Lesson Five 95
5.8 Honorific language
Words are selected i n Tibetan with regard not only to theirreferent meani ng, but
also to the relative social status of the person (s) bei ngi̅spoken or written about. A lthough
spoken Tibetan has several honorific levels, written Tibetaun can be conceived of as using
just two levels aun honorific (h.) and nonhonorific (nh.) . Until now only nonhonorific
forn[s have been used, with the exception of ཕེབས་ and ཁོང་ i̅ i̅
Honorific launguage refers to words that are sy nonyms with respect to their i̅
refere nt meani ng, but which di ffer with regards to the respect they convey to the subject.
For example, the third person pronouun "he" has two fornls, one of which, ཁོ་ (or ཁོ་པ་) , is
nonhonorific and the other, ཁོང་, is honorific. The latter is used when the referent is a
person or hi gh social status.i̅
Nomi nals may, as with "he, " have two separate fornls, or they may use one of a
small number of honorificizi ng words together with the nonhonorific fornn. Two of the
most common of these honorifici zers are ཕྱག་ (the h. of ལག་པ་ "hand") and སྐུ་ (the h. of
གཟུགས་པོ་ "body") . For example, དེབ་ ("book, nh.") becomes ཕྱག་དེརྭ་བ་ ("book, h.") ལས་ཀ་
(
"work, nh.") becomes ཕྱག་ལས་ ("work, h.") . i̅
i̅Verbs also have honorific fornls. Like nomi nals, some verbs have completely
different honorifics, e.g., བྱེད་ ̅ གནོང་ or མ་ ཛད་ and རྒྱབ་ ཌ་ སྐྱོན་ Others use གནང་ or བ་གནང་
after the nh. forn to fornm honorifics, e.g., གཏོང་ ཌ་ གཏོང་བ་གནང་
a. ཁོས་ལས་ཀ་བྱས[
kȫö̀ l ɛ̲ɛ̲ ga chɛ̲ɛ̀
he-by work did
He worked.
b. ཁོང་གིས་ཕྱག་ལས་གནང་།
kōŋki ch āālɛɛ̀ nān i̅
he (h.) by work (h.) did (h.) He
He worked ཚེ་ (h.) . Or., He will work (h) .
c. ཁོས་གནམ་གྲུ་གཅིག་བཏང་སོང་།
kȫö̀ nə̅mdru chīdānsu
heby planeone send past compl.
He flew a plane. ཚེ་ d.
d. ཁོང་གིས་ཁ་ས་གནམ་གྲུ་གཅིག་གཏོང་བ་གནང་།
kōŋgi kɛ̅ɛ̅sa nə̅mdru chīdān n ān i̅
he (h.) by yesterday plane one send did (h.) past compl.
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