Are there any indications of phrase beginnings and endings or is this a matter of inducing a phrase maybe from embedded verbs or particles? Tibetan clearly doesn't use comma function symbols.
As I said, it's usually verbs + particles, plus a few idiomatic expressions (two common ones occur in our example: verb + པའི་ཚེ།
= "at the time of verb/when verb", and ཞལ་ནས ... ཞེས་གསུངས་པ
to mark the beginning and end of a quote).
But I have to study grammar some to even figure out what I'm reading (and of course this is a very advanced text). I am beginning to work on sight reading. After prayers what texts should I work on? I was looking at Sonam and Ruth Rinchen's version of Atisha's Lamp for the Path last night and it has the Tibetan as well and thought that might be something to work through.
Of course you need a foundation in grammar. It's important to memorize the forms and basic functions of the 15 sets of particles covered in the Sumchupa
. Compared to most languages this is practically nothing: you can easily fit a cheat sheet on 2 A4s. After that, you're ready to start reading. Lamp for the Path is an important text, not too difficult, and a nice length for a beginner, but I wouldn't recommend starting with something entirely in verse. Tibetan verse is basically truncated prose (particles get dropped, words are shortened to fit the meter), & when you're trying to learn how particles work it's good to have a text that leaves them all in. I usually suggest the Jewel Ornament: simple yet elegant prose, all the basic dharma vocab, & still plenty of verse to get used to.
Are there verb lists? I thought Preston had a book or paper on this (or perhaps he had done some computational linguistics work related to verbs)?
Sorry don't know. The vocabulary in the early lessons of whatever textbook you're using should be enough to get going. Once you start reading, make your own lists. You'll quickly get a sense of which verbs are most common.