Tibetan Language

Tibetans have our own language, which is known as “bod-yig” in the Tibetan-inhabited areas with the meaning of “Tibetan language”. Tibetan language belongs to the Tibetan-Burman branch of the Sino-Tibetan language family. According to geographical divisions, it has three major local dialects: U-Tsang, Kham and Amdo. The first two dialects have their own tones in pronunciation while the latter don’t. Created in the early 7th century, the Tibetan language, a phonetic system of writing, was based on the writing system of the ancient Sanskrit language of India. Tibetan language consists of thirty consonant, four vowels, five inverted letters (for the renting of foreign words) and the punctuations. Sentences are written from right to the left. With two major written scripts namely the regular script and the cursive hand, Tibetan language is widely used in all Regions inhabited by Tibetan people.

In 641 AD, Songtsen Gampo, Emperor of Tibet, Conquer almost all kingdoms nearby, He wish to have well structure Tibetan language, he sent Thomi Sambota for study Indian language system, he later recreate Tibetan Structural language, which gave a boost to the development of the Tibetan culture. From the 10th century to the 16th century, the Tibetan culture developed dramatically. Throughout the centuries, the Tibetans bring to us not only the two well-known Buddhist master pieces, the Bka-gyur, and the Bstan-gyur, but also other great works on cadences, literature, philosophy, history, geography, arithmetic, calendar, medicine and so on.

Grammar in Tibetan

Tibetans express themselves grammatically with the help of function words and different order of the words. Certain auxiliary words originating from verbs are playing an importanTibetan Grammar t role similar to that of the function words. Generally speaking, Tibetan words can be divided into nine types including nouns, verbs, numerals, adjectives, pronouns, conjunctions, adverbs, auxiliary words and exclamations. Verbs, adjectives, numerals and auxiliary words are to be discussed in the following part.


Tibetan verbs can be divided into transitive verbs and intransitive verbs. Transitive verbs can be used to construct simple Tibetan sentences and it is required that an auxiliary word should be used after the subject so that the verbs can be in accordance with the subject. A typical Tibetan sentence is in the “subject-object-verb” order. This is one of the features of Tibetan transitive verbs. Tibetan verbs can also be classified as active verbs and passive verbs according to the restriction of the subject to the verb. This is another feature of Tibetans. The active verbs may have the imperative form,while the passive verbs may not.

Tibetan verbs are composed of two parts: the root, which carries the meaning of the verb, and the ending, which indicates the tense. There are eight uses of the verbs in Tibetans expressing different tense and voice. Basically, there are the present, past, future tense, the perfect tense, the progressive tense and the subjective mood. For example, the simplest and most common verb form, consisting of the root plus certain ending, can be used for the present and future tense; in order to form the past tense, substitute the ending or add the auxiliary word.


There are two major functions of Tibetan adjectives: to modify a noun or to be predicative. When it is used in an indicative mood, it functions as an intransitive verb, which can only be followed by auxiliary word, not the object.


Tibetan numerals are of the decimal system. The cardinal numbers consist of only one syllable. Different words are used to indicate the high-order number like hundred, thousand, ten thousand, a hundred thousand, ten million, and so on. Tens digit can be used together with number of ones place with slight difference in the pronunciation.

Auxiliary word

Auxiliary word can be added at the end of the verbs to indicate tense; it can be added between words or phrases to indicate different relationship between components of the sentence; it can also be added at the end of the sentence to indicate the mood.

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