Transcribing Speech in Tibetan: Esukhia Standards

Transcribing Speech in Tibetan: Esukhia Standards

1 Refer to a Dictionary

If the word exists in the dictionary, and the spoken pronunciation is the same (or similar), the preference is to use the simplest form attested in the dictionary. Most words will fall into this category, and this will give students a strong foundation for bridging spoken and written forms of Tibetan.

For example: “ལབས་” is the past-tense given in “Bya byed las gsum dus gsum daṅ bcas dper brjod,” but “ལབ་” is the past-tense given in “Bod rgya tshig mdzod chen mo”. Esukhia standards prefer “ལབ་”, b/c it is the simpler spelling that more closely represents modern pronunciation.

2 Spell it how it sounds

If the spoken pronunciation is significantly different from the pronunciation of the dictionary spelling, Esukhia standards prefer a phonetic spelling (a spelling that looks and reads like how it sounds when people say it). This will help students connect symbols to sounds, improving both their reading and pronunciation.

For example: “ཏོག་ཙམ་” is pronounced like “ཏིག་ཙི་”—so Esukhia standards prefer the second spelling for speech transcription.

3 Verbs

3a Use the common verb stem

Verbs in Tibetan are “regularizing”—this means that information about the verb tense is encoded in helping verb constructions, and not the verb itself. This is a normal language change, and the Esukhia standard is to represent this in spelling by using the dictionary spelling of the verb stem that best represents the pronunciation in speech (usually the past or present).

Often, this means violating Literary Tibetan rules about spellings for past, present, or future stems. However, it will help students communicate using verb forms real speakers use in their everyday speech.

For example: “གཙུག་ལག་ཁང་ལ་འགྲོ་ཡིན།” even tho “ཕྱིན་ཡིན་”; “མ་བྱེད་ད།” even tho “མ་བྱོས་དང་།”; and so on.

3b Use the common verbal adjoiner ‘གི་’

In helper verb constructions, verbs usually take a “གི”. This might require violating spelling rules for Literary Tibetan for what is often recognized as a kind of “འབྲེལ་སྒྲ་”. However, it will help students improve their communication skills by speaking how real native speakers do.

For example: “འགྲོ་གི་ཡིན།” even tho “འགྲོ་ཡི་ཡིན།”

4 Loanwords

Esukhia prefers common loanwords over “pure Tibetan” words that speakers don’t commonly know or use. This is b/c students need to learn how to speak in order to be understood.

All languages borrow words. Even many common Tibetan words that are already acceptable come from other languages, like “མོག་མོག་” (Chinese), “ཨེམ་ཆི་” (Mongolian), “མོ་ཊ་” (English), “གུ་རུ་” (Sanskrit), among many, many more.

For example: “ཏག་སི་” is prefered to “རླང་འཁོར་”

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