སྟོ
u̲ཟེསུ༔ཟ་ ༔སྤྲO---རྞྞཱདྦྷྱ་ F ཟེ
I. IIntroducti on to the Tibetan language
The written Ti betan language has 3 ྀ་ 0 consonants, 4 written vowels, and l i nherent
(unwritten) vowel. Spoken Tibetan, however, contains at least 35 consonants and 9
spok en vowels, and the standard pronu nciati on of written Tibetani̅ uses alli̅44 of these.
Consequently, there is no simple one to one equivalence. In addition to this, however,
Tibetan is not read phonetica [y. Combi nations of letters i n sy llables are often
pronou nced totally di fferently from the i nherent quality of the i ndivi dual letters. For i̅
example, the seven letters bsgrubs are actually pronou nced drub. Thi s tra nsfornlation i s
partly due to the evolution ot Central Tibetan i nto a tonal language since many of the
consonant clusters that were once pronounced (and still are i n some areas) have become
tonal i nHCentral Tibetaun. One of the di fficult task s faci ng beginners, therefore, i s to lea rn
how com bi nati ons of the written vowels and consonants are pronou nced. To assist
readers i n thisi̅task , the first two lessons contai n a set of rules, and lessons l5 i nclude
phonemic e quivalentsi̅of the written letters (i n colloquial Lhasa dialect) . A cassette tape
of these l essons i s available fromHCase Western Reserve University"s Ce nter for Research
on Ti bet (238 Mather Mem orial Buildi ng, Cl eveland, Ohio 44106.ph. 216368 - 2264 , fax
216368 533 ྀ་ 4) . The reader is urged to use this tape regularly.
The Tibetan words usedi̅in the first part of this lesson do not have to be
mem orized and will not appear i n the glossaryi̅unless they occur i n other lessons. They
are used primarily to illustrate various linguistic features such as tone and l ength rather
than because they are common ternls.
I.2 Tone i̅ i̅ i̅ i̅ i̅ i̅
i̅Tone is a disti nctive feature of the Ti betan phi̅onological sy stem. It refers to the
pitch of vowels. For ex ampl e, whereas it makes no difference i n English whether th e
word dog is pronounced i n a very high pitch or a verylow and deep pitch, i n Tibetan such
differencesare critical and si gnal differences e quival ent to those which would exi st i ni̅
English if different vowels were used. A line under a vowel i ndicates low tone and a line
above, high tone. Thus, gū (hi gh tone) means body while gu̲ (low tone) meauns nine.
In additi on to these two tones, Ti betani̅also h as a released glottal stop which we
call a falling tone. It is marked by an obli que line over a vowel, for example,
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