Tibetan script

Tibetan script

Infobox Writing system
time=c. 650–present
fam1=Proto-Canaanite alphabet [a]
fam2=Phoenician alphabet [a]
fam3=Aramaic alphabet [a]
footnotes= [a] The Semitic origin of the Brahmic scripts is not universally agreed upon.
unicode= [http://www.unicode.org/charts/PDF/U0F00.pdf U+0F00–U+0FFF]
The Tibetan script is an abugida of Indic origin used to write the Tibetan language as well as the Dzongkha language, Ladakhi language and sometimes the Balti language. The printed form of the script is called "uchen" script (bo|w=dbu-can|t=དབུ་ཅན་|lang=yes; "with a head") while the hand-written cursive form used in everyday writing is called "umé" script (bo|w=dbu-med|t=དབུ་མེད་|lang=yes; "headless"). The script is very closely linked to a broad ethnic Tibetan identity. Besides Tibet, the writing system has also been used for Tibetan languages Bhutan and in parts of India and Nepal and even Pakistan (Chamberlain 2008).

The script is romanized in a variety of ways. This article employs the Wylie transliteration system.


(bo|w=oMmanipad+mehU~M|t=ༀམནིཔདྨེཧཱུྃ|lang=yes). Monochrome text right of center reads Sanskrit IAST|"Oṃ (bo">w=oM badzrasatwa hUM |t=letters is based on an Indic alphabet of that period, but which specific Indic script inspired the Tibetan alphabet remains controversial.

There were three orthographic standardizations after the script's invention. The most important one, an official one aimed to facilitate the translation of Buddhist scriptures, took place during the early 9th century. The Tibetan orthography has not altered since then, while the spoken language keeps changing, for example, losing the complex consonant clusters. As a result, in all modern Tibetan dialects, in particular the Lhasa dialect, the spelling, which reflects the 9th-century spoken Tibetan, differs from the reading significantly. This is why some people are in favour of transliterating Tibetan "as it is pronounced", for example, writing "Kagyu" instead of "Bka'-rgyud".


The Tibetan script has 30 consonants. The vowels are a, i, u, e, o. As in other Indic scripts, each consonant letter includes an inherent a, and the other vowels are indicated by marks; thus ཀི ki, ཀུ ku, ཀེ ke, ཀོ ko. Old Tibetan included a gigu 'verso' of uncertain meaning. There is no distinction between long and short vowels in written Tibetan, except in loanwords, especially transcribed from the Sanskrit.

Syllables are separated by a tseg ; since many Tibetan words are monosyllabic, this mark often functions almost as a space. Spaces are not used to divide words.

Although some Tibetan dialects are tonal, because the language had no tone at the time of the scripts invention, tones are not written. However, since tones developed from segmental features they can usually be correctly predicted by the spelling of Tibetan words.

The "h" or apostrophe (’) usually signifies aspiration, but in the case of zh and sh it signifies palatalization and the single letter h represents a voiceless glottal fricative.

Old Tibetan had no letter w, which was instead a digraph for 'w.

The Sanskrit "cerebral" (retroflex) consonants are represented by the letters ta, tha, da, na, and sha turned horizontally to give ཊ Unicode|ṭa (Ta), ཋ Unicode|ṭha (Tha), ཌ Unicode|ḍa (Da), ཎ Unicode|ṇa (Na), and ཥ Unicode|ṣa (Sa).

As in other Indic scripts, clustered consonants are often stacked vertically. Unfortunately, some fonts and applications do not support this behavior for Tibetan, so these examples may not display properly; you might have to download a font such as [http://www.thdl.org/tools/fonts/tibfonts.php?l=uva Tibetan Machine Uni] .

W, r, and y change form when they are beneath another consonant; thus ཀྭ kwa; ཀྲ kra; ཀྱ kya. R also changes form when it is above most other consonants; thus རྐ rka. An exception is the cluster རྙ rnya.

Tibetan in Unicode

The Unicode Tibetan block is U+0F00–U+0FFF [ [http://www.unicode.org/charts/PDF/U0F00.pdf Unicode block U+0F00 – U+0FFF] ; Tibetan script.] . It includes letters, digits and various punctuation marks and special symbols used in religious texts (you will need Unicode fonts covering this block installed to view the table properly in your web browser). Grey areas indicate non-assigned code points.

See also

* Tibetan Pinyin
* THDL Simplified Phonetic Transcription
* Balti script



*Beyer, Stephan V. (1993). "The Classical Tibetan Language". Reprinted by Delhi: Sri Satguru.
*Chamberlain, Bradford Lynn. 2008. Script selection for Tibetan-related languages in multiscriptal environments. "International Journal of the Sociology of Language" 192:117-132.
*Csoma de Kőrös, Alexander (1983). "A Grammar of the Tibetan Language". Reprinted by Delhi: Sri Satguru.
*_____ (1980-1982). "Sanskrit-Tibetan-English Vocabulary". 2 vols. Reprinted by Delhi: Sri Satguru.
*Das, Sarat Chandra (1996). "An Introduction to the Grammar of the Tibetan Language". Reprinted by Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass.
*Jäschke, Heinrich August (1989). "Tibetan Grammar". Corrected by Sunil Gupta. Reprinted by Delhi: Sri Satguru.

External links

* [http://chris.fynn.googlepages.com/howtowritethetibetanscript Tibetan Calligraphy] - how to write the Tibetan script.
* [http://www.unicode.org/charts/PDF/U0F00.pdf Unicode area U0F00-U0FFF, Tibetan script (162KB)]
* [http://chris.fynn.googlepages.com/jomolhari Jomolhari Font] - Unicode compatible. [http://www.thdl.org/tools/fonts/tibfonts.php Download]
* [http://www.nitartha.org/downloads.html#FontFiles 2 fonts] - not Unicode compatible.
* [http://babel.uoregon.edu/yamada/fonts/tibetan.html 2 fonts] : 1 Macintosh, not Unicode compatible.
* [http://www.tibetan-calligraphy.com/medicine-calligraphy/tibetan-calligraphy/origins-tibetan-calligraphy.htm Origins of tibetan calligraphy] : History of tibetan script and guide to tibetan script.
* [http://www.omniglot.com/writing/tibetan.htm Omniglot's Guide to the Tibetan writing system]
* [http://iris.lib.virginia.edu/tibet/tools/fonts.html Tibetan & Himalayan Fonts] - THDL articles on Unicode font issues; free cross-platform OpenType fonts - Unicode compatible.
* [http://chris.fynn.googlepages.com/thetibetanwritingsystem Elements of The Tibetan writing system] .
* [http://www.kuro5hin.org/story/2004/2/5/01839/12103 Introduction to Tibetan Orthography] , at Kuro5hin
* [https://savannah.nongnu.org/projects/free-tibetan/ Free Tibetan Fonts Project]

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