan also exists as an article about the main written standard.

I initiated a move of Tibetan languages to Tibetic languages to reduce confusion between the standard forms and the various farflung local dialects.

I changed Tibetan language into a disambiguation page linking to Tibetic languages, Standard Tibetan, Classical Tibetan, and some other dialects. However, this was reverted, so Tibetan language currently redirects to Tibetic languages.

This is a bit of a sticky wicket. "Tibetan language" is often referred to, but what exactly does it mean? It seems that it could have any of several related but quite distinct meanings, depending on context. Hence, a disambiguation page. However, it seems unsatisfactory to have a disambiguation page with so many links poining to it, so I'm inclind to try to pick a primary sense. Aiming for least astonishment, I would guess that the least confusing option would be a redirect to the closest thing to a spoken standard; i.e., I suggest redirecting Tibetan language to Standard Tibetan. There should be a very clear disambiguation note at the top pointing at Classical Tibetan and Tibetic languages.

Generally, editors should avoid linking right to Tibetan language. If they mean the spoken standard, they should link to Standard Tibetan. If they mean the written language, they should link to Classical Tibetan. If they mean some other dialect, they should modify the text to specify which one, and link to that. If the currently available information is unclear which dialect is meant, or if the topic is explicitly trans-dialectal, then the link should go to Tibetic languages. Incidentally, I think it would be good have an article on written Tibetan that would survey the standard Classical form as well as more modern efforts toward a vernacular written Tibetan.—Greg Pandatshang (talk) 23:09, 26 September 2012 (UTC)

Reverted to a dab page. We should keep the readers' choices open until we decide what to do.
Face it, nearly everyone is simply going to link to 'Tibetan language'. Nothing we say is going to make much difference. They will mean all sorts of things (Dzongkha is a dialect of Tibetan, Tibetan is an official lang of China, etc.), though I suspect more often than not they'll mean the standard language. — kwami (talk) 23:28, 26 September 2012 (UTC)
kwami (talk) 23:28, 26 September 2012 (UTC)
I think actualy having it as a dab page would be most informative to those readers who don't know it can mean multiple things. On the editing side, having a dab page is a clear signal to editors that those links should be disambiguated and not point to Tibetan language. --JorisvS (talk) 06:13, 27 September 2012 (UTC)

---I agree with JorisvS. Tibetologist (talk) 11:06, 27 September 2012 (UTC)

There's one problem here. Those links are not going to stay pointing to the disambiguation page - they will be changed to go to one of the articles in the disambig. Also, since this disambig is by far the most linked disambig, it will get attention from WP:DPL shortly. And of course, we have no Tibetan language experts, so I would encourage people here to lend a hand in fixing these links. Cheers, --JaGatalk 18:21, 27 September 2012 (UTC)
It seems to me that the "general" Wikipedia reader, who is not a language expert, would expect the singular title "Tibetan language" to describe an article about a specific language, probably Standard Tibetan. Taking the reader to a disambiguation page is likely to be confusing. The Standard Tibetan article's opening paragraph quite properly describes that language's relationship to others in the Tibetic group, and is more informative and useful to the novice reader than a disambiguation page can ever be. A disambiguation page is not the only way of informing a reader about topics with similar titles, and I think we should reconsider the current arrangement. The plural "Tibetan languages" by contrast would seem to describe a group of languages and/or dialects, and might either redirect to Tibetic languages or to a disambiguation page. --R'n'B (call me Russ) 12:40, 29 September 2012 (UTC)
So, redirect Tibetan language to Standard Tibetan and leave Tibetan languages pointing to Tibetic languages? Unless there's a reason not to do this, I'll implement it. --JaGatalk 03:39, 5 October 2012 (UTC)
Everyone except R'n'B said no. — kwami (talk) 04:25, 5 October 2012 (UTC)
No, Russ made a proposal and no one responded. --JaGatalk 05:45, 5 October 2012 (UTC)
Everyone already had their say. Getting the last word in because of that doesn't mean you somehow have consensus. — kwami (talk) 07:10, 5 October 2012 (UTC)
Nor does that mean you can render a verdict on what the opinions of others will be after new information comes to light. Other users' opinions were based on the incorrect assumption that we can just have those 700+ links point to the disambig indefinitely. That is incorrect, those links have to go to articles. I what I would really like to see is for people to weigh in now that we know "just let it go to the disambig" is not an option. Should a new article be created to explain the complexities of the meaning of "Tibetan language", or is the paragraph Russ mentions in Standard Tibetan adequate? --JaGatalk 08:23, 5 October 2012 (UTC)
I'm not rendering a verdict, I'm saying that you do not get to render a verdict based on the last person to speak trumping those who went before.
Of course it's an option. "Likely to be confusing" and "I think we should reconsider" indicate opinions, and people have the choice of accepting or rejecting those opinions. — kwami (talk) 08:29, 5 October 2012 (UTC)
JaGa, you've clearly misunderstood my opinion, which was that the amount links will (and should) be fixed from pointing to the dab page to pointing where they are meant to point. Personally, I have already fixed a bunch of them. Couldn't we include the relevant complexities into the dab page, so that confused readers that have landed there can make up their mind about what they were looking for? --JorisvS (talk) 08:33, 5 October 2012 (UTC)

──────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────── Disambiguation pages should not contain anything outside a list of "did you mean" entries. If there are complexities they should be explained in an article, not a disambig. Standard Tibetan already gives a good overview, and appears to be the WP:PRIMARYTOPIC to boot. The lay user is going to get utterly lost on that disambig; they need the explanation given by the article. --JaGatalk 15:58, 6 October 2012 (UTC)

Okay, now that's good reasoning. I'm not sure it's the primary topic, however. That's the problem here. Does "Tibetan language" mean the entire Tibetan language, or specifically the standard language? For most languages we combine those into a single article, but that's difficult here. — kwami (talk) 18:21, 6 October 2012 (UTC)
So... Anyone have an opinion on kwami's question? --JaGatalk 14:45, 17 October 2012 (UTC)
I think it's a rhetorical question. "Tibetan language" means several things. It's hard to say which is the primary meaning. As I said above, I would lean toward this article being it.—Greg Pandatshang (talk) 01:46, 18 October 2012 (UTC)

Wrong information on Tibetan language and interwiki link[edit]

I'm extremely concerned with the factual accuracy of Tibetan language information given in this article.

Pögä and Standard Tibetan

The Tibetan term Pögä (བོད་སྐད།) and Pöyig (བོད་ཡིག།) refer to the whole Tibetan languages and Tibetan text (comparable with Chinese term "中", text here indicate a certain language written in a certain script, i.e., Chinese language written in Chinese script and Tibetan language written in Tibetan script. In this sense, Dungan is (a dialect of/a) Chinese language 汉语 but not Chinese text 中文, Balti is (a dialect of/a) Tibetan language བོད་སྐད། but not Tibetan text བོད་ཡིག།). These two term have nothing to do with the Standard Tibetan, as the term "汉语"/"中文" have nothing to do with the Standard Chinese.

Wügä and Standard Tibetan

It's even not good to call Standard Tibetan "dbus". Instead, it should be called "Standard dbus" (comparably, "Standard Mandarin", etc.)


The term "Tibetic languages" is of linguistic use and should not be put into a high importance. Some French-school of scholars does not respect the traditional usage, and this has made considerably confusion among natives. To clarify this, below is a comparable counterpart of the current arrangement of the article Tibetan language:

French language may refers to:

Interesting? That’s exactly what a native feel when reading Tibetan language. Consequently, when a native chat with a European scholar they find they are using one term to refer totally different things.


The correct pronunciation in Standard Tibetan should be /wy/. This is important because pronounce it as /y/ may made it confused with yul /ɥy/=/jʷy/ (/ɥ/ or /jʷ/ is the semi-vowel of /y/ so it may be freely added). -- (talk) 08:46, 22 November 2012 (UTC)


Regarding pronunciation, Tournadre (Manual of Standard Tibetan, pg. 444) says, "Finally, it should be noted that at the beginning of low-tone words, round vowels are often "labialized" and preceded by the sound [w]. Thus འོད་ /öʼ/ 'light' is pronounced wöʼ." So, judging by the "often" I gather that the transcription /y/ for དབུས་ is less typical than /wy/ but not totally wrong. I agree with 202 that /wy/ would be better.—Greg Pandatshang (talk) 05:04, 7 January 2013 (UTC)

Okay. Changed. — kwami (talk) 06:04, 7 January 2013 (UTC)

Tibetan language disambiguation page[edit]

The difference between French and Tibetan is that French is much more standardized than Tibetan is (langues d'oïl are much more socially marginal than Tibetan dialects are), and Tibetan writing is even more conservative than French writing is. Consequently, French speech and writing are easily treated as one topic and related dialects are ignored, so "French language" can be treated as a single topic. The same circumstances do not apply to Tibetan.—Greg Pandatshang (talk) 05:14, 7 January 2013 (UTC)

Tibetan name for "Standard Tibetan"[edit]

I noticed that Tournadre and Sangda Dorje's book is called, in Tibetan, bod-kyi spyi-skad slob-deb. The first part, bod-kyi spyi-skad means Standard Tibetan. This would be written Bhökyi Chikä in Tournadre's transliteration (I would prefer a couple extra marks for clarity: Bhökyi Ĉhikä̀; but that is idiosyncratic), Bökyi Chiké in the THDL system, or roughly [pʰỳci t͡ɕíkɪ̂ː] in IPA. Now, this term is probably not used among Tibetans very widely, but then what term that means precisely "Standard Tibetan" is in wide usage? It could be useful to add as one of the Tibetan words for this linguistic phenomenon.—Greg Pandatshang (talk) 01:21, 8 January 2013 (UTC)

Pronunciation question[edit]

Tibetic languages#Historical phonology has had a "dubious" tag for quite a while now. What is 'baps actually pronounced like in Standard Tibetan, then? I haven't been able to find a description of how to convert written Tibetan into spoken Standard Tibetan syllables on English WP, but there is one on German WP, and it implies the pronunciation [(m)pàp]. --Florian Blaschke (talk) 22:13, 9 November 2013 (UTC)

Part of the problem with providing a practical spelling-to-pronunciation guide is that the experts don’t seem to agree amongst themselves on some notable fine points of how Tibean is pronounced. Based on Tournadre and Sangda Dorje, 'babs would be pronounced /pɑp/, with a tone that starts out fairly low, rises to medium, and then falls to very low. Neither /p/ is aspirated. The initial /p/ might be lighted voiced. The final /p/ would probably be lightly articulated. I think the /ɑ/ would be centralised to /ɐ/ or /ʌ/. An /m/ or other nasal sound might become audible in some words if 'babs is not the first syllable.& ndash; Greg Pandatshang (talk) 18:15, 11 March 2014 (UTC)
Assuming we're speaking of a Lhasa accent, how much do they actually disagree about pronunciation, and how much is just transcriptional differences? — kwami (talk) 20:20, 11 March 2014 (UTC)
There are real disagreements and in part it has to do with insecurity about what is meant by 'Lhasa dialect' and also to do with preferences in phonemics. For example, Tournadre prefers a two tone analysis by assuming that there is a phonemic glottal stop final, even after nasals when its presence is only detectable by its affect on tone realization. In contrast, Chinese authors prefer a four tone analysis where the glottal stop final is a tonal feature. You might be interested to consult this bibliography, much of which I have access to if it would be helpful to you. Tibetologist (talk) 11:53, 13 March 2014 (UTC)
Right, that's just the sort of thing I had in mind. It's not that descriptions of standard or Central Tibetan phonology are sharply at odds with each other, but there are more than a handful of issues like the one Tibetologist describes that are controversial. Another would be how exactly to expect the vowel in ʼbabs to be realised (and whether or in what environments there can be minimal pairs between /ɑ/ vs. /ɐ~ʌ/). Tournadre and Sangda Dorje have nothing (as far as I can recall) to say about vowel harmony, but other researchers have stated that is pervasive in Standard or Central. I'd like to further emphasise the point that it is not always easy to notice precisely which dialect or register scholars are describing. i.e., does Central necessarily = Standard = Lhasa dialect? – Greg Pandatshang (talk) 22:34, 13 March 2014 (UTC)
So it sounds like the debates over English. That's the kind of thing we should expect for any well-described language. — kwami (talk) 09:24, 14 March 2014 (UTC)
Perhaps. To the extent that Tibetan is different than English in this regard, it's clearly a matter of degree rather than kind. I'd hope researchers writing about English would at least be clearer about which dialect they're describing.—Greg Pandatshang (talk) 05:15, 15 March 2014 (UTC)

Western study of Tibetan[edit]

Some of the material here is not in the "Scholarship" section.