• The Paradox of a Global Tibetan

    Dirk Schmidt (see profile)
    Tibetan, Linguistics, History, Literacy studies
    Item Type:
    Conference paper
    Conf. Title:
    Asian Borderlands
    Conf. Org.:
    Asian Borderlands
    Conf. Loc.:
    Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan
    Conf. Date:
    Permanent URL:
    Tradition says that the Tibetan Emperor (སྲོང་བཙན་སྒམ་པོ) sent one of his ministers (ཐོན་མི་སམྦྷོ་ཊ) to India in the 7th century CE. It’s reported that, when he came back, he created a script for Tibetan, and wrote several grammars. In each of the three following centuries, special councils updated the written language. And, these updates reflected changes in the speech of the day. One thousand years after the fall of the Tibetan Empire, these works still define Standard Tibetan Writing. In the meantime, however, the spoken Tibetan languages have continued to change. These changes have been natural: Speakers interact, adapt, adopt, and innovate. New words get added; old words, subtracted; and pronunciations, shift. This is especially true of the emerging ‘standard speech’ of the Himalayan settlements. But while standards in writing had the formal authority of an empire, standards in speech have been organic and informal. The result is a stronger and stronger border—or a wider and wider gap—between speech and writing. Standard speech is becoming more different as standard writing stays the same. In this paper, I'll take a closer look at the common Tibetan variety spoken in India and Nepal. How has this language changed in response to: Environment? Family structure? Language contact? among other factors. And what effects do these changes have on reading and writing?
    Last Updated:
    1 year ago
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