Classical Tibetan language resources

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Archie2009
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Joined: Tue Jun 09, 2020 10:39 pm

Classical Tibetan language resources

Post by Archie2009 »

A new English language textbook on Classical Tibetan that uses dbu can script throughout was recently published. Since a general thread on resources for studying Classical Tibetan does not seem to exist on this forum, I thought I'd start this thread.

The book in question is A Textbook in Classical Tibetan by Joanna Bialek. Bialek learned Classical Tibetan from Michael Hahn's Lehrbuch der klassischen tibetischen Schriftsprache (1996) and also translated that book into Polish. Her own textbook builds on that experience as well as on teaching Classical Tibetan at the Philipps University in Marburg (Germany). This means the book is very different from Joe Wilson's Translating Buddhism from Tibetan.

I did a year of Classical Tibetan in the 90s using Hahn's Lehrbuch at uni and have good memories of it, except it being in German was a pain in the butt. Having done nothing with Tibetan in the meantime, I recently purchased a copy of Bialek's book to finally make work of learning to read Classical Tibetan for real this time. I read Wilson's book recently and look forward to comparing the two approaches.

From the publisher (Routledge):
A Textbook in Classical Tibetan is the first comprehensive course book in the Classical Tibetan language written in English. The textbook describes the grammar of pre-16th-century Classical Tibetan works for beginners and students of intermediate level. It is intended to cover the most essential topics that can be mastered within two semesters of an academic class. Classical Tibetan is a written Middle Tibetan language that has been in use in Tibet from the 9th century. Until the early 20th century it served all purposes, from administrative, to medical, to religious. Nowadays Classical Tibetan remains an important part of religious identity and services for communities also outside of cultural Tibet, foremost in India, Nepal, and Bhutan, but also elsewhere, most importantly in Europe, North America and Australia.

The main body of the textbook consists of an introduction to the Tibetan script, eighteen lessons, and a reading section. Each lesson elucidates several grammatical topics which are followed by an exercise and a word list. The chapter readings contain four supplementary readings. In addition to the main parts of the textbook, a brief introduction to Tibetic languages provides linguistic context for the language taught in the textbook, whereas the chapter Translations of Exercises and Readings contains translations and explanatory notes to the exercises provided at the end of each lesson, as well as to the readings.

A Textbook in Classical Tibetan is essential reading for both undergraduate and graduate students without any knowledge of Classical Tibetan, but also for those who would like to deepen their experience of the language by reading annotated excerpts from well-known pieces of Tibetan literature.

A positive review from Buddhist Digital Resource Center:

Last edited by Archie2009 on Tue May 03, 2022 6:10 pm, edited 1 time in total.
Archie2009
Posts: 756
Joined: Tue Jun 09, 2020 10:39 pm

Re: Classical Tibetan language resources

Post by Archie2009 »

Another book worth a recommendation is the second updated and expanded edition of Paul G. Hackett's A Tibetan Verb Lexicon. Even though there are very good online dictionaries available nowadays this verb lexicon is really worth getting, I think.

From the publisher (Shambhala):
With over 4,500 entries of the most frequently used Tibetan verbs, this expanded edition of Hackett’s highly acclaimed Tibetan Verb Lexicon is an incomparable lexical resource. This comprehensive verb dictionary includes various verb forms, verbal collocations, auxiliary constructions together with grammatical information, Sanskrit equivalents, and example sentences, making it a vital tool for any translator, writer, or scholar who intends to maximize the quality of their work related to the Tibetan language.
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Also by Paul G. Hackett: Learning Classical Tibetan: A Reader for Translating Buddhist texts (With grammatical annotation and translations)

This reader offers a more diverse set of texts, both translations from Sanskrit and indigenous Tibetan compositions, than the readers by Craig Preston.

From the publisher (Shambhala):
Designed for both classroom use and independent study, Learning Classical Tibetan is a modern and accessible reader for studying traditional Buddhist texts. Unlike other readers of Classical Tibetan, this is a comprehensive manual for navigating Tibetan Buddhist literature drawing on a monastic curriculum. Utilizing the most up-to-date teaching methods and tools for Tibetan language training, students learn to navigate the grammar, vocabulary, syntax, and style of Classical Tibetan while also engaging the content of Buddhist philosophical works.

Chapters consist of a contextual introduction to each reading, a Tibetan text marked with references to annotations that provide progressive explanations of grammar, cultural notes on vocabulary, translation hints, notes on the Sanskrit origins of Tibetan expressions and grammatical structures, as well as a literal translation of the text. The reader also includes study plans for classroom use, discussion of dictionaries and other helpful resources, a glossary of English grammatical and linguistic terms, and much more.

This reader can be used in conjunction with Paul Hackett’s expanded edition of his well-known Tibetan Verb Lexicon. Using a clear and approachable style, Hackett provides a practical and complete manual that will surely benefit all students of Classical Tibetan.
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Archie2009
Posts: 756
Joined: Tue Jun 09, 2020 10:39 pm

Re: Classical Tibetan language resources

Post by Archie2009 »

Online dictionaries of Classical Tibetan:

THL Tibetan to English Translation Tool, also available offline as a desktop app that requires Java Runtime Environment.
https://www.thlib.org/reference/diction ... nslate.php

Rangjung Yeshe Wiki - Dharma Dictionary
https://rywiki.tsadra.org/index.php/Main_Page

Christian Steinert Tibetan-English Dictionary
https://dictionary.christian-steinert.de/#home

UMA Institute for Tibetan Studies Tibetan-Sanskrit-English Dictionary
Downlaodable as a free PDF, this is also contained in e.g. the THL Translation Tool.
https://uma-tibet.org/tib/tib.php
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