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Rules of pronunciation in Tibetan

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Rules of pronunciation in Tibetan

  1. 1. How to pronounce Tibetan
  2. 2. The Tibetan syllable A Tibetan syllable can be made of several characters : A radical, a prefix, a superscript, a subscript, and one or two suffixes.
  3. 3. The superscripts Only three letters can be in superscript: ར /r/, ལ /l/ and ས /s/. They are not pronounced, but they change a few things: •3rd column becomes fully voiced and loses its aspiration. རྒ (rga) is not /kʰa/ but /ga/. •4th column gets a high tone: ལྔ lnga → lngā •One exception: ལྷ is pronounced /lhā/
  4. 4. The subscript ཡ (ya) ཀྱ kyā ཁྱ khyā གྱ gya and ཧྱ hya are pronounced /kyā/, /kʰyā/, /kʰya/ and /hyā/ པྱ pyā ཕྱ phyā བྱ bya མྱ mya are pronounced: /tɕā/, /tɕʰā/, /tɕʰa/ and /ɲa/ (just like ཅ, ཆ, ཇ and ཉ)
  5. 5. The subscript ར (ra) It makes the consonants retroflex (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Retroflex_consonant) ཀྲ krā ཏྲ trā པྲ prā are pronounced: /ʈā/ ཁྲ khrā ཐྲ thrā ཕྲ phrā /ʈʰā/ གྲ gra དྲ dra བྲ bra /ʈa/ ཧྲ hra becomes /ʂā/ (it’s a rare sound in Tibetan) ཤྲ shra མྲ mra and སྲ sra do not change
  6. 6. The subscript ལ (la) ཀླ klā གླ glā བླ blā རླ rlā and སླ slā are always pronounced /lā/ ཟླ zla is pronounced /ta/
  7. 7. The subscript ཝ (wa) It is written ྭ (for instance ཀྭ) and it is not pronounced at all! It used to have a pronunciation, but it has been lost.
  8. 8. The prefixes The same effects than the superscripts, they are not pronounced, but they change a few things: •3rd column becomes fully voiced and loses its aspiration. •4th column gets a high tone But if the radical is ཡ ya, it gets a high tone. གཡ /ya/ → /yā/
  9. 9. The prefixes When ད is the prefixe and བ the radical, དབ is pronounced /wā/. With the other vowels, the /w/ disappears: དབུ /ū/ In case of a subscript ར ra or ཡ ya: དབྲ is pronounced /rā/ དབྱ is pronounced /yā/ It is the same with all the vowels.
  10. 10. The suffixes change the vowel do not change the vowel are pronounced ན (ལ) གངབམར are not pronounced ད ས (ལ) འ
  11. 11. The suffixes With the letters changing the vowel: •/a/ becomes /ä/ (French ‘è’, German ‘ä’) •/o/ becomes /ö/ (French ‘eu’, German ‘ö’) •/u/ becomes /ü/ (French ‘u’, German ‘ü’) When the letter ལ (la) is a suffixe, it can be pronounced or not, but more important: it makes the vowel longer: /ä:/, /ö:/, /ü:/, /i:/ and /e:/
  12. 12. The suffixes The second suffixe ད and ས do not change anything. (actually they change something but it is way too hard for the moment, and not relevant for the comprehension)
  13. 13. Exemple Remember the second slide of this presentation? The word was: (brgyad) which means ‘eight’ and is pronounced /gyä/
  14. 14. How to find the radical of a syllabe • If there is a vowel or a superscript/subscript, it indicates the radical. • If the vowel is /a/ without superscript/subscript, then: 1. 2-characters syllable: the radical is the first one 2. 3-characters syllable: • If the suffixe is not ས: the radical is the second one • If the suffixe is ས: most of the time, the radical is the first character. Ambiguities does exist but are rare, and context helps a lot to clear that kind of problem. 3. 4-characters syllable: by the rules, it is the second one
  15. 15. How to read a word Here are the last rules: •The tone is relevant in the first syllable of the word. There is no tone in the others. •Same goes with the aspiration: there may be an aspiration only in the first syllable. There is no aspiration elsewhere. •When the radical བ (ba) is inside or at the last syllabe of a word, it is pronounced /wa/: ཟླ་བ་ /tawa/: the moon
  16. 16. How to read a word Sometime, the prefixe of the second syllable is pronounced. In that case, མ and འ are the most often pronounced with /m/, /n/ or /ng/ Otherwise, བ creates a /p/ sound and ག creates either /k/ or /p/ sounds. But there is no rules, so I will write about it in mems or in multimedia levels ;)
  17. 17. How to read a word • Syllables and words are separated by a tshā, an intersyllabic point. You can see it at the end here : • There is no space in Tibetan, even between words, so if you forget the tshā, the sentence is unreadable… ;-) • Thus only your knowledge of vocabulary and grammar will help you to cut a sentence into words.
  18. 18. I tried to make this slideshow as simple and short as possible, but if it is not understandable, just tell me and I will change it. You can also come back later when you will be used to Tibetan, and it will be much easier for you. Also, if you look on the Internet, you might find some different pronunciations for the words but it simply might be a different dialect. The one here is the Standard Tibetan, the dialect from Lhasa. Good luck!

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