Wikipedia talk:Naming conventions (Tibetan)/Archive1

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Comments[edit]

Nice work getting started on this, babelfisch. I think we should emphasise that our basic principle for naming articles should always be to use the most common form. Naming conventions are still very useful, though, to make recommendations in cases where no one spelling can be clearly distinguished as most common. My feeling, generally, is that we should deprecate Wylie in favour of something that will give the reader some idea how the word is actually pronounced by somebody. In practice, this will probably often mean privileging the Lhasa dialect, but the world seems to be moving in that direction anyway. When it's feasible, we can make effort to favour local dialects when writing about a place or something else that is specific to a certain place.

Should we try to use an actual organized system for writing Tibetan? That seems like a good idea, especially in the case of common words and terminology (rather than names of people and places). I don't know if either the names used by the Chinese government or the ones used by the Government-in-Exile are based on an actual system. User:Nathan_hill mentioned something about a Tournadre system of transcribing Tibetan a while back on a talk page, but I don't know much about that.

I'm afraid I don't agree with the suggestion to use official government spellings of places inside the PRC. We should always prefer whatever is the most common spelling in English. In some cases, this might be the official spelling, but, at least for the more famous places, the spelling used by the Tibetan Government-in-Exile seems to be predominant. For instance, using official spellings would require us to move Shigatse to Xigazê and Tashilhunpo to Zhaxilhünbo. In cases where there is no spelling which is clearly more common, I suggest we favour Government-in-Exile spelling or some phonetic system for the sake of consistency.

While we should deprecate Wylie in article titles (which is overwhelmingly the preponderent practice at present), it should, as babelfisch suggests, still be provided parenthetically. Maybe. Now that we are able to include actual Tibetan script in articles (I recently installed a Tibetan font, and it was extremely easy), I'm not sure if Wylie serves any useful purpose at all anymore. I think we can profitably observe a principle mentioned in the Manual of Style for Chinese, which is that, in the case of that language, one should make sure that every reference to a Chinese name or term is linked to the equivalent Chinese characters—either add them in parentheses or else link to another article that does. In the case of Tibetan, this goal can be accomplished either by including Tibetan script or by using Wylie transliteration (because someone who knows Tibetan and knows Wylie can always figure out the former from the latter. I think so, anyway; I don't fall into that category). Therefore, if we can provide a blue link to an article about X, we don't need to write out X (Tibetan language|Tibetan]]: ཁངསསས; Wylie: zXrg-S) every time it is mentioned in another article. In the article about X itself, my initial recommendation would be that we begin with "X (Tibetan language|Tibetan]]: ཁངསསས; other romanisations if necessary) and include Wylie only if it has some level of currency as a romanisation. - Nat Krause(Talk!) 05:17, 3 April 2006 (UTC)

There needs to be a system. "Most common spellings" do not exist for Tibetan, because there is a very limited set of Tibetan words, personal names and place names that have established English spellings. In this regard, the situation is similar to Chinese.
I'm aware of only two systems - one is Wylie, the other is the Chinese official system. The exile community did not produce any explicit guidelines, and transcriptions in their publications are chaotic. Tournadre is the author of an important textbook for Tibetan, but his transcription is not widely used or accepted. —Babelfisch 09:30, 3 April 2006 (UTC)
Babelfisch: sorry that I drifted away from this conversation. I had been reading this article from THDL, which says a little bit about Tibetan romanisation, but I got distracted by some other things. So, I don't begrudge you for changing the spellings on Dalai Lama, which should help get more of a conversation started, although, ultimately I don't think they should stand. We should probably should try to publicise this proposed policy a bit more before considering it in force. I'll leave some notes on relevant talk pages and the Village Pump.
I have in my possession exactly one volume of Tibetan history, Tsering Shakya's The Dragon in the Land of Snows. In the introduction, the author writes, "I have rendered Tibetan terms and names in more familiar Roman forms and a list of correct Tibetan spellings is provided as an appendix. For this I have used standard written Tibetan spelling and followed the transliteration established by Wylie (1959)." I find it interesting he seems to consider Wylie to be the only romanisation system worth mentioning, but he still doesn't use that in the body of the text. Rather, he refers to some "more familiar" Roman spelling. Looking through his list in the appendix, none of these seem similar to the official PRC romanisation: e.g., Chamdo, not Qamdo; Shigatse, not Xigaze; Sakya, not Sa'gya. On the other hand, some of his spellings don't really seem all that familiar to me: e.g. Kargyu instead of Kagyu.
As far as I can tell, official PRC romanisation is rarely used outside of government spellings are rarely used outside of government signs in the PRC. PRC romanisation looks, to me, distinctly different from other systems and harder to read. It contains similarities with Chinese Hanyu pinyin, including the Q and X that are frequently seen as confusing. These reasons, I think, militate against adopting PRC romanisation for general purposes. If we're going to choose a system, we should try to pick something that will tend to produce spellings resembling those which are familiar to readers. Using the PRC system indiscriminately will imply a political bias, because they are so closely associated with the Chinese government.
I think we should carefully consider to what extent we really need a system. Babelfisch writes: "'Most common spellings' do not exist for Tibetan, because there is a very limited set of Tibetan words, personal names and place names that have established English spellings." However, should we not use established spellings for names when they exist? If we do use them, then we are creating an exception to our system right at the start for the most-commonly-used instances. I think what we need is a system that we can use as a fall-back in cases where we are unable to determine what the most common system is. We can also refer to lists such as Tsering Shakya's and this one for suggested common spellings.
In any event, PRC spellings are particularly inappropriate for use on the Dalai Lama article, given that this system was not in place until after the current Dalai Lama left Tibet. There certainly must be examples of these historical names written in English by the current Dalai Lama or his people, and I suggest their spellings should take precedence. - Nat Krause(Talk!) 21:15, 16 April 2006 (UTC)
I agree with Nat. As far as I know there is no system which is commonly used and accessible to the layman, which leaves us with common use as the best guide. I think we should be able to agree on common terms for most of the things that we're likely to have articles on, such as people, places and Buddhist terminology. These names don't have to be known to the general population of Idaho, just the most common among whatever people talk about these things in English. HenryFlower 00:52, 17 April 2006 (UTC)
I'm not convinced (yet). Spellings can't be determined by a survey. How do we get the "more familiar" or "most familiar" spellings? From a specific corpus of literature? Through a Google search? Through a discussion on Wikipedia about each word until a consensus is reached?
The motivation for some of the "more familiar" spellings (such as "Tashilhunpo" for Zhaxilhünbo / bkra shis lhun po) is not clear at all and they are misleading, because they reflect neither pronunciation nor Tibetan spelling.
The list Nat Krause refers to is very unsystematic, particularely in the left column. Many of those spellings are not official.
Tournadre's system is a mixture. It tries to preserve the three-way distinction of the plosives in the written language (e.g. k-kh-g), which is not reflected in the pronunciation; on the other hand it drops most "silent" letters. The result is quite systematic, but some of the spellings won't be very popular, such as "Zhikatsé" for Xigazê/Shigatse (gzhis ka rtse) or "Trashilhünpo" for Zhaxilhünbo/Tashilhunpo (bkra shis lhun po).
One of the problems here is that for place names (cities, districts, counties), the official spellings are becoming more and more accepted, because they were adopted by the UN and other international organisations. However, this is not the case with names of historical figures, monasteries etc., which is a source of inconsistency.
I'm aware that there is no easy solution for this problem. —Babelfisch 03:39, 17 April 2006 (UTC)
Generally, yes, the only conclusive way to decide what the "common name" of something is by discussion. We can certainly use lists, like the ones I mentioned above, to give us suggestions about what is more common, but none of those are final. For instance, Tsering Shakya has Kargyu as the common spelling of Bka'-brgyud, but I would argue that it should be Kagyu. Google is a popular choice on Wikipedia to decide what the mostly used form of a word is, and, although it has weaknesses, that's often a good start. I also think we should weight things towards the spelling that is used by the party in question, provided that she/he/it still lives/exists and spells her/his/its name with some kind of consistency.
Does this seem unworkable to you? I think that it's pretty normal for Wikipedia for things like this to be hashed out on the talk page of the article in question.
As far as inconsistency is concerned, I think the important thing is to make sure that the name of a given person, place, or thing is spelled consistently throughout Wikipedia, and, especially, throughout a given article. Beyond that, what's the problem? I suspect that our friends who know a lot about Tibetan will wind up looking at the Tibetan characters or the Wylie transliteration instead of whatever transcription we use, while other readers will remain blissfully unaware of the inconsistencies that might exist between different transcriptions.
I agree that mixed transcription-transliteration qualities of Tournadre make it less desireable for our purposes.
In reference to the list I mentioned, did you actually mean that the left column is unsystematic, or did you mean the right? Either way, I don't really follow you. The only thing unsystematic that I can see about the left column is that some of the entries have only Chinese, while some of them have both Chinese and Tibetan. Are you saying that the Tibetan spellings contain errors? As for the right column, it's not supposed to be systematic. - Nat Krause(Talk!) 19 April 2006
PS - One of the additional demerits of the PRC system is that it doesn't seem to be used very systematically even in Chinese publications. Since I've been looking into the matter, I've noticed several names with variant spellings. - Nat Krause(Talk!) 04:07, 1 May 2006 (UTC)

Six point agenda[edit]

This is technopilgrim. Thanks babelfisch for creating this discussion topic, it is much needed. My comments:

1) if there was a clean fix for this we wouldn't be here struggling to figure this out. We are talking about the best way to blend multiple systems together in a way that works for both casual users and serious students, without causing too much offense or violating NPOV more than we have to. Because casual users are more intellectually delicate (think grade school students trying to use wikipedia), I suggest we establish a principle of keeping them foremost in mind. This means pedantry and escoteric scholarship, while welcome, needs to sit in the back of the bus & we keep the opening paragraph especially clean.

2) The inline "incantation style", which works OK in less demanding contexts, tends to break down horribly in the Tibet and Mongolia-related articles. By incantation style I mean opening sentences like:

Qinghai Lake or Lake Koko Nor (Tibetan: mtsho khri shor rgyal mo and མཚོ་སྔོན་ mtsho sngon po; Chinese: 青海湖;, pinyin: Qīnghǎi Hú, "Blue Sea"; Mongolian: Хөхнуур [Höhnuur], Classical Mongolian: [Köke Naɣur]; Manchu: Huhu Noor, "Blue Lake") is the largest lake in China...

This is broken from a readability standpoint, completely broken, although valid arguments can be made for including all the cross-reference alternatives. I think we need to go to the use of an side-bar infobox of some kind, instead of our present inline gizmo. Something like this (but off to the side and smaller)::

Alternative Name System
མཚོ་སྔོན་ Tibetan
mtsho khri shor rgyal mo Wylie transliteration
青海湖 lit. "Blue Sea" Simplified Chinese
Qīnghǎi Hú Pinyin
Хөхнуур [Höhnuur] Mongolian
[Köke Naɣur] Classical Mongolian
Huhu Noor lit. "Blue Lake" Manchu

and the article itself would simply begin:

Qinghai Lake or Lake Koko Nor is the largest lake in China...

3) In theory, Tibetan unicode does away with the need for Wylie transliteration. Wylie was designed to accurately transliterate the actual Tibetan script, and now that we have unicode and computers, we don't need a transliteration system. However, since Wylie transliteration has been the foundation of Tibet scholarship in the West for several decades, I can't argue with purists who consider it a necessary part of each article. I would suggest we keep the Wylie to the main article, and not included in link references from other articles. Thus we would link to the Kagyupa like this:

The monastery was established by the Kagyu (བཀའབརྒྱུད) school in 1132...

and not

The monastery was established by the Kagyu (Tibetan: བཀའབརྒྱུད་Wylie: Bka'-brgyud) school in 1132...

4) I agree with the Chinese gazetteer names are worth considering, despite their irregularities, but they should have lower precedence than any traditional pronunciation-based (read: non-Wylie) English name we find history has left us. Thus article names for placenames should follow any established English version first, but the article itself should include the gazetter name.

5) In articles on Bhutan I defer to the spelling adopted by the English edition of Kuensel and that pretty much ends the arguments about the highly irregular romanization that bedevils Dzongkha->English romanization. We should take comfort in the fact that Kuensel does not always follow its own rules. Is there a corresponding online newspaper that covers Tibet news and is not too beholden to either Beijing or the Free Tibet folks?

6) While I'm making Tibetan naming suggestions, can I make a pitch against conflating the name and titles of the historic Dalai Lamas in their article titles? Kelzang Gyatso, 7th Dalai Lama seems to be a very irregular name for an article, just as John Adams, 2nd US President would be. What's wrong with Kelzang Gyatso and a disambiguation link should another Kelzang Gyatso pop up?

See ya in church, technopilgrim 01:52, 11 May 2006 (UTC)

Ironically Kelzang Gyatso is one of the few Dalai Lamas who does share his name with another notable person, Geshe Kelsang Gyatso. If we want to disambiguate just by an arbitrary spelling difference, that's okay with me. Generally, I support the idea of having Tenzin Gyatso, 14th Dalai Lama instead of just Tenzin Gyatso, because this person is so extremely well known as simply, "the Dalai Lama". As far as previous incarnations go, I would support a move to move them all to just XYZ Gyatso. On the other hand, maybe they should all be at 1st Dalai Lama, 2nd Dalai Lama ... 14th Dalai Lama, since that seems to be the more common way to refer to them. - Nat Krause(Talk!) 03:57, 11 May 2006 (UTC) PS, Technopilgrim, you are so very right about the Koko Nor incantation, although we may or may not see eye to eye on a less dramatic case. I'll probably have more comments later.
re 2: The box is a great idea. Maybe something similar to Template:Koreanname Chinesename, because it has to be multilingual.
re 3: Articles should get rid of redundant information. If a Tibetan term or a name has a link to a separate article (like Kagyü in your example), there is no need to give any alternative spellings or transcriptions, because they can be found in the linked article. If there is no link, Wylie would probably be better than Tibetan script for most users.
re 4: I disagree. With a few exceptions, there are no established English spellings—Tibet is a rather obscure topic in the West. The Gazetteer is in accord with the United Nations, etc. —Babelfisch 03:20, 27 September 2006 (UTC)
Sorry to get here late; that depends on what you mean by few: Shigatse, for example, is probably established by Francis Younghusband and Harrer. The box seems useful. Septentrionalis 16:38, 10 October 2006 (UTC)
Also, some articles elsewhere have a paragraph on naming; see Ptolemy, and several geographic articles. Septentrionalis 19:15, 18 October 2006 (UTC)
I implemented Technopilgrim's suggestion on Qinghai Lake. Only took six months!—Nat Krause(Talk!) 07:25, 16 November 2006 (UTC)
Yes, it seems to me too, the box is a great idea.--Klimov 18:13, 18 November 2006 (UTC)

Kt66 comments[edit]

I see user:BabelFisch tries in Wikipedia EN to establish the Chinese transcription system as well as he did in the German Wikipedia ignoring that this system is not used outside China and follows not the common standard of reading, writing and transcription of Tibetan terms. This will only lead to confusion for the reader, is against the established standard of writing in all the literature outside China and will only confuse the reader. His (Chinese) transcription system will lead to the following (as we still have in WP Germany where he is very active promoting the Chinese transcription system):

  1. Jêzün Xêrab Jungnai
  2. Kalacakra-Tantra;
  3. Jamjang Kyênzê Wangbo
  4. Chopu-Gagyü-School
  5. Pudoin Rinqênchub
  6. Lobsang Gyaco.
  7. Losang Qoigyi Gyaincain
  8. Gendünzhub,
  9. Xigazê
  10. Panchen Lama Chinlai Lhünchub Qoigyi Gyaicain
  11. 9th Panchen Lama Tubdain Qoigyi Nyima

I checked google-book-search.de if they know these unusual style of BabelFish (China), the results:

  • Jamjang Kyênzê Wangbo (China Transcription) - 0 results
  • Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo (usual name convention) - about 40 results
  • Zhaxilhünbo (China Transcription) - 0 results
  • Tashilhunpo (usual name convention) - 24 Google pages
  • Losang Qoigyi Gyaincain (China Transcription) - 0 results
  • Losang Chökyi Gyaltsen (usual name convention) - 2 results
  • Gendünzhub (China Transcription) - 0 results
  • Gendun Drup (usual name convention) - 12 results
  • Xigazê (China Transcription) - 10 Google pages
  • Shigatse (usual name convention) - 42 Google pages
  • Gandain (China Transcription) - 0 results on the monastery
  • Ganden (usual name convention) - about 80 results
  • Xalu (China Transcription) - 0 results on the monastery
  • Zhalu (usual name convention) - 4 Google pages with about 30 results

The uncommon China transcription system will lead to that Drepung is called Zhaibung and so on. Maybe BabelFish has more an political agenda than really interest in makeing readable and understandable articles for the sake of the reader. I completely disagree with using the China transcription of the Tibetan language. I suggest to transliterate the terms as they are written in the scientific and common literature in the west, Tashilhunpo instead of Zhaxilhünbo and Dorje Shugden instead of Dorjê Xugdain. Using google.de-search in the latter case it gives 1 result to Dorjê Xugdain (the German Wikipedia Article where BabelFish is using this transliteration) and 14.800 results for Dorje Shugden. My personal feeling is: maybe BabelFish is more discussing on base of political aims this point than on base of the idea of benefiting the reader/WP. Maybe he has a Wikipedia:Conflict of interest and the topic should be treated by mediation. --Kt66 01:21, 31 January 2007 (UTC)

A few minor points about Kt66's comments:
  1. "Jamjang Kyênzê Wangbo" should be "Jamyang Kyênzê Wangbo" in the Chinese system; perhaps "Jamjang" represents an inconsistent Germanisation?
  1. "Kalacakra-Tantra" is not Tibetan but Sanskrit written in [[I

AST]]; the Tibetan name is Tügyi Korlo in the Chinese system; if "Kalacakra-Tantra" were Tibetan, it would be pronounced "Galajazha Dainzha".

  1. "Lobsang Gyaco" seems oddly incompatible with "Losang Qoigyi Gyaincain". I don't know who's responsible for introducing this discrepency.
  1. Counting hits in Google's booksearch function is an interesting idea that I hadn't thought of before. It seems like it might be more reliable than the basic google test, although perhaps it has shortcomings that will come to light.—Nat Krause(Talk!·What have I done?) 01:48, 31 January 2007 (UTC)
BabelFish established this style of writing, including its discrepencies. The google-book-search gives the opportunity to get a quick overview what terms/transcriptions are used in general. However it also makes clear that user:BabelFisch's idea of using the China transliteration system is against the common name convention and is uncommon in every sense for people outside China. So once more my vote against using this system. --Kt66 11:58, 31 January 2007 (UTC)

Regarding BabelFish: he stated in WP Germany he is contributing from China. In China the access to Wikipedia is controlled by the government (as it was said in WP GE). So I suppose BabelFish is working for or in the intention of the Chinese Government, whose intention is surely not to have free information but to establish their policies. It is presently discussed in WP GE to exclude BabelFish from Wikipedia. Although I cherish his work I think maybe this is better than discussing for years to use his unusual transliteration system. --Kt66 01:15, 16 April 2007 (UTC)

It seems to be I am wrong here. In WP Germany an admin (PJacobi) gave me a warning of inappropriate behaviour. So in that case it seems to me I am completely wrong here. So please be cautious with this statement of mine here. --Kt66 11:13, 16 April 2007 (UTC)
Wow, I hope not all of us are going to stoop to that level, Mr Jäckel Kt66.
Are you actually going to apologise, Kt66, or are you standing by your statement and just advise everyone to "be cautious"?
Concerning the difficulties of users in China, see Wikipedia talk: Blocking policy # Softblock for Tor proxies, and please participate in that discussion. —Babelfisch 07:22, 17 April 2007 (UTC)
I apologized. It was too late in the night and my mind was not clear. If you like we can remove this from the talk page - and do so as well in German Wikipedia. I resisted to remove it from the talk page, so that my fault can be seen by others, especially because I got a warning in WP GE by Admin:PJacobi. I wished not to hide it, so I didn't remove it. (BTW, I changed my family name which you used to my WP:user:name.) Many regards, --Kt66 22:14, 21 April 2007 (UTC)
I can't find your apology on the English Wikipedia; and I don't think your comments should just be removed, because they illustrate your positions and arguments very well. (On modifying other people's contributions on talk pages, please have a look at the relevant policy: editing others' comments.) —Babelfisch 02:34, 24 April 2007 (UTC)
Thank you BabelFish. You're right, I apologized in WP GE, not in WP EN. Please accept my apology here as well. We let the comments here as they are for the tranparency. Please use my username as it is common in WP. Thank you very much, many Regards, ---Kt66

Coming back to the point of the transcription system which Babelfisch tries to establish here: it is not common outside of China and the power of using it would be in the hands of BabelFish. No scientist source outside China is using it. Why focusing on the idea of a single user which goes against the name conventions as they are common? Why putting the power to the name conventions in the hands of BabelFish and ignoring all those scientific and common sources as we have in the west? As with the example of Zhaxilhünbo we can agree to use the common name Tashilhünpo and adding the other transcription systems in brackets or in a separate table, but not Zhaxilhünbo as the article's name. Using BabelFish's beloved system would completely revolutionise the present style of transcribing Tibetan names and make it very difficult for the reader to understand the articles and what the content of them refer to. While it would be easy to the reader to understand that Tashilhünpo is the same as Tashilhunpo or even Tashilhunbo it will be very hard to understand what is Zhaxilhünbo or:

  1. Chopu-Gagyü-School
  2. Pudoin Rinqênchub
  3. Lobsang Gyaco.
  4. Losang Qoigyi Gyaincain
  5. Gendünzhub,
  6. Xigazê
  7. Panchen Lama Chinlai Lhünchub Qoigyi Gyaicain
  8. 9th Panchen Lama Tubdain Qoigyi Nyima

Supporting such uncommon style of transcription will include that all the articles on Tibetan Buddhism will be changed into BebelFish's preferred China transcription system (from what there is no official version available as far as I know), Tsongkhapa will be written than as Zongkaba, a style of transcription as BabelFish has still established it in German WP. Geshe will be written as Géxé and so on and even Kaygu School will be written than as Gagyü-School. This has not my support. --Kt66 10:50, 1 May 2007 (UTC)

Comment Does the person proposing using the PRC transcription system speak Tibetan? Surely anyone who knows both Tibetan and English would realize that the way a normal English speaking person would pronounce "Tashilhunpo" is a lot closer to the pronunciation in Tibetan (and its major dialects) than the way that person would pronounce the string of letters "Zhaxilhünbo" [- unless that English speaker also happens to be familiar with Pinyin]. Same thing with Shigatse / Xigazê and most other words. Although Wylie is unpronounceable, that system at least it preserves the Tibetan spelling which is important when romanising a language where almost every word has several homonyms. To avoid confusion we should try to use either the most common English transcription or the Tournadre / THDL system which, unlike the PRC system, is pronounceable. Where there is any scope for confusion or ambiguity the Wylie or Tibtan script should probably also be given in brackets.
Chris Fynn (talk) 08:12, 14 June 2008 (UTC)
I'm not sure how much of a goal it is for everyone that the romanisation system imply a correct pronunciation to English speakers. I suppose the idea of Tibetan Pinyin is that it is to be an international standard which would be used not only by English speakers but also other European speakers, Chinese speakers, and everyone else. Chinese Pinyin is used as the international standard for romanising Chinese names even though the spellings are often opaque for someone trying to guess how they are pronounced (and, of course, it is impossible to create a system which satisfies everyone—for example, the pronunciation of "Chu" is pretty straightforward to an English speaker, but to an Italian, it looks like [ku]; to a Frenchman, it looks like [ʃy]; and to a German, it looks like [xu]).
I, personally, do think it is a reasonable goal to prefer something that will be easier for English speakers to pronounce somewhat correctly, since we have no particular reason to think that whatever standard we adopt here would ever be used outside of en.wikipedia. That said, there are sounds in any language which are going to be difficult for us to give an accurate implied pronunciation for: the first sound in "Tashilhunpo" ([ʈ] or [ʈʂ]) is one of them. Now, although it's subjective, I can accept the claim that this sounds more like the English "t" than it does like anything an English speaker would be likely to produce in response to "zh". However, the fact is that this sound doesn't really exist in English and nothing we write is going to get the non-expert reader very close to it. Also, the suggested Tournadre system contains some unintuitve spellings, particularly the "th" and "ph" spellings (I was pronouncing Tsurphu as [tsʰurfu] for years before I realised that's not what the "ph" is supposed to mean). As Babelfisch pointed out earlier, Tournadre and THDL givs us "Zhikatse" for Shigatse.—Nat Krause(Talk!·What have I done?) 16:03, 15 June 2008 (UTC)
I agree strongly with the argument that Pinyin is inappropriate as a primary standard in an English-language Encyclopedia. It just isn't used in English-language publications, and is counter-intuitive to English speakers.
If we want a maximally-faithful phonetic representation, Tournadre is the way to go; it is not widely accepted, but it is much more intuitive than Pinyin.
I believe that the right answer is probably Wylie (for speakers) + THDL Simplified (for non-speakers), with non-standard but widely accepted spellings like Shigatse added as needed. Arthur chos (talk) 22:45, 8 July 2008 (UTC)
Perhaps the other way round ~ the common transciption or THDL simplified for normal readers + Wylie/EWTS translitteration or Tibetan script for speakers and those who need to look up he orignal spelling. Spellings like Shigatse have almost 100 years of use in English language publications there is no good reason to change these. Where there is no common spelling in English language books, follow the THDL/Tournadre system. On the first occurance of an imporant name or term put the Wylie or Tibetan scriptin brackets after. Anyone editing a WP article who knows Tibetan and is familiar with English language books on Tibet and English language translations from Tibetan, should have no real difficulty with this.
As others have pointed out, to a normal English reader "Tashilhunpo" is far closer to the Tibetan pronunciation than "Zhaxilhünbo". Tibetan Pinyin is hardly used in publications outside of China and is certainly not the usual way to write Tibetan words in English language. It is probably fear easier to learn the Tibetan script (or how to read Wylie) that to learn to pronounce Tibetan Pinyin in a way that aproximates Tibetan. Chris Fynn (talk) 07:05, 7 February 2009 (UTC)
Thanks for your comments, Chris. I keep going back and forth on which option I prefer. I've pretty much given up on the suggestion that I made back in 2007. It was a nice idea, but it diverges too much from a lot of conventional spellings and from the Wylie. I think it's basically either Tournadre Phonetic or THDL. I can understand the arguments for both, the main argument for the latter being that it seems to be basically the only standard (other than Tibetan Pinyin) agreed upon by more than one source outside of Wikipedia. I would prefer to use Tournadre modified slightly to make it a bit more phonologically thorough, or THDL modified slightly to make it a bit closer to conventional spellings, but that would probably just make it more difficult to get consensus.
Clearly, Wikipedia can truck along pretty well without any standard for Tibetan at all. Still, it would be nice to have a standard for cases like Tibetan culture#Days of the week and the various other similar instances where Tibetan words appear in the text. I don't think most editors would want to substitute IPA pronunciations for the names of week; nor can we really do a Google test, etc. to determine the conventional spellings in this case.—Nat Krause(Talk!·What have I done?) 21:42, 7 February 2009 (UTC)

Common use in english literature should be common use in Wikipedia-En[edit]

My proposal for the use of transliteration: Let's collect a list of literature using transliterations from tibetan, published in english concerning Whylie/different western transliterations/PRC-transliteration. The list with most entries is the best standard to use in WP-En, because it is the most widespread kind of transliteration used in the western world. If it is the case, that we then find some differences within the most popular transliteration-group, we agree on a list of special transliterations to use in this most popular group. This transliteration should be standard for all tibetan terms, arcticles, personal names, names of places etc. That's the easiest and fastest way to come to a conclusion and is based on the most neutral criteria concerning the use of transliterations in english-WP.--12 Tenma 09:44, 31 January 2007 (UTC)

Let's start here:

  • Whylie:
  • Crystal Mirror VI, Dharma Publishing, Berkeley CA (USA) 1984
  • different western transliterations:
  • Tibetan Buddhism
  • Dudjom Rinpoche, "The Nyingma-School of Tibetan Buddhism" Wisdom Publications, Somerville USA 1991
  • Ngawang Zangpo, "Guru Rinpoche - His Life and Times", Snow Lion Publications, Ithaca NY. USA 2002
  • Keith Dowman, "Sky Dancer - The secret Life and Songs of the Lady Yeshe Tsogyal" Snow Lion Publ. 1996
  • Khenpo Konchog Gyaltsen, "Great Kagyu Masters: The Golden Lineage Treasury", Snow Lion Publications
  • History of Tibet and Tibetan Buddhism / Tibetan Refugees in the West
  • Tsering Shakya, "The Dragon in the Land of Snows: A History of Modern Tibet Since 1947", Penguin Books Ltd (Oktober 2000), ISBN-10: 0140196153
  • Melvyn C. Goldstein, "Snow Lion & the Dragon: China, Tibet, & the Dalai Lama: China, Tibet and the Dalai Lama", University of California Press, ISBN-10: 0520219511
  • Alexander Berzin http://berzinarchives.com
  • Tibetan and Zen Buddhism in Britain: Transplantation, Development and Adaptation - The New Kadampa Tradition (NKT), and the Order of Buddhist Contemplatives (OBC), by David N. Kay, London and New York, ISBN 0-415-29765-6
  • Palden Gyatso, Tsering Shakya "The Autobiography of a Tibetan Monk", Grove Press / Atlantic Monthly Press, ISBN-10: 0802116213
  • Filippo De Filippi: "An Account of Tibet: The Travels of Ippolito Desideri of Pistoia, S.J. 1712- 1727", ISBN: 9780415346788, Publisher: Routledge
  • "Tibetan Buddhism: A Foundation Course", Author(s) - Cathy Cantwell, Robert Mayer, Series: Routledge Critical Studies in Buddhism, ISBN: 9780415318181, Publisher: Routledge
  • Melvyn C. Goldstein, Gelek Rimpoche, "A History of Modern Tibet, 1913-1951: : the Demise of the Lamaist State", University of California Press, ISBN 0520075900
  • World Press

--Kt66 10:08, 3 February 2007 (UTC)

  • PRC-transliterations:

Comments on Tibetan phonology and transcription[edit]

After months of anticipation, I've finally had the opportunity to peruse Nicolas Tournadre and Sangda Dorje's Manual of Standard Tibetan, which is, as far as I can tell, the last word (in English) on modern spoken "Standard" Tibetan. I'd like to make a few comments about what it says, which may affect our opinions on Tibetan naming conventions.

Before that, though, I'd like to quibble with something the "project page" currently says. I think it's not, strictly speaking, true that the spelling “Tashilhunpo” fails to match pronunciation[1]. Rather, it matches what a lot of people might hear as the pronunciation; this is shown by the frequency with which [ʈʂ] or [ʈʂʰ] is written this way (e.g. tulku, Thinley, tashi delek, Lhamo Thondup, etc.). The actual problem is that it doesn’t fit comfortably into any system of transcription because it conflicts with the [t] and [tʰ] phonemes.

About Manual of Standard Tibetan: it’s worth noting that, when we talk about a “Tournadre” romanisation system, there are actually two systems described in ‘’Manual of Standard Tibetan’’: one is used in the body of the textbook to show corret pronunciation, and the other is described in an appendix as a suggested system for writing Tibetan words in the middle of English text. We can call these Tournadre Full and Tournadre Simplified, respectively; I believe that most of the references on Wikipedia so far that referred to a “Tournadre system” meant Tournadre Simplified. The THDL Simplified system is similar to Tournadre Simplified, but it is even simpler (e.g., it uses e instead of ä); one might even call it "Tournadre Extra-Simplified". Tournadre Simplified conveys approximately all the same information that Tibetan Pinyin (the official romanisation in the PRC) does. It’s not exactly accurate to say that Tournadre Simplified preserves the classical Tibetan three-way system of stops (g, k, kh); it doesn’t just preserve it, it also adds a “gh” option. In fact, Tournadre Simplified’s “g” is pronounced exactly the same as “k”, and “gh” is pronounced exactly the same as “kh”; the only difference is in tone. However, the tonal distinction is inconsistent, because there is no similar way to show tone in words that don’t begin with stops. The other obvious advantage, although it doesn't strike me as terribly important, of the k-kh-g-gh system is that it clearly shows the Tibetan spelling of the word. Another possible advantage is that it could accurately reflect a four-way stop system in some other dialects related to Standard Tibetan—however, we can hardly go by that, lacking information on it.

Another flaw in Tournadre Simplified, which seems rather inexplicable, is that it has us substitute “ch” for “c”, which is strange because these are two different sounds (presumably, Mr. Tournadre thinks that “c” alone will be too confusing for readers, because they will pronounce it like a “k”. However, he doesn’t seem to have a problem with “th” or “ph” or "tsh", which are also confusing)—it would have made more sense to substitute “j” for “c”.

Tournadre Full seems to be Tournadre and Sangda Dorje’s definitive record of the Central Tibetan pronunciation of words. The good news from ‘’Manual of Standard Tibetan’’ is that its phonology typically agrees quite closely with the phonology described by Tibetan Pinyin. Coming from two independent sources, this seems like a good indication that we do have accurate information on how Central Tibetan is actually pronounced. There are a few nuances of pronunciation which are included in Tournadre Full but are not mentioned in Tibetan Pinyin, or, for that matter, any other system of Tibetan romanisation that I know of. Tone is one thing: Central Tibetan has two tones which are phonetic, and each tone has two possible contours, which are not phonetic except in rare cases (Babelfisch’s Tibetan Pinyin article indicates that there is a version of Tibetan Pinyin which does indicate tones). Tournadre also states that there is a glottal stop at the end of words which originally ended in –s or –d, but this is not indicated in any transcription system other than Tournadre Full. For example, take the syllables ‘’rje’’ (རྗེ་) and ‘’rjed’’ (རྗེད་); Tournadre Simplified, THDL Simplified, and Tibetan Pinyin each make both of these “je”[2], implying that they are homophones, pronounced exactly the same. However, Tournadre Full indicates that there is an audible stop after ‘’rjed’’, meaning that the listener can distinguish one from the other without regard to context. Similarly, Tournadre Full indicates that there is a lengthening effect which can appear with some vowels, essentially meaning that Tibetan has developed a phonetic vowel length; so, in the case of ‘’rje’i’’ (རྗེའི་) Tournadre Simplified, THDL Simplified, and Tibetan Pinyin each make that “je”, which again is exactly the same as ‘’rje’’, but Tournadre Full indicates that a listener will be able to hear the difference.

As I said above, I think that it would be nice for us to have a system for transcribing Tibetan that we can use as a fall-back in cases where a conventional spelling can't be found. This would give Tibetan roughly the same naming conventions as Russian. We should find something that works, as Technopilgrim says, "for both casual users and serious students". Taking Tournadre and Sangda Dorje's description as authoritative, only the Tournadre Full system is complete, but this was not designed for use in normal text.—Nat Krause(Talk!) 07:25, 16 November 2006 (UTC)

Wylie[edit]

When I started to look for Tibetan terms on the web, it was not really easy to find them. Then it occurred to me to google
for something like "rdzogs chen". Such kind of google searches usually give definite results.

It seems a good reason why any article on a Tibetan issue should contain Wylie transliteration.--Klimov 18:13, 18 November 2006 (UTC)

Maybe we use the THDL Simplified Phonetic Transcription of Standard Tibetan http://thdl.org/xml/showEssay.php?xml=/collections/langling/THDL_phonetics.xml ? --Kt66 12:23, 1 May 2007 (UTC)
Incidentally, the downside of the THDL system is that it reflects actual pronunciation only haphazardly. For instance, the (hypothetical) words dar (དར་) and ’dar (འདར་)་ would both be written "Dar" and the words tar (ཏར་) and thar (ཐར་) would be both written "Tar", despite the fact that dar is pronounced the same as thar in standard Tibetan (ignoring tones) and ’dar is pronounced the same as tar (again, ignoring tones).—Nat Krause(Talk!·What have I done?) 00:53, 3 May 2007 (UTC)
I would also recommend the use of the THDL Simplified system. It usually accords with common usage, or is close to it; it is a pre-existing and neutral standard; it gives a reasonably good sense to non-experts of what the word sounds like; and it avoids confusing diacritics and rules that are non-standard for English. It is not feasible to develop a system that gives a fully accurate sense of the pronunciation to a non-speaker, and those who can read Tibetan don't need phonetics. Arthur chos (talk) 12:03, 20 January 2008 (UTC)

An Indialogist and Tibetologist from the Marburger University was asked in WP Germany and he replied that the use of Pinyin is mainly politically intended and therefore inappropriate for scientist manners which should be neutral. He suggested to combine Wylie and the common transcription: dGa' ldan (Ganden) or Ganden (dGa' ldan). --Kt66 23:27, 12 June 2007 (UTC)

You're distorting what Roland Steiner wrote. His actual (or reported) message can be found here: „Mail eines Indologen und Tibetologen zur Thematik“. Steiner didn't really comment on the official transcription, he's only arguing against transcribing Tibetan names via Chinese (i.e. Rikaze, Zhashilunbu etc.), and nobody has proposed that here! He actually wrote that he hadn't read the discussion, and he really missed the point about Pinyin. His main point is that Wylie is essential, and we still have many articles without even that. —Babelfisch 08:30, 19 June 2007 (UTC)

Infobox[edit]

Tibetan name
Tibetan: བཀྲ་ཤིས་ལྷུན་པོ་
Wylie transliteration: bkra shis lhun po
pronunciation in IPA: ʈʂaɕiɬympɔ
official transcription ( PRC): Zhaxilhünbo
THDL: Trashilhünpo
other transcriptions: Tashilhunpo, Tashilhümpo
Chinese name
traditional: 扎什倫布寺
simplified: 扎什伦布寺
Pinyin: Zhāshílúnbù Sì


Derge
Names
Tibetan Tibetan: སྡེ་དག་རྫོང་
Wylie: sde dge rdzong
official: Dêgê
THDL: Degé
others: Derge
Chinese simplified: 德格县
traditional: 德格縣
Pinyin: Dégé Xiàn
Data
administration provincial level: Sichuan
prefecture level: Garzê
population total: 59746
Tibetan: 57771 (96.7%)
Han:
others:
Area: 11,025 km²
post code: 627250
area code: 836

I've created an infobox for the German version of Wikipedia. Here's an English translation, see the example on the right.

Meanwhile I've discovered that the Japanese version has a pretty box for Tibetan place names. I've translated it into English and sligthly modified it (e.g. removed Katakana), there's an example on the left. It has more information than the German box, but can't be used for personal names or other terms.

Any comments? —Babelfisch 09:09, 6 June 2007 (UTC)


We could divide the Japanese one into two templates, one for the name, the top section, which would be useful everywhere, and the other for Tibetan places, with the bottom box (we could even transclude one in the other). But I think the German looks better. Septentrionalis PMAnderson 17:18, 7 June 2007 (UTC)
Why not stick with the tried and true Template:bo-zh-box?—Nat Krause(Talk!·What have I done?) 06:16, 8 June 2007 (UTC)
Yes, the template, of course! It's great, but there's room for improvement. Let's discuss this there. —Babelfisch 08:45, 19 June 2007 (UTC)
Babelfisch. The Tibetan script in your sample box is spelled incorrectly. You missed the vowel on the second syllable - it should be སྡེ་དགེ་རྫོང་ not སྡེ་དག་རྫོང་) - and in the Tibetan Pinyin and THDL Simplified Phonetic you have only transcribed སྡེ་དགེ་ (sde dge) not རྫོང་ (rdzong). Chris Fynn (talk) 07:21, 7 February 2009 (UTC)
I've finally created a new template (Tibetan-Chinese-box) to replace the old one. —Babelfisch 03:00, 1 August 2007 (UTC)
The new template nicely fits the typical standards of other templates on Wikipedia. However, it's non-obvious why the "Chinese name" field is now mandatory and is being added to all articles. I can understand Chinese names for sites that are still existent in the modern day, since Chinese is now used fairly widely in Tibet. But Chinese seems irrelevant for persons who lived before the mid-20th century.—Nat Krause(Talk!·What have I done?) 03:38, 2 August 2007 (UTC)
This is not the place to argue about Tibetan history, but there have been periods when relations with central China were very close, not only since the mid-20th century. Today, Tibet is a part of China and a lot of literature on Tibet is published in Chinese, which is another reason why it makes sense to give Chinese names, especially for places, but very often for personal names as well.
“Traditional” Tibetology in the west tends to completely ignore modern Tibet and Tibet's relations with Han-Chinese, which is very problematic. (On western Tibetology, see for example Tsering Shakya, The Development of Modern Tibetan Studies. In: Robert Barnett (ed.), Resistance and Reform in Tibet, Bloomington, University of Indiana Press 1994, ISBN 0253311314, pp. 1–14).
I've actually tried to modify the existing template, but I'm obviously not as good as you with the software and you have not been very helpful (your revert; see also Template talk:Bo-zh-box#Improved boxBabelfisch 06:26, 2 August 2007 (UTC)
There may be a lot of literature on Tibet published in Chinese ~ but IMO that literature is far more relevant to articles in the Chinese language WP than articles in the English WP. There are also many articles on Tibet and Tibetan Buddhism published in Japanese, does it follow that we should also include Japanese transcriptions of Tibetan words in English WP articles? In the English WP I think we should attempt to follow the conventions of scholarly articles in English language publications. Chinese transcriptions of Tibetan terms belong in the Chinese WP, not here.
Including too many different transcriptions, transliterations and different language versions of a term in a box is likely to bewilder the normal reader without providing much useful information. If someone want the Tibetan word in a languages other than Tibetan and English or English transcription they should probably be looking in other language WP articles or in Wiktionary. Chris Fynn (talk) 07:32, 7 February 2009 (UTC)

New proposal[edit]

I wrote about an alternate proposed naming convention, which can be seen here: Wikipedia:Naming conventions (Tibetan)/proposal 2. The gist of the proposal is that we should endeavour to use common conventional spellings for names whenever possible. When a conventional spelling cannot be determined, or when we are quoting Tibetan speech, we would use a system of phonetic romanisation, for which I have given detailed suggestions, which should resemble the accepted conventional spellings as much as possible while providing clear phonetic information based on the Lhasa dialect (the proposal also mentions the possibility of sometimes using phonetic spellings based on other dialects, but I don't foresee this being practicable any time soon). Please discuss this proposal at Wikipedia talk:Naming conventions (Tibetan)/proposal 2.—Nat Krause(Talk!·What have I done?) 20:51, 7 July 2007 (UTC)

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ This is referring to the letter T, as does the original passage. What is questionable here is u and possibly the p.
  2. ^ Note: to be fully correct, it should be “jé” in the THDL system and “jê” in Tibetan Pinyin.

THDL Simplified[edit]

User:Arthur chos writes here and here in favour of using the THDL transcription. I have mixed feelings about this. On the pro side, THDL does tend to match up pretty well with conventional spellings (not always, though: for example it gets "Ganden" right, but does have "Zhikatsé" for "Shigatse"); also, I recently read Our Great Qing by Johan Everskog, which is the only book I've ever seen which actually adopts a standard phonetic spelling for Tibetan, and that standard is THDL Simplified. So, anecdotally, that's an example of a scholar using THDL (most historians that I've read are apparently still using a completely ad hoc set of conventional spellings—a smaller number use Wylie exclusively). On the con side, THDL's representation of pronunciation is definitely hit-or-miss and so is its representation of the original Tibetan/Wylie spelling. For instance, THDL would lead one to believe that "Tsongkhapa" and "Tsering" begin with the same sound, even though they are in fact spelled and pronounced differently. I have also heard a strong criticism of the THDL system from a scholar of Tibetan history who has edited Wikipedia in the past; his critique is basically that it is an inferior imitation of the Tournadre Phonetic system of romanization. Tournadre's system is basically Wylie with the silent letters removed and with a few changes to vowels and consonants when necessary to show almost all features of modern pronunciation.

I don't fully agree that "It is a non-goal to provide a detailed and accurate phonetic representation. There is no way of doing that for non-speakers, and for those who read Tibetan it is not needed." It is certainly true that no spelling will allow readers with no advance knowledge to get the sounds of a foreign language right. All writing systems fall short in that regard. Still, I think there are degrees of good and bad. I think that people with a certain degree of knowledge of Chinese, for instance, appreciate the fact that Hanyu Pinyin shows exactly what the standard target pronunciation of that word is when Chinese people say it. I speak from experience: I know enough Chinese that I care to know how a word is actually pronounced, but I certainly don't know it well enough that I can always just look at the characters and know what they sound like; and, I think it's much more convenient to have the name always written in Pinyin in any given English text, rather than having to refer back to an IPA transcription somewhere else in order to see how it's pronounced.

Incidentally, the THDL system does not actually remove all unusual letter combinations. It still has "lh" (in fact, I think Lhasa is still "Lhasa" in every known system of phonetic spelling). I think the idea behind THDL is to remove spellings that seem entirely pronounceable but which are likely to be pronounced incorrectly (for instance, there's no [f] sound in "Tsurphu").—Nat Krause(Talk!·What have I done?) 22:19, 15 March 2008 (UTC)

I don't really disagree with anything you say. However... I think the Chinese pronunciation analogy does not really work, because you cannot look at Chinese characters and figure out how they are pronounced, whereas you can with Wylie. So Wylie+THDL Simplified satisfies the needs of both speakers and non-speakers. (I certainly agree with others who insist that Wylie is a must-have.) Yes, Simplified loses some distinctions, but they would probably be lost on non-speakers anyway. And I believe Tournadre will be mis-pronounced by non-speakers to a greater extent than THDL Simplified. For example, tsh is inevitably going to be mispronounced, which is why it make sense to collapse Tsongkhapa with Tsering.Arthur chos (talk) 22:36, 8 July 2008 (UTC)

The Need[edit]

Hi, everybody. I'm new to Wikipedia so please be indulgent with any naiveties and if I ever seem like a bull in a china shop.

It looks like the talk so far implicitly presupposes a need to link to other pages with Tibetan in the article's title and search for terms in romanised Tibetan. For a newby, that is above my head. But can I point out another need for consensus here and that involves many issues in common.

The title of this discussion mentions "Naming conventions". Inasfar as the need above is about names, it doesn't go far above for me. I have a need about all sorts of terms.

I've been trying to give the Tibetan Buddhism article a facelift. Here and elsewhere in traditional Tibetan culture there is a paralysing problem with English terms not having been standardised. It is so severe that when you read a book on Tibetan Buddhism you may not be able to work out what they are talking about unless you have a Tibetan or Sanskrit equivalent for the key term in question. I've been pleased to see this need alluded to here and there in the discussion so far too. Please consider my posts in light of this preoccupation of mine.

Does this need too strike a chord? Is this need out of place in this discussion? Maybe there are other needs in standardising Tibetan romanisation practise that I'm not aware of.

Moonsell (talk) 15:18, 6 May 2008 (UTC)

Phonemic transcription not enough and Wylie indispensable[edit]

This contribution is aimed at urging an inclusion of Wylie (or the only viable substitute, Tibetan script), along with any other romanisation of Tibetan, wherever possible and practical - not to encumber the drafting or ongoing editing process, but as a goal in a polished product.

Klimov 18:13, 18 November 2006: When I started to look for Tibetan terms on the web, it was not really easy to find them. Then it occurred to me to google for something like "rdzogs chen". Such kind of google searches usually give definite results. It seems a good reason why any article on a Tibetan issue should contain Wylie transliteration.

I don't have a proposal for what system to use for phonemic transcription, and I wonder whether a definitive answer is even practical. That says to me that phonemic transcription is not enough.

Nat Krause(Talk!) 19 April 2006 wrote: I suspect that our friends who know a lot about Tibetan will wind up looking at the Tibetan characters or the Wylie transliteration instead of whatever transcription we use, while other readers will remain blissfully unaware of the inconsistencies that might exist between different transcriptions.

This is true. With names, in particular, we don't really want standardisation, do we? If the name of a book spells a name one way, we should be able to find that book with a search of that particular romanisation, and if a certain person spells his name a certain way, similarly. We don't need Wylie, either when such a standard for an individual case exists.

OK, that said, these are things that have already standardised themselves as non-standard. Let's consider the rest.

Babelfisch, 17 April 2006 says: Tournadre's system is a mixture. It tries to preserve the three-way distinction of the plosives in the written language (e.g. k-kh-g), which is not reflected in the pronunciation...

That's true in the sense that the distinction between two kinds of Tibetan consonants (the first and third or second and third, depending on dialect and detailed Tibetan spelling) does not exist in English. However, it does exist for Tibetans. It shows in high or low tone, as Nat Krause, 16 November 2006 pointed out above. [There is even an intermediate tone in Central Tibetan,e.g. Lhasa, which is shown by none of the phonemic systems but can be identified through Wylie, because it is shown not by any single consonant in Tibetan spelling but by a combination, like "sh" or "ph" in English, as in the Wylie rnga.Cf. N.T. Narkyid, 1975. Three Study Tools. 2nd ed. LTWA. Dharmsala.]

This difference is obliterated by both the Tibetan Pinyin (Chinese) system, which has its own agenda and the system of Jeffrey Hopkins, which is expressly devised for simplification to throw a life-raft to Tibetan scholars who don't know Tibetan language.

Wylie, as a transliteration (writing) system, shows letters that are silent in the spelling. The other systems are phonemic (speech) transcriptions, trying to tell you how a word sounds. This distinction is crucial. There is no simple choice of phonemic system. We just don't have too many of the sounds in English. Tibetan is a hard language to pronounce, and this stumbling block, which people encounter right at the start is the reason why so few students of it persevere despite its ridiculously simple grammar. (The other big stumbling block is Tibetan's huge vocabulary: lots and lots of words potentially to romanise!)

No romanisation of a language with non-English sounds will be good enough, even if some such is a necessary evil as the only way of keeping Wylie in second place.

Words in classical Tibetan, the language of traditional Tibetan culture and of place names, etc. often sound the same as each other (homophonic) in modern Tibetan. Nat Krause, 16 November 2006, above, gives the example of the syllables rje (རྗེ་) and rjed (རྗེད་). The English letters are Wylie transliterations. A phonemic transcription of both would be je. We're talking about short words that are often spelt with various silent letters. The silent letters were once pronounced. If we ignore the Tibetan script and give a phonemic transcription followed by the Wylie as well each time, we have je, rje and je, rjed to disambiguate. That's why Wylie is indispensible.

Kt66, 12 June 2007: An Indialogist and Tibetologist from the Marburger University... suggested to combine Wylie and the common transcription: dGa' ldan (Ganden) or Ganden (dGa' ldan).

We can put pairs of romanisations just like that, transcription plus transliteration, but can I suggest we omit the parentheses and just put them with a comma between them and nothing else. Everyone knows what is Wylie even if they know no Tibetan, because Wylie is so often gobbledegook. Sometimes they are the same, so that we will end up with two words the same with a comma between them: nga, nga. That doesn't matter, because a glance at others shows what is going on. Omitting the parentheses is necessary because this kind of article grows parentheses like topsy already, and this makes it less cluttered.


Modern Tibetan gets round this problem of classical words sounding the same nowadays by using modern words that are longer and consist of two classical words compounded. Here is an example using just phonemic transcription (no Wylie): tob and shu both mean "strength" in classical Tibetan. Combining them, we get a standard modern Tibetan word for "strength": tobshu. When a lama explains a verse that uses the classical word, tob, he will often quote it and then paraphrase it with the modern one, tobshu.

Our article just has the classical Tibetan, be it a term, place name or whatever, so we give the Wylie after the phonemic: tob, stobs. We now know from the spelling which "tob" it is, viz. the one that means "strength". That's why we have to have the Wylie too. To avoid cluttering the text, the Wylie can be put in a footnote. If a footnote explaining something there is already needed, the explanation can go after the Wylie:

  • stobs. There are ten strengths enumerated.

When there is an English translation used, the English can be put in the text and the Tibetan phonemic plus transliteration with a comma between them can go in the footnote:

  • [text:] strength
  • [footnote:] tob, stobs.

When, as often happens, scholars know the Tibetan term but may not know the translation because it is a rare or unfamiliar one, etc. the phonemic trascription can go in the text, then the footnote can begin with Wylie, folowed by a colon, followed by the translation in quotes:

  • [text:] tob
  • [footnote:] stobs: "strength".

All this need not be cumbersome. Every editor doesn't have to do everything. The brains of the outfit can put in English translations of words, phonemic transcriptions of all nonstandard sorts or whatever and the nerdy technicians can clean it up after, adding Wylie etc wherever possible. For people who know it, that is the easy part, like cleaning up after a meal. The hard part is thinking what to put in the content of the article, like cooking the meal.

The Tibetan script on Wikipedia is a nice addition. I like it. But I have yet to be convinced that it substitues for Wylie, because:

  • a) I haven't tried but surely it would be just too hard to input unless it maps onto keys automatically as you type Wylie. I wouldn't have a clue where to begin otherwise and if I did, would I have the time?
  • b) a more minor point: It doesn't even show up correctly in my browsers. Symbols are all sequential, with none vertically aligned. I use a macintosh with Firefox and Safari. Oddly, though, if I copy and paste it to a text file, it looks perfect. That means the mac likes it but the browser is gagging on it. Does it show up OK on PCs?

It's really nice, though, because it has the potential to give Tibetan stuff a presentation on Wikipedia that is classier and artistic. Also, Tibetans are uncomfortable with Wylie, which is really neither English nor Tibetan but a hybrid, and Tibetan script is something they themselves can relate to.

So far, reading the talk, I'm still in doubt: Is there a consensus. yet, that either Tibetan script, for those who can, or Wylie (perhaps later to be replaced with Tibetan script by another hand who can) is indiepensible wherever possible for a final, polished product?

If we do allow ourselves the luxury of Wylie rather than, or as a stop gap until we get round to inputting Tibetan script, can we live with two romanisations side by side and separated by a comma as above? The alternative is cluttering text and notes ad nauseum with something like the extra word, "Wylie:"

Moonsell (talk) 15:18, 6 May 2008 (UTC)

Re-reading this post, I didn't mean to imply we should abort the search for the best phonemic transcription, apart from adding a Wylie transliteration or Tibetan script - only that where a particular name already has its own regular but maybe nonstandard romanisation, we should respect that.

Moonsell (talk) 04:44, 7 May 2008 (UTC)

I agree with the necessity of including Wylie (and believe we need some standard system of phonetics as well). Tibetan Unicode is not a good substitute for Wylie, because people will search for the Wylie with Google or whatever, it Google isn't smart enough (yet?) to find the Unicode equivalent.
I wonder if software magic could be written to automatically expand the Wylie into phonetics and Tibetan Unicode?

Arthur chos (talk) 22:28, 8 July 2008 (UTC)

You can type Tibetan Unicode into Google search boxes. There are also routines freely available to convert Wylie into Tibetan Unicode (and Unicode into Wylie) ~ Problem is, if the Wylie is not somehow flagged as such in a standard way, how is a search engine supposed to know that a string of roman characters is Wylie transliteration of Tibetan?

Chris Fynn (talk) 08:24, 7 February 2009 (UTC)

Kt66, 12 June 2007: An Indialogist and Tibetologist from the Marburger University... suggested to combine Wylie and the common transcription: dGa' ldan (Ganden) or Ganden (dGa' ldan). ~ In articles for non-specialist readers the second way [Ganden (dga' ldan)] - approximate English transcription followed Wylie transliteration in brackets by is best. Since Unicode is now widely implemented, Tibetan script might be used instead of Wylie [after all, anyone who understands Wylie probably reads Tibetan script]. IMO other types of transcription or transliteration just clutter up the articles without adding anything useful. Tibetan terms in Chinese, Manchu, Mongolian etc. belong in a multilingual dictionary not in English WP. The Wylie or Tibetan script only needs to be included the first time a word occurs in an article - and sometimes, where it is obvious what the original word was from the transcription, a transliteration may not be necessary at all.

Chris Fynn (talk) 07:59, 7 February 2009 (UTC)

I would like to add my vote for including Wylie transliterations with Tibetan script or other transcriptions. And that Tibetan script should be included as well. I think my points are all mentioned above, but i will summarise to strengthen my vote, and add one more person's experience:

  • Tibetan script does not display, or may not display correctly in all browsers. Therefore, Wylie, so that a person can find the Tibetan script even if they don't know Wylie (e.g., paste into Google search, or into THDL's wylie-to-tibetan converter).
  • Wylie is a scholar's transcription system. Regular Tibetan people are unlikely to know it. (In my experience in Dharamshala, i get a puzzled expression 90% of the time just at the mention of the word!) Therefore, Tibetan script. And Wylie, so that a normal person can use it for google search, Tibetan script conversion as above.
  • Since there are so many transcriptions of Tibetan, it has been an invaluable help to me in my work (websites) and probably to others, to find web pages (usually on Wikipedia!) with many alternate transcriptions. (Example: how long it took me to find out that "Aba" and "Ngawa" were the same place! duh.) In fact this seems to be a problem for many, and i ended up starting a database for myself just to have alternate transcriptions/spelings (on the web, not yet ready for prime time).
  • I totally agree on the difficulties of a standard transcription system for Tibetan. And that trying to include everything just makes an article too cluttered, for sure! But ...
  • I see a trend of Tibetan on the web being geared mostly towards scholars (of Tibet, Tibetan, and Buddhism). While this is great, there are real Tibetan people out there, who are using the web more and more. Luckily more Tibetans are getting web-savvy and excellent popular Tibetan language sites are springing up, inside and outside Tibet. But still, the more we can do to bridge the gap between the ivory tower and us little monkeys on the ground, could be a Good Thing.
  • So maybe there could be some standard, such as having maybe Tibetan script and some transliteration in the article, and a "box" for other transcriptions.
  • And, because of all the above, i think each transliteration/transcription should be labeled somehow, otherwise it becomes much less useful to have them.

Thank you for your patience, and i go print this whole page out now and get myself eddicated ...

Avaarga (talk) 06:12, 10 June 2009 (UTC)

Good points, Avaarga. Personally, what I think would be a good solution would be an appendix of Wiktionary especially for variant Tibetan spellings. This could include both names (Ngawa/Ngaba/Ṅawa/Aba/rnga-ba) as well as normal words (gyalpo/gyelpo/gyälpo/gyaibu/rgyal-po, all linking to the Wiktionary article at རྒྱལ་པོ་). This would be useful because there is currently no way for a reader who doesn't know Tibet to see a word like "gyalpo" and look it up in a dictionary—you need to know the Tibetan spelling.—Nat Krause(Talk!·What have I done?) 00:34, 11 June 2009 (UTC)

Comment on Chinese names[edit]

This is the English Language Wikipedia. I really don't think we need to include all the Chinese (Official PRC, Simplified Chinese, Traditional Chinese and Pinyin) forms of Tibetan names. They would certainly be appropriate in the Chinese Language Wikipedia but not here. I'm sure the intention was good but IMO, in most cases of its use, this box just clutters up the articles.

Tibetan figures often have many variant names. e.g. see my comment Talk:Jamgon_Ju_Mipham_Gyatso#Alternate_Names. In suh cases are we going to give Chinese equivalents of all these? In "Official PRC", Simplified Chinese, Traditional Chinese and Pinyin? IMO we should just have the most common Latin transcription, Wylie transliteration, and perhaps the original Tibetan name and skip Chinese forms of the name. If we include Chinese why not include Mongolian, Manchu or Sanskrit forms of the name as well? In many cases of historical Tibetan figures these would be much more relevant than the Chinese.
Chris Fynn (talk) 17:00, 13 May 2009 (UTC)

I think the rationale for including Chinese names is that there might be research material available to some users in Chinese, so they would want to know what name to look for. I don't think is very compelling, though, since it would also militate in favour of including the Japanese name and perhaps the most common German spelling as well, etc. I agree that Chinese names should generally be left off. There was an editor active a while back, however, who made a template for listing Tibetan names (Template:Tibetan-Chinese-box) which doesn't work unless a Chinese name is included, and that template is now used on a lot of articles.—Nat Krause(Talk!·What have I done?) 00:53, 10 June 2009 (UTC)

THDL comment[edit]

User:Avaarga recently added a paragraph to Wikipedia:Naming conventions (Tibetan) about THDL romanisation: "The Tibetan and Himalayan Digital Library (THDL) has developed a transcription system that also addresses these issues. It is more suitable for western readers as the Latin letters are closer to what most would expect for the corresponding Tibetan sound." I would like to first point out that the "policy" laid out on this page is really only the opinion of one user; it has never been approved by consensus and it won't be any time soon. The proposal is inactive, so I have not even worried about trying to change it into something that will be acceptable. I'd also like to point out, about the idea that THDL is more readable to Western readers, this is true in many instances, but not always. For example, in the official Chinese system, the letters t and d, p and b, g and k always about the same sound value that they do in English; whereas, in the THDL system, "d" sometimes makes the sound of English "t" (e.g. "Döndrup") and "t" sometimes makes a sound closer to "d" (e.g. "Taktser"). THDL is not strictly a transliteration at all, but is a "mixed system", since it intentionally ignores some important phonetic distinctions and elsewhere makes distinctions between sounds that are actually the same.—Nat Krause(Talk!·What have I done?) 01:13, 10 June 2009 (UTC)

Note on the use of Wylie transliteration[edit]

I notice many of the transliterated words in Tibet related articles use incorrect capitalization of the root letter in the Wylie transliteration. Wylie discouraged all use of capitalization and in his HJAS article (vol. 22, Dec., 1959, pp. 261-267) that set out the system, he said that if capitalization is used only the first letter or prefix should be capitalized not the root letter (which he calls the initial). So bka' rgyud and Bka' rgyud are correct in Wylie transliteration but not bKa' rgyud or bKa' rGyud. See: Wylie_transliteration#Capitalization. -- Chris Fynn (talk) 17:20, 9 August 2009 (UTC)

Wylie should ideally only have capitals when it denotes Sanskrit letters. Because these are common in some types of texts, and anyone trying to type using a Tibetan input method may be confused by their results, capitals should be discouraged. As long as there is a pronounceable (for those who don't read Tibetan) version next to it, I don't see any advantage to the inclusion of non-Sanskrit capitalization. Capitalization of the root letter doesn't help people who can't read Tibetan (it just solves one of a dozen issues in pronouncing a Tibetan word like sgrubs - is sGrubs any easier to pronounce?), and people who can read Tibetan already know what the root letter is. This is much better: drup (sgrubs). As well, I wanted to comment that wylie does not use hyphens. Ever. I've found them in most articles, and it's just wrong. There is no benefit to putting them in the wylie. Again, people who can read Tibetan already likely know which syllables are combining to form a word, and the transliteration should be indicating that, anyway, i.e. semchan thamche (sems can thams cad). I hope that this clarifies things, and that we can clean up the sometimes mess that is wylie in Tibetan articles. --Joechip123 (talk) 20:27, 30 July 2010 (UTC)