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Colloquial Amdo Tibetan

A Complete Course for Adult English Speakers

!$,, A-3.R:C-#-{., 

By Kuo-ming Sung and Lha Byams Rgyal

National Press for Tibetan Studies
Preface viii
Introduction to Amdo Tibetan xiv
Abbreviations xxii
Main Text
1 Lesson 1: The Alphabet and the Sound System
     aR2-5/-.%-0R,  .L%?-$?=-.%-1:A-%-<R:A-i3-$8$
1.1 The Tibetan Alphabet 1
1.2 Writing System vs. Sound System 5
1.3 Oral Spelling (I) 14
1.4 Exercises 15

2 Lesson 2: The Onset and Syllable Structure

aR2-5/-$*A?-0,  A3-{.-GA-;A-$J:A-.R<-2,   
2.1 The Amdo Syllable 17
2.2 Subjoined Letters 20
2.3 Superjoined Letters 22
2.4 Prefixes 24
2.5 Oral Spelling (II) 27
2.6 Summary of Consonants 28
2.7 Exercises 29

     Lesson 3: Vowels and Suffixes
     aR2-5/-$?3-0,  ;A-$J:A-.R<-2-=?-.L%?-.%-eJ?-:)$-$A-{R<,
3.1 The Rhyme 32
3.2 Suffixes 33
3.3 Oral Spelling (III) 37
3.4 Finding the Root 38
3.5 Foreign Loan Words and Inverted Letters 39
3.6 Punctuation 41
3.7 Exercises 42
4 Lesson 4: What's Your Name?  
     aR2-5/-28A-2,  HR:-MA%-%-(A-9A$-9J<-<, 
4.1 Dialogue 46
4.2 Vocabulary 48
4.3 Grammar Notes 49
4.4 Cultural Notes 54
4.5 Key Sentence Patterns 56
4.6 Exercises 56

     Lesson 5: Where Are You From?  
     aR2-5/-s-2,  HR-$%-$A-;A/, 
5.1 Dialogue 58
5.2 Vocabulary 60
5.3 Grammar Notes 61
5.4 Cultural Notes 67
5.5 Key Sentence Patterns 70
5.6 Exercises 71
     Lesson 6: I Have a Tibetan Dictionary  
6 aR2-5/-S$-0,  %-:-2R.-;A$-$A-aR2-.J2-;R., 
6.1 Dialogue 75
6.2 Vocabulary 77
6.3 Grammar Notes 78
6.4 Cultural Notes 83
6.5 Key Sentence Patterns 85
6.6 Exercises 86
     Lesson 7: There Are Only Nine Students Here Today  
7 aR2-5/-2./-0,  .J-<A%-:.A-/-aR2-PR$?-.$-3-$+R$?-3J.-$A,
7.1 Dialogue 89
7.2 Vocabulary 91
7.3 Grammar Notes 93
7.4 Cultural Notes 96
7.5 Key Sentence Patterns 99
7.6 Exercises 101
    8 Lesson 8: Do You Have a Picture of Your Family?  
     aR2-5/-2o.-0,  HR-:-/%-MA:A-:S-0<-AJ-;R., 
8.1 Dialogue 104
8.2 Vocabulary 106
8.3 Grammar Notes 108
8.4 Cultural Notes 113
8.5 Key Sentence Patterns 116
8.6 Exercises 118
    9 Lesson 9: What Are You Doing in Xining? 
     aR2-5/-.$-2,  HR?-9A-=A%-/-(A-9A$-=?-$A-;R., 
9.1 Dialogue 120
9.2 Vocabulary 122
9.3 Grammar Notes 124
9.4 Cultural Notes 133
9.5 Key Sentence Patterns 136
9.6 Exercises 138

     Lesson 10: Where Will You Go? 
     aR2-5/-2&-2,  HR-$%-%-:IR-o-;A/, 
10.1 Dialogue 141
10.2 Vocabulary 143
10.3 Grammar Notes 145
10.4 Cultural Notes 151
10.5 Key Sentence Patterns 154
10.6 Exercises 157
11 Lesson 11: What Do You Want to Eat?  
     aR2-5/-2&-$&A$-0,  HR?-(A-9A$-9-/-:.R.-$A,
11.1 Dialogue 160
11.2 Vocabulary 162
11.3 Grammar Notes 164
11.4 Cultural Notes 173
11.5 Key Sentence Patterns 175
11.6 Exercises 178

     Lesson 12: I Will Go to See My Parents on Saturday 
     aR2-5/-2&-$*A?-0,  %-$9:-%J/-0-:-%A-1-3-$*A-$-:-2v-$A-:IR-o-;A/, 
12.1 Dialogue 181
12.2 Vocabulary 183
12.3 Grammar Notes 185
12.4 Cultural Notes 192
12.5 Key Sentence Patterns 195
12.6 Exercises 197

     Lesson 13: When Did You Arrive? 
     aR2-5/-2&-$?3-0,  HR-/3-,R/-/A?,
13.1 Dialogue 200
13.2 Vocabulary 202
13.3 Grammar Notes 204
13.4 Cultural Notes 213
13.5 Key Sentence Patterns 216
13.6 Exercises 220
14 Lesson 14: January Is the Coldest Months of the Year 
     aR2-5/-2&-28A-2,  ^-2-.%-%R-=R-$&A$-$A-/%-/?-:-,<-$A-:H$-/R-<J., 
14.1 Dialogue 223
14.2 Vocabulary 225
14.3 Grammar Notes 228
14.4 Cultural Notes 235
14.5 Key Sentence Patterns 240
14.6 Exercises 242
15 Lesson 15: The Post Office Is Opposite the Bank 
     aR2-5/-2&R-s-2,  4$?-93-#%-.%=-#%-$A-#-$+.-/-;R.,
15.1 Dialogue 246
15.2 Vocabulary 248
15.3 Grammar Notes 250
15.4 Cultural Notes 261
15.5 Key Sentence Patterns 263
15.6 Exercises 267

    6 Lesson 16: It's Called Tsampa in Tibetan 
     aR2-5/-2&-S$-0,  :.A-:-2R.-{.-$A?-l3-0-9J<, 
16.1 Dialogue 271
16.2 Vocabulary 274
16.3 Grammar Notes 276
16.4 Cultural Notes 286
16.5 Key Sentence Patterns 289
16.6 Exercises 292

7 Lesson 17: Is This Brown One Pretty? 
     aR2-5/-2&-2./-0,  3.R$-o-($-:.A-AJ-;$-$A, 
17.1 Dialogue 296
17.2 Vocabulary 299
17.3 Grammar Notes 301
17.4 Cultural Notes 310
17.5 Key Sentence Patterns 312
17.6 Exercises 316

     Lesson 18: Have You Been to Yulshul?  
     aR2-5/-2&R-2o.-0,  HR-;=->=-=-?R%-AJ-MR%-, 
18.1 Dialogue 318
18.2 Vocabulary 320
18.3 Grammar Notes 323
18.4 Cultural Notes 331
18.5 Key Sentence Patterns 335
18.6 Exercises 338
19 Lesson 19: On the Road for More Than Nine Hours 
     aR2-5/-2&-.$-2,  =3-/?-.?-5S.-.$-z$-$-;R%-/A-;A/, 
19.1 Dialogue 341
19.2 Vocabulary 343
19.3 Grammar Notes 345
19.4 Cultural Notes 354
19.5 Key Sentence Patterns 358
19.6 Exercises 362

     Lesson 20: My Belly Is Hurting More and More
     aR2-5/-*A->-2,  %A-1R-2-.-<%-/-$A-:.$-$A,

20.1 Dialogue 365

20.2 Vocabulary 367
20.3 Grammar Notes 370
20.4 Cultural Notes 378
20.5 Key Sentence Patterns 380
20.6 Exercises 384

     Lesson 21: Labrang Is a Big Monastery in Amdo  
     aR2-5/-*J<-$&A$-0,  ]-V%-.$R/-0-A-3.R-?-(-$A-.$R/-0-(J-2R-<J., 
21.1 Dialogue 387
21.2 Vocabulary 390
21.3 Grammar Notes 392
21.4 Cultural Notes 402
21.5 Key Sentence Patterns 406
21.6 Exercises 410

I. Answers to Exercises 413
II. Verb Conjugations 479
III. Pronouns: Written and Spoken Forms 484
IV. Tibetan Place Names in This Book 486

Amdo Tibetan -- English 489
English -- Amdo Tibetan 509

Grammar Index 527


Bibliography 535
Colloquial Amdo Tibetan (2005, Revised), Kuo-ming Sung & Lha Byams Rgyal

1 The Alphabet and the Sound System
❖ 1.1 The Tibetan Alphabet

1.1.1 The Alphabet

The invention of the Tibetan alphabet is often credited to Thon-mi Sambhota (
a scholar and minister who served under the reign of King Srong bTsan sGam Po (YR%-24/-|3-
0R,) in the eighth century. Modeled after Brahmi writing, the Tibetan alphabet consists of 30
letters and four vowel diacritics. The unit of writing is the syllable and not the word.

In the traditional alphabet chart, letters are arranged, in principle, according to their place of

articulation (in rows) and manner of articulation (in columns). In the last three rows, the

rationale for the order becomes less apparent. For example, the letters 8 and 9, which behave
just like the third-column letters in the previous five rows, are placed elsewhere. That said, the

order of the alphabet is of vital importance because it is the way all Tibetan dictionaries are


Inscription on Bronze, the Jokhang, Lhasa

Colloquial Amdo Tibetan (2005, Revised), Kuo-ming Sung & Lha Byams Rgyal

In the following chart, the standard Latin transcription (SLT), which is the spelling adopted

by scholars to transcribe literary Tibetan, and the Amdo phonetic transcription are both given for

each letter, with the SLT followed by the Amdo phonetic transcription in brackets. For example,

the letter $ is transcribed as ga [ka]. For a description of the Amdo phonetic symbols adopted in

this book, please see the explanations in section 1.2.1. Sounds represented by letters in

combination with others are given in brackets marked with the circumflex: ^[ ]. These sounds

will be discussed in Lesson 2.

Column I Column II Column III Column IV

ka [ka] ! kha [kha] # ga [ka] $ ^[ga] nga [nga] %
ca [ca] & cha [cha] ( ja [ca] ) ^[ja] nya [nya] *
ta [ta] + tha [tha] , da [ta] . ^[da] na [na] /
pa [pa] 0 pha [pha] 1 ba [wa] 2 ^[ba] ma [ma] 3
tsa [tsa] 4 tsha [tsha] 5 dza [tsa] 6 ^[dza] wa [Rwa] 7
zha [sha] 8 ^[Za] za [sa] 9 ^[za] 'a [a] : ya [ya] ;
ra [ra] < la [la] = ^[l a]
sha [xa] > sa [sa] ?
ha [ha] @ a [a] A
Chart 1.1: The Tibetan Alphabet

1.1.2 Writing (Stroke Order) of the Alphabet

Colloquial Amdo Tibetan (2005, Revised), Kuo-ming Sung & Lha Byams Rgyal

There are two things to note about the writing of Tibetan letters. First, the "base" line of the

letters is on top. All letters are lined-up downwards from that base line. Second, all letters are

not of the same "height". As shown in the diagram below, / and . are almost twice as "high" as
3 and %.

/. 3%
Letters that resemble / and . in height are called long-legged letters. Besides / and ., there
are also !, #, $, *, +, 8, >, and @, ten altogether. The rest of the letters of the alphabet have the
same height as 3 and %. It is important to make this distinction in order to prevent writing . and

% too similarly. In Lesson 2, the learner will encounter stack-up (i.e., superjoined or subjoined)
letters, where two or three letters are written vertically, one on top of the other. The stack-up

letters have roughly the same height as a single long-legged letter, as shown below:

$ _ G +R 1 K 1A
The following chart shows the standard calligraphic stroke order of the Tibetan alphabet, as

taught in Amdo elementary schools. Note that this is the correct stroke order when one intends

to produce calligraphic-quality handwriting. In casual handwriting, the rules loosen and the

strokes are more fluid.

! Row & Row

Colloquial Amdo Tibetan (2005, Revised), Kuo-ming Sung & Lha Byams Rgyal

+ Row 0 Row

4 Row 8 Row

< Row @ Row

vowel diacritics:

1.1.3 Different Writing Styles

Colloquial Amdo Tibetan (2005, Revised), Kuo-ming Sung & Lha Byams Rgyal

The style of the alphabet we introduce here is called Wuchan ( .2-&/). The style used in all

printed material, Wuchan is also the style studied in elementary schools throughout the Amdo

region. In the U-Tsang region, elementary school children learn a different style called Wumed

( .2-3J.). Only in higher grades do they learn to read Wuchan, but at that time, they also learn to

write in a cursive script called Chu ( :H$). It is probably safe to say Wuchan is by far the most

important and practical style to master in reading, if not also in writing. The photographs below

are textbooks showing the different styles: Wuchan, taught in Amdo, and Wumed, taught in U-


Language, Book I, Qinghai Language, Book I, Lhasa

When it comes to calligraphy as a traditional art, there are many more different styles and

sub-styles. See the cultural notes in Lesson 5 for a brief introduction to Tibetan calligraphy and

some examples.

❖ 1.2 Writing System vs. Sound System

Any two sounds in a language that serve the purpose of contrasting with each other to make a

meaningful distinction are called phonemes, such as the sounds /s/ and /z/ in a pair of words like

seal and zeal. The two phonemes /s/ and /z/ are represented by the individual letters s and z in

Colloquial Amdo Tibetan (2005, Revised), Kuo-ming Sung & Lha Byams Rgyal

this case, but phonemes are not always represented in such a straightforward fashion in a writing

system. For instance, the phonemes /sh/, /ch/, /θ/, and /D/ are usually represented by a

combination of letters, such as shirt, church, thin, and there. In some cases, different spellings

can represent the exact same phoneme, such as the /f/ sound in photo, fun and effort; in others,

the same letter can represent different sounds, usually depending on the immediate sound

environment. For example, the letter t in nation, native and question is pronounced differently

depending on the surrounding sound. Amdo Tibetan has its fair share of complexity in the

connection between the writing system and the sound system. In this regard, Amdo Tibetan and

English share a number of similarities:

(1) the same sound can be represented by different letters, either an individual letter or a

combination of letters, e.g., the /k/ sound in sic, sick, Christmas, and like.

(2) a combination of letters can represent new sounds such as the sh in shoe and the ch in

chin, or existing sounds such as the gh /f/ in laugh and the ch /k/ in mechanic.

(3) the same letter can represent different sounds depending on its phonological environment,

such as the letter a in car, cat, any, and lake.

Fortunately, the pronunciation of Amdo Tibetan is highly regular, more predictable than that

of English. The connection between the writing and the pronunciation can be accounted for by a

few simple rules and a very small number of exceptions. The following sections in this lesson

introduce the inventory of the consonants and vowels of Amdo Tibetan. There are several sounds

that will be entirely unfamiliar to English speakers (but not necessarily to speakers of other

languages such as Chinese). If the reader finds himself at loss as to how to pronounce a certain

sound in this chart, he should listen to and imitate the sound recording.
1.2.1 Consonant sounds represented by individual letters

Sound IPA
Letter Phonetic Examples
Description Equivalent
! non-aspirated
k k
k in sky (English); c in caro
voiceless velar (Spanish); gao 'tall' (Chinese)

Colloquial Amdo Tibetan (2005, Revised), Kuo-ming Sung & Lha Byams Rgyal

# aspirated
voiceless velar k h
c in cake (English), kai 'open'
$ ! k k identical to the sound of !
% velar nasal ng N ng in long and singer (English),
can appear syllable-initially

& non-aspirated
alveo-palatal c t˛ j in jia 'home' (Chinese)
( aspirated alveo-
c h
q in qi 'seven' (Chinese), ch in
chair (English) without [round]
palatal affricate
) & c t˛ identical to the sound of &
* palatal nasal ny ¯ ñ in niño (Spanish); gn in oignon

+ non-aspirated
voiceless alveolar t t
t in sty (English), t in tener
(Spanish); d in dai 'to bring'
stop (Chinese)
, aspirated
voiceless alveolar th t'
t in tie (English), t in tai 'too'
. + t t identical to the sound of +
/ alveolar nasal n n n in no (English)

0 non-aspirated
voiceless bilabial p p
p as in spot (English); p in pan
'bread' (Spanish); bai 'white'
stop (Chinese),
1 voiceless bilabial
ph p' p as in pot (English)
stop aspirated

2 bilabial glide w w w as in we (English)

3 bilabial nasal m m m as in my (English)

Colloquial Amdo Tibetan (2005, Revised), Kuo-ming Sung & Lha Byams Rgyal

4 non-aspirated
voiceless alveolar ts ts z in zou 'go' (Chinese)
5 aspirated
voiceless alveolar ts h
z in Zeit (German), c in ca 'wipe'
(Chinese), ts in lets (English), can
affricate appear syllable initially
6 4 ts ts identical to the sound of 4
7 voiced uvular
Rw “w
r and the /w/ sound in roi
(French), r in euro (French,
German), no trill
8 voiceless alveo-
sh ˛
xia 'blind' (Chinese), sh in she
(English) without [+round]
palatal fricative
9 voiceless alveolar
s s
s in sun (English), similar to the
fricative ?
sound of , with less aspiration

: no phonetic value (a) (a) N/A

; palatal glide y j y in yes (English)

< alveolar retroflex

r Ω/R
word initially, r in rang 'let'
(Chinese), word internally, r in
pero (Spanish), just tap, no trill.
= alveolar lateral
l l l in let (English)

> voiceless velar

x x/C ch in Bach and ich (German) in
fricative similar phonological distribution

? (aspirated)
voiceless alveolar sh s'
s in sun (English); pronounced
with strong aspiration
@ voiceless glottal
h h h as in hello (English)

no phonetic value (a) (a) N/A

Chart 1.2: Sounds represented by individual letters

Colloquial Amdo Tibetan (2005, Revised), Kuo-ming Sung & Lha Byams Rgyal

Among the 30 letters of the Tibetan alphabet, two ( and: A) are used as a "space filler" in
Tibetan orthography for an onsetless syllable and do not have any consonantal (or any phonetic)

value. That is, they are used for syllables without an initial consonant so that the vowel diacritic

can be written above or under them like a regular syllable. :, in addition, can be used as a prefix
(representing a nasal sound) or suffix (no phonetic value), to which we will return in Lessons 2

and 3. Of the remaining 28 letters, only 23 sounds, or phonemes, are represented, summarized in

the consonant charts below. Chart 1.3A uses the phonetic symbols adopted in this book. Chart

1.3B shows the corresponding Tibetan letters for each sound.

labial alveolar palatal velar/uvular glottal
p, ph t, th k, kh
s, sh sh x h
ts, tsh c, ch
nasals m n ny ng

liquids l, r

glides y w

Chart 1.3A: Consonants represented by single letters in Amdo Tibetan (Phonetic Symbols)

labial alveolar palatal velar/uvular glottal
stops 0, 1 + = ., , ! = $, #
fricatives 9, ? 8 > @
fricatives 7
affricates 4 = 6, 5 & = ), (

Colloquial Amdo Tibetan (2005, Revised), Kuo-ming Sung & Lha Byams Rgyal

nasals 3 / * %
liquids =, <
glides ; 2
Chart 1.3B: Consonants represented by single letters in Amdo Tibetan (Tibetan Letters)

There are 24 phonetic symbols in Chart 1.3A, but 28 letters in Chart 1.3B. The discrepancy

in number comes from four pairs of letters, which have the same pronunciations. They are: !/$
&) +. 46
[ka], / [ca], / [ta], and / [tsa]. The identical pronunciation of these pairs may cause some

confusion. There are (infrequent) occasions when a speaker may say [ka] and the listener has to

ask which [ka] it is: the open ! (called !-$;J=) or the closed $ ($-#3)? Likewise, the ".-*" .
[ta] or the ".-!A?" + [ta], the round & (&-<A=) [ca], or just the regular ) [ca]? This situation is

similar to the b and v in Spanish, both of which are pronounced as a bilabial fricative [β]. A

Spanish speaker sometimes has to specify whether the letter is a tall [βe] (b larga) or a short [βe]

(v corta/chica). In Amdo Tibetan, these five pairs do not cause a great deal of spelling difficulty,

as the position in which a letter appears in the syllable usually (but not always) indicates which

letter is possible. We will return to this issue in Lesson 2.

1.2.2 Additional consonantal phonemes in the system

The charts given in the previous section, 1.3A and 1.3B, only show the sounds represented
by single letters. These 24 sounds, in fact, are only a subpart of the entire Amdo consonant

inventory, which contains 38 phonemes. (Some sub-dialects may have more.) For our purposes,

and without investigating the details of Amdo dialectology, we shall treat the following chart of

38 contrastive consonantal phonemes, Chart 1.4, as the complete inventory of Amdo consonants.

The 14 new sounds that are not represented by individual letters in the previous charts are shown

in bold. Note that there are two additional sounds, namely, [f] and [v], which are included in this

chart. We shall address these two sounds shortly.

Colloquial Amdo Tibetan (2005, Revised), Kuo-ming Sung & Lha Byams Rgyal

labial alveolar palatal velar glottal
p,ph t,th k,kh
b d g
(f) s, sh sh x h, hw
(v) z zh R, Rw
ts,tsh c,ch
dz j
nasals m n ny ng
liquids l, r
glides y w

Chart 1.4: A complete inventory of consonants in Amdo Tibetan

Note that the /R/ is similar to the uvular fricative /R/ in French reine 'queen'. Since Amdo

Tibetan does not contrast velar sounds with uvular sounds, the authors place the /R/ in the column
for velars. The reason that the combination /Rw/ is written as a single phoneme is that, according

to an Amdo speaker's intuition, the combination /Rw/, represented by a single letter 7, is

considered a single consonant, which contrasts with another phoneme /R/, represented by the

combination of the two letters .2. 7 / w/ as a single phoneme is similar to the German intuition

that treats the combination of /ts/, represented by a single letter z such as in Zeit 'time', as a single

sound (phoneme). The same consideration applies to the combination [hw], which is also listed

as a single phoneme in the chart. [hw] in orthography is written as .0.

In English, when letters are put together, the combination may represent new sounds, such as

ch, sh, th, etc. Sometimes, it does not have to take a combination of letters. A single letter in

Colloquial Amdo Tibetan (2005, Revised), Kuo-ming Sung & Lha Byams Rgyal

different sound environments may have different pronunciations, such as the c in ice and cook.

In Amdo Tibetan, the situation is very similar. Of the additional 14 sounds, we may group most

of the new sounds into two large categories: voiced obstruents (i.e., stops, fricatives, and

affricates) and retroflexes. The voiced obstruents include /b/, /d/, /g/, /z/, /zh/, /dz/, /j/. The

retroflexes are /tr/, /trh/, /dr/, /sr/. The remaining three additional consonants are the aspirated /lh/,

the single uvular fricative /R/, and the combination /hw/. The following chart describes the

additional 14 consonants: the circumflex indicates that the root letter is prefixed or superjoined,

which will be discussed in detail in Lesson 2. For now, one simply needs to know what sound

each symbol represents.

Sound IPA
Letter(s) Phonetic Examples
Description equivalent

^ $ voiced velar stop g g g in go (English)

^ ) voiced alveo-
j d¸
j in joy (English), lips
stretched, without [+round]
palatal affricate

^ .-^ voiced alveolar

d d d in day (English)

^ 2 voiced bilabial
b b b in bus (English)

^ 6 voiced alveolar
dz dz
ds in ads (English), can
affricate appear syllable initially

^ 8 voiced alveo-
zh Z
j in je (French), s in pleasure
(English), without [+round]
palatal fricative

^ 9 voiced alveolar
z z z in zeal (English)

Colloquial Amdo Tibetan (2005, Revised), Kuo-ming Sung & Lha Byams Rgyal

1, 3 column non-aspirated
stop + < voiceless alveolar tr tr zh in zhidao 'know' in Chinese

2nd column aspirated

stop + < voiceless alveolar trh tr' ch in chi 'eat' (Chinese)
prefixed close to dr in draw (English),
3rd column voiced alveolar dΩ
dr with lips stretched, without
stop + < retroflex
[+round] feature

Z -Y voiceless alveolar sr ß sh in shi 'wet' (Chinese)


.2 voiced uvular R “ r in route (French), contrasts

fricative with [Rw]

wh in where/which (English
.0 voiceless glottal
hw hw
dialect where h is
fricative + [w] pronounced), contrasts with
z-a aspirated
voiceless lateral lh ¬
no close equivalent in familiar
languages; try pronounce [l]
fricative simultaneously with lots of air

Chart 1.5: Fourteen sounds not represented by individual letters

Do not worry about how the letters are put together to represent new sounds for the missing

14 consonants. This will be the main focus of Lesson 2, where we will learn the writing of

subjoined, superjoined, and prefixed letters, as well as the phonological rules that create all 38

consonantal phonemes.
1.2.3 The Vowels Represented by Vocalic Diacritics

The four vocalic diacritics represent the vowels: /i/, /u/, /e/, /o/. Adding the null, or default,

diacritic that represents the vowel /a/, we have the original five-vowel system of Classical

Tibetan. The Amdo dialect has undergone significant changes from this five-vowel system and

has evolved into a new seven-vowel system.

A. The Five-Vowel System of Classical Tibetan (preserved in writing)

Colloquial Amdo Tibetan (2005, Revised), Kuo-ming Sung & Lha Byams Rgyal

Classical Tibetan has a five-vowel system, [a, i, u, e, o], represented by four vocalic diacritics.

Except for the vowel [a], which is unmarked (a sort of default vowel in the writing system), the

other four, namely, [i, u, e, o], are represented by AA, A, AJ, and AR. A is only
Note that the letter

a space filler and not a part of the diacritics. The four diacritics are called $A-$ [kə.kə], 82?-G

[shab.cə] or colloquially [sham.cə], :PJ%-2 [dreng.wə] or colloquially [drəng.e], and /-<R [na.ro],

in that order.

i u
e o

B. Basic Four-Vowel System (actual basic vowels in Modern Amdo Tibetan)

The classic five-vowel system has evolved in Amdo Tibetan into a basic four-vowel system,

[a, ə, e, o], with [i] and [u] merging into [ə], the central mid vowel known as the schwa. For

example, the vowel diacritic $A-$ (AA) itself is pronounced as [kəkə] in Amdo (as opposed to
[kiku] in classical Tibetan). CD-R

(i) (u)

e o

That the high vowels [i] and [u] have merged to [ə], vacating the original spots, makes it

possible for many speakers to shift their mid vowels [e] and [o] upward towards [i] and [u],

which resembles the English dialect where pen is pronounced close to pin. For learners of Amdo

Tibetan, it is important to know that, even though some vowels are pronounced between [e] and

[i] or between [o] and [u], their underlying forms are still AJ [e] and AR [o]. (That is, native

speakers think they are pronouncing AJ [e] and AR [o], when foreign ears actually hear vowels
closer to [i] and [u], respectively.)

Colloquial Amdo Tibetan (2005, Revised), Kuo-ming Sung & Lha Byams Rgyal

In order to reflect a native Amdo speaker’s intuition about the underlying vowels of words,

we will consistently mark the pronunciation of AJ and AR as [e] and [o] in this book.
When a syllable has a final consonant, known as eJ?-:)$ suffix in Tibetan orthography, it

may change the pronunciation of the preceding vowel. This suffixation creates three additional

vowels, [i, u, i], turning the four-vowel system into a system of seven. This will be the focus of

Lesson 3.

❖ 1.3 Oral Spelling (I): Simple Syllables

A simple syllable consists of a single consonant and a single vowel. The consonant is known

as the root letter (3A%-$8) in Tibetan orthography. The vowel can be either [a], which is

unmarked, or [i], [e], [o] (AA, AJ, AR), which are written on top of the root letter, or [u] (A), written

underneath the root letter. Remember that the simple [i] and [u] are pronounced the same as [ə]

in Amdo.

The custom of spelling out a syllable orally is unique to the Tibetan language. Unlike

English, which spells out words in a letter-by-letter fashion, Tibetan spells out syllables in a

"progressively-staged" fashion. Take the word knight for example. English employs a

straightforward K-N-I-G-H-T oral spelling. Tibetan's progressively-staged fashion works like

this: K-N reads N, plus I becomes NEE, plus GH becomes NIE, plus T results in NITE. This

may sound complicated and difficult, but it is not. In the Amdo region, anyone who has had a

couple of years of formal education at a Tibetan elementary school knows this spelling method

like the back of their hand and can do it in rapid rhythm. Often, when asked by someone how a

word is written, a native speaker will immediately perform the oral spelling. Therefore, it is

practical to learn this method well.

For a simple syllable, one reads the name of the root letter followed by the name of the vowel,

i.e.,$A-$, 82?-G, :PJ%-2, or /-<R, and not by the phonetic value of the vowels as [ə], [e], [o].
Remember that the name of the vowel diacritic AJ [drengwə] is generally not used in the oral

spelling; instead, a variant form [drəng.e] is used, e.g. $J [ka drəng.e ke]. More examples:

Colloquial Amdo Tibetan (2005, Revised), Kuo-ming Sung & Lha Byams Rgyal

(1) !A spells [ka kəkə kə] (!-$A-$-!A)

(2) %R spells [nga naro ngo] (%-/-<R-%R)
h h
(3) ( spells [c a shamcə c ə] ((-82?-G-()
(4) ,J spells [t a drəng.e t e] (,-:PJ%-2-,J)
h h

When the vowel is [a], one simply spells with the name of the letter, which contains the

vowel [a] by default. This is the simplest oral spelling. Examples: )-.-&-#-*->, etc.
For syllables without an initial consonant, either A or : is used to serve as a "space filler" to
carry the vowel diacritic (or in the case of [a], to represent the entire syllable). The choice

between the two letters is lexically decided, considered part of the orthography of that word, so it

needs to be memorized. Examples:

(5) :R spells [a naro o] (:-/-<R-:R )

(6) :J spells [a drəng.e e] (:-:PJ%-2-:J)
A multisyllabic word is spelt out syllable by syllable before the whole word is repeated.


(7) !-> 'apple' spells [ka shamcə kə | xa shamcə xə | kəxə]

(8) /-3R 'younger sister' spells [na shamcə nə | ma naro mo | nəmo]

(9) *A-3 'sun' spells [nya kəkə nyə | ma | nyəma]

(10) A-&J 'older sister' spells [a | ca drəng.e ce | ace]

❖ 1.4 Exercises

1.4.1 The Alphabet: Write the Tibetan alphabet and circle the long-legged letters

1.4.2 Pronunciation Drill: Repeat each word after the recording

(1) /-3R, (11) 8A-=A, (21) *A->, (31) 5-3R,

(2) .J-5S, (12) :R-3, (22) .-=R, (32) A-&J,
(3) *A-3, (13) 0-?J, (23) 1-2R, (33) A-/J,
(4) A-1, (14) 1R-2, (24) <-3, (34) 2-5,

Colloquial Amdo Tibetan (2005, Revised), Kuo-ming Sung & Lha Byams Rgyal

(5) A-;J, (15) ?R-3, (25) ;A-$J (35) (A-3R,

(6) 8A-3R, (16) #-=R, (26) %R-3, (36) ?J-<,
(7) 8J-$A, (17) >-4, (27) 5-2R, (37) 0R-+-=,
(8) :R-), (18) (J-2R, (28) (J-$A, (38) #-=-9-3-9,
(9) *->, (19) !R-<J, (29) !->, (39) A->A-<J-#R-<J,
(10) 7-#, (20) 5-=-3, (30) )R-3R, (40) A-3J-<A-#,
1.4.3 Sound Discrimination: Listen to the recording and circle the sound you hear
A. aspirated vs. non-aspirated consonants
(1) k - kh (2) t - th (3) ts - tsh
(4) c - ch (5) p - ph
B. palatal vs. non-palatal consonants
(6) ny - n (7) z - zh (8) w - y
C. nasal vs. non-nasal consonants
(9) p - m (10) t - n (11) k - ng
(12) c - ny

1.4.4 Transcription: Transcribe the following syllables to Tibetan according to the standard

Latin transcription given on page 2. e.g., a- ma: A-3

(1) yi-ge ____________ (11) sa-cha ____________
(2) ma-mo ____________ (12) za-ma ____________
(3) a-pa ____________ (13) lo-tho ____________
(4) za-ma ____________ (14) nu-bo ____________
(5) ne-le ____________ (15) ha-go-ba ____________
(6) ya-ru ____________ (16) zhe-gi ____________
(7) zhi-la ____________ (17) ga-ge-mo ____________
(8) bzo-pa ____________ (18) ngo-tsha ____________
(9) khe-tse ____________ (19) kha-bo ____________
(10) bo-bo ____________ (20) gi-gu ____________

1.4.5 Oral Spelling

Colloquial Amdo Tibetan (2005, Revised), Kuo-ming Sung & Lha Byams Rgyal

h h
e.g., 5-=-3- 'orange' spells: [ts a | la shamcə lə | ma | ts a lə ma]
(1) ,A-$ 'rope' spells: (6) <A-2R 'mountain' spells:
(2) 1-2R 'older brother' spells: (7) (-2R water' spells:

(3) *R-2 'to buy' spells: (8) =-$ 'lamb' spells:

(4) 4B-$ 'rat' spells: (9) ,R-< 'colt' spells:

(5) :R-3 'milk' spells: (10) #-=R-2 'driver' spells:

Colloquial Amdo Tibetan (2005, Revised), Kuo-ming Sung & Lha Byams Rgyal

Amdo Syllables and Consonants


❖ 2.1 The Amdo Syllable

2.1 The Amdo Syllable

From a non-native speaker's perspective, Amdo Tibetan contains a wide variety of unusual,

or even awkward, combinations of consonants in the syllable initial position, such as rt, dg, mts,
lp, wk, hr, etc., just to name a few. These unusual consonant clusters can intimidate learners at

first sight. However, a closer look at the structure of an Amdo syllable will make it easier to

learn these seemingly impossible combinations.

2.1.1 The Syllable Structure

Syllable structure, universally, contains a nucleus, which is usually a vowel, as the sole

obligatory member of the syllable. An optimal syllable has a consonant that precedes the

nucleus. This consonant is called the onset of the syllable. Some languages allow more than one

consonant in the onset position, forming a clustered onset. The nucleus may be followed by

another consonant or a cluster of consonants, which is known as the coda. Thus, a syllable has

the following structure:


onset rhyme

nucleus coda

The maximal number of consonants tolerated in the onset or in the coda is language-specific.

English, for instance, is quite accommodating in this regard. The word spring has three

consonants spr in the onset position and sixths [sIksθs] has four consonants ksθs in the coda
position. Typically, Amdo syllables allow only one consonant in the onset position and one in

Colloquial Amdo Tibetan (2005, Revised), Kuo-ming Sung & Lha Byams Rgyal

the coda position. (Note that both the onset and the coda are optional members of a syllable.)

When an Amdo syllable appears to have a consonant cluster in the onset position, the cluster

typically does not behave the same as, say, an English onset cluster. For example, the word g rta
'horse' has the g rt onset but the first element [<] r is pronounced very lightly as [h] only in its
careful citation form. In regular speech, the word g in a sentence is most likely to be pronounced

as [+] ta. Like rta, the first element of a clustered onset is usually silent in casual speech, but it

surfaces in certain cases. The verb [:IR] njo ‘to go’, for example, contains a clustered onset nj

and is usually pronounced as [IR] jo, with the [n] silent. Yet in negations such as in [3 + :IR] ma

+ njo ‘don't go’, the [n] obligatorily surfaces. An analogy may be drawn from the English word

bomb. Normally, the second b in bomb is silent, but in bombardment, the second b emerges as

the onset of the second syllable, and becomes pronounced. It is beyond the scope of this book to

further discuss the rationale for the following analysis, but the authors believe that the peculiar

behavior of Amdo consonant clusters in the onset position is best explained if we treat an Amdo

syllable as having the following structure:


onset rhyme

extrasyllabic nucleus coda

superjoined or root or root vowel suffix

prefixed letters + subjoined

According to this syllable structure, the r in rta and n and njo are analyzed as the extrasyllablic

element. We will return to this topic shortly.

2.1.2 The Writing of an Amdo Syllable

In Lesson 1, we encountered the basic form of a Tibetan syllable, which consists of the root letter

and the vowel. However, Tibetan syllables are often more complicated than that. Some letters

Colloquial Amdo Tibetan (2005, Revised), Kuo-ming Sung & Lha Byams Rgyal

Tibetan Children Studying the Tibetan Language, Zoige, Ngaba

are written on top of the root letters, while others combine with the root letter from underneath.

The former are called superjoined letters, or superfixes, the latter subjoined letters. Less dramatic

are the letters written in a linear fashion in relation to the root letter. Those which precede the

root letter are called prefixed letters, or prefixes; those which follow are called suffixes. The

letter ? can follow a regular suffix. When it does, it is called a post-suffix. Note that the terms

prefixes and suffixes used here refer only to the Tibetan orthography; they do not refer to the

morphological structure of a word.

A Tibetan syllable, thus, can consist of a subset of a number of elements including a prefix, a

superjoined or subjoined letter, a root letter, a vowel diacritic (could be unmarked if the vowel is

[a]), a suffix, and a post-suffix. The following diagram is of the syllable 21A$? to line up, to
pile, a "full house" with all seven elements present: $ is called the root letter (3A%-$8A), 2 the

prefix (}R/-:)$), ? the superjoined letter (3$R-&/), < the subjoined letter (:.R$?-&/), $A-$ the

vowel diacritic (.L%?), the second $ the suffix (eJ?-:)$), and the second ? the post-suffix


Colloquial Amdo Tibetan (2005, Revised), Kuo-ming Sung & Lha Byams Rgyal

superjoined vowel

21A$? post-suffix
root letter

Tibetan writing is syllable-based, which makes it even more crucial for learners to

understand the syllable structure, especially, to know how each element in Tibetan writing (root,

prefix, suffix, etc.) corresponds to each element in the pronunciation of a syllable (extrasyllabic,

onset, nucleus, and coda.)

2.1.3 Extrasyllabic Consonants

Before we introduce the subjoined, superjoined, and prefixed letters, let us spend a little time

on the notion of extrasyllabicity. Simply put, an extrasyllabic consonant is a consonant that does

not naturally fit within a syllable. That it does not "fit in naturally" is because the combination in

the clustered onset results in an ill-formed sequence, either cross-linguistically or language-

specifically. Typically, the extrasyllabic element becomes latent, i.e., a silent presence in the

speaker's mind that is not overtly pronounced. This explains why most superjoined and prefixed

letters, analyzed here as extrasyllabic, tend to be silent in casual speech.

It is important for learners to understand that these silent consonants are only latent and not

absent. It is like the s in the French article les [lE], which can be "liaisoned" to a following
vowel-initial word (e.g. les amis [lEzami]). In Amdo Tibetan, it is the opposite direction of the

French liaison. We may call it a "leftward liaison". When the preceding syllable, which must be

syntactically or morphologically close enough to the syllable containing the extrasyllabic

consonant, ends with a vowel (i.e., without a suffix), the latent consonant may be "liaisoned" as

Colloquial Amdo Tibetan (2005, Revised), Kuo-ming Sung & Lha Byams Rgyal

the coda of the preceding syllable and become pronounced. This is the case of 3 + :IR [man.jo]
don't go (as discussed earlier).

The rest of this lesson is devoted to subjoined letters, superjoined letters, and prefixes. Their

pronunciation and distribution may seem complicated, but we advise the learner to try and

understand what prefixes and superjoined letters do in general and then memorize individual

cases of special letter combinations. With practice, irregular pronunciations will become second

nature to the learner. Remember that extrasyllabic consonants, whether slightly pronounced in

citation form or silent in regular speech, are always present in the Amdo speaker's mind. They

may or may not surface, but they are part of the orthography, just like the p in psychology and

pneumonia. It is a good habit at the beginning to always make an effort to memorize the correct

writing (or spelling) of a word.

❖ 2.2 Subjoined Letters ( :.R$?-&/)

Subjoined letters are the letters written underneath the root letters. There are four subjoined

letters, namely, ;-<-=-7. Traditional Tibetan orthography does not regard the subjoined letters

as part of the root letter to which they are attached. However, at least for ; and <, they combine
with the root letter and form an integral part of the onset and may change the pronunciation of

the root letter quite dramatically. Sometimes, even new phonemes are created.
2+$? [təx] meaning 'hanging.' Thus, ; in a
The subjoined letters are described by a word
subjoined position is called ;-2+$?. We shall introduce ;-2+$?, <-2+$?, =-2+$?, and

7-2+$?, one by one.

2.2.1 ;-2+$?, (subjoined y)

;-2+$?, being a palatal glide [y], causes palatalization of the root letter it subjoins. Note
that ;-2+$? is written differently as a subjoined letter. Below is an exhaustive list of all the

possible root letters that take ;-2+$?:

Colloquial Amdo Tibetan (2005, Revised), Kuo-ming Sung & Lha Byams Rgyal

root letter ! # $ 0 1 2 3
pronunciation [k] [kh] [k] [p] [ph] [w] [m]

with ;-2+$?, G H I J K L M
pronunciation [c] [ch] [c] [sh] [sh] [sh] [ny]

There are no new sounds produced here. G, I, and H have the same pronunciation as & [c]
and ( [c ]. M sounds identical to * [ny]. Note that all three labial consonants 0-1-2, when

taking ;-2+$?, merge to one identical sound [sh], the same as 8. Keep an eye on this group of

bilabial consonants (J, K, L), as later they will change their pronunciation drastically when

superjoined and prefixed. We will come back to these three in section 2.4.3 when discussing the

prefixes . and :.
2.2.2 <-2+$?, (subjoined r) 
<-2+$?,, a retroflex consonant, creates three new phonemes in the Amdo consonant system,
namely, [tra], [trha], and [sra]. These are identical to the retroflexes in Mandarin Chinese zhi 'to

know', chi 'to eat', and shi 'wet'.

Note that when <-2+$? takes the stops from all three groups of velars (!, #, $), alveolars
(+, ,, .), and labials (0, 1, 2) and turns them into retroflex sounds, the places of articulation all
merge to alveolar. So, O, R, and U all have the same pronunciation as the aspirated [tr a];
similarly, N-P-Q-S-T , and V all merge to one sound, [tr]. When <-2+$? takes @, the result (Z) is

the retroflex [sra], identical to the sh sound in Chinese sha ‘to kill’. Also note that ? + <-2+$?

(Y) has, for formal speech or written language, the same pronunciation as ? [sa], but in

colloquial Amdo, it coincides with Z as [sra]. Lastly, note that 3 + <-2+$? remains the same as

3[ma]. Below is the summary of the pronunciation changes caused by <-2+$?.

root letter !-$-+-.-0-2 #-,-1 3 ?-@
with <-2+$? N-P-Q-S-T-V O-R-U W Y-Z
pronunciation [tra] [trha] [ma] [sra]

Colloquial Amdo Tibetan (2005, Revised), Kuo-ming Sung & Lha Byams Rgyal

2.2.3 =-2+$?, (subjoined l)
=-2+$? is an anomaly among subjoined letters. While other "subjoiners" mostly modify the
pronunciation of the root letter, =-2+$? seems to "take over" entirely. Of the six possible

combinations, four of them ([-\-]-_,) are pronounced [la]. The other two are also irregular: ^
has an unexpected pronunciation [da] and a is pronounced [l a], the aspirated lateral sound.
Note that the voiced [da] and the aspirated lateral [l a] are new sounds created by =-2+$?.
root letter !-$-2-<, 9 ?
with =-2+$?     [-\-]-_, ^ a
pronunciation = [la] [da] [l a]

2.2.4 7-2+$?, (subjoined w)
7-2+$? may be attached to a number of root letters: !-#-$-*-.-5-8-9-<-=->-?-@, in the
shape of a little triangle. Its presence has no effect on the pronunciation of the root letter, but

does serve the orthographic purpose of distinguishing words such as H [la] robe vs. = [la] a
grammatical particle. This function resembles the k in knight as opposed to night, or the French

accent circomflex used on dû (past participle of devoir) to distinguish itself from du (contraction

7-2+$? look like: 6-7-8-;-?-D-E-F-G-H-I-J-K,

of de le) Letters with

❖ 2.3 Superjoined Letters (3$R-&/)

There are three superjoined letters: <-= and ?, referred to as <-3$R [rango], =-3$R [lango]
and ?-3$R [sango]. Superjoined letters are, with the sole exception of the combination z [lha],

extrasyllabic. That is to say, "superjoiners" never really "join" the onset of a syllable to become

an integral part of the syllable. Instead, they are only slightly pronounced as a fricative ranging

from the velar [γ] to the glottal [h] in very careful speech or when the citation form of a word is

given. In normal speech, they are silent.

The extrasyllabicity of superjoined letters does not mean that they are not important. Aside

from orthographic significance, superjoiners also trigger some root letters to change from

Colloquial Amdo Tibetan (2005, Revised), Kuo-ming Sung & Lha Byams Rgyal

voiceless consonants to voiced ones, for example, $ [ka] and c [ga]. The next section deals with
this general (and very important) voicing rule in Amdo Tibetan.
2.3.1 The Voicing Rule in the Third Columners

As we mentioned in Lesson 1, in the Tibetan alphabet table, letters line up in rows and

columns, for the most part, according to their place of articulation and manner of articulation,

respectively. Some members of the third column undergo voicing changes when superjoined.

They are $, ), . and 6. 2 [w] is also affected by the superjoiner and turns to a voiced bilabial
stop [b]. Besides these five root letters, 9 and 8 also become voiced when superjoined. The

shaded letters of the alphabet table below are those which undergo voicing changes when

Column I Column II Column III Column IV
! # $ %
& ( ) *
+ , . /
0 1 2 3
4 5 6 7
8 9 : ;
< = > ?
@ A
8 and 9 are not lined up as a "third columner" but nevertheless behave just like one. For this
reason, we elect 8 and 9 to be honorary members of the group of third columners. We can now

summarize the voicing rule: A third columner becomes voiced when superjoined.

The application of this rule produces the following results. Note that the voiced consonants

now contrast with the members in the first column.

Column I, single or Column III (including

Column III, single 8 9
and ), superjoined
! [k] $ [k] c [g]
& [c] ) [c] e [j]
+ [t] . [t] h [d]

Colloquial Amdo Tibetan (2005, Revised), Kuo-ming Sung & Lha Byams Rgyal

0 [p] 2 [w] j [b]

? [s ] 9 [s] m [z]
> [x] 8 [sh] prefixed 8 [zh]

When a root letter is simultaneously subjoined and superjoined, it is called a folded letter

( 2lJ$?-;A$). In a folded letter, the combination of a third columner and a subjoined letter is

subject to the same voicing rule, i.e., they undergo the same voicing change. Examples: o [ja], +
[ja], 1 [dra], 4[dra]. Naturally, folded letters which do not involve a third columner do not

undergo voicing change, for example,n [ca], * [ca], 0 [tsa], 4 [tra]. Recall that the three labial
consonants 0-1-2 merge to one sound, [sh], when subjoined by ;-2+$?. When J, K, and L are

further superjoined, they exhibit irregular pronunciations (see section 2.4.3 for details). The

voicing rule triggered by superjoiners on third columners creates seven new phonemes, all

voiced: [g], [j], [d], [b], [dz], [z], and [zh].

Now we will examine the three superjoined letters , <  =, and ? one by one.
2.3.3 <-3$R (superjoined r)
<-3$R may be superjoined to one of the following twelve root letters: b-c-d-f-e-g-h-i-j-k-l-m.  
Note that, among the twelve combinations, only c [ga], e [ja], h [da], j [ba], and m [dza]

undergo a voicing change.

The pronunciation of <-3$R as an extrasyllabic consonant takes various forms, depending on

the root letter. The most common one is [h]. It is crucial for the learner to know that the various

forms do not make a meaningful distinction from other superjoined letters. In other words, from

the sound of any variant of [h], one cannot tell whether the superjoined letter is < or = or ?. The

listener can only hear that there is an extrasyllabic element in front of the syllable. Thus, the

underlying sound for all three superjoiners may be represented by a single, slight [h] sound.

Learners are advised to remember the correct spelling of a word "cold" and not through the help

of its pronunciation.

2.3.4 =-3$R (superjoined l)

Colloquial Amdo Tibetan (2005, Revised), Kuo-ming Sung & Lha Byams Rgyal

=-3$R may be superjoined to one of the following ten root letters: q-r-s-t-u-v-w-x-y-z. The
voicing rule affects four of these ten combinations: r [ga], u [ja]. w [da], and y [b]. z is
pronounced as the aspirated lateral [l a], the same as a.

2.3.5 ?-3$R (subjoined s ) h

?-3$R may be superjoined to one of the following eleven root letters: {-|-}-~-!-#-$-%-&-(-).
Like the other two superjoiners, ?-3$R triggers the voicing rule in the third columners, causing

the following sound changes: | [ga], # [da], and & [ba].

In nomadic sub-dialects, ?-3$R has the distinct function of causing aspiration in the root letter,
most noticeably the a combination [l a]. (N.B.: This combination is analyzed in traditional

Tibetan grammar as the root letter ? taking a subjoined letter =.) The same effect can be heard
h h
in combinations such as ( [m a] and $ [n a]. These unusual aspirated nasals are not heard in

agricultural sub-dialects. We will not emphasize these sounds in this book.

❖ 2.4 Prefixes ( }R/-:)$)

There are five prefixes: $-.-2-3 and :. Besides the fact that prefixes are written horizontally

to the left of the root letter, there is little to be said about them that we have not discussed about

superjoined letters. Prefixes resemble superjoined letters in that they are extrasyllabic in nature
and trigger the voicing rule on third columners. However, a small number of “prefix + root

letter” combinations have idiosyncratic pronunciations which deserve our special attention.

In terms of the prefixes' pronunciations, there is something new to be noted. Three members

of the group, namely, $, . and 2, basically have the same pronunciation as the superjoined
letters <, =, and ?, namely, the slight [h] sound. In some areas, the prefix 2 (}R/-:)$-2) is

pronounced lightly as a [v]. The other two members, : and 3, are not pronounced as [h] but

instead as a nasal sound that shares the same place of articulation as the root letter, for example,

3.: [nda], :2: [mba], etc.

Colloquial Amdo Tibetan (2005, Revised), Kuo-ming Sung & Lha Byams Rgyal

It is important to remember that these prefixes themselves do not, in regular speech, carry the

burden of making meaningful distinctions and are therefore often dropped.

2.4.1 Prefixes , , and 2
These prefixes may appear to the left of a root letter, a superjoined letter, a subjoined letter,

or a folded letter. Remember to apply the voicing rule in the third columners. For example: $.
[d],$8 [zh], .$ [g], 29 [z], etc.
The prefix . creates two remarkable exceptions: . + 0 turns to [hw]; and . + 2 turns to [ ], R

the French uvular fricative and the first element of the sound for the letter 7 [ wa]. Note that,

although the consonant inventory contains the sounds [h] (@) and [ w] (7), the two new

sounds .0 [hw] and .2 [ ] are treated as separate phonemes by native speakers.


The prefix 2 creates one exception. When it precedes !, the combination is pronounced as
[kw]. For example, the very useful phrase 2!:-SA/-(J [kwa trən c e] thank you contains such a

combination. These exceptions are summarized below, juxtaposed with @ and 7:

[h] @
[hw] .0: .0J-( book
[ ] R .2: 5K-.2% personal name
[ w]R 7
[k] ! !-# the alphabet
[kw] 2!: 2!:-SA/-(J thank you
Note that the 2 + ! → [kw] rule does not apply to a subjoined !. For example, the proper

name 2N->A? reads [traxi] and not *[trwaxi].

2.4.2 Prefixes 3 and :

The underlying pronunciation of both prefixes3 and : is a nasal sound. They affect the root
letter in exactly the same way as the other three prefixes. For example: :$: [ga], 36: [dza], :):

[ja], etc. In the citation form of words prefixed with 3 or :, due to the influence of orthography,

Colloquial Amdo Tibetan (2005, Revised), Kuo-ming Sung & Lha Byams Rgyal

3 :
speakers may pronounce the [m] sound to express the bilabial . For , the place of articulation

changes according to the root letter. It is, again, of no significant value to overemphasize the

difference between the two in regular speech.

The irregular changes in the pronunciation of the three labial consonants 0-1-2 with ;-2+$?
present initial difficulty for learners. Recall that the three ( J-L-K) merge to the sound [sh] when
subjoined by ;-2+$?. When prefixed, they go their separate ways again, sharing only the

palatal feature. Prefixed J remains [sh]; K changes to [ch]. L is the troublemaker.


When prefixed by ., it is pronounced [y]; when prefixed by :, it becomes [j]. It may be helpful

for the learner to note that both [y] and [j] are voiced palatal sounds, which indeed shows the

result of the voicing rule at work by both prefixes. The following chart is a summary:

root letter with ;-2+$? with ;-2+$?, prefixed

0 [p] J- [sh] .J [sh]
h h
1 [p ] K [sh] :K[c ]
2 [w] L [sh] .L [y]
:L [j]
2.4.3 Latent Consonant Surfacing

Prefixed and superjoined letters represent sounds that are not really an integral part of the

onset of the syllable. For this reason, we call them extrasyllabic consonants. An extrasyllabic

sound, figuratively speaking, "floats" outside the syllable. If the preceding syllable has its own

coda (i.e., a suffix), then the floating extrasyllabic element remains silent. If the preceding

syllable happens to be an open syllable (i.e., without suffix), this floating element can then be

anchored as the coda of that syllable, becoming pronounced. The word .$J-c/ teacher offers
such an example. The word consists of two syllables, .$J [ge] and c/ [(r)gen] with a latent [r].
The superjoined < finds the previous syllable open and therefore surfaces as its coda, rendering
the pronunciation [ger-gen]. Another example, #A-.$J he consists of the two syllables #A [kə]

and .$J [(r)ge]. The extrasyllabic prefix . of the second syllable finds the coda position of the

Colloquial Amdo Tibetan (2005, Revised), Kuo-ming Sung & Lha Byams Rgyal

previous syllable open, so it surfaces, resulting in the pronunciation of [kər-ge]. Note that .
surfaces as a flap [r] and not a [d]. 3 and : surface as nasal sounds in similar situations.
Learners only need to know that floating extrasyllabic consonants do surface sometimes,

normally within word boundaries. When listening to the recording, the learner should pay

attention to the pronunciations and learn them on a case by case basis.

❖ 2.5 Oral Spelling (II): Subjoined, Superjoined, and Prefixed Letters

In this lesson we covered three types of elements in Tibetan syllable writing, namely,
subjoined, superjoined, and prefixed letters. Amdo Tibetan has its unique way of oral spelling to

name the letter in each position of the syllable.

The crucial word here is 2+$? 'to hang' [(p)təx]. Note that in oral spelling, the syllable that

precedes the word 2+$? is always an open syllable, since it is the name of a letter, so the prefix
2 [p] may surface. In reality, however, the prefix 2 in 2+$? surfaces as an unreleased [p] only
in careful pronunciation. It is often dropped.

The essential idea here is to make sure that when spelling two letters A and B, with A

stacking on top of B, one says “A - B - 2+$?”, literally A with B hanging (beneath). This

applies to two scenarios: (i) A superjoins B, B being the root letter; or (ii) A is subjoined by B,

A being the root letter. Recall that Amdo spelling is a progressively-staged method, so after

spelling out A - B - 2+$?, one needs to give the intermediary result of the superjoining or
subjoining before proceeding to the vowel and the rest of the syllable. Examples (we will adopt

the normal and simpler casual spelling by omitting the [p] from 2+$? [(p)təx]):
(1) G- spells [ka ya təx ca]
h h
(2) H- spells [k a ya təx c a]
h h h
(3) HR spells [k a ya təx c a | naro c o]
h h
(4) R spells [t a ra təx tr a]
h h h
(5) OA spells [k a ra təx tr a | kəkə tr ə]

Colloquial Amdo Tibetan (2005, Revised), Kuo-ming Sung & Lha Byams Rgyal

When a third columner undergoes a voicing change, the result of the voiced sound is spelled

out the first time one mentions the letter. So, for c, instead of saying *[ra ka təx ga], one
pronounces $ as [ga] right from the beginning: [ra ga təx ga]. Example:

(6) mR [ra dza təx dza | naro dzo] (not *[ra tsa təx dza | naro dzo] )
In case of a folded letter (A on top of B and B on top of C), with a superjoiner A over the

root letter B over a subjoined letter C, one simply repeats the use of 2+$?. Examples:

(7) +R [s'a ga təx ga | ya təx ja | naro jo]

(8) 1 [s'a ga təx ga | ra təx dra | shamcə drə]

Since 2+$? only refers to a vertical "hanging" relation, it is not used to spell out the
horizontal relation of a prefix and the root letter. In a linear order A-B, one simply says A-B.

However, if A causes a change in the pronunciation of B, creating a new sound C, then one

directly spells out the outcome by saying A-C. Special cases such as the ones listed in 2.4.2 and

2.4.3 belong to this category. Examples:

(9) .0J [da hwa drəng.e hwe] (not *[da pa hwa | drəng.e hwe] )
(10) 3$R [ma ga naro go]
h h
(11) :K [a p a ya təx c a ]

(12) .IA [da ga ya təx ja | kəkə jə]

Recall that different combinations of letters may represent the same sound, for example,

( and H. They are, naturally, spelled out differently. The former is a simple [cha] , the latter

[kha ya təx cha]. Here is another pair of examples: * and /. * is simply * [nya] while the
folded / [nya] is spelled out as [sa ma təx m a | ya təx nya].
❖ 2.6 Summary of Consonants

In Lesson 1 we mentioned that individual letters in the alphabet only represent some of the

consonantal phonemes in Amdo Tibetan, 24 out of 38, to be exact.

Colloquial Amdo Tibetan (2005, Revised), Kuo-ming Sung & Lha Byams Rgyal

By combining letters together, 14 more are represented. The following chart summarizes the

additional consonantal phonemes discussed in this lesson, with Tibetan letters. The circumflex

mark in front of a root letter indicates that it is prefixed or superjoined.

labial alveolar palatal velar glottal
p, ph t, th k, kh
stops 2
^ =b .
^ =d $
^ =g
fricatives h, .0 = hw
(f) s, sh sh x
fricatives 9
^ =z 8
^ = zh Rw, .2 =
(v) R
ts,tsh ch,chh
affricates 6
^ = dz )
^ =j
nasals m n ny ng
N, P, Q, S, T, V = tr V S P
^ , ^ , ^ = dr
O, R, U = tr h
Z, Y = sr
liquids l, r
aspirated z, a = l h
glides y w

Some sounds have more than one spelling, as we have encountered in a number of cases.

The [sh], for example, can be represented by the single letter 8 or by the combinations J, L, K,
and .J. Note also that wherever the circumflex is used in the chart, it is an indication of the

voicing rule on the third columner at work.

The sound [f] is foreign to the Tibetan phonology. However, as many loan words from

Chinese and other languages contain that sound, Tibetan has developed a combined letter n to
denote the sound [f], e.g., n-</-?A [faransə] France. To most Amdo speakers, however, the

sound is still foreign, the bilabial [ph] often being used as a substitute.  

Colloquial Amdo Tibetan (2005, Revised), Kuo-ming Sung & Lha Byams Rgyal

❖ 2.7 Exercises

2.7.1 Pronunciation Drill (I): Repeat each word after the recording. Pay attention to the sound

; < =, and 7).

change created by the subjoined letters ( , ,

(1) HR, (7) ?-O, (13) *A->, (19) HR-(:R,

(2) :VA, (8) \, (14) S, (20) Z-$A 
(3) }-?J, (9) KA-<R, (15) VR-2, (21) 8A-6
(4) S-3, (10) SR, (16) l-$A (22) PA,
(5) KA-SR (11) z-?, (17) H, (23) L-<,
(6) OA, (12) E-3R, (18) P-2, (24) MA,
2.7.2 Pronunciation Drill (II): Repeat each word after the recording. Pay attention to the

voicing change of the third column consonants when prefixed or superjoined.

(1) hR-eJ, (9) z-3R, (17) 29R-2, (25) #J-.$J

(2) 2.J-3R, (10) s-2&, (18) 2&-.$ (26) 28A-2&,
(3) .$-2&, (11) :IR, (19) .$R (27) :SA,
(4) o, (12) 2eJ, (20) g, (28) 2mA,
(5) l-$A (13) 2o, (21) $;, (29) uA-3R,
(6) o-3, (14) lJ, (22) .A-:S, (30) 3A-:S-?,
(7) }-S, (15) A-3.R, (23) j, (31) #-OJ,
(8) 3$R (16) #-2h-;J, (24) (J-$A (32) #-=-9-3-9,
2.7.3 Pronunciation Drill (III): Repeat each word after the recording. Pay attention to the

irregular pronunciation of some combinations.

(1) ^-2, (5) L-2, (9) ?R-nJ, (13) a,         

(2) .0J-(, (6) :VA-.J2, (10) .-=R, (14) A-&J, 
(3) #-nJ, (7) ^-:.A, (11) KA, (15) :KA-$A  

Colloquial Amdo Tibetan (2005, Revised), Kuo-ming Sung & Lha Byams Rgyal

(4) .LJ-2, (8) .J:, (12) 2!:, (16) .2:,

2.7.4 Sound Discrimination (I): Listen to the recording and circle the sound you hear:

A. aspirated vs. non-aspirated vs. voiced

ka - kha - ga ta - tha - da tsa - tsha - dza
ca - cha - ja pa - pha -ba tra -trha -dra

B. retroflexives vs. non-retroflexives

ta - tra da - dra tha- trha
sa - sha

C. sibilants
ja- zha ca - cha - ja sha- zha - sa
tsa - ts a - dza

2.7.5 Sound Discrimination (II): Select the one sound in each group that is different from the

others (ignore the pronunciation of prefixes and superjoined letters):

(1) a. ( b. H c. K
(2) a. S b. P c. R
(3) a. .J b. 8 c. 2>:
(4) a. * b. ( c. M
(5) a. ^ b. z c. a
(6) a. ^ b. g c. #
(7) a. :L: b. .L: c. o
(8) a. & b. t c. o
(9) a. 2!: b. b c. q
(10) a. .0: b. % c. x
Write down the phonetic symbol for the sound that you select for each question:
(1) [ ] (2) [ ] (3) [ ] (4) [ ] (5) [ ]
(6) [ ] (7) [ ] (8) [ ] (9) [ ] (10) [ ]

Colloquial Amdo Tibetan (2005, Revised), Kuo-ming Sung & Lha Byams Rgyal

2.7.6 Transcription: Transcribe the following syllables to Tibetan according to the standard

Latin Transcription given on page 2.

(1) kye __________ (11) rno __________
(2) mtsho __________ (12) brju __________
(3) phru __________ (13) wlta __________
(4) slo __________ (14) bzhi __________
(5) rba __________ (15) gtso __________
(6) brla __________ (16) dge __________
(7) 'agyo __________ (17) khyo __________
(8) mgo __________ (18) glu __________
(9) sla __________ (19) 'abri __________
(10) myi __________ (20) sku __________

2.7.7 Oral Spelling

e.g., \-lA 'musk' spells: [ka la təx la | ra tsa təx tsa | kəkə tsə | latsə]
(1) L-2 'job' spells: (6) !-<J 'ax' spells:
(2) 2.J-3R 'good' spells: (7) /-$ 'pen' spells:

(3) KA-2 'squirrel' spells: (8) 3-:IR 'don't go' spells:

(4) HA 'dog' spells: (9) 35S 'lake' spells:

(5) k-L 'peacock' spells: (10) .0J-( 'book' spells:

Colloquial Amdo Tibetan (2005, Revised), Kuo-ming Sung & Lha Byams Rgyal

3 Vowels and Suffixes


❖ 3.1 The Rhyme

In Lesson 2 we introduced and analyzed all the Amdo Tibetan consonants that can appear in

the initial position of a syllable. The structure of a syllable is repeated below:


+ onset rhyme

nucleus coda

In this lesson, we will analyze the other branch of an Amdo syllable, the constituent called

rhyme. The rhyme consists of two elements: In the center of a syllable is the nucleus, a single

vowel. At the right-end, following the vowel, is the coda, a single consonant. As we mentioned

earlier, Amdo Tibetan has a four-vowel system after the merging of the two high vowels [i] and

[u] to [ə]. This is the case only when the coda position is empty. When the coda is filled with a

consonant, it may change the pronunciation of the vowel, creating three new vowels in the

system. They are [i, u, i]. (Note that [i] and [u] are reintroduced into the system.) Taking these
changes into consideration, Amdo Tibetan actually has a vowel system that can be represented

by the following: (Some minor phonetic variations are disregarded. The seven vowels are of a

distinctive/contrastive nature to native speakers.)

i i u
e ə o

In addition to the four simple vowels [a, e, ə, o], three high vowels appear in the diagram.

The [i] and [u] are close to the English vowels in feed and food. Recall that the mid vowels :PJ%-

Colloquial Amdo Tibetan (2005, Revised), Kuo-ming Sung & Lha Byams Rgyal

2 [e] and /-<R [o] can be pronounced at a range from [e] to [i] and from [o] to [u], respectively. It
is important to know that they (:PJ%-2 and /-<R) are underlyingly [e] and [o] sounds in the native

speaker's mind (i.e., the mental representation of these sounds conforms to the orthography and

not to the actual pronunciation.) Amdo speakers consciously distinguish the underlying mid

vowels [e] and [o] from the reintroduced high vowels [i] and [u].

The central high vowel, represented here by a barred i [i], is the same vowel as the Mandarin

Chinese sound spelled in Pinyin Romanization as i that follows a sibilant such as in si 'four', zi

'word', etc. The vowel [i] is created when the coda of a syllable contains certain consonant,
namely, the velar . For example: =$ [lix] sheep.
Sometimes an open syllable, i.e. a syllable without a filled coda, takes another vowel (a

genitive marker, :A, for example) into the syllable. Since Amdo Tibetan does not normally

tolerate diphthongs, the result may be one of those three high vowels. For example: ? [sə]
who, ?:A [si] whose; HR[cho] you, HR: [chu] your.
The following sections are devoted to analyzing the constituent “rhyme” in Amdo Tibetan by

looking at the suffixes in the coda and how it affects the vowel.

❖ 3.2 Suffixes eJ?-:)$

A consonant in the coda position is called a suffix ( eJ?-:)$) in traditional Tibetan

orthographic terms. It is written to the right of the root letter. Only ten letters can serve as a

suffix. They are $-%-.-/-2-3-:-<-= and ?. We will discuss the pronunciation of the rhyme by

dividing these suffixes into several groups.

3.2.1 $ and %
A velar consonant, $ is "high" in nature. It tends to raise the vowel that precedes it to a

higher position, causing the changes described below.

In the coda position, the suffix $ itself is weakened to a velar fricative [γ] or even a voiceless
[x]. The rhyme A$ [ax] is pronounced as [əx], with [a] being raised to become [ə]; similarly,

Colloquial Amdo Tibetan (2005, Revised), Kuo-ming Sung & Lha Byams Rgyal

the schwa [ə] in AA$ [əx] and A$ [əx] are also raised to become [i]. More examples: 9A$ [zix]
some, a certain, /$ [nəx] black, ;$ [jəx] pretty. AJ [e] is also changed to [ə] before the suffix $.
h h
For example: ,J$, 5K$, ;J$ [t əx, ts əx, yəx]. Note that, even though this change is highly

noticeable to foreign ears, native speakers tend to think that they are pronouncing the A and AA,

A and AJ as the usual [a], [ə], and [e]. A brief summary:

A$ AJ$ AA$ A$ AR$
[əx] [ix] [ox]

The velar nasal % triggers the same raising on the vowel [a]. For example: 9-#% restaurant
is pronounced [sak əng]. % causes changes on other vowels too: [e] and [i] become [a] before %;

[o] and [u] merge to [o] before %. Below is a summary of the rhyme vowel + %. The merging of

AA% and AJ% into one sound, [ang], and that of A% and AR% into [ong] is a change conscious to
native speakers. The three rhymes A%, AJ% and AA% then may further rise from [ang] to sound

like [əng].

A% AJ% AA% A% AR%

[əng] [ang] ([əng]) [ong]

Note that the optional (and subconscious) raising of [e] and [o] to [i] and [u] only happens in

open syllables. With $ filling the coda, AR$ and AJ$ must be pronounced as [ox] and [ex] and
h h
not [ux] and [ix]. For example: (R$ to be all right is always pronounced [c ox], never *[c ux].

(Compare with 2.J-3R, of which both syllables are open, with the pronunciation ranging from

[demo] to [dimu])
3.2.2 ., /, and =
What the three suffixes .-/ and = have in common is that they are all alveolar sounds.
Alveolar sounds are considered "front" in nature, which explains why the low vowel [a] is

"fronted" a little bit towards the sound [e]. (In fact, [a] becomes [ε] in front of these three

Colloquial Amdo Tibetan (2005, Revised), Kuo-ming Sung & Lha Byams Rgyal

suffixes. Since there is no contrast between [e] and [ε], we represent the change by the existing

vowel [e].) For example, {. [kel] spoken language, */ [nyen] listen, and 2= [wel] wool.
Note that the . and the = in the coda are both pronounced as [l], although some regions

(mostly nomadic) may maintain a difference between the two by pronouncing . as [t] and = as

[l]. If not completely dropped, both . and = are articulated very lightly, most likely to be a mere

suggestion of an unreleased [l].

The three suffixes have a minimal effect on the other four vowels, the only noticeable change

being the rhyme AR/, which in most cases is pronounced as [wən] and not the expected *[on].
h h
For example: 35S-}R/ [ts o.ngwən] Qinghai, not *[ts o.ngon]. Here is a brief summary of the
vowel changes in this alveolar group of suffixes.

.-/, or =
(1) [a] becomes [e] before a suffix

(2) [o] becomes [wə] before the suffix /

3.2.3 2, 3, and <

2-3 and < are presented in a group because they do not trigger the type of
The three suffixes

vowel change caused by the previous two groups: velars $ and %, and alveolars ., /, and =.

Basically, all vowels that precede 2-3, and < keep their original sound quality with only one

notable exception: In most cases, the rhyme A< [ar] can be heard as [ər], e.g #-0< telephone
[k apər], 3< [mər] butter. However, this vowel change is not always predictable, e.g. .<-.3<

flag [dar mər].

The suffix 2 is pronounced as an unreleased bilabial [b] in some regions or as a voiced labio-
dental [v] in others. The difference is only of a dialectal significance.
3.2.4 ?
? is not pronounced itself, but affects the vowel that precedes it. The rhyme that
The suffix

contains a ? as its suffix is pronounced as [i] for the four vowels AA, A, AJ, and AR. For the

default vowel A [a], the combination A? becomes [e], which in turn may rise to a higher

position and sound like [i]. The reason that the authors do not believe that all five underlying

Colloquial Amdo Tibetan (2005, Revised), Kuo-ming Sung & Lha Byams Rgyal

vowels merge to one [i] when taking ? as suffix is that although the four rhymes AA?, A?, AJ?,
and AR? are clearly pronounced as [i], A? has the range from [e] to [i], a subconscious vowel

raising phenomenon linked only to the vowel [e].

3.2.5 :
The suffix , strictly speaking, is not a suffix at all. It is required by Tibetan orthography as

a spelling convention for readers to identify the root letter of the syllable. The raison d'être of :
rests in a situation when two letters, say A and B, are horizontally adjacent to each other.

Theoretically, if A is a potential prefix for B and at the same time B is a potential suffix for A,

then the combination AB is ambiguous. One might take A as the prefix and B the root letter, or

A as the root letter and B the suffix. The addition of : to the string AB effectively removes this
ambiguity. In a string such as A-B- , the only possibility is that B is the root letter. For

example, 3. together presents the ambiguity problem just discussed. It would be equally
possible to read it either as [ da], taking 3 as prefix or as [mel] taking . as suffix. To deal with

this problem, Tibetan orthographic rules stipulate that:

(1) A syllable of the shape AB, without any marking by the vowel diacritics, the first letter

(i.e. A) is the root letter.

(2) In case when a root letter B is prefixed by A and it does not have a suffix, : must be

Given the above orthographic rules, the syllable 3. becomes unambiguous. It must be read

as [mel]. If . were to serve as the root letter, the syllable would need to be spelled as 3.: [da]
arrow. Note that there is no phonetic value of the suffix :, which is different from the prefix :,

a true nasal consonant (even though extrasyllabic).

This analysis explains the fact that when a vowel diacritic is placed on top (or beneath) the

root letter B in a horizontal AB sequence, the suffix : is never there. This is because the vowel
diacritic already identifies the root letter, making it redundant to add :. For example: .< has the

shape of AB, . is a potential prefix and < is a potential suffix, but according to the rules of

Colloquial Amdo Tibetan (2005, Revised), Kuo-ming Sung & Lha Byams Rgyal

orthography, the syllable is unambiguously read as [dar], with the first letter interpreted as the

.0J, on the other hand, treats the second letter as the root letter simply because it has
root letter.

the vowel diacritic :PJ%-2 above it. It reads as [hwe] and no suffix : is needed (nor, in fact,


Sometimes a single vowel morpheme is attached to an open syllable, for example, genitive

case markers such as [i] or [u]. This situation also calls for the help of , in which case, : serves
as a carrier for the vowel diacritic. Compare the pronunciation of 3R [mo] she, HR [cho] you, and
3R: [mu] her, HR: [chu] your.
3.2.6 Post-suffixes ? and .

In modern written Tibetan, there is only one post-suffix . Historically, there used to be two

post-suffixes: ? and .. The two were really two variants of the same morpheme attached to

verbs.. appeared after alveolar suffixes such as /-<-=, while ? appeared elsewhere. A spelling
reform took place in the early ninth century, at which time the suffix . had probably been

dropped from speech. So it was dropped from the written form as well. ?, on the other hand,

was kept, becoming the sole member in the category of post-suffix.

The post-suffix ? has no effect on the pronunciation of the vowel, unlike when ? serves as a
regular suffix. This is expected, however, because, being a post-suffix, ? is not even adjacent to

the vowel. Whatever suffix that comes before it would have done the job on the vowel already.
3.2.7 Summary Pronunciation of all rhymes: vowel changes are indicated with shading. (The suffixes
are arranged according to their effect on the vowel, different from the traditional alphabetical
coda $ % . / = 2 3 < ? :
A [a] [əx] [əng] [el] [en] [el] [ap] [am] [ər] [e] [a]

AJ [e] [əx] [əng] [el] [en] [el] [ep] [em] [er] [i] __

AA [ə] [ix] [əng] [əl] [ən] [əl] [əp] [əm] [ər] [i] __

Colloquial Amdo Tibetan (2005, Revised), Kuo-ming Sung & Lha Byams Rgyal

A [ə] [ix] [ong] [əl] [ən] [əl] [əp] [əm] [ər] [i] __

AR [o] [ox] [ong] [ol] [wən] [ol] [op] [om] [or] [i] __ Orthography: distribution of the alphabet

Literate Tibetan speakers consciously know which letters of the alphabet go into which

positions in syllabic writing. They learn to memorize the distribution of letters in first grade.

The following chart shows this distribution.

letter suffix prefix superjoined subjoined post-suffix

$ ., 2, 3, :, ✓ ✓ - - -
/, %-, ✓ - - - -
<, =, ✓ - ✓ ✓ -
?, ✓ - ✓ - ✓
;, 7, - - - ✓ -

Alternatively, the information can be translated into the diagrams below, which should be

able to help the learner visualize this bit of linguistic knowledge about the orthography. The

letters listed in each number have the distribution in the shaded positions. Note that all thirty

letters can appear in the position of the root letter.

(1) $ ., 2, 3, :,  (4) ?,  

(2) /, %-,  (5) ;, 7,
(3) <, =, 

❖ 3.3 Oral Spelling (III): Syllables with Suffix

In the oral spelling section of Lesson 2, we learned the word 2+$? [təx], which signifies a
vertical "hanging" relation of two letters. In this lesson, we now learn the other crucial word in

28$ put [zhəx], which indicates the attachment of a suffix letter.

oral spelling, For example:

/$ black [nəx] is spelled out as [na ka zhəx nəx]; %? spells [nga s'a zhəx nge].

Colloquial Amdo Tibetan (2005, Revised), Kuo-ming Sung & Lha Byams Rgyal

Recall that for folded letters, one has to repeat the word 2+$? [təx] twice to indicate the
vertical relation of A over B over C. It is different for the case of a root letter followed by a

suffix and then the post-suffix ?. One only needs to spell the two suffixes English-fashion

before using the word 28$, for example, $%? snow [kəng] spells [ka nga s'a zhəx gəng].
Tibetan oral spelling, as we mentioned earlier, is "progressively-staged'. One spells from the

prefix to the superjoined letter, to the root letter, to the subjoined letter, to the vowel, then on to

the suffix and post suffix. This means that by the time the spell-out reaches the suffix, one may

have already accumulated quite a long utterance. For the learner to do the oral spelling naturally,

it helps to know how an Amdo speaker breaks down the long string of oral spelling into several

prosodic units. The spelling of the following syllables or words are marked with "|" to indicate a

pause a native speaker employs to create a natural rhythm. Note that the nasal quality of the

prefix : is overtly pronounced as [an] in oral spell-out; 3, likewise, is spelled as [man] in a

prefix position.

(1) 2!< spells [wa ka ra zhəx kar]  

(2) :$R/ spells [an ga naro go | na zhəx gwən] (not *[a ga…] )
(3) 3%$? spells [man nga ka s'a zhəx ngəx] (not *[ma nga…] )
h h h
(4) :1R%? spells [an p a naro p o | nga s'a zhəx p ong]
(5) :2<-8/ spells [an ba ra zhəx bar | sha kəkə shə | na zhəx shən | bar shən]
Here are some cases with superjoined and subjoined letters:

(6) N% [ka ra təx tra | shamcə trə | nga zhəx trong]

h h h
(7) 2aJ2? [wa s'a la təx l a | drəng.e l e | wa s'a zhəx l ep]

(8) +R$? [s'a ga təx ga | ya təx ja | naro jo | ka s'a zhəx jox]

(9) .% [s'a wa təx ba | ya təx ja | nga zhəx jang]

The last one, .%, a bilabial with ;-2+$? presents one of the most challenging cases in oral

spelling for foreign learners. We shall have a few more for practice:
(10) KR$? [p a ya təx sha | naro sho | ka s'a zhəx shox]
(11) .LA2? [da wa ya təx ya | kəkə yə | wa s'a zhəx yəx]
Colloquial Amdo Tibetan (2005, Revised), Kuo-ming Sung & Lha Byams Rgyal

(12) .J%? [da pa ya təx sha | nga s'a zhəx shəng]

h h h h h
(13) :K$? [an p a ya təx c a | shamcə c ə | ka s a zhəx c ix]
To conclude the oral spelling exercise, shall we try the "full-house" syllable 21A$? [drix]
shown in Lesson 2? It spells:

(14) [wa s'a ga təx ga | ra dəx dra | kəkə drə | ga s'a zhəx drix] or 2-?-$-2+$?-2|-<-2+$?-
❖ 3.4 Finding the Root

Finding the root letter is very simple. The first and foremost principle is to spot a letter X

that carries a vowel diacritic or is joined (i.e. superjoined or subjoined) by another letter. If such

a letter exists in the syllable, it is the root letter. The root letter (plus the subjoined letter if any)

is the onset of the syllable.

Tibetan makes no diacritic marking for the vowel [a]. This design in writing, although

following the principle of economy, in fact creates a little complication for learners to find the

root letter when the vowel is [a]. Again, if the root letter is superjoined or subjoined by another

letter, the root letter becomes easy to spot, as we just mentioned. However, if there is no sub- or

superjoiners to help out, how does one identify the root letter from a completely linear sequence?

Here is a simple set of rules to remember:

(1) If the sequence is AB, A is the root letter.

(2) If the sequence is ABCD, B is the root letter.

(3) If the sequence is ABC, B is the root letter, unless C is the post-suffix ? and B is one of
the four letters: $-%-2 and 3, in which case, A is the root letter.
We have discussed rule (1) in section 3.2.5 about the function of : as a suffix. Rule (2)

simply derives from the fact that there is only one element ? that can follow a suffix, so ABCD
must have the shape: prefix-root-suffix- . ? Rule (3) recognizes the two possibilities that either

(i) C is a regular suffix, in which case, B is the root; or (ii) C is the post-suffix ?, indicated by
the four compatible suffixes with ?, in which case A is the root. Take $9:-0-?%? Friday, for

Colloquial Amdo Tibetan (2005, Revised), Kuo-ming Sung & Lha Byams Rgyal

example. The syllable ?%? is of the form ABC. There are in fact two ways to tell that it is
pronounced [səng] and not [nge] with the first ? (and not %) being the root letter. First, the

rightmost ? follows one of the four suffixes, $-%-2 and 3, described in Rule (3), so it is the post

suffix. Second, the first ? is not one of the possible prefixes, so it has to be the root. Either way,

the orthography leaves no ambiguity.

Do we need to say anything about spotting the root letter in a simple syllable like ! and #?
❖ 3.5 Foreign Loan Words and Inverted Letters

Traveling in any part of the Tibetan-speaking world, one will undoubtedly see the six-

syllable prayer AT-3-EA-0EJ->, om mani pad me hom carved, painted, or written everywhere. In

this ubiquitous mantra are some unusual elements that we have not covered so far. These

irregular elements in writing are of little practical value in our studies of the modern spoken

language, as they are intended as mechanisms to transcribe ancient Sanskrit religious text into

Tibetan. We will discuss them very briefly here.

Six "new" letters, B-D-C-E-F- and e, are created by inverting the corresponding regular letters.
These are intended to mark the so-called cerebral consonants (mostly retroflexive alveolars) in

Sanskrit. Some Sanskrit long vowels are represented in literary Tibetan by using a small :
A to denote the increased length of the vowel. For [ee] and [oo], simply
beneath a root letter like
double the vowel diacritics to AN and AW. The syllable final [m] in Sanskrit is represented by a

small circle on top of the root letter. This is the circle we see in the first syllable of the six-

syllable mantra: .<

Sanskrit has aspirated voiced consonants (mostly stops) such as gh, dh, bh, jh, drh, etc.

These are conveniently represented in Tibetan by using @ as the subjoined letter, creating

combined letters such as , , , K S, $, [, etc. These words of Sanskrit origin do not really concern

the learner unless he or she plans to go on and study religious texts in Tibetan Buddhism.

However, it might be worthwhile to learn to discern these irregular written forms from the

regular ones.

Colloquial Amdo Tibetan (2005, Revised), Kuo-ming Sung & Lha Byams Rgyal

Mani Stone in Gynnak Mani, Yulshul

Non-religious modern foreign loan words are represented by the available 30 letters. As we

have mentioned, the consonant [f] does not exist in Tibetan. Therefore, a new combination n
has been created to stand for [f]. Since speakers of Amdo Tibetan have already changed their

pronunciation of AA [i] and A [u] to schwa [ə], a new writing convention for the long vowels [i]
and [u] has become necessary. As usual, the suffix : serves as a vowel carrier, for example: ,:R-
3: Tom [tomu] and ?: Sue [su]. The :R suffix for Tom needs some explanation. Recall that
the mid vowels [e] and [o] are underlyingly as [e] and [o] even though in speech they may be

pronounced (raised) as [i] and [u]. The underlying form represents what the speaker thinks he is

pronouncing. To guarantee that the sound [o] is not altered to [u], one uses the :R to denote the
sound [o] and prevent any alteration. The same applies to ?: [su]. In our lessons, there are a

number of instances where this kind of writing convention is used.

❖ 3.6 Punctuation

Colloquial Amdo Tibetan (2005, Revised), Kuo-ming Sung & Lha Byams Rgyal

Tibetan has its own set of punctuation marks. There is no marking of word boundaries in

Tibetan writing. The smallest unit for punctuation is the syllable. To separate syllables (usually

one syllable corresponds to one morpheme, the smallest meaningful unit in the language), a dot

called 5K$ is marked by the right shoulder of the last letter of the syllable. Neither is there a strict
definition of a sentence. Clausal units that resemble a complete sentence or a subordinate clause

can be marked by a single vertical line called (A$->.. There is no distinction among declarative,

interrogative, or exclamatory sentences. For all three types, for which we in English would

employ a period, a question mark, and an interjection mark, the same (A$->. is used. Examples:
(1) HR-2.J-3R-;A/-/, How are you?
(2) %-aR2-3-;A/, I am a student.
(3) A->A-<J-#R-<J, What a shame!

When one uses (A$->. at the end of a clause, one normally does not need to use the 5K$ to

finish marking the last syllable. There are two exceptions. First, when the last letter of the last

syllable is , one has to dot the % before writing the vertical (A$->.. This is to prevent % from
sitting too close to the vertical line and being misread as 2. Second, when the last letter of the

sentence is !-$ or >, without a vocalic diacritic, then the long vertical stroke of the letter itself is

considered to represent the (A$->.. There is no need for an additional dot or vertical line.

(4) 9?-2+%-%-, I already ate. (5K$ and then (A$->. After the final %)

(5) $/%?-!-,$ See you tomorrow. (no vertical mark (A$->.)

A special editorial rule stipulates that, when !-$ or > serves as the root letter without a

suffix and is marked by a vocalic diacritic, the vertical (A$->. is still used. This rule applies in

this textbook:

(6) HR?-(A-9A$-;J-$R, What are you doing?

To end a paragraph, two vertical lines ,, (*A?->.) can be used instead of (A$->.. At the end

of a larger section of an essay, one may double up the *A?->. by using four vertical lines ,,,,

(28A->.,) to end the entire section of the text. The beginning of a text is marked with ! (.2-

Colloquial Amdo Tibetan (2005, Revised), Kuo-ming Sung & Lha Byams Rgyal

.,); ? (4=->.,) starts chapters or sections; and . (<A/-(J/-%%?->.,) starts a new line that
contains only one syllable so that it does not look dangling.   

Although there are quite a few calligraphic styles in Tibetan writing, there are no equivalents

to the capital and lower case letters of the western alphabet. As a result, there is no way to

distinguish common nouns from proper names. To make reading Tibetan text even more

difficult for foreign learners, as we mentioned earlier, there are no word boundaries to help the

reader decide where a word begins and where it ends, for the punctuation mark 5K$ is only used
to separate syllables. In this regard, diligence seems to be the only solution.

❖ 3.7 Exercises

3.7.1 Pronunciation Drill (I): Repeat each word after the recording. Pay attention to the


(1) ;A/, (11) :)<-0/, (21) 2./-&, (31) 2?R.-/3?, 

(2) MA%-, (12) o-$<, (22) <J2-!R%-, (32) 5K-<A%-o=,
(3) 3A/, (13) :)<-3/, (23) ;=-{R<, (33) :S-0<-=J/,
(4) =-.R/, (14) 8A%-0, (24) <A/-(J/, (34) 5$?-0<,
(5) 1/-5S$?, (15) o-/$ (25) .?-.J2, (35) =?-#%?,
(6) .R/-P2, (16) 2R.-;A$ (26) lA?-<A$ (36) .!<-;R=,
(7) 1R=-3, (17) aR2-.J2, (27) .?-5S., (37) <A/-$R%-,
(8) ?%?-o?, (18) b2-G$ (28) +$-+$ (38) %?-2v?-/,
(9) N%-$R, (19) :S-0<, (29) 2R.-9?, (39) *R/-3J.-$A,
(10) PR$?-0R, (20) (%-(%-, (30) ,$-<A%-, (40) $9:-3A$-.3<,
3.7.2 Pronunciation Drill (II): Repeat each word after the recording. Pay attention to the
rhyme and the instances when a prefix or superjoined letter is overtly pronounced.

(1) aR2-3, (11) 2&-$&A$ (21) aR2-OA., (31) HA3-.R%-=?-L,       

(2) {=-29%-, (12) 2&R-2o., (22) o-Y%-, (32) 3#:-:PR, 

Colloquial Amdo Tibetan (2005, Revised), Kuo-ming Sung & Lha Byams Rgyal

(3) (/-0, (13) YA%-3R, (23) 7-(%-, (33) S$-&-<J-2./,

(4) aR2-PR$?, (14) *J?-0, (24) %J/-0, (34) 2./-&-.R/-2o.,
(5) ]R-29%-, (15) 2&-2./, (25) :22-5B$?, (35) )-2Y2?-3,
(6) 5B$-36S., (16) 2f/-:UA/, (26) 3J-:#R<, (36) $9:-0-?%?,
(7) $3-/$ (17) :VR$-0, (27) PR%-2h=, (37) ^-:.A:A-/%-%-,
(8) \R$-[., (18) 9R$-:5S, (28) (J-$A, (38) 2N->A?-2.J-=J$?,
(9) |J:-#%-, (19) \R$-2f/, (29) !->, (39) $9:-:#R<-}R/-3,
(10) ]-V%-, (20) 2N->A?, (30) )R-3R, (40) A-3J-<A-#,
3.7.3 Pronunciation Drill (III): Repeat each word after the recording. Pay attention to

difficult rhymes and the irregular pronunciation of some combinations.

(1) .2%-3R, (11) :LJ.-#., (21) %R-3R.-;J., (31) aR2-9-(J/-3R,
(2) .LA/-)A, (12) !R/-#, (22) L%-KR$?, (32) .0J-36S.-#%-, 

(3) \-.L%?, (13) 2o.-0, (23) zR-KR$?, (33) 2!:-SA/-(J-3A-.$R,

(4) aR2-.R%-;J, (14) }/-?R, (24) ?A-OR/, (34) :IR-/-:.R.-$A,

(5) %$-.2%-, (15) C-,%-, (25) 1%-$+3, (35) 4$?-93-#%-,  

(6) c/-:V3, (16) .<, (26) KA-o=-$A-MA, (36) $;R/-KR$?,

(7) *A/-o/, (17) ?A=-+R$ (27) )-3%<-3R, (37) $;?-KR$?,

(8) KA<-<, (18) <%-.$J, (28) :<-t$?, (38) Y2-3,$

(9) .%=-#%-, (19) .%?-2, (29) l3-0, (39) 3PR/-lA?-(J,

(10) .0J-#%-, (20) }R/-0R, (30) .L<-H, (40) ,A<-;A/-/,

3.7.4 Sound Discrimination: Listen to the recording and circle the syllable you hear.

(1) a. (/ b. J/ c. K/
(2) a. 28A b. $8 c. eA

(3) a. 3H$ b. (R= c. o=

(4) a. $*A? b. MR$? c. /$?

(5) a. .$R/ b. HR% c. oR%

Colloquial Amdo Tibetan (2005, Revised), Kuo-ming Sung & Lha Byams Rgyal

(6) a. *% b. MR% c. /R/

(7) a. .L< b. ;$? c. HJ<
(8) a. (% b. :KR% c. :L%
(9) a. 2a2 b. _2? c. ^
(10) a. .2% b. @% c. %%
3.7.5 Rhyme Discrimination: Select the syllable that has a different rhyme from that of the


(1) a. (% b. (% c. (R%
(2) a. o= b. o. c. o$

(3) a. 9A$ b. 9$ c. 9$

(4) a. .R? b. .? c. .?

(5) a <A% b. <% c. <R%

Write down the phonetic symbol of the vowel of the rhyme that you select for each question.
(1) [ ] (2) [ ] (3) [ ] (4) [ ] (5) [ ]

3.7.6 Transcription: Transcribe the following syllables into Tibetan.

(1) dgon __________ (11) dbugs __________
(2) yongs __________ (12) bsil __________
(3) mchog __________ (13) 'aphyar __________
(4) dmyal __________ (14) bzhi __________
(5) 'abyung __________ (15) rnon __________
(6) khrung __________ (16) ldogs __________
(7) bzlas __________ (17) smon __________
(8) mgyogs __________ (18) sgyid __________
(9) rnyan __________ (19) brgyal __________
(10) rtsabs __________ (20) bklub __________

3.7.7 Find the Root Letter: Identify the root letter of the following syllables.

Colloquial Amdo Tibetan (2005, Revised), Kuo-ming Sung & Lha Byams Rgyal

(1) {. (6) <? (11) $% (16) /?

(2) $9$? (7) $./ (12) .L%? (17) 2h%?
(3) .!: (8) $>$ (13) u$? (18) /$?
(4) 3$R/ (9) >$? (14) 3.: (19) #=
(5) ,< (10) :$< (15) o? (20) .L:
3.7.8 Oral Spelling: e.g. 21R$? [wa s'a ga təx ga | ra təx dra | naro dro | ka s'a zhəx drox]
(1) :): 'rainbow' spells: (6) t$?-g 'bicycle' spells:
(2) 5K3?:#R< 'sewing machine' spells: (7) (/-0 'doctor' spells:

(3) :V$ 'dragon' spells: (8) ,%-!A 'wolf' spells:

(4) 2?A=-$.$? 'umbrella' spells: (9) o-Z% 'street' spells:

(5) c/-:V3 'grape' spells: (10) aR2-9 'school' spells:

Colloquial Amdo Tibetan (2005, Revised), Kuo-ming Sung & Lha Byams Rgyal

Lesson 4 What's Your Name?

☛ Key Grammar Points in Lesson Four:
1. Word Order and Case System
2. Subjective vs. Objective Perspectives
3. Ladon =-.R/: Oblique Case Marker
4. Subject-Ladon Verb: 9J<
5. Verb of Identification: ;A/ to Be

❖ 4.1 Dialogue

Dialogue 1

,:R-3:, HR-2.J-3R-;A/-/,
0:J-=A?, HR-2.J-3R-;A/-/,
,:R-3:, %A-MA%-%-,:R-3:-9J<-<, HR:-MA%-%-(A-9A$-9J<-<,
0:J-=A?, %A-MA%-%-0:J-=A?-9J<-<,
,:R-3:, HR-.$J-c/-AJ-;A/,
0:J-=A?, 3A/, %-aR2-3-;A/, HR-.$J-c/-AJ-;A/,
,:R-3:, %-.$J-c/-3A/, %-<-aR2-3-;A/,
Dialogue 2

hR-eJ, A-<R, HR-2.J-3R,

{=-29%-, HR-2.J-3R,
hR-eJ, HR-5K-<A%-AJ-;A/,
{=-29%-, %-5K-<A%-3A/, %A-MA%-%-{=-29%-9J<-<,

Colloquial Amdo Tibetan (2005, Revised), Kuo-ming Sung & Lha Byams Rgyal

hR-eJ, .$R%?-0-3-:5S3?, %A-MA%-%-hR-eJ-9J<-<, 2.J-3R,

{=-29%-, 2.J-3R, 2.J-3R,
Dialogue 1
Tom: How are you? (Are you well?)
Bai Li: How are you?
Tom: My name is (called) Tom. What’s your name (called)?
Bai Li: My name is (called) Bai Li.
Tom: Are you a teacher?
Bai Li: I’m not. I am a student. Are you a teacher?
Tom: I’m not a teacher. I’m a student, too.
Dialogue 2
Dorje: Hi. How are you?
Gabzang: How are you?
Dorje: Are you Tserang?
Gabzang: I am not Tserang. My name is (called) Gabzang.
Dorje: I'm sorry. My name is Dorje. Bye.
Gabzang: Bye.

Three Nomad Children, Mewa, Ngaba

Colloquial Amdo Tibetan (2005, Revised), Kuo-ming Sung & Lha Byams Rgyal

❖ 4.2 Vocabulary
4.2.1 Vocabulary from the Dialogues
1. HR,
[HR.] pro. you
2. 2.J-3R, adj. well
3. ;A/, v. to be
4. /, [/3] Jeddul part. (see 5.3.6)
5. %A-, [%:A] pro. my
6. MA%-, [3A%] n. name
7. %-, Ladon part. (see 4.3.3)
8. ,:R-3:, person Tom
9. 9J<, v. (subj.-ladon) to call, to be called
10. <, sent. part. (see 4.3.5)
11. HR:-, [HR.-GA] pro. your
12. (A-9A$ [&A-8A$] pro. what
13. 0:J-=A?, person Bai Li
14. .$J-c/, n. teacher
15. AJ, adv. (interr.) (see 4.3.8)
16. 3A/, v. (neg.) to be not
17. %-, pro. I, me
18. aR2-3, n. student
19. <, [;%] adv. / conj. too; and
20. A-<R, [A-<R$?,] interj. hi
21. 5K-<A%-, person Tserang
22. {=-29%-, person Gabzang
23. .$R%?-0-3-:5S3?, phrase I'm sorry
24. hR-eJ, person Dorje

4.2.2 Additional Vocabulary

Colloquial Amdo Tibetan (2005, Revised), Kuo-ming Sung & Lha Byams Rgyal

25. =-.R/, n. Ladon particle

26. 1/-5S$?, person Puntsok
27. 2?R.-/3?, person Sonam
28. .R/-P2, person Dondrup
29. 1R=-3, person Drolma
30. ?%?-o?, person Sangji
31. 3:J-<J:J, person Mary
32. .2%-3R, person Rhangmo
33. ^-2, person Dawa
34. z-3R, person Lhamo

❖ 4.3 Grammar Notes

► 4.3.1 Word Order and Case System

All Tibetan dialects share one syntactic property: they are all verb final (i.e., the object

precedes the verb.) This is manifested in the basic Subject-Object-Verb (SOV) word order in all

sentences. It is worth noting that "verb final" is in fact a property derived from an even more

fundamental property in Tibetan syntax: all phrases are head final.

We can understand the notion "head of a phrase" as the core element of that phrase. For
example, the verb is the head of a verb phrase (VP), the preposition, the head of a preposition

phrase (PP), the adjective, the head of an adjective phrase (AP), etc. The "head final" property

gives us the Tibetan word order as shown in the following examples: (note that the English word

order is often the exact mirror image of the Tibetan, since English is a typical head initial


(1) I student am. "I am a student."

(2) John tea drinks. "John drinks tea."

(3) school at "at school"

(4) America of "of America"

Colloquial Amdo Tibetan (2005, Revised), Kuo-ming Sung & Lha Byams Rgyal

(5) John of book “book of John”

Because the preposition comes at the end of the preposition phrase, it should be properly called a

“postposition.” In this textbook, we adopt the conventional name of preposition but would like

the reader to remember that it appears at the end of the PP. When the VP contains an auxiliary

verb, the auxiliary verb follows the main verb, also exhibiting the opposite word order of


(6) Tserang English speak can. "Tserang can speak English."

(7) Drolma letter writing is. "Drolma is writing a letter."

Noun phrases (NP) seem to challenge the “head final” generalization, since the head noun

usually appears in the initial position of a noun phrase. Examples:

(8) book those "those books" (noun-determiner)

(9) child little that "that little child" (noun-adjective-determiner)

This is only a problem if we consider the above phrase as "headed" by the noun. We do not need

to do so. Since phrases (8) and (9) contain determiners such as those and that, if we consider

them as determiner phrases (DP) headed by determiners, then Tibetan is consistent with the head

final characteristic. Putting theoretical concerns aside, for now we only need to remember that

adjectival modifiers and determiners come after the noun (e.g., child little in Tibetan). We shall

deal with the word order inside NPs later.

Another important syntactic property of Tibetan is that it employs a case system different

from the nominative-accusative system employed by English. This case system is called

ergative-absolutive. We will return to this topic in Lesson 9 when the ergative case is first

introduced. For now, we need to establish two concepts. First, Tibetan has overt case marking

on noun phrases by attaching a functional particle known as the case marker to the right of the

noun phrase. There are only a small number of case markers in Amdo Tibetan, but the majority

of them take variant forms, usually dependent on the pronunciation of the preceding word. This

should not prove a major obstacle to the learner. Second, there is no logical conversion from one
case in English to another case in Tibetan. For example, the nominative case in English (i.e., the

Colloquial Amdo Tibetan (2005, Revised), Kuo-ming Sung & Lha Byams Rgyal

case assigned to the subject of a tensed clause such as I, he, they as opposed to me, him, them)

can be reflected in Tibetan by the ergative, absolutive, or oblique cases. Examples:

(10) I (nominative) hit Bill.

(11) I (nominative) went to New York.

(12) I (nominative) have a Tibetan textbook.

The subject I in the above English sentences, when expressed in Tibetan, needs to be

changed to ngas (ergative), nga (absolutive), and nga-la (oblique), respectively. This is simply

because the two languages operate on two distinct case systems. Learners must realize this fact

and make a conscious effort to remember the case marking properties of different types of verbs

and different sentence patterns.

► 4.3.2 Genitive Case Marker: $A and :A

The genitive case is like its English equivalent. This is a rarity, for most other cases, as we

have just pointed out, do not usually have an equivalent.

The genitive case marker is placed after a noun phrase to indicate possession, similar to the

use of 's in English. In standard written Tibetan, the genitive case marker takes on five different

forms, namely, $A-GA-IA-:A-;A. The sound immediately preceding the case marker (i.e. the last sound
of the NP) determines which one of these five forms it takes. In spoken Amdo, we are only

concerned with two forms, namely $A and :A. If the noun ends in an open syllable, i.e., ends with

a vowel, the form :A is used as a syllabic suffix. For example, the first person pronoun % is
marked as genitive by :A. The two vowels are then further contracted into one: %A (from %:A). %A

is the most popular form for the genitive “my” in the Amdo area. Tom, on the other hand, is

marked by $A, hence ,:R-3:-$A Tom’s. More examples: %A-MA% my name; .$J-c/-$A teacher's.
Pronouns tend to have their own genitive forms. HR you has an irregular form HR:, for example,
HR:-MA% your name. We will encounter more pronouns in their genitive forms in Lesson 5. Here
we will focus on %A my and HR: your.

Colloquial Amdo Tibetan (2005, Revised), Kuo-ming Sung & Lha Byams Rgyal

► 4.3.3 Ladon =-.R/: Oblique Case Marker

In Amdo Tibetan, my name is X is expressed by my name is called X, with the verb 9J< to be
called. This sentence is deceptively simple. It introduces the notion of the “oblique case,"

marked by a particle traditionally called the "locative Ladon =-.R/." Though the marker Ladon

can indeed be used to mark a locative phrase indicating location (e.g., on the desk, at the bus

station), its usage is much more extensive and, more often than not, unrelated to the notion

“locative” at all. For this reason, the authors will call this particle by its Tibetan name Ladon =-
.R/ and the case it assigns the more generic term "oblique" to avoid any confusion. The Ladon

particle, like the genitive case marker, has several variants. The distribution of these variants is

entirely determined by their phonological environments, a situation similar to the two variants of

the English article a and an. In this lesson, the Ladon takes the form of % after the noun MA%
name, which ends in the velar nasal % [ng] sound.
► 4.3.4 9J< To Be Called
The verb 9J< is easily mistaken for a regular transitive verb in the English sense by beginning
students. While the subject my name of the sentence my name is called Tom is marked as

nominative in most Indo-European languages including English, a small group of Tibetan verbs

require that the subject be marked with the Ladon particle, thus the oblique case. 9J< is one such
verb. Therefore, the sentence goes as: %A-MA%-%-,:R-3:-9J<-<, my name-(Obliq) Tom-(Abs) is
called. In this book, these verbs are called Subject-Ladon verbs, as opposed to Object-Ladon

verbs, which we will encounter in Lesson 9.

► 4.3.5 Subjective Perspective: The Verb ;A/ and Sentential Particle <
There are two rather unique aspects in Tibetan grammar that may be unfamiliar to most

English speakers. One is the ergative-absolutive case system, which we just briefly introduced.
The other is the marking of the speaker’s perspective, usually obligatory in the main clause. In

Colloquial Amdo Tibetan (2005, Revised), Kuo-ming Sung & Lha Byams Rgyal

the sentence %A-MA%-%-,:R-3:-9J<-<, My name is called Tom, we encounter this second aspect:
perspective marking, in this case, subjectivity. Subjectivity refers to the speaker’s subjective

perspective, commitment, involvement, endorsement, or conviction about his or her statement.

Tibetan makes a grammatical distinction between whether a speaker is talking about something

that he himself or she herself experienced/is related to or something that he/she is not a part of.

Speakers use overt markings, by employing different auxiliary verbs or sentential particles, to

convey the subjectivity or objectivity of their statements. Usually, when speakers talk about

themselves or an “extension” of themselves such as family, friends, belongings, etc., the

subjective perspective is expressed.

It is tempting for learners of Tibetan, especially those who are familiar with subject-verb

agreement, to associate this property with the notion of agreement, since almost always when the

subject is in first person, subjective perspective is expressed. It is important to know that this is a

false impression. Agreement, as we know it from the grammar of Indo-European languages,

does not exist in Tibetan.

The verb ;A/ to be, for example, is the verb that indicates subjectivity, as opposed to the verb
<J. (to be introduced in L5), which is the "plain-fact" to be that indicates objectivity. The
sentence %-.$J-/-;A/ 'I am a teacher' naturally employs ;A/, but remember ;A/ is not the first

person am. When telling a friend my father is a teacher, one also uses ;A/ since one's father is
considered an extension of himself, thus the subjective perspective. The choice of perspective

can sometimes be subtle. For a sentence such as my sister is a teacher, the choice between ;A/
and <J. is dependent on the context of the discourse. If the speaker is introducing his or her
sister to a friend, he or she might use ;A/ because this is a situation in which an in-group member

(i.e., someone considered as belonging to the same group as the speaker, thus an extension of the

first-person) is introduced to an out-group member. If the speaker is telling his or her mother

that my sister is a teacher,;A/ will not be proper because this would indicate to the mother that
she is being treated as an outsider. The objective <J. should be used. The notion of "subject-
verb agreement" simply does not allow this latitude of flexibility.

Colloquial Amdo Tibetan (2005, Revised), Kuo-ming Sung & Lha Byams Rgyal

It should strike the learner as odd that, in HR-2.J-3R-;A/-/, How are you, when the subject is
second person, the subjective ;A/ to be is used. In fact, quite a number of books about the
Tibetan language often prescribe the use of ;A/ as "for first person subject and second person

subject in interrogative form." Why does the second person subject you, which is hardly

subjective, license the use of ;A/ in the interrogative form but not in the declarative? This

question can be easily answered by the notion of empathy. If the speaker asks a question to the

listener and expects the listener (second person subject) to answer with subjectivity, the speaker

will, due to his or her empathy towards the listener, often employ a subjective marking. In

English and many other languages, empathy is demonstrated in other linguistic contexts. For

example, May I come in, as a question, is often asked when the speaker is trying to perform the

action of going from a place where he or she is at to a place where the listener is at. In the

question, the verb come is selected instead of the descriptively more correct go precisely because

the speaker is empathizing towards the listener's perspective. The expectation for the listener to

use come in the answer (Yes, you may come in) prompts the speaker to employ the listener's

perspective in the question. Similarly, when a Tibetan speaker expects the listener to use the

subjective ;A/ in the answer, he uses it in its question even when the subject is HR you. If a

question is about the speaker him/herself (in first person), the answer is expected to be in second

person, so the verb used is usually <J. and not ;A/.

From this moment on, we will refer to the contrast between ;A/ and <J. or other pairs of the
same nature as subjective vs. objective perspective. That second person interrogative sentences

use the subjective perspective is simply due to empathy.

► 4.3.6 Subjective Sentential Particle: <

We will encounter various devices of subjective marking as we progress. In this lesson, we

< < is attached to the verb 9J< in the sentences %A-MA%-%-,:R-

introduce the sentence-final particle .
3:-9J<-<, my name is Tom and HR:-MA%-%-(A-9A$-9J<-<, what is your name. This is because < is a

Colloquial Amdo Tibetan (2005, Revised), Kuo-ming Sung & Lha Byams Rgyal

sentential particle that marks subjectivity. We shall see other variant forms of this particle later,

but for now, remember it is < for 9J<. < is not found in sentences such as What is his

name? or His name is Gabzang, in which the objective sentence-final particle $A (not to be

confused with the genitive case marker $A) is used; hence, #R:-MA%-%-(A-9A$-9J<-$A, and #R:-MA%-%-

{=-29%-9J<-$A,. We will come back to $A in Lesson 7.

► 4.3.7 ;A/ To Be

Also called the verb of identification, the linking verb ;A/ is the subjective to be. In this
lesson, it appears in two structures: HR-2.J-3R-;A/-/, and %-.$J-c/-;A/,. Note that the subject of

;A/, carrying the absolutive case, is not overtly marked for case, unlike the subject of 9J<, which
is marked oblique by the Ladon particle.

To negate a verb or adjective, one places a negative adverb (such as ) in front of the verb or

adjective. The verb ;A/ has its own negative verb 3A/ meaning not to be. This need not be
considered an exception, for one could consider 3A/ to be the obligatory contraction of 3 and ;A/

(i.e., 3 + ;A/ = 3A/) . Examples: %-5K-<A%-3A/, "I am not Tserang." %-.$J-c/-3A/, "I am not a


► 4.3.8 Interrogative Adverb AJ

AJ, an interrogative adverb, appears immediately before a verb to form a yes-no question.
For example, HR:-MA%-%-{=-29%-AJ-9J<, Are you called Gabzang? HR-.$J-c/-AJ-;A/, Are you a

teacher? Note that when AJ is used, the subjective particle < is often dropped.

AJ is also used with adjectival predicates to form yes-no questions. We will learn this in
Lesson 10.

❖ 4.4 Cultural Notes

✽ 4.4.1 Greetings

Colloquial Amdo Tibetan (2005, Revised), Kuo-ming Sung & Lha Byams Rgyal

2.J-3R, literally means peace. HR-2.J-3R-;A/-/, or HR-2.J-3R, is used for greetings, equivalent to
the English expression How are you. 2.J-3R, alone is also used as good-bye. The particle / in HR-

2.J-3R-;A/-/ is an interrogative particle known in traditional grammar as Jeddul (see11.3.9). This

question, which should be understood as a greeting, is often not answered, but simply repeated as

an exchange of greeting. Bear in mind that a direct translation from the English expression “I’m

fine, thank you.” (%-2.J-3R-;A/, 2!:-SA/-(J,) is rather awkward in Tibetan.

✽ 4.4.2 Tibetan Personal Names

In historical records, Tibetans used to have family names, but this custom has long become

obsolete. Nowadays, with only very few exceptions, Tibetans generally do not use family

names. However, despite the disappearance of family names, Tibetans have a strong sense of

family ties.

Typically, a disyllabic word of an auspicious meaning, or of natural objects, or a combination

of both is used as a personal name (thus two or four syllables long). Most personal names

introduced in this lesson are common examples of this kind, e.g. 5K-<A% Tserang longevity; {=-
29% Gabzang, good time; 1/-5S$? Puntsok, wealth or prosperity; 2?R.-/3? Sonam, good
fortune; .R/-P2 Dondrup, accomplishment. Names of deities from Tibetan Buddhism are often

used as well. For instance, 1R=-3 Drolma, Tara, is one of the most beloved female names.

Different dialectal regions have their peculiar naming preferences. In U-Tsang, it is common

to use the days of the week (derived from natural objects such as the sun, the moon, and the

names of planets) to commemorate the time of the baby's birth. Examples:0-?%? Basang from
$9:-0-?%? Friday; 1<-2 Phurpu from $9:-1<-2 Thursday, 3A$-.3< Migmar from $9:-3A$-
.3< Tuesday, etc. In the Amdo region, parents take their newborn baby on the seventh day to a
monastery for the reincarnated Buddha, called A-=$?, to name the baby. Most names are

drawn from Buddhist sutras. Therefore, Amdo names tend to have a more religious flavor, for

example, ?%?-o?-1R=-3 Buddha-Tara, 3$R/-0R-*2? the guardian deity. Trisyllabic names are
popular in Amdo and very rare in U-Tsang. The trisyllabic names typically consist of a

Colloquial Amdo Tibetan (2005, Revised), Kuo-ming Sung & Lha Byams Rgyal

disyllabic word followed by a monosyllabic word such as o= Gyal victory, 35S Tso sea, and *A.
Jid happiness, the first of which are reserved for male and the other two for female names.

Examples: .0=-3#<-o= Hwalkar Gyal, t$?-3R-35S Jagmo Tso, 5K-<A%-*A. Tserang Jid. The
Kham region, with a substantial presence of the Nyingmapa (fA%-3-0) sect of Buddhism, has

names of deities from the Nyingmapa canons, such as <A$-:6B/-hR-eJ Knowledge Holder Vajra,

:)3-.L%?-(R?-1R/, Lamp of Manjushri's Dharma.

It is extremely common to have people with the same name in a small community. It is the

authors' own experience to know six Drolma Tso's ( 1R=-3-35S) from a single village in Mangra,
Qinghai. The Tibetan way of dealing with this problem is to attach an epithet to the name based

on gender, age, and physical traits that, in American culture, can be considered offensive. Where

is Drolma Tso the Short? She went with Granny Drolma Tso to Drolma Tso the Fat's. Tibetan's

relaxed attitude towards their names might be related to the still-practiced custom of giving

"ugly" names to babies to avoid drawing attention to evil spirits. Names such as 1$-*$ Pig
Poop and HA-*$ Dog Poop are kept by their owners for life without feeling inconvenience or
embarrassment. People understand that a name, after all, is just a name.

Quadrisyllabic names are often abbreviated, generally by combining the first and the third

syllables (i.e., the first syllable of each auspicious word in the name). In Amdo, it is customary

simply to use either of the two words, for example, hR-eJ-5K-<A% Dorje Tserang may be abbreviated
as hR-eJ, or 5K-<A%-,
It is a taboo to utter the name of the deceased. Tibetans believe that, after a person's death,

the spirit can still hear his or her name. If the living utters the name of the recently deceased, the

spirit will hear it and thus delay his or her progress to the other world. Sometimes, out of respect

and care, people will even change their name for their namesake who has recently passed away.

❖ 4.5 Key Sentence Patterns

■ 4.5.1 Greetings: 2.J-3R-;A/

(1) HR-2.J-3R-;A/-/, How are you? (greeting in question form)

Colloquial Amdo Tibetan (2005, Revised), Kuo-ming Sung & Lha Byams Rgyal

(2) HR-2.J-3R, How are you? (greeting in declarative form)

(3) %-2.J-3R-;A/, I am fine.
(4) 2.J-3R, Good-bye.
■ 4.5.2 … MA%-% (Obliq) … 9J<-<, … Name Is Called…
(1) %A-MA%-%-1/-5S$?-9J<-<, My name is (called) Puntsok.
(2) HR:-MA%-%-(A-9A$-9J<-<, What’s your name (called)?
(3) %A-MA%-%-3:J-<J:J-9J<-<, My name is Mary.
(4) %A-MA%-%-2?R.-/3?-9J<-<, My name is Sonam.
■ 4.5.3 ;A/ to Be, 3A/ (Negative), and AJ-;A/ (Interrogative)
(1) %-.$J-c/-;A/, I am a teacher.
(2) %-aR2-3-;A/, I am a student.
(3) %-.$J-c/-3A/, %-aR2-3-3A/, I am not a teacher. I am not a student.
(4) HR-.$J-c/-AJ-;A/, HR-aR2-3-AJ-;A/, Are you a teacher? Are you a student?
(5) HR-.2%-3R-AJ-;A/, Are you Rhangmo?
(6) ;A/, %-.2%-3R-;A/, Yes, I am Rhangmo.
(7) HR-1R=-3-AJ-;A/, Are you Drolma?
(8) .$R%?-0-3-:5S3?, %-1R=-3-3A/, I am sorry. I am not Drolma.

❖ 4.6 Exercises
4.6.1 Listening Comprehension
Answer the following questions in English
(1) What is Mary? (i.e., What does Mary do?)
(2) Is Tom a student?
4.6.2 Complete the Dialogues
(1) ! HR-2.J-3R-;A/-/, __________________________?
#, %A-MA%-%-.R/-P2-9J<-<,
(2) ! _____________________________________?

#, 3A/, _________________________ %-aR2-3-;A/,

4.6.3 Translation
(1) A: How are you? My name is Gabzang Tserang. What’s your name?

Colloquial Amdo Tibetan (2005, Revised), Kuo-ming Sung & Lha Byams Rgyal

B: My name is Sangji Drolma.

(2) I am a teacher. I am not a student.
(3) A: Is your name Tom? Are you my teacher?
B: I'm not Tom. My name is Dorje.
(4) A: Hi. Are you Lhamo?
B: I am not Lhamo. My name is (called) Rhangmo.
A: I am sorry.
4.6.4 Oral Spelling
Example: .$J-c/ (spell out orally)
.$J-c/, [ta ga drəng.e ge| ra ga dəx ga | na zhəx gən | ger-gən]
.$J-c/, .-$-:PJ%-2-.$J, <-$-2+$?-c-/-28$-c/,
(1) HR. you (2) % I (3) %A my (4) MA% name
(5) aR2-3 student (6) (A-9A$ what (7) 9J< call (8) 1R=-3 Drolma

Colloquial Amdo Tibetan (2005, Revised), Kuo-ming Sung & Lha Byams Rgyal

Lesson 5 Where Are You from?


☛ Key Grammar Points in Lesson Five:

1. Verbs of Identification: ;A/ vs. <J.
2. Absolutive Case
3. Nationalities and Names of Countries
4. Personal Pronouns

5. Interrogative words: $%-$A of Where , (A-9A$ What, and ? Who

❖ 5.1 Dialogue
0:J-=A?, HR-2.J-3R-;A/-/,
,:R-3:, 2.J-3R-;A/, HR-<-2.J-3R-;A/-/,
0:J-=A?, %-<-2.J-3R-;A/, HR-$%-$A-;A/,
,:R-3:, %-A-3J-<A-#-$A-;A/, HR-$%-$A-;A/,
0:J-=A?, %-N%-$R-$A-;A/, 3R-?-<J.,
,:R-3:, 3R-%A-PR$?-0R-<J.,
0:J-=A?, 3R-$%-$A-<J., 3R-<-A-3J-<A-#-$A-AJ-<J.,
,:R-3:, 3-<J., 3R-:)<-0/-$A-<J.,
0:J-=A?, 3R:-L-2-(A-9A$-<J.,
,:R-3:, 3R-aR2-3-<J.,
0:J-=A?, #A-(:R-?-<J., #A-(:R-<-aR2-3-AJ-<J.,
,:R-3:, <J., #A-(:R-%AA-aR2-PR$?-<J.,
0:J-=A?, #A-(:R-$%-$A-<J.,

Colloquial Amdo Tibetan (2005, Revised), Kuo-ming Sung & Lha Byams Rgyal

,:R-3:, #R-o-$<-$A-<J., 3R-n-</-?A-$A-<J.,

Amdo Woman from Mangra, Hainan

Bai Li: How are you?

Tom: Good. How are you?
Bai Li: I am good too. Where are you from?
Tom: I’m from America. Where are you from?
Bai Li: I am from China. Who is she?
Tom: She is my friend.
Bai Li: Where is she from? Is she from America too?
Tom: No, she is from Japan.
Bai Li: What does she do? (Lit. What is her job?)
Tom: She is a student.
Bai Li: Who are they? Are they also students?
Tom: Yes, they are my classmates.
Bai Li: Where are they from?

Colloquial Amdo Tibetan (2005, Revised), Kuo-ming Sung & Lha Byams Rgyal

Tom: He is from India. She is from France.

❖ 5.2 Vocabulary
5.2.1 Vocabulary from the Dialogue
1. $%-, pro. which
2. $%-$A, pro. of/fro where (of origin)
3. A-3J-<A-#, n. America
4. N%-$R, n. China
5. 3R, pro. she, her
6. ?, pro. who
7. <J., v. to be
8. PR$?-0R, n. friend
9. 3, adv. (neg.) not
10. :)<-0/, n. Japan
11. 3R:, [3R:C] pro. her (Gen.)
12. L-2, n. job
13. #A-(:R, [#R-5S] pro. they, them
14. (:R, [5S] aff. plural marker (see 5.3.5)
15. aR2-PR$?, n. classmate
16. #R, pro. he, him
17. o-$<, n. India
18. n-</-?A, n. France

5.2.2 Additional Vocabulary

19. ]R-29%-, person Lobzang
20 A-<A, n. America (from A-3J-<A-#,)
21. !-/-+, n. Canada
22. #R-<J-;, n. Korea
23. .LA/-)A, n. England
24. :)<-3/, n. Germany

Colloquial Amdo Tibetan (2005, Revised), Kuo-ming Sung & Lha Byams Rgyal

25. o-/$ n. (Han) China

26. 3J-$R, n. America (Ch.)
27. 3A-.$J, [#R-3R] pro. she, her
28. #A-.$J, [#R] pro. he, him
29. #R:, [#R:C] pro. his
30. 3A-.$A, [#R-3R:C] pro. her
31. #A-.$A, [#R:C] pro. his
32. HR-(:R, [HR.-5S] pro. you (pl.)
33. %A-(:R, [%-5S] pro. we, us
34. +R%-, person John
35. A-<-?A, n. Russia
36. ?R-nJ, person Sophie
37. A-#A?-3A?, person Akimi
38. ;R-<R2, n. Europe
39. 8A%-0, n. farmer
40. (/-0, n. (medical) doctor
41. 29R-2, n. worker
42. 35S-}R/, place Qinghai (Province)

43. MA, n. person, people

❖ 5.3 Grammar Notes

► 5.3.1 Also <

The < in this lesson differs from the sentential particle < introduced in Lesson 4. Here, <
means also, but it has different syntactic properties from its English counterpart. The English

adverb also appears in a fixed position (e.g., after to be), having the flexibility to refer to phrases

that are not adjacent to it. Consider:

(1) Mary is a teacher. John is also a teacher.

Colloquial Amdo Tibetan (2005, Revised), Kuo-ming Sung & Lha Byams Rgyal

(2) John is a teacher. He is also a poet. (He = John)

In (1), the adverb also refers to the subject John (Mary is, John also is.) In (2), when the subject

remains the same, also refers to the noun phrase a poet (John is a teacher and also a poet.)

The context of the discourse helps the English speaker identify which phrase also refers to.

Tibetan < is different. It must be attached to the right of the phrase to which it refers. For


(3) HR-A-3J-<A-#-$A-<J., %-<-A-3J-<A-#-$A-;A/, You are from the US. I am also from the US.
(4) %-.$J-c/-;A/, %-aR2-3-<-;A/, I am a teacher. I am also a student.

In (3), < is attached to the subject % I also; while in (4), it is attached to aR2-3 also a student.

< can also be used as a preposition meaning with (expressing accompaniment, e.g., with Tom,
not instrument, e.g. with a hammer) or a conjunction meaning and, in the form of A < B. For


(5) ]R-29%-<-.R/-P2-PR$?-0R-<J., Lobzang and Dondrup are friends.

► 5.3.2 Nationalities and Names of Countries

Some of the names of Western countries are apparent transliterations from English such as A-
3J-<A-# America (sometimes truncated into a shorter form, A-<A), !-/-+ Canada, n-</-?A France,
#R-<J-; Korea, etc. Some other names, which sound less akin to the English language, are earlier
transliterations into Tibetan such as .LA/-)A England and :)<-3/ Germany. Yet a third group

of country names (mostly neighboring countries of Tibet) are indigenous Tibetan terms such as,

o-$< India, 2=-2R Nepal, etc. The term o-/ refers to the part of China that is mainly Han
Chinese. China (the political entity) is referred to by the term N%-$R, a Chinese loan word. In the

Amdo region, where Chinese is spoken by most Tibetan people as their first non-native

language, the Chinese word 3J-$R for America (meaning the United States) is understood more
widely. It is the author's personal experience that the sentence %-A-3J-<A-!-$A-;A/, "I am from the

US." is not as clear to Amdo Tibetans as %-3J-$R-$A-;A/,

Colloquial Amdo Tibetan (2005, Revised), Kuo-ming Sung & Lha Byams Rgyal

To indicate a person's nationality, one uses the genitive case marker $A after the country's
name. They refer to the origin of someone/something but not the language. For instance, :)<-

0/-$A means Japanese (a Japanese person and not the Japanese language). The word for person
or people is MA. For example: #A-.$J-:)<-3/-$A-MA-<J., He is German (Lit. He is a Germany’s

person). More examples: n-</-?A-$A-MA Frenchman, #R-<J-;-$A-MA Korean, :)<-0/-$A-MA Japanese, o-

$<-$A-MA Indian, A-<-?A-$A-MA Russian, but o-MA Han Chinese, 2R.-MA Tibetan.
For names of languages, see Lesson 6.
► 5.3.3 Personal Pronouns

The colloquial forms of the third person pronouns are 3R or 3A-.$J she and #R or #A-.$J he. The

genitive form for 3R is 3R:C her, in the standard written form. To reflect the colloquial

pronunciation, we change it to 3R:. Similarly, #R:C his is changed to #R:. 3A-.$J takes the genitive
case marker $A then changes to 3A-.$A. #A-.$J becomes #A-.$A. Examples:

(1) 3R:-PR$?-0R, her friend

(2) 3A-.$A-.$J-c/, her teacher

(3) #R:-MA%-, his name

(4) #A-.$A-aR2-3-<-#A-.$A-aR2-PR$?, his students and his classmates.

Below is a summary of the absolutive and genitive forms of the pronouns.

Singular Plural
Abs I, me % Abs we, us %A-(:R
Gen my %A Gen our %A-(:R-$A
Abs you HR Abs you HR-(:R
Gen your HR: Gen your HR-(:R-$A
Abs he, him #R or #A-.$J Abs they,
3 m.
f. & m. them
Gen his #R: or #A-.$A
3 f. Abs she, her 3R or 3A-.$J Gen
f. & m.
their #A-(:R-$A

Colloquial Amdo Tibetan (2005, Revised), Kuo-ming Sung & Lha Byams Rgyal

Gen her 3R: or 3A-.$A

Plural personal pronouns%A-(:R we, HR-(:R you, and #A-(:R they are formed by adding the plural
morpheme (:R to the singular personal pronouns I, you, and he. Note that #A-(:R they does not

have a gender distinction. It can refer to either a group of females or males. The genitive forms

of plural pronouns are formed by adding the genitive case marker . $A

► 5.3.4 Absolutive Case

Recall that in Lesson 4, we mentioned that Tibetan employs a case system that is different

from that of English. The chart in 5.3.3 gives the absolutive and genitive forms of each
pronoun. The absolutive case is the "unmarked" or base form of the noun and is usually used

when the noun phrase is the subject of an intransitive verb, including the linking verbs ;A/ and
<J., which we have covered in Lesson 4, or the direct object of a transitive verb, which we will
cover starting from Lesson 9. The subjects of the following examples are marked absolutive:

(1) HR (Abs)- 2.J-3R-;A/-/, How are you?

(2) 3R (Abs)- 35S-}R/-$A-<J., She is from Qinghai.

(3) % (Abs)- aR2-3-(Abs) ;A/, I am a student.

(4) % (Abs)- 5K-<A%-(Abs) 3A/, I am not Tserang.

Note that in (3) and (4) the noun phrases aR2-3 student and 5K-<A% Tserang function as nominal

predicates, linked by ;A/ to be to describe the subject. They have the same case as the subject %,

therefore, absolutive. It is tempting for the English-speaking student to associate the absolutive

case with the nominative case in English at this point. Please don't, for example (5) below

proves that such an association is faulty and simply prevents the learner from internalizing the

ergative-absolutive case system.

(5) %A-MA%-% (Obliq)- +R%- (Abs.) 9J<-<, My name is called John.

The noun phrase John in (5) is marked absolutive in the complement position, while the subject

of the verb %A-MA%-% my name is, as we covered in Lesson 4, marked oblique case with Ladon.

Colloquial Amdo Tibetan (2005, Revised), Kuo-ming Sung & Lha Byams Rgyal

The chart of pronouns above serves our purposes up to Lesson 8. We will then incorporate

the Ergative Case for all pronouns in Lesson 9.

► 5.3.5 Plural Nouns and Plurality Marker (:R

Careful readers will notice that the plurality marker (:R is not attached to all plural nouns in
English such as students and classmates in the following examples:

(1) %A-(:R-aR2-3-;A/, We are students.

(2) #A-(:R-<-%AA-aR2-PR$?-<J., They are also my classmates.

The nouns aR2-3 students and aR2-PR$? classmates in (1) and (2) are called nominal predicates.

When noun phrases are used as nominal predicates, linked by ;A/ or <J., it is always the

unmarked (absolutive) form that is used. In fact, even though (:R can be attached to nouns to

indicate plurality, it is often not used outside the pronominal (personal and demonstrative)

category. A rule of thumb is that when a plural noun phrase is used vocatively (i.e., in calling),

thus similar to a pronoun, then plural marking is used. For example, in Comrades! Let's fight

on! or Teachers and students, how are you all today? the noun phrases comrades, teachers, and

students can be marked with (:R. When plurality is expressed by means of numerals or

demonstratives, the noun itself cannot take the plural marker (:R. We shall return to this issue in

Lesson 7.

► 5.3.6 ;A/, vs. <J.,

In Lesson 4, we learned that the linking verb ;A/ to be expresses the subjective perspective of
the speaker. In this lesson we will introduce its non-subjective counterpart <J. to be. Again, the

criterion for choosing ;A/ or <J. is not directly related to "person" as a rigid grammatical entity.

It would appear that the second and third person subject, when not in any way considered an

extension of the speaker (the first person), employs the verb <J.. The negative and interrogative

forms of <J. follow those of ;A/: 3 is placed before <J. to form the negation
the negative adverb

3-<J.. The interrogative adverb AJ is placed before <J. to form a yes-no question. It is
interesting to note that the two adverbs AJ and 3 seem to be somehow competing for the same

Colloquial Amdo Tibetan (2005, Revised), Kuo-ming Sung & Lha Byams Rgyal

position before<J., for it is impossible to put both of them in front of <J. to form a negative yes-
no question. In other words, the combination *AJ-3-<J. is ungrammatical. One way to solve this

problem is to use a sentential particle (/ for 3A/ and = for 3-<J.) when the verb is negated (see

Example (4)). The various forms are summarized below.

to be
Subjective Non-Subjective

Affirmative ;A/ <J.

Negative 3A/ 3-<J.
Interrogative AJ-;A/ AJ-<J.
Negative 3A/-/ 3-<J.-=

(1) %-A-3J-<A-#-$A-;A/, 3R-A-<-?A-$A-<J., I am from the US. She is from Russia.

(2) ?R-nJ-.$J-c/-3-<J., %-<-.$J-c/-3A/, Sophie is not a teacher. I am not a teacher either.

(3) HR-aR2-3-AJ-;A/, #A-.$J-aR2-3-AJ-<J., Are you a student? Is he a student?

(4) #A-.$J-HR:-aR2-3-3-<J.-=, Isn't he your student?

The interrogative particle = in (4), called Jeddul (:LJ.-#.) in traditional Tibetan grammar, is

the same as /, which we learned in the greeting HR-2.J-3R-;A/-/, Like Ladon, Jeddul also has

several variants depending on the syllable preceding it. When the word that precedes it has a
syllable-final consonant . or =, the form = is used. Other variants of Jeddul will be introduced

in Lesson 11 (see 11.3.9).

► 5.3.7 Interrogative Pronouns: ? who, (A-9A$ what, and $%-$A from/of where
Interrogative pronouns such as ? who, (A-9A$ what, and $%-$A from/of where form “WH-
questions”: Who is she, What is that, Where are you from, etc. There is one crucial difference

between English and Tibetan WH-questions, however. Normally, interrogative pronouns in

English are moved forward to a sentence-initial position to form questions (e.g. Who did you
see? as opposed to You saw who?). Under special circumstances, the interrogative pronouns can

Colloquial Amdo Tibetan (2005, Revised), Kuo-ming Sung & Lha Byams Rgyal

stay "inside" the sentence. This is called an echo question, used by the speaker to show surprise,

disbelief, or to ask for clarification. Compare the following examples:

(1) Where is he from? Who did you see? (normal questions)

(2) He is from where? You saw who? (echo questions)

Tibetan, like most other Asian languages, does not move forward the interrogative pronouns

such as ? who, (A-9A$ what, and $%-$A where to the sentence-initial position. They stay put, or

"in situ", inside the sentence just like the English echo questions shown in (2). Their presence in

the sentence alone is sufficient to give the sentence a natural interpretation of a question. In

other words, such Tibetan questions are interpreted as normal questions as the English questions

in (1), and not the echo questions in (2). Moving forward interrogative pronouns to sentence-

initial position is generally ungrammatical.

If the reader is not sure where the original position of an interrogative pronoun is, he can

always test it by trying to answer the question first, then replace the key words by an

interrogative pronoun. For example: #A-.$J-[ HR:-.$J-c/-] <J., He is your teacher is the answer

to the question Who is he? Therefore, the Tibetan word order for the question is: #A-.$J-[?-] <J.,
and not ?-#A-.$J-<J.,
Similarly, the following English questions are translated into Tibetan by placing the

interrogative pronouns "in situ."

(3) What is her job? 3R:-L-2-(A-9A$-<J., (Lit. Her job what is?)
(4) Where is she from? 3R-$%-$A-<J., (Lit. She where of is?)

(5) What is your name? HR:-MA%-%-(A-9A$-9J<-<, (Lit. Your name what is called?)

(6) Who is our teacher? %A-(:R-$A-.$J-c/-?-<J., (Lit. Our teacher who is?)

The above word order should make perfect sense if one compares it with the answer to each

question. The word (A in (A-9A$ is the interrogative what, which is often attached with the

indefinite marker9A$ to indicate the indefinite nature of what (Lit. a certain what). Lastly, the
phrase $%-$A from where actually consists of an interrogative word $%, meaning which, and the

Colloquial Amdo Tibetan (2005, Revised), Kuo-ming Sung & Lha Byams Rgyal

genitive case $A. The word $% can be used independently, meaning which, or with other
particles or prepositions, e.g., $%-/ at which place (Lesson 7) and $%-% to where (Lesson 10).

❖ 5.4 Cultural Notes

✽ 5.4.1 Tibetan Calligraphy

Earlier in the lesson, we introduced two writing styles, namely, Wuchan and Wumed.

Literally,.2-&/ means the headed, referring to the initial horizontal stroke that resembles the
"head" of each letter, and .2-3J. means the headless, referring to the removal of that head-
stroke. In the Amdo region, the two styles are known as ;A$-.!< “the white font” for the

headed and ;A$-/$ “the black font” for the headless. Together, they are called ;A$-.!<-/$.

In terms of traditional Tibetan calligraphy, the headed is called Zabyig ($92-;A$). This is

the style used in almost all printed material, and the style we learn in this textbook. The other

headless calligraphic styles are all called Xarma ( $><-3). Among them, depending on how

cursive and how connected the strokes are produced, are the Drutsa ( :V-5), Chuwig (:H$-;A$),
and Chumatsug (:H$-3-5$?). Drawing a metaphor from music, if the printed style $92-;A$ is

adagio, then the :V-5, :H$-;A$, and :H$-3-5$? are, respectively, andante, allegro, and

allegro ma non troppo. Below is a selection of different styles (courtesy 4%-(<, 1999).

Colloquial Amdo Tibetan (2005, Revised), Kuo-ming Sung & Lha Byams Rgyal

Calligraphy-Example 1 Zabyig $92-;A$

Calligraphy - Example 2 Drutsa-1 :V-5

Calligraphy -Example 3 Drutsa-2 :V-5

Calligraphy - Example 4 Chuwig :H$-;A$

Colloquial Amdo Tibetan (2005, Revised), Kuo-ming Sung & Lha Byams Rgyal

Calligraphy - Example 5 Chumatsug :H$-3-5$?

Calligrapher Writing With a Bamboo Pen, Derge, Garze

✽ 5.4.2 Tibetan Pen 2R.-/$

Traditional Tibetan calligraphy is written with a flat-topped bamboo pen, similar to a quill.

The bamboo must be first treated with a layer of yak bone marrow or butter. After the bamboo

has absorbed the substance, it is then heated and dried before the actual making of the pen. The
width of the flap top decides the size of the words produced. Depending on the style of the

Colloquial Amdo Tibetan (2005, Revised), Kuo-ming Sung & Lha Byams Rgyal

writing, the flap top needs to be cut either slanting towards right for .2-&/ the headed or left for
.2-3J. the headless. When writing, the user holds the pen with his or her thumb and index finger
and turns the pen clockwise or counterclockwise to produce the desired width and shape of each

stroke. Generally speaking, horizontal strokes are thick and level; vertical strokes often thin and

long. During the writing, a knife is sometimes needed to sharpen the pen.

Good penmanship, as well as proper spelling, is usually regarded as a reflection of one's

education. Therefore, even though the thick-thin contrast of stroke shape in traditional

calligraphy cannot be easily done with a ball-point pen, it is still a good idea for a student to

write neatly and smoothly and to cultivate an esthetic sense of what makes proper Tibetan


✽ 5.4.3 Yes or No

The Tibetan language does not have the equivalent of the English yes or no. The short

answer to a yes-no question is simply replying with the verb. For example, to answer do you like

tea, Tibetan speakers, lacking the words yes or no, may say "Like." Do you eat lamb and yak

meat? "Eat." In a negative response, the negative adverb 3 cannot be used alone. The shortest

possible answer is 3 + verb.

Foreigners find it fascinating that in many areas not limited to Amdo, Tibetan speakers

respond to a yes-no question or a statement by making a very brief inhaling sound. This is to

signify agreement with your statement or yes to your question. As far as the Tibetan is

concerned, by inhaling, he has already answered your question.

❖ 5.5 Key Sentence Patterns

■ 5.5.1$%-$A Asking About Origin

(1) HR-$%-$A-;A/, Where are you from?
(2) #A-(:R-$%-$A-<J., Where are they from?
(3) 3R-$%-$A-<J., Where is she from?

Colloquial Amdo Tibetan (2005, Revised), Kuo-ming Sung & Lha Byams Rgyal

(4) +R%-$%-$A-<J., Where is John from?

(5) A-#A?-3A?-$%-$A-<J., Where is Akimi from?
■ 5.5.2 Country / Place + $A
(1) %-35S-}R/-$A-;A/, I am from Qinghai.
(2) 3R-N%-$R-$A-<J., #A-.$J-N%-$R-$A-<J., She/He is from China.
(3) %A-(:R-:)<-0/-$A-;A/, We are from Japan.
(4) #A-(:R-.LA/-)A-$A-<J., They are from England.
(5) ?R-nJ-;R-<R2-$A-<J., Sophie is from Europe.
■ 5.5.3 <J. to Be, 3-<J. (Negative), and AJ-<J. (Interrogative)
(1) ^-2-.R/-P2-.$J-c/-AJ-<J., Is Dawa Dondrup a teacher?
(2) 3-<J., #A-.$J-aR2-3-<J., No, he isn't. He is a student.
(3) ?R-nJ-A-3J-<A-#-$A-AJ-<J., Is Sophie from America?
(4) ?R-nJ-A-3J-<A-#-$A-3-<J., n-</-?A-$A-<J., Sophie is not American. She's from France.
■ 5.5.4 ? Who
(1) 3R-?-<J., #A-.$J-?-<J., Who is she/he?
(2) HR-?-;A/, Who are you?
(3) #A-(:R-?-<J., Who are they?
(4) 5K-<A%-1R=-3-?-<J., Who is Tserang Drolma?
(5) ?%?-o?-z-3R-?-<J., Who is Sangji Lhamo?
■ 5.5.5 Asking and Answering Questions About L-2 Job
(1) #A-.$A-L-2-(A-9A$-<J., What’s his job?
(2) #A-.$J-8A%-0-9A$-<J., He is a farmer.
(3) HR:-L-2-(A-9A$-;A/, What’s your job?
(4) %-(/-0-9A$-;A/, I am a doctor.
(5) #A-(R:-L-2-(A-9A$-<J., What's their job?
(6) #A-(:R-29R-2-<J., They are workers.
■ 5.5.6 Personal Pronouns, Absolutive and Genitive Case

(1) %A-(:R-$A-.$J-c/-?-<J., Who is our teacher?

Colloquial Amdo Tibetan (2005, Revised), Kuo-ming Sung & Lha Byams Rgyal

(2) HR-(:R-$A-.$J-c/-z-?-$A-AJ-<J., Is your (pl.) teacher from Lhasa?

(3) HR:-aR2-3-A-3J-<A-#-$A-AJ-<J., Are your students from America?
(4) #A-(:R-$A-(/-0-]R-29%-.R/-P2-<J., Their doctor is Lobzang Dondrup.
(5) +R%-<-3:JJ-<J:J-%A-(:R-$A-PR$?-0R-<J., John and Mary are our friends.

❖ 5.6 Exercises
5.6.1 Listening Comprehension: True or False
(1) Tom is a student.
(2) Sophie is from France.
(3) Tom is from America.
(4) I am a student too.
(5) Tom, Sophie and I are friends.
5.6.2 Complete the Dialogues
(1) ! HR-2.J-3R-;A/-/, ________________________?
#, #A-.$J-%A-.$J-c/-<J.,
(2) ! _____________________________________?
#, 3A/, ___:)<-0/______, %-N%-$R-$A-;A/,
! %-!-/-+-$A-;A/,
(3) ! _____________________________________?
#, %-29R-2-;A/,
! _____________________________________?
#, %A-PR$?-0R-8A%-0-<J.,
;A/ or <J. for (3) and (4)
5.6.3 Fill in the Blanks (I): Personal pronouns for (1), (2),

(1) 1R=-3-%A-PR$?-0R-;A/, __L-2-(/-0-<J., __N%-$R-$A-<J.,

(2) ,:R-3:-<-2N->A?-aR2-PR$?-<J., __PR$?-0R-<-<J., __.$J-c/-35S-}R/-$A-<J.,

(3) %-(/-0-__, #R-(/-0-9A$-__, 3R-<-(/-0-9A$-__,

(4) ! HR-z-3R-AJ-__,

#, ;A/, %-#A-.$A-PR$?-0R-__,

Colloquial Amdo Tibetan (2005, Revised), Kuo-ming Sung & Lha Byams Rgyal

! HR-1R=-3-$A-PR$?-0R-AJ-__,
#, 3A/, %-1R=-3-$A-PR$?-0R-__,
! 3R-5K-<A%-$A-PR$?-0R-AJ-__,
#, 3R-5K-<A%-$A-PR$?-0R-3-__,
5.6.4 Fill in the Blanks (II): Insert the correct form of the genitive case
(1) #A-.$J-:)<-3/-__-MA-<J.,
(2) 3R-o-$<-__-<J.,

(3) 3R-2R.-0-<J., 3R-__-MA%-%-(A-9A$-9J<-$A,

(4) %-A-3J-<A-#-__-;A/, __(my)-MA%-%-,:R-3:-9J<-<,

(5) ?R-nJ-.$J-c/-<J., 3R-?R-nJ- -aR2-3-<J.,

(6) HR-$%-__-;A/, #R-HR-(:R-__-aR2-3-AJ-<J.,

(7) #A-.$J-%A-.$J-c/-<J., #A-__(his)-MA%-%-2N->A?-9J<-<,

(8) %A-(:R-PR$?-0R-;A/, %A-(:R-__-.$J-c/-A-3J-<A-#-$A-;A/,

5.6.5 Image Description: Introduce the following people according to the information
provided. Start with "His/Her name is… S/he is from…etc."

Colloquial Amdo Tibetan (2005, Revised), Kuo-ming Sung & Lha Byams Rgyal

(Top left) Tom, Canadian, doctor; (top right) Sophie (left), French, student, and Mary
(right), American, student; (bottom left) Akimi, Japanese, student (bottom middle) Lao
Bai ( ), Han Chinese, farmer; (bottom right) Dorje Tserang, from Qinghai, worker.
5.6.5 Translation
(1) A: Who are they? Are they your students?
B: No, they are not my students. They are my classmates.
A: Where are they from?
B: Tserang is from India. Sophie is from Europe. Akimi is from Japan.
(2) I am a teacher. I am not a student.
(3) A: What do you do?
B: I am a worker. What do you do?
A: I am a farmer.
(4) A: Is she Sophie? Where is she from?
B: No, she is not Sophie. She is Mary. She is from England.
5.6.7 Oral Spelling
(1) aR2-PR$?, classmate (2) N%-$R China (3) :)<-0/, Japan
(4) .LA/-)A, England (5) PR$?-0R, friend (6) L-2, job
(7) 29R-2, worker (8) 8A%-0, farmer

Colloquial Amdo Tibetan (2005, Revised), Kuo-ming Sung & Lha Byams Rgyal

Lesson 6 I Have a Tibetan Textbook

☛ Key Grammar Points in Lesson Six:
1. Existential Verb;R. Expressing Possession
2. Demonstrative Adjectives: :.A this, .A that, and $/ that over there
3. Objective Perspective Marker: Sentential Particle $A
4. Variant Forms and Pronunciation of =-.R/
5. Indefiniteness Marker: 9A$

❖ 6.1 Dialogue

+R%-, ?R-nJ, HR-2.J-3R, :.A-(A-9A$-<J.,

?R-nJ, :.A-%A-2R.-;A$-$A-aR2-.J2-<J.,
+R%-, .A-(A-9A$-<J., .A-<-2R.-;A$-$A-aR2-.J2-AJ-<J.,
?R-nJ, .A-aR2-.J2-3-<J., .A-5B$-36S.-<J.,
+R%-, (A-9A$-$A-5B$-36S.-<J.,
?R-nJ, 2R.-.LA/-5B$-36S.-<J., HR-:-<-2R.-;A$-$A-aR2-.J2-;R.-=,
+R%-, ;R., ;A/-/-<-%-:-2R.-.LA/-5B$-36S.-3J., 2R.-o-5B$-36S.-9A$-;R.,
?R-nJ, $3-/$-.A-(:R-HR:-AJ-;A/,
+R%-, ;A/, :.A-(:R-%A-$3-/$-;A/,
?R-nJ, \R$-[.-$/-?:A-<J.,
+R%-, %A-(:R-$A-.$J-c/-/-\R$-[.-;R.-$A, $/-.$J-c/-$A-<J.,
?R-nJ, HR-:-2R.-MA%-AJ-;R.,

Colloquial Amdo Tibetan (2005, Revised), Kuo-ming Sung & Lha Byams Rgyal

+R%-, %A-2R.-MA%-%-5K-<A%-o=-9J<-<,
?R-nJ, %-:-<-2R.-MA%-;R., MA%-%-1R=-3-35S-9J<-<,

n Children at Lhamo Monastery Elementary School, Zoige, Ngaba

John: Hi, Sophie. What is this?

Sophie: This is my Tibetan textbook.
John: What is that? Is that also a Tibetan textbook?
Sophie: That is not a textbook. That is a dictionary.
John: What dictionary is it?
Sophie: It is a Tibetan-English dictionary. Do you also have a Tibetan textbook?
John: Yes, but I don’t have a Tibetan-English dictionary. I have a Tibetan-
Chinese dictionary.
Sophie: Are those pens yours?
John: Yes, these are my pens.
Sophie: That computer over there, whose is it?
John: Our teacher has a computer. That is (our) teacher's.

Colloquial Amdo Tibetan (2005, Revised), Kuo-ming Sung & Lha Byams Rgyal

Sophie: Do you have a Tibetan name?

John: Yes, my Tibetan name is called Tserang Gyal.
Sophie: I too have a Tibetan name. My name is called Drolma Tso.

❖ 6.2 Vocabulary

6.2.1 Vocabulary from the Dialogue

1. :.A, dem. this
2. 2R.-;A$ n. (written) Tibetan
3. aR2-.J2, n. textbook
4. .A, [.J] dem. that
5. 5B$-36S., n. dictionary
6. 2R.-.LA/, n. Tibetan-English
7. ;R., v. (subj.-ladon) to have
8. ;A/-/-<, [;A/-;%] conj. but
9. 3J., v. (neg.) not have
10. 2R.-o, n. Tibetan-Chinese
11. $3-/$ n. ball-point pen
12. .A-(:R, [.J-5S] dem. (pl.) those
13. :.A-(:R, [:.A-5S] dem. (pl.) these
14. \R$-[., n. computer
15. $/, dem. that over there
16. ?:A, pro. whose
17. $A, sent. part. objective marker
18. 5K-<A%-o=, person Tserang Gyal
19. 1R=-3-35S, person Drolma Tso

6.2.2 Additional Vocabulary

20. 2R.-{., n. (spoken) Tibetan
21. .LA/-{., n. (spoken) English

Colloquial Amdo Tibetan (2005, Revised), Kuo-ming Sung & Lha Byams Rgyal

22. .LA/-;A$ n. (written) English

23. o-{., n. (spoken) Chinese
24. o-;A$ n. (written) Chinese
25. .0J-(, n. book
26. 8-/$ n. pencil
27. :.$-?, n. seat
28. :VA-.J2, n. notebook
29. ?-O, n. map
30. &R$-4K, n. desk, table
31. b2-G$ n. chair
32. |R, n. door
33. S-3, [|J:-#%] n. window
34. #$-3, n. bag, case
35. *A-3, person Nyima
36. 2?R.-/3?-*A., person Sonam Jid
37. ]-V%-, place Labrang (Ch. Xiahe)
38. (2-3.R, place Chamdo (Ch. Changdu)
39. #J-.$J, place Derge (Ch. Dege)
40. /-$, n. pen (generic term)
41. t$?-/$ n. fountain pen
42. .0=-3#<, person Hwalkar

❖ 6.3 Grammar Notes

► 6.3.1 Demonstrative Adjectives / Pronouns

Tibetan makes a three-way distinction in its use of demonstratives, namely, :.A this, .A that,
and $/ that over there, similar to Spanish (este, ese, and aquel) and Japanese (kono, sono, and

Colloquial Amdo Tibetan (2005, Revised), Kuo-ming Sung & Lha Byams Rgyal

ano). Tibetan demonstratives, like their English counterparts, can function both as noun-

modifying adjectives and as pronouns. When in their adjectival form, demonstratives follow the

noun they modify:

(1) 2R.-;A$-$A-aR2-.J2-:.A, this Tibetan textbook

(2) \R$-[.-$/, that computer over there

The plural demonstratives these, those, and those over there are formed by adding the plural

(3) .$J-c/-:.A-(:R, these teachers

(4) $3-/$-.A-(:R, those pens

(5) aR2-3-$/-(:R, those students over there

Note that, as we mentioned earlier, the plural marker is not attached to the noun itself but

rather to the demonstrative, thus the ungrammatical * .$J-c/-(:R-:.A.

► 6.3.2 Languages: {. and ;A$
Tibetan makes a clear distinction between the spoken language ( {.) and the written
language (;A-$J). In fact, the language class in the Tibetan region is called {.-;A$ (derived from

{.+ ;A-$J), signifying both spoken and written components of the course. Names of languages
come in two types (see the chart below): (i) names that take the first syllable of the proper name

(e.g., Tibet, England, China) to combine with either {. or ;A$, to give Tibetan, English,

Chinese, etc.; (ii) names that take the entire transliteration of the proper name (e.g., Japan,

Russia, France) attached to$A-;A-$J, rendering Japanese, Russian, French, etc.

Language Spoken ({.) Written (;A-$J)

Tibetan 2R.-{. 2R.-;A$

English .LA/-{. .LA/-;A$
Chinese o-{., o-;A$
Japanese :)<-0/-$A-{. :)<-0/-$A-;A-$J
Colloquial Amdo Tibetan (2005, Revised), Kuo-ming Sung & Lha Byams Rgyal

French n-</-?A-$A-{. n-</-?A-$A-;A-$J

Russian A-<-?A-$A-{. A-<-?A-$A-;A-$J
While there is only one (i.e., classical) written Tibetan (therefore one 2R.-;A$), different
places in the entire Tibetan speaking world tend to have their own vernacular speech or dialect

called{.. A person from Labrang (]-V%), then, speaks ]-V%-$A-{.; a person from Chamdo
((2-3.R) speaks (2-3.R:A-{.; a person from Derge (#J-.$J) speaks #J-.$J:A-{., etc. The

morpheme {. cannot be used as an independent word, for the word (spoken) language, one

needs to say {.-( by adding the nominal suffix (. For example, :.A-(A-9A$-$A-{.-(-<J., What

language is that?

► 6.3.3 Interrogative (A-9A$

Recall that the interrogative word (A-9A$ what that we introduced in Lesson 4 actually consists
of two morphemes: (A what and 9A$, a particle which marks (A as indefinite. 9A$ can be attached
to other interrogative words as well. We shall encounter such cases later.

Like the what in English, (A-9A$ can be used as an interrogative pronoun such as :.A-(A-9A$-<J.,
What is this? It can even take genitive marker $A such as :.A-(A-9A$-$A-aR2-.J2-<J., What textbook

is this? Literally, it means: This is a textbook of what? More examples:

(1) HR-(A-9A$-$A-.$J-c/-;A/, What kind of teacher are you? (Lit. a teacher of what?)
(2) :.A-(A-9A$-$A-5B$-36S.-<J., What kind of dictionary is this?

Try not to associate the indefinite marker 9A$ with the English indefinite article a or an.

Tibetan, like most other East Asian languages, does not have a system of articles such as a vs.

the. English speakers’ intuition about the use of articles provides little help in learning the use of

9A$ in Tibetan.
► 6.3.4 The Existential Verb ;R. Expressing Possession

Colloquial Amdo Tibetan (2005, Revised), Kuo-ming Sung & Lha Byams Rgyal

This lesson introduces the first of the two essential usages of the verb ;R. as a main verb:
expressing possession. The second function, expressing location, will be introduced in the next


When ;R. indicates possession, the sentence usually involves two noun phrases, namely, the
possessor and the property. It is important to remember that the possessor, usually the subject in

the equivalent English sentence, is marked oblique by Ladon. The noun phrase denoting

property is marked absolutive, receiving no overt case marking. The sentence has the following


(1) Possessor-Ladon (Obliq) + Property (Abs) + ;R.

The interrogative and negative forms of ;R. are AJ-;R. have or not and 3J. not have,

respectively. Examples:

(2) %-:-2R.-MA%-;R., I have a Tibetan name.

(3) HR-:-$3-/$-AJ-;R., Do you have a pen?

(4) HR-:-.LA/-;A$-$A-5B$-36S.-AJ-;R., Do you have an English dictionary?

(5) %-:-.LA/-;A$-$A-5B$-36S.-3J., I don't have an English dictionary.

(6) %A-(:R-:-A-3J-<A-!-$A-PR$?-0R-3J., We don't have an American friend.

► 6.3.5 Variant Forms of =-.R/

Starting from this lesson, one will notice a particle : appearing in positions where Ladon is
supposed to. This :, like % in %A-MA%-%-,:R-3:-9J<-<, My name (Obliq) is Tom, is a variant of
Ladon. : appears when the noun it is marking ends with a vowel, for example, %-: I (Obliq) and
HR-: you (Obliq). The distribution of all the variant forms of Ladon is decided by the final sound

of the word that precedes it. (Note that the post-suffix , which is mute, does not count.)

(1) Variant forms of =-.R/

Variant Preceding sound Example
(vowel or suffix) X (Obliq) has a book.
: vowel *A-3 + : Nyima

Colloquial Amdo Tibetan (2005, Revised), Kuo-ming Sung & Lha Byams Rgyal

3 [m] 3 2?R.-/3? + 3 Sonam

= [l] . or = hR-eJ-*A.+ = Dorje Jid
$ [x] $ 1/-5S$? + $ Puntsok has a book.
/ [n] / .$J-c/+ / Teacher
% [ng] % {=-29% + % Gabzang
< [r] < .0=-3#< + < Hwalkar
2 [b] or [v] 2 .R/-P2 + 2 Dondrup
Starting from this lesson, whenever the Ladon takes the form of , it is printed in a smaller

font, as already seen in %-: and HR-:. The authors feel that this is probably the best way to deal

with the slight complication caused by this particular variant of Ladon. Recall that when the

syllable preceding the Ladon ends in a consonant, the Ladon usually starts with that consonant

(e.g. %A-MA%-%- my name (Obliq)), only when the preceding syllable is open (i.e. ends with a
vowel) does the variant take the form of :. All the other variants are pronounced as a full

syllable, as expected from the writing. The "complication" is that this particular Ladon-: is not

pronounced as a separate syllable [a] from the preceding syllable. It is either phonetically

suppressed altogether or changes the vowel that immediately precedes it in a manner described in

the following chart.

(2) Pronunciation of Ladon - :

Vowel before Vowel combined Example: (Noun + Ladon- ) :
Ladon- : with Ladon- :
[a] A [a] unchanged 1R=-3-: [drolma] Drolma
[ə] AA changed to [e] A-<-?A-: [ərəse] Russia
[ ə] A changed to [e] ?-: [se] (to, for) whom
[e] AJ [e] lengthened hR-eJ-: [dorje] Dorje
[o] AR [o] unchanged .0:-3R-35S-: [hwamotso] Huamo Tso

Colloquial Amdo Tibetan (2005, Revised), Kuo-ming Sung & Lha Byams Rgyal

In the cases of A-<-?A-: [ərəse] and ?-: [se], the pronunciation contrasts with the absolutive A-
<-?A [ərəsə] and ? [sə]. In the cases of the other three vowels [a], [e], and [o], there is hardly any

audible effect of the Ladon- . Learners should bear in mind that Case marking is in principle

obligatory in the native speaker's mind. Therefore, the writing of this Ladon- in this textbook

truthfully reflects the speaker's mental reality. This is just like the situation when English

speakers have in their mind the t in can't when they in fact don't pronounce it in some context.

The smaller font indicates that the pronunciation of : should be treated differently from a regular
syllabic .

► 6.3.6 Objective Perspective: Sentential Particle $A

One of the most crucial yet most tricky grammatical concept in Amdo Tibetan is the usage of

$A as a sentence-final particle. The fundamental function of this particle $A is to mark the

objective perspective of the statement. Alternatively, one can regard $A as a particle that removes
the subjective perspective from the statement. The contrast between ;R. and ;R.-$A parallels that

between ;A/ and <J.. The negative and interrogative forms are 3J.-$A and AJ-;R.-$A. Examples:

(1) %-:-.LA/-;A$-$A-5B$-36S.-;R., ?R-nJ-:-2R.-;A$-$A-5B$-36S.-;R.-$A,

I have an English dictionary. Sophie has a Tibetan dictionary.

(2) HR-:-2R.-MA%-AJ-;R., Do you have a Tibetan name?

(3) %-:-2R.-MA%-3J., ;A/-/-<-%-:-.LA/-)A-$A-MA%-9A$-;R.,

I don't have a Tibetan name but I have an English name. ( ;A/-/-< but)
(4) #A-.$J-:-\R$-[.-AJ-;R.-$A, Does he have a computer?
(5) 3J.-$A, #A-.$J-:-\R$-[.-3J.-$A, No, he does not have a computer.

Note that the objective perspective is expressed by attaching $A to the verb. Without it, the

subjective perspective is expressed. This should give the reader the impression that the

subjective perspective is the unmarked or default case while the objective perspective needs

special marking. This is indeed a correct impression, as we shall learn in later lessons that in

Colloquial Amdo Tibetan (2005, Revised), Kuo-ming Sung & Lha Byams Rgyal

subordinate or embedded clauses, objective markers (including $A and the objective verb <J. to
be) normally do not appear.

The particle $A is compatible with all verbs and adjectives, probably with ;A/ being the only
exception where <J. is used as the objective counterpart instead. For example, the contrast

between what is your name and what is her name is expressed by 9J<-< and 9J<-$A. Thus, HR:-MA%-

%-(A-9A$-9J<-<, and 3R:-MA%-%-(A-9A$-9J<-$A, The answers to the two questions are, say, %A-MA%-%-{=-
29%-*A-3-9J<-<, My name is Gabzang Nyima and 3R:-MA%-%-1R=-3-35S-9J<-$A,, Her name is
Drolma Tso, respectively.

► 6.3.7 The Use of ;A/ Revisited

Recall that from the beginning, we emphasized that the notion of person agreement does not

exist in Tibetan. What seems to dictate the employment of ;A/ and <J., despite its apparent
association of person (e.g. first vs. three), is in fact the subjective vs. objective perspective. The

verb ;A/ is used for expressing the subjective perspective, while <J. is used for expressing
objectivity. This lesson offers another example of the "flexibility" or "relativity" of the

subjective perspective. In the sentence $3-/$-.A-(:R-%A-;A/, These ball-point pens are mine, the
speaker uses ;A/ and not <J.. This is because the pens, belonging to the speaker, are considered

an extension or an in-group member of the speaker.

❖ 6.4 Cultural Notes

✽ 6.4.1 Traditional Textbooks for Elementary Education

Tibetan education places tremendous emphasis on the mastery of orthography. The

traditional textbook of orthography is called Dagyig ( .$-;A$), which can be regarded as a small
dictionary where words are carefully selected and artfully arranged to resemble rhymed verse.

Elementary school children need to memorize the text of Dagyig, and in so doing, acquire the
rules of Tibetan orthography. Dagyig and the other two traditional books, Sumjiwa ( ?3-&-2)

Colloquial Amdo Tibetan (2005, Revised), Kuo-ming Sung & Lha Byams Rgyal

and Tagjug ( g$?-:)$), known collectively as ?3-g$?-.$-$?3, are the three most widely
used textbooks in the entire Tibetan region. They lay the very foundation of the Tibetan

language education.

There are several versions of Dagyig, authored by famous scholars in Tibetan history. The

most popular ones are .$-;A$-9-3-+R$ Treasure Box of Orthography by Master 8-=-=R-4-2 and
.$-;A$-%$-$A-1R/-3 The Light of Words by Master .0=-#%-=R-4-2, both written in the sixteenth
century, as shown below in active use today.

Traditional Tibetan Textbook .$-;A$ School Children, Zoige, Ngaba

✽ 6.4.2 Use of the Tibetan Dictionary

Lexical entries are organized alphabetically in a Tibetan dictionary. The problem is that the

Tibetan alphabetical order does not work in a linear fashion as one would expect. First of all, it

is the root letter of a syllable that counts, not the prefix or superjoined letter that linearly

precedes it. For example, the five words :.A, S, .J2, $./, #R. are all listed under the letter ., but
not .0J or .$J, in which cases the letter . is a prefix. .0J and .$J are therefore listed under 0 and

$, respectively. Therefore, finding the root letter of a word is the first step.
Among syllables with the same root letter, the "alphabetical" order follows a "clockwise"

principle (> indicates precedence): simple and suffixed root (including the additional post-suffix

?) > root with a subjoined letter > root with a prefix > root with a superjoined letter. The order
may seem random, so the following diagram may be of visual help: (clockwise order)

Colloquial Amdo Tibetan (2005, Revised), Kuo-ming Sung & Lha Byams Rgyal

4 1 2 ?

All words with the root letter . in a dictionary, for instance, can be grouped into four
divisions: Division A (simple root ., may be suffixed) precedes Division B (subjoined .), which

precedes Division C (prefixed .), which precedes Division D (superjoined .). For example, .J2

(suffixed, thus Division A) precedes S (subjoined, thus Division B), which in turn precedes $./

(prefixed, thus Division C), which precedes #R. (superjoined, thus Division D). Naturally,

within each division, all suffixes, prefixes, subjoined, and superjoined letters are ordered

alphabetically. Deciding which division a word belongs to is the second step.

Within Division B (We shall return to Division A shortly), sections are arranged according to

the alphabetical order of the subjoined letters ;-2+$?, <-2+$?, and =-2+$?. The much less

frequent 7-2+$?, when attached to a root letter, precedes all other subjoined letters. For
example: 8 > I > P > \. Within Division C, sections are arranged according to the five

prefixes: $-.-2-3-:, in that order. For example: .PA% > 2I > 3$< > :IA$. Similarly, within

Division D, the sections are arranged according to the superfixes <-3$R, =-3$R, and ?-3$R. For

example: c > cR. > o > r > | > +. Finding the section within a division is the third step.

Within each division of B, C, and D, and further down to each section alphabetically ordered

according to subjoined letters, prefixes, and superfixes, there is finally grouping by the vowel in

the order of A [a], AA [i], A [u], AJ [e], and AR [o]. One can picture that each section contains five

(ordered) vocalic groups. Division A, with only suffixes and post-suffixes, are directly put into

the five vocalic groups. For instance, under the root letter , root letter. (+suffix, post-suffix)
with vowel [a] precedes the entire group with the vowel [i] starting from .A, then the whole group

of ., of .J, and lastly, to the .R group. For example: . > .% > .3 > .? > .A > .A% > . > .$ >

.? > .J > .J2 > .R > .R$ > .R$? > .R%. (Note the treatment of the post suffix ? in the ordering of

Colloquial Amdo Tibetan (2005, Revised), Kuo-ming Sung & Lha Byams Rgyal

the last three words in the above example.) Locating the word in the right vocalic group is the

fourth and last step.

Study the following two examples and one will soon become familiar with the unique

Tibetan alphabetic order: Root > Division > Section > Vocalic Group.

0 > 0$ > 0$? > 0A > 0A< > (B) T > T$ > TA > TA$ > (C) .0$ > .0A% >
Example (1): (A)

.J > .J% > .JA% > .T= > .TA > (D) x > x$? > % > %$ > %A/ > %R? > , > , > ,A. > 3 > 3A >
Example (2): (A) $ > $$ > $%? > $A > $< > (B) 8 > I > I% > IA > IA$ > P > P$ >

P$? > PA > PA$ > \ > \$ > \$? > \A > \A% > (C) .$: > .$R% > .$R%? > .IJ > .IJ. > .P >
.PA > .PA% > 2$$ > 2I > 2P: > 3$< > 3IR$? > 3PA/ > :$: > :IA$ > :PA$ > (D) c >
cR. > o > r > | > + > 1 > 2c. > 2o= > 2|$ > 2+. > 21$.
❖ 6.5 Key Sentence Patterns
■ 6.5.1 :.A This, .A That
(1) :.A-(A-9A$-<J., What is this?
(2) .A-(A-9A$-<J., What is that?
(3) :.A-(:R-(A-9A$-<J., .A-(:R-(A-9A$-<J., What are these/What are those?
(4) $/-(:R-(A-9A$-<J., What are those over there?

■ 6.5.2 <J. to Be (Objective), 3-<J. (Negative), AJ-<J. (Interrogative)

(1) :.A-2R.-;A$-$A-aR2-.J2-3-<J., .A-2R.-;A$-$A-aR2-.J2-3-<J.,
This/that is not a Tibetan textbook.

(2) :.A-(:R-aR2-.J2-3-<J., These are not textbooks.

(3) .A-N%-$R:A-?-O-AJ-<J., Is that a map of China?

(4) .A-(:R-b2-G$-<-&R$-4K-<J., Those are chairs and tables.

(5) :.A-%A-2R.-.LA/-5B$-36S.-<J., This is my Tibetan-English dictionary.

(6) .A-%A-:VA-.J2-3-<J., That is not my notebook.

(7) .A-(:R-|R-3-<J., .A-(:R-S-3-<J., Those are not doors. Those are windows.

Colloquial Amdo Tibetan (2005, Revised), Kuo-ming Sung & Lha Byams Rgyal

(8) :.A-(:R-%A-/-$-<J., These are my pens.

(9) .0J-(-.A-(:R-.LA/-;A$-$A-aR2-.J2-<J., Those books are English textbooks.

(10) /-$-.A-(:R-HR:-AJ-;A/, Are those pens yours?

(11) :.$-?-:.A-HR:-AJ-;A/, Is this seat yours?

(12) 8-/$-.A-(:R-:)<-0/-$A-AJ-<J., Are those pencils from Japan?

■ 6.5.3(A-9A$ What, What kind of

(1) 5B$-36S.-.A-(A-9A$-$A-5B$-36S.-<J., What kind of dictionary is that dictionary?

(2) .A:A-MA%-%-(A-9A$-9J<-<, What is its name?

(3) HR-(A-9A$-$A-.$J-c/-;A/, What teacher are you? (What are you a teacher of?)

(4) :.A-(A-9A$-$A-.0J-(-<J., What (kind of book) is this?

■ 6.5.4 Possessor-Ladon (Obliq) + Property (Abs) + ;R. / ;R.-$A

(1) %-:-:)<-0/-$A-\R$-[.-;R., I have a Japanese computer

(2) %-:-2R.-;A$-$A-5B$-36S.-3J., I don’t have a Tibetan dictionary

(3) HR-:-.LA/-;A$-$A-MA%-AJ-;R., Do you have an English name?

(4) hR-eJ-*A.-=-:.$-?-3J.-$A, Dorje Jid doesn't have a seat.

(5) %A-(R:-.$J-c/-/-\R$-[.-3J.-$A, Our teacher doesn't have a computer.

(6) 5K-<A%-o=-=-A-<A:A-PR$?-0R-;R.-$A, Tserang Gyal has American friends.

(7) +R%-%-2R.-MA%-;R.-$A, John has a Tibetan name.

(8) .R/-P2-2-<-t$?-/$-;R.-$A, Dondrup also has a fountain pen.

(9) .A-%A-#$-3-3-<J., %-:-#$-3-3J., That is not my bag. I don't have a bag.

❖ 6.6 Exercises
6.6.1 Listening Comprehension
Dialogue 1: True or False
(1) Tom has a Tibetan-English dictionary.
(2) Trashi has a Tibetan-English dictionary.
(3) Trashi doesn’t have a Tibetan-Chinese dictionary.
Dialogue 2: Answer the following questions in English

Colloquial Amdo Tibetan (2005, Revised), Kuo-ming Sung & Lha Byams Rgyal

(1) What kind of dictionary are they talking about?

(2) Who is Akimi?
(3) What is Akimi a teacher of?
(4) Where is Akimi from?
(5) What is Akimi’s Tibetan name?
6.6.2 Complete the Dialogues
(1) ___________________________________?
#, :.A-(:R-___________________________. (English textbooks)
! ___________________________________?
#, .A-(:R___________________________. (Tibetan textbooks)
(2) ! \R$-[.-:.A-?:A-<J.,
#, ____________________________________. (1R=-3-35S)
! .0J-(-.A-(:R-?:A-<J.,
#, ______________________________________. ({=-29%-*A-3)
! 5B$-36S.-:.A-(:R-HR:-AJ-;A/,
#, 3A/, ___________________________________.
! _______________________________________.
#, :.A-(:R________________________________. (English-Tibetan dictionary)
(3) ! _________________________________________?
#, 3J., %-:-/-$-3J.,
6.6.3 Pattern Practice: Answer the following questions with the given patterns
Example : HR-:-2R.-MA%-AJ-;R.,
(Yes, I have…; My Tibetan name is…)

;R., %-:-2R.-MA%-;R., %A-2R.-MA%-%-5K-<A%-*A.-9J<-<,

(1) HR:-MA%-%-(A-9A$-9J<-<, HR:-2R.-MA%-%-(A-9A$-9J<-<,
(My name is…)
(2) HR-:-(A-9A$-$A-5B$-36S.-;R.,
(I have…; I also have…; English dictionary; English-Tibetan dictionary)
(3) HR:-.$J-c/-A-3J-<A-#-$A-AJ-<J.,
(He is not…; Russian)

Colloquial Amdo Tibetan (2005, Revised), Kuo-ming Sung & Lha Byams Rgyal

(4) HR-$%-$A-;A/, HR:-aR2-PR$?-$%-$A-<J.,

(I am from…; She is from…)
(5) HR:-PR$?-0R:A-L-2-(A-9A$-<J.,
6.6.4 Reading Comprehension
?R-nJ, A-<R, .R/-P2,
.R/-P2, A-<R, ?R-nJ,
?R-nJ, HR-:-2R.-;A$-$A-aR2-.J2-AJ-;R.,
.R/-P2, 3J., %-:-2R.-;A$-$A-aR2-.J2-3J.,
?R-nJ, .A-(A-9A$-<J., .A-2R.-;A$-$A-aR2-.J2-9A$-3-<J.-=,
.R/-P2, 3-<J., :.A-5B$-36S.-9A$-<J.,
?R-nJ, .A-5B$-(A-9A$-$A-36S.-<J.,
.R/-P2, :.A-2R.-.LA/-5B$-36S.-9A$-<J.,
?R-nJ, $/-(A-9A$-<J.,
.R/-P2, .A-%A-.$J-c/-$A-\R$-[.-<J.,
Answer the following questions in English
(1) Does Dondrup have a Tibetan textbook?
(2) What kind of dictionary is the one Sophie asks about?
(3) Is the computer over there Dondrup’s?
(4) To whom does that computer belong?
6.6.5 Oral Spelling
(1) aR2-.J2, textbook (2) 2R.-MA%-, Tibetan name
(3) /-$, pen (generic) (4) 8-/$ pencil
(5) 5B$-36S., dictionary (6) 2R.-.LA/, Tibetan- English
(7) :.A, this (8) .A-(:R, those

Colloquial Amdo Tibetan (2005, Revised), Kuo-ming Sung & Lha Byams Rgyal

Lesson 7 There Are Only Nine Students Here Today

☛ Key Grammar Points in Lesson Seven:
1. Existential Verb ;R. Expressing Location
2. Locative Preposition /
3. Ethnicity, Nationality, and Language
4. Numbers from $&A$ One to 2& Ten
5. Summary of Pronouns

❖ 7.1 Dialogue

2-(%-5K-<A%-, aR2-PR$?-5%-3-2.J-3R-;A/-/, %A-MA%-%-2-(%-5K-<A%-9J<-<, %-2R.-<A$?-;A/, %-HR-

aR2-3, .$J-c/-HR-$%-$A-;A/,
2-(%-5K-<A%-, %-35S-}R/-OA-!-$A-;A/,
aR2-3, .$J-c/, 3A-.$J-<-%A-(-2R-$A-.$J-c/-AJ-<J.,
2-(%-5K-<A%-, 3R-<-HR-(-2R-$A-2R.-;A$-.$J-c/-<J., 3R-3$R-=R$-$A-<J., 3R:-MA%-%-.0:-3R-35S-9J<-$A,
aR2-3, %A-(:R-:-2#R3?-0?-.$J-c/-.-;R.,
2-(%-5K-<A%-, HR-(:R-:-2R.-;A$-$A-.$J-c/-$*A?-;R.,
.0:-3R-35S, 5%-3-2.J-3R-;A/-/, %A-(-2R-:6B/-9-:-aR2-3-2&-,3-0-;R., .J:A-/%-/?-s-A-3J-<A-#-$A-
<J., $?3-:)<-0/-$A-<J., .-<%-0J-&A/-$A-o-<A$?-aR2-PR$?-$*A?-<-;R.,
aR2-3, .J-<A%-:.A-/-aR2-PR$?-.$-3-$+R$?-3J.-$A,
.0:-3R-35S, A-3J-<A-#-$A-aR2-PR$?-$&A$-.-v-.-<%-2R.-uR%?-/-;R.-$A,
aR2-3, #R-2R.-uR%?-$A-?-(-$%-/-;R.-$A,
Colloquial Amdo Tibetan (2005, Revised), Kuo-ming Sung & Lha Byams Rgyal

.0:-3R-35S, z-?-/-;R.-$A,
aR2-3, #R-#J<-<R-AJ-<J.,
.0:-3R-35S, <J., #R-#J<-<R-<J.,
2-(%-5K-<A%-, .0:-3R-35S, HR-:-#A-.$A-#-0<-A%-P%?-AJ-;R.,
.0:-3R-35S, ;R., A%-P%?-.$-,A$-28A-s-S$-$*A?-.$-<J.,

College Students from Abroad Studying in China

Wuchung: Students, how are you all? My name is called Wuchung Tserang. I’m
Tibetan. I am your Tibetan language teacher.
Student: Teacher, where are you from?
Wuchung: I’m from Thrika (Ch. Guide), Qinghai.
Student: Teacher, is she our teacher too?
Wuchung: She is also your Tibetan language teacher. She is from Golok. Her name
is Huamo Tso.
Student: Altogether, how many teachers do we have?
Wuchung: You have two Tibetan language teachers.
Huamo Tso: How are you all? There are ten students in our class. Five are from
America; three are from Japan; still, there are two (Han) Chinese students
from Beijing.

Colloquial Amdo Tibetan (2005, Revised), Kuo-ming Sung & Lha Byams Rgyal

Student: Today there are only nine students here.

Huamo Tso: One American student is still in Tibet.
Student: Where in Tibet is he?
Huamo Tso: He is in Lhasa.
Student: Is he all by himself?
Huamo Tso: Yes, he is alone.
Wuchung: Huamo Tso, do you have his telephone number?
Huamo Tso: Yes. It's 904-5629.

❖ 7.2 Vocabulary

7.2.1 Vocabulary from the Dialogue

1. 5%-3, n. everyone
2. 2-(%-, person Wuchung
3. 2R.-<A$?, n. Tibetan (ethnicity)
4. 35S-}R/, place Qinghai (Ch.)
5. OA-! place Trika (Ch. Guide)
6. %A-(-2R, [%-5S] pro. we, us
7. HR-(-2R, [HR.-5S] pro. you (pl.)
8. 3$R-=R$ place Golok (Ch. Guoluo)
9. .0:-3R-35S, person Huamo Tso
10. 2#R3?-0?, adv. altogether (marked by Ladon)
11. ., interr. adj. how many
12. $*A?, num. two
13. :6B/-9 n. class
14. :6B/-9-:, [:6B/-9<] adv. in (our) class (marked with Ladon)
15. 2&, num. ten
16. ,3-0, adv. even, exactly (after a numeral)
17. .J:A-/%-/?, adv. PP in these, among these
18. s-, num. five

Colloquial Amdo Tibetan (2005, Revised), Kuo-ming Sung & Lha Byams Rgyal

19. $?3, num. three

20. .-<%-, [.-.%] adv. still
21. 0J-&A/, n. Beijing
22. o-<A$?, n. Han Chinese
23. .J-<A%-, n. / adv. today
24. :.A-/, adv. here
25. .$, num. nine
26. 3-$+R$?, adv. only
27. $&A$ num. one
28. ., adv. now
29. .-v, adv. right now
30. 2R.-uR%?, n. Tibet (specifically TAR)
31. ?-(, n. place
32. /, prep. at, in, on
33. $%-/, adv. PP (at) where (Locative)
34. z-?, n. Lhasa
35. #J<-<R, [$&A$-0] adj. alone
36. #-0<, n. telephone
37. A%-P%?, n. number
38. ,A$ num. zero
39. 28A, num. four
40. S$ num. six
7.2.2 Additional Vocabulary
41. 2./, num. seven
42. 2o., num. eight

43. aR2-9 n. school

44. aR2-#%-, n. classroom

Colloquial Amdo Tibetan (2005, Revised), Kuo-ming Sung & Lha Byams Rgyal

45. aR2-5/, n. lesson

46. .A-/, [.J-/] adv. there (near you)
47. $/-/, adv. there (over there)
48. 9A-=A%-, place Xining (Ch.)
49. o-?R$ n. Hui Moslems
50. @:J-<A$?, n. Hui Moslems
51. :VR$-0, n. herdsman
52. <R%-2, n. farmer
53. ]R-29%-, person Lobzang

❖ 7.3 Grammar Notes

► 7.3.1 Ethnicity and Nationality: <A$? and 2

<A$? is used
Ethnicity and nationality are expressed by two different morphemes in Tibetan:

for different ethnic groups residing in China such as 2R.-<A$? Tibetan, o-<A$? Han Chinese, ?R$-

<A$? Mongolian, and @R<-<A$? Monguor (Tu in Chinese) peoples. Examples:

(1) %-2R.-<A$?-;A/, I am Tibetan.

(2) 3R-o-<A$?-<J., She is Han Chinese.

(3) #R-?R$-<A$?-<J., He is Mongolian.

A Hui Moslem is often called o-?R$ (Lit. Chinese-Mongolian) or by the Chinese loan word

@:J-@:J. The more formal term for this religion-based ethnicity is @:J-<A$?.
2, which means "person", is not only attached to the names of places and countries,
indicating a person's origin, but is also combined with other nouns to form compounds indicating

a person's profession. Therefore, 2 is similar to the English suffix -er (or -or) such as farmer,
worker (profession), New Yorker, Londoner (origin), etc.

(4) Ethnicity: ethnic name + <A$?

(5) Nation/Hometown/Profession: + 2

Colloquial Amdo Tibetan (2005, Revised), Kuo-ming Sung & Lha Byams Rgyal

Note that the pronunciation of the morpheme 2 changes, usually according to the number of
syllables it follows. If the root is monosyllabic, change 2 to 0, e.g. #3?-0 a person from Kham,

:VR$-0 herdsman, 8A%-0 farmer. Otherwise, the pronunciation remains 2, e.g. z-?-2 a person
from Lhasa, A-3.R-2 a person from Amdo, A-<A-2 American. Allow exceptions: <R%-2 farmer

(synonymous with 8A%-0) and 29R-2 worker.

► 7.3.2 Interrogative word .: how many, how much

The interrogative word . how many/how much is used for both countable (e.g. books,

students) and uncountable nouns (e.g. water, rice): Examples:

(1) HR-:-aR2-3-.-;R., How many students do you have?
(2) aR2-#%-:.A-:-#R.-?-.-;R., How many seats are there in this classroom?

(3) %A-(:R-:-2#R3?-0?-.$J-c/-.-;R., How many teachers do we have altogether?

Recall that Tibetan interrogative words remain in the place where the answer appears, instead of

moving forward to the sentence initial position. Examples:

(4) ]R-29%-?-<J., #R-%A-PR$?-0R-<J., Who is Lobzang? He is my friend.

(5) HR:-MA%-%-(A-9A$-9J<-<, %A-MA%-%-5K-<A%-9J<-<, What is your name? My name is Tserang.

(6) HR-:-$3-/$-.-;R., %-:-/-$-s-;R., How many pens do you have? I have five pens.

In some parts of the Amdo region, (A is used in lieu of . as the interrogative word.

(7) HR-:-/-$-(A-;R., How many pens do you have?

► 7.3.3 Numbers from $&A$ One to 2& Ten

$&A$ $*A?, $?3, 28A, s, S$ 2./, 2o., .$, 2&,

Note that all of the numerals from 1-10 have prefixes or superjoined letters in orthography.

It is important to memorize the spelling, as when these numerals combine to form double-digit

figures, the latent sounds of these prefixes or superjoined letters become overtly pronounced.

We will discuss this effect in Lesson 8.

Colloquial Amdo Tibetan (2005, Revised), Kuo-ming Sung & Lha Byams Rgyal

2& ten is customarily followed by the word ,3-0 whole, even, giving 2&-,3-0 ten even.
,3-0 is used with other "whole" numbers such as 20, 30, 100, 200, etc. We will learn larger
numbers in later lessons.

Tibetan numerals, like adjectives, follow the noun which they quantify, giving the word

order: Noun (+Adj.) + Numeral. Examples:

(1) 2R.-<A$?-$?3, three Tibetans (2) aR2-5/-28A, four lessons

(3) #R.-?-2&-,3-0, ten seats (4) b2-G$-2o., eight chairs

At this point, creative readers may be tempted to express the noun phrase with
demonstratives such as those two Americans, these nine students, etc. We shall deal with the

issue of definite NPs in our next lesson, as these phrases require that the numeral be attached

with a definiteness marker0R: A-<A-$?3-0R-.A, those three Americans, aR2-3-.$-2R-.A, these nine
students. The complete paradigm of 0R will be introduced in Lesson 8.

Tibetan also employs its own system of "Arabic" numeral scripts. It is in current use and

should be learned at least for recognition:

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 0

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 0
The number zero becomes useful when it comes to telephone numbers. It is ,A$ in Amdo
Tibetan. The telephone number is read in the style of a sequence of single digits. Examples:

(5) 832-6709 reads 2o.-$?3-$*A?-S$-2./-,A$-.$,

(6) 131-0089 reads $&A$-$?3-$&A$-,A$-,A$-2o.-.$,
► 7.3.4 Preposition /

In traditional Tibetan grammar, the word / in, on, at is analyzed as the locative Ladon.

However, for our purposes, it does not need to be called a Ladon. Since this particular locative

usage of Ladon (i.e., denoting location) has evolved into a uniformed preposition-like word , /
unlike the typical Ladon, which always comes in several phonological variants, we may simply
regard this / as a preposition, equivalent to the English in, on, at. (Remember that Tibetan

Colloquial Amdo Tibetan (2005, Revised), Kuo-ming Sung & Lha Byams Rgyal

prepositions come after the noun.) The preposition /, not to be confused with the sentential
interrogative particle / (called Jeddul in Tibetan) in HR-2.J-3R-;A/-/ (L4), is one of a very small

number of prepositions in Tibetan. It takes a "place noun" to form a preposition phrase to

indicate its location. [Noun phrase + /] is a locative phrase (i.e. at a place) rather than a
goal/destination phrase (i.e. to a place). Examples: aR2-#%-/, in the classroom; aR2-9-:.A-/, at

this school; %A-(R:-:6B/-9-/, in our class; z-?-/, in Lhasa.

Unlike English, Nouns that denote objects instead of places cannot be followed directly

by / (e.g., the box -> in the box, OK for English but ungrammatical for Tibetan).
Regular nouns must be "localized" (i.e. turned into a place noun) first, before allowing / to take
it. In this lesson, we will introduce one such “localizer”: /% inside. Instead of saying in the
restaurant like English, Tibetan says the inside of the restaurant + /. Sometimes place nouns

can take localizers as well: aR2-#%-:.A:A-/%-/, in this classroom; %A-(R:-:6B/-9:A-/%-/, in our

class; Note that the noun before /% uses genitive case. For more detail, see 15.3.1.

The locative adverbs :.A-/, here, .A-/, there, and $/-/, over there are formed by attaching

the preposition / to the three demonstratives: :.A, .A, and $/.

► 7.3.5 Existential Verb ;R. Expressing Location

The verb ;R. was introduced in the previous lesson as the main verb expressing possession.
Its other usage as a main verb is to express the location of its subject, which is marked

absolutive. This is different from the oblique case marking the possessor. The negative and

interrogative forms are 3J. and AJ-;R.. The pattern:

(1) Subject (Abs) + [ Place + / ] + ;R. (location)

Cf: Possessor-=-.R/ (Obliq) + Property (Abs) + ;R. (possession)

For the objective perspective, the sentential particle $A is added to ;R. or 3J.. Examples:

(2) %-z-?-/-;R., 1/-5S$?-3$R-=R$-/-;R.-$A, I am in Lhasa. Puntsok is in Golok.

(3) %-aR2-#%-/-;R., I am in the classroom.

(4) 1R=-3-35S-<-.0:-3R-35S-.-v-9A-=A%-/-;R.-$A,

Colloquial Amdo Tibetan (2005, Revised), Kuo-ming Sung & Lha Byams Rgyal

Drolma Tso and Huamo Tso are in Xining right now.

(5) %A-5B$-36S.-.A-/-3J., My dictionary is not there. (N.B. subjective perspective)

(6) HR:-A-<A:A-PR$?-0R-:.A-/-AJ-;R., Is your American friend here?

► 7.3.6 3-$+R$? Only

The literal meaning of 3-$+R$? is except (for). Lacking the equivalent for the English word

only, Tibetan expresses the same idea of "only X" by saying "except for X, there is no..." This is

why "only sentences" always appear in their negative form. Examples:

(1) .J-<A%-:.A-/-%A-(:R-:-aR2-3-.$-3-$+R$?-3J.-$A, Today we only have nine students here. (Lit.

except for nine students, there is no one here today)

(2) 1/-5S$?-$-PR$?-0R-$*A?-3-$+R$?-3J.-$A, Puntsok only has two friends.

(3) %-:-/-$-$&A$-3-$+R$?-3J., I only have one pen.

(4) %A-(R:-:6B/-9-/-#R-<J-;-$A-aR2-3-$&A$-3-$+R$?-3J., We only have one Korean student in

our class.

❖ 7.4 Cultural Notes

✽ 7.4.1 Ethnicity Groups in the Amdo Region and Their Languages

Amdo is a multi-ethnic region with dynamic cultural and linguistic interactions among

different ethnic groups, most notably the Tibetan (the majority group, numbering approximately
@:J), the Mongol (?R$-0R), the Monguor (@R<, a Mongolic minority living in
800,000), the Hui (

Huzhu, Minhe counties of Haidong), and the Salar (9-=<).

Hui people do not have a language of their own ethnicity. In areas where Hui and Tibetan

communities coexist side by side, Tibetan is often the first language of many Hui people. The

same can be said of the Monguor (Ch. Tu) living among Tibetans. In the suburb of Rebgong

(Ch. Tongren), many thangka artists are of Monguor descent, speaking both Monguor and Amdo

Tibetan natively.

Colloquial Amdo Tibetan (2005, Revised), Kuo-ming Sung & Lha Byams Rgyal

Amdo Tibetan ( A-3.R-2), Mewa, Ngaba o=-<R%) Tibetan, Li Xian

Gyarong (

Hui (@:J), Xi'an, Shaanxi 9-=<), Xunhua, Haidong

Salar (

Salar people (numbering approximately 90,000) have a strong presence in the Amdo region

because of the ubiquitous Salar Muslim restaurants one finds in every single town and roadside

bus stop all the way from Xining to Lhasa. They also dominate the business of long distance

passenger transportation. Their language, a branch of the Turkic family, is rarely used by other

ethnic groups. It has borrowings from Tibetan, Mandarin Chinese, Arabic, and Persian.

Colloquial Amdo Tibetan (2005, Revised), Kuo-ming Sung & Lha Byams Rgyal

One exciting ethnic group that does not live inside the traditional Amdo Province is the

Gyarong, who live just off the southeastern tip of Amdo, in the southern Ngaba Prefecture. The

Gyarong (numbering 130,000) speak what seems to be the most ancient form of the Tibetan

dialects. The numbers 2 and 3, for example, are pronounced as [gnis] and [gsum]. If one checks

the current Tibetan orthography of the two words $*A? and $?3, one will immediately notice
that the Gyarong still pronounce the prefixes and the suffix ?, both of which have become silent

in most other dialects. Gyarong architecture is justly famous for its high quality masonry and

distinct style. In Rongdrag ( <R%-V$) and Chuchen (24/-z-.%-(-(J/) counties, villages boast
impressive watch towers, most constructed by the bare hands of their ancestors without modern

machinery or blueprints.

✽ 7.4.2 Place Names in the Amdo Region

Amdo, as a geographical term, has become an abstract concept because various parts of the

region have been incorporated into different provinces. Tianzhu ( .0:-<A?) County and Gannan
!/-zR) Prefecture now belong to Gansu Province.
( Although Qinghai Province is largely Amdo,

there are pockets of Han and other ethnic groups in the northeastern part of the province.

Yulshul Prefecture in southern Qinghai, over the mighty Tangu-la ( $*/-(J/-,%-z) Mountains,
belongs to the traditional Kham region. Nomadic counties in the northern Ngaba Prefecture,
Sichuan and sporadic nomadic pockets in northern Garze are also linguistically Amdo.

Other Tibetan geographical names at the prefectural or county level have in some cases been

transliterated into Chinese. Some others simply have Chinese names bearing no resemblance to

the original Tibetan, most of which are inventions dating back to the Qing Dynasty and are

passed down to present day. Terms of both origins are used concurrently by Amdo Tibetans.

The following is a list of common place names:

(1) Tibetan names with Chinese transliteration

9A-=A%-, Xining 3$R-=R$ Guoluo d-2, Aba

z-?, Lhasa ;=->=, Yushu A-3.R, Anduo
Colloquial Amdo Tibetan (2005, Revised), Kuo-ming Sung & Lha Byams Rgyal

(2) Tibetan names and Chinese inventions

<J2-!R%-, Tongren ]-V%-, Xiahe OA-! Guide

For group (2), the Tibetan term usually refers to the town (county seat), whereas the Chinese

term may refer to the town or the administrative area of the county. Western transliterations of

Tibetan place names have not been consistent with the Tibetan writing, often resorting to western

intuitions of how the word sounds. See Appendix IV for place name conversions.

❖ 7.5 Key Sentence Patterns

■ 7.5.1 Objective Perspective Marker : $A 9J<-< vs. 9J<-$A

(1) 3A-.$A-MA%-%-(A-9A$-9J<-$A, 3A-.$A-MA%-%-.0:-3R-35S-9J<-$A,
What’s her name? Her name is Huamo Tso. (N.B. objective perspective)
(2) HR:-.$J-c/-$A-MA%-%-(A-9A$-9J<-<, #A-.$A-MA%-%-]R-29%-9J<-<,
What’s your teacher’s name? His name is Lobzang. (N.B. subjective perspective)
(3) HR:-PR$?-0R:A-MA%-%-(A-9A$-9J<-<,
What’s your friend’s name? (N.B. subjective perspective)
(4) #A-.$A-PR$?-0R:C-MA%-%-?%?-o?-z-3R-9J<-$A,
His friend’s name is Sangji Lhamo. (N.B. objective perspective)

■ 7.5.2 How many… .-;R. and .-;R.-$A

(1) .LA/-;A$-$A-aR2-.J2-:.A-:-aR2-5/-.-;R.-$A,
How many lessons does this English textbook have?
(2) 1/-5S$?-$-o-<A$?-$A-PR$?-0R-.-;R.-$A,
How many Chinese friends does Puntsok have?
(3) %A-(:R-2R-:-#R3?-0?-.$J-c/-.-;R.,
How many teachers do we have altogether?
(4) 3A-.$J-:-2#R3?-0?-.0J-(-.-;R.-$A,
How many books does she have?
(5) 2?R.-/3?-*A.-=-L-2-.-;R.-$A,
How many jobs does Sonam Jid have?
(6) HR:-:6B/-9-:-aR2-3-.-;R.,

Colloquial Amdo Tibetan (2005, Revised), Kuo-ming Sung & Lha Byams Rgyal

How many students are there in your class?

■ 7.5.3 Numbers from $&A$ One to 2& Ten

(1) %A-(:R-$A-:6B/-9-:-<-aR2-3-.$-;R.,
In our class there are also nine students.
(2) HR-(:R-:-2#R3?-0?-2R.-;A$-.$J-c/-$*A?-;R.,
You have two Tibetan teachers altogether.
(3) %A-(:R-:-2#R3?-0?-A-3J-<A-!:A-aR2-3-s-;R.,
We have five American students altogether.
(4) 3A-.$J-:-2#R3?-0?-5B$-36S.-$?3-;R.-$A,
She has three dictionaries altogether.
(5) #A-.$J-:-2#R3?-0?-/-$-S$-;R.-$A,
He has six pens altogether.
(6) aR2-#%-:.A:A-/%-/-b2-G$-2&-,3-0-;R.-$A,
There are ten chairs in this classroom.
■ 7.5.4 … $%-/-;R.-$A, Where Is…?
(1) %A-(-2R:C-.$J-c/-$%-/-;R.-$A,
Where is our teacher? (N.B. objective marking)
(2) %A-/-$-$%-/-;R.-$A,
Where are my pens? (N.B. objective marking)
(3) HR:-aR2-.J2-$%-/-;R.,
Where is your textbook?
(4) %A-2R.-;A$-$A-5B$-36S.-<-aR2-.J2-$%-/-;R.-$A,
Where are my Tibetan dictionary and textbook?
(5) HR:-35S-}R/-$A-?-O-$%-/-;R.,
Where is your map of Qinghai?

■ 3-$+R$? Only
(1) :.A-/-aR2-3-.$-3-$+R$?-3J.-$A,
There are only nine students here.
(2) %A-(-2R-aR2-9-:-\R$-[.-2&-3-$+R$?-3J.,
There are only ten computers in our school.
(3) %A-(-2R-:6B/-9:A-/%-/-A-<A-2-$&A$-3-$+R$?-3J.,
Colloquial Amdo Tibetan (2005, Revised), Kuo-ming Sung & Lha Byams Rgyal

There is only one American in our class.

(4) 2R.-.LA/-5B$-36S.-$&A$-3-$+R$?-3J.,
There is only one Tibetan-English dictionary.
(5) %A-(R:-:6B/-9:A-/%-/-%-:-PR$?-0R-$*A?-3-$+R$?-3J.,
I have only two friends in our class.
(6) .$J-c/-5K-<A%-%-aR2-3-s-3-$+R$?-3J.-$A,
Teacher Tserang only has five students.

■ /-;R. ($A)
7.5.6 Place +
(1) #R-.-v-.-<%-2R.-uR%?-/-;R.,
He is still in Tibet. (The teacher uses subjective perspective when telling the others.)
(2) 3A-.$J-.-v-.-<%-0J-&A/-/-;R.,
She is now still in Beijing. (same as (1))
(3) +R%-<-?R-nJ-.-v-n-</-?A-/-;R.-$A,
John and Sophie are in France now.
(4) ]R-29%-o=-<-1/-5S$?-*A.-$*A-$-.-v-.-<%-3$R-=R$-/-;R.-$A,
Lobzang Gyal and Puntsok Jid are still in Golok.
(5) .$J-c/-.2%-3R-.-<%-aR2-#%-/%-/-;R.-$A,
Teacher Rhangmo is still in the classroom.

❖ 7.6 Exercises

7.6.1 Listening Comprehension

Dialogue 1: Choose the right answer
(1) How many students are there in John’s class?
(a) three (b) four (c) five
(2) Who is from England?
(a) Tom (b) Sophie (c) John
(3) Where is Tom now?
(a)Xining (b) Beijing (c) Lhasa
Dialogue 2: Answer the following questions in English
(1) Whose pen is it?
(2) How many Tserangs are there in the school?
(3) Where are they from, respectively?

Colloquial Amdo Tibetan (2005, Revised), Kuo-ming Sung & Lha Byams Rgyal

7.6.2 Complete the Dialogues

(1) ! ___________________________________?
#, %-:-2#R3?-0?-PR$?-0R-S$-;R.,
! ___________________________________
#, #A-.$J-.-v-.-<%-z-?-/-;R.-$A
(2) ! ___________________________________?
#, %A-.$J-c/-$A-MA%-%-1R=-3-35S-9J<-<,
! .$J-c/-3A-.$J-$&A$-0R-AJ-<J.,
#, 3-<J.,________________________________. (We have seven.)
(3) ! _________________________________________?

#, 3-<J., %A-PR$?-0R-2R.-<A$?-3-<J., ______________________. (Han Chinese)

7.6.3 Fill in the Blanks
$A /, :.A, $/, %-, :, :, <,
(1) A-#A?-3A?-:)<-0/- _____<J., 3A-.$J-%A-2R.-;A$-:6B/-9- ____aR2-PR$?-;A/, 3R-.-
v-.-<%-35S-}R/-____;R. _____,
(2) %A-:.$-? _____<J., HR:-:.$-?-.A-<J., 1R=-3-35S-$A-:.$-? _____<J.,

(3) HR_____MA%-_____(A-9A$-9J<-<, HR-$%-_____;A/,

(4) HR_____aR2-PR$?-.-;R., .J-<A%-:.A-_____A-3J-<A-!-_____aR2-3-AJ-;R.,

(5) %A-(-2R-:6B/-9_____?R$-<A$?_____aR2-3_____;R.,
7.6.4 Numerals in a Noun Phrase: translate the following phrases
(1) four computers (6) three English-Tibetan dictionaries
(2) two doctors (7) nine books
(3) five teachers (8) one school
(4) seven students (9) eight lessons
(5) ten farmers (10) six workers

7.6.5 Translation
(1) A: My name is Lobzang Gyal. I am from Qinghai. I am Tibetan.
B: I am also from Qinghai. I am from Xining. I am Mongolian.

Colloquial Amdo Tibetan (2005, Revised), Kuo-ming Sung & Lha Byams Rgyal

(2) A: Do you have a dictionary?

B: What kind of dictionary?
A: Tibetan-English dictionary.
B: Yes, I have two Tibetan-English dictionaries.
(3) A: Our Tibetan language teacher is not here today. Where is he?
B: He is still in Lhasa.
(4) A: How many classmates do we have?
B: We have only eight classmates.
7.6.6 Reading Comprehension

HR-(:R-2.J-3R-;A/-/, %A-MA%-%-^-2-9J<-<, %-2R.-uR%?-$A-;A/, %-:.A-$A-2R.-;A$-.$J-c/-;A/,

%-:-A-3J-<A-!-$A-aR2-3-$?3-<, :)<-0/-$A-aR2-3-s-, .LA/-)A-$A-aR2-3-$*A?-;R., %A-(:R-:-
2#R3?-0?-aR2-3-2&-,3-0-;R., %A-(:R-:6B/-9-$A-MA-<J-<J-(everyone) :-2R.-MA%-<J-;R., ,:R-3:-$A-
MA%-%-hR-eJ-5K-<A%-9J<-<, 3:J-<J:J-$A-MA%-%-1R=-3-9J<-<, A-#A?-3A?-$A-MA%-%-*A-3-z-3R-9J<-<,
Answer the following questions in English
(1) Who is Dawa? Where is she from?
(2) How many students does Dawa have? Where are the students from?
(3) What is Tom’s Tibetan name?
(4) What is Mary’s Tibetan name?

Colloquial Amdo Tibetan (2005, Revised), Kuo-ming Sung & Lha Byams Rgyal

Lesson 8 Do You Have a Picture of Your Family?


☛ Key Grammar Points in Lesson Eight:

1. Kinship Terms for Immediate Family Members
2. Numerals 2&-$&A$ 11 to 2&-.$ 19 and Multiples of Ten
3. Reduplication of Interrogative Words: ?-?
4. Singular, Dual, and Plural Nouns
0R 2R
5. Definiteness Marker / on Numbers

❖ 8.1 Dialogue

z-3R, ,:R-3:, :S-0<-:.A-?:A-<J.,

,:R-3:, %A-:S-0<-;A/, :.A-%A-A-1-<J., :.A-%A-A-3-<J.,
z-3R, 8A-=A-(%-(%-:.A-?-<J.,
,:R-3:, #A-.$J-%A-/-2R-<J., MA%-%-+:J-2J-9J<-<,
z-3R, #A-.$J-.-=R-=R-.-<J.,
,:R-3:, #A-.$J-.-=R-=R-2&-$&A$-<J.,
z-3R, %-.-=R-=R-2&R-2o.-;A/, HR-=R-.-;A/,
,:R-3:, %-=R-*A->-,3-0-;A/,
z-3R, :.A-?-(-$%-$A-:S-0<-<J.,
,:R-3:, %A-A-3J-<A-#-$A-;=-$A-<J., z-3R, HR:-1-;=-$%-/-;R.,
z-3R, %A-1-;=-;=->=-/-;R.,
,:R-3:, HR:-;:-/-29:-3A-?-?-;R.,

Colloquial Amdo Tibetan (2005, Revised), Kuo-ming Sung & Lha Byams Rgyal

z-3R, %A-;:-/-1-2R, A-&J, /-3R-;R.,

,:R-3:, HR-:-%/-.-;R.,
z-3R, %-:-%/-:.A-$?3-0R-3-$+R$?-3J.,
,:R-3:, HR-:-/%-MA:A-:S-0<-AJ-;R.,
z-3R, :.A-/-%-:-:S-0<-$?3-0R-:.A-;R., vR?-<,
,:R-3:, #A-$*A-$-?-<J.,
z-3R, #A-$*A-$-%A-A-MJ?-<-A-;J-<J., #A-$*A-$-=R-2./-&-<J.,
,:R-3:, .A-(:R-(A-9A$-<J., <-3-AJ-<J.,
z-3R, .A-(:R-<-3-3-<J., =$-<J., %A-5%-%-=$-s-2&-,3-0-;R.,

Amdo Farmer's Family, Mangra, Hainan

Lhamo: Whose picture is this?

Tom: It’s my picture. This is my father. This is my mother.
Lhamo: Who is this little boy?

Colloquial Amdo Tibetan (2005, Revised), Kuo-ming Sung & Lha Byams Rgyal

Tom: He is my younger brother. His name is David.

Lhamo: How old is he this year?
Tom: He is eleven years old this year.
Lhamo: I am eighteen years old. How old are you?
Tom: I am twenty.
Lhamo: Where is this picture? (Lit. a picture of which place is this?)
Tom: It’s my American home. Lhamo, where is your hometown?
Lhamo: My hometown is in Yulshul.
Tom: Who (all) do you have in your family?
Lhamo: In my family there are my elder brother, elder sister, and younger sister.
Tom: How many siblings do you have?
Lhamo: I only have these three.
Tom: Do you have any pictures of your family?
Lhamo: I have these three pictures here. Look.
Tom: Who are these two? (lit. they two)
Lhamo: They are my grandpa and grandma. They are seventy years old.
Tom: What are those? Are those goats?
Lhamo: No. Those are not goats. Those are sheep. My family has fifty sheep.

❖ 8.2 Vocabulary

8.2.1 Vocabulary from the Dialogue

1. :S-0<, n. picture
2. A-1, n. father
3. A-3, n. mother
4. 8A-=A, [2-(%] n. boy
5. (%-(%-, adj. small, little
6. /-2R, n. younger brother
7. +:J-2J, person David
8. =R, n. year
9. .-=R, n. this year
10. 2&-$&A$ num. eleven

Colloquial Amdo Tibetan (2005, Revised), Kuo-ming Sung & Lha Byams Rgyal

11. 2&R-2o., num. eighteen

12. *A->, num. twenty
13. 1-;=, n. ancestral home, hometown
14. ;=->=, place Yulshul (Ch. Yushu)
15. ;:, [;=] n. home
16. 29:-3A, n. family
17. 1-2R, n. elder brother
18. A-&J, n. elder sister
19. /-3R, n. (female's) younger sister
20. %/, n. sibling
21. $?3-0R, num. (definite) the three, those three
22. /%-MA, [/%-3A] n. family
23. vR?-<, [vR?-.%] phrase Look! (imperative)
24. $*A-$ [$*A?-0R] pro. suffix the two of (people)
25. A-MJ?, n. grandpa
26. A-;J, n. grandma
27. 2./-&, num. seventy
28. <-3, n. goat
29. =$ n. sheep
30. s-2&, num. fifty

8.2.2 Additional Vocabulary

31. YA%-3R, n. (male's) younger sister
32. *J?-0, n. husband
33. (%-3, n. wife
34. A-/J, n. aunt (often used generically)
35. A-#, n. uncle (often used generically)
36. 2-5, n. son

Colloquial Amdo Tibetan (2005, Revised), Kuo-ming Sung & Lha Byams Rgyal

37. 2-3R, n. daughter

38. 8A-3R, [2-3R] n. girl
39. HA, n. dog
40. =:, [LA-=] n. cat
41. $;$ n. male yak
42. :VA, n. female yak
43. 2&-$*A?, num. twelve
44. 2&-$?3, num. thirteen
45. 2&-28A, num. fourteen
46. 2&R-s-, num. fifteen
47. 2&-S$ num. sixteen
48. 2&-2./, num. seventeen
49. 2&-.$, num. nineteen
50. ?3-&, num. thirty
51. 28A-2&, num. forty
52. S$-&, num. sixty
53. 2o.-&, num. eighty
54. .$-2&, num. ninety
55. HR-$ n. Husband (= *J?-0)
❖ 8.3 Grammar Notes

► 8.3.1 Numerals 2&-$&A$ 11 to 2&-.$ 19 and Multiples of Ten

Tibetan numerals from 11-19 are formed by combining the word 2& ten and the appropriate
numeral to its right. Note that there is a vowel change from 2& to 2&R for the two numbers 15

and 18:
11. 2&-$&A$ 14. 2&-28A, 17. 2&-2./,
12. 2&-$*A?, 15. 2&R-s-, 18. 2&R-2o.,

Colloquial Amdo Tibetan (2005, Revised), Kuo-ming Sung & Lha Byams Rgyal

13. 2&-$?3, 16. 2&-S$ 19. 2&-.$

Numerals that are multiples of ten are formed by placing the single digit numeral in front of

the word ten, for example,28A four + 2& ten becomes 28A-2& forty. Note that twenty is irregular
and that the word $?3 three is shortened to ?3 in thirty. As for the word 2& ten, there are two

variants, & and 2&, in this group of combinations. The rule is simple: the prefix 2 of 2& is

retained only when the preceding syllable is open (i.e. ends with a vowel) such as 40, 50, and 90.

Otherwise, omit the 2 as in 30, 60, 70, and 80.

20. *A->, 50. s-2&, 80. 2o.-&,
30. ?3-&, 60. S$-&, 90. .$-2&,
40. 28A-2&, 70. 2./-&,

Recall that when we learned the numeral ten, it consisted of the numeral 2& and the word
,3-0 even. ,3-0 is also compatible with numerals of multiples of ten, the only difference being
that it is always optional with the numerals 20 to 90, but is obligatory with 2&-,3-0.

As a review of the Tibetan numeral scripts, these are the numbers we have learned in this


(1) 11-19: 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19
(2) 10-90: 10 20 30 40 50 60 70 80 90
► 8.3.2 Definiteness Marker 0R: $?3 vs. $?3-0R,

There is a peculiar distinction that (Amdo) Tibetan makes: 0R is a morpheme attached to a

numeral to mark the noun phrase as definite. Compare the following two sentences:

(1) :.A-/-=$-$?3-;R., There are three sheep here.

(2) =$-$?3-0R-:.A-%A-;A/, These three sheep are mine.

In the first sentence the phrase =$-$?3 three sheep is indefinite and in the second sentence

=$-$?3-0R-:.A these three sheep is definite. Note that in the second sentence, :.A this is usually
not marked plural (*:.A-(:R) because the plurality of the noun is already overtly expressed by the
numeral $?3. In the lesson, Lhamo answers %-:-%/-:.A-$?3-0R-3-$+R$?-3J., I have only these

Colloquial Amdo Tibetan (2005, Revised), Kuo-ming Sung & Lha Byams Rgyal

three siblings, using the definiteness marker 0R with the numeral to form $?3-0R. Note that

speakers of Amdo Tibetan have a rather relaxed attitude towards the word order between the

numeral ( ) and the demonstrative in a noun phrase. These three sheep can be either =$-$?3-
0R-:.A or =$-:.A-$?3-0R, with the latter being more common. For duality the two, one says $*A-$,
not *$*A?-0R. More examples:

(3) A-<A-2-:.A-$*A-$-%A-PR$?-0R-;A/, These two Americans are my friends.

(4) aR2-.J2-.A-$?3-0R-%A-3A/, Those three textbooks are not mine.

(5) aR2-3-:.A-s-2R-;R-<R2-$A-<J., These five students are from Europe.

(6) :.$-?-$/-$*A-$-5K-<A%-$A-1-3-$*A-$A-<J., The two seats over there are Tserang's parents'.

The morpheme 0R in fact has two variants. Numerals that end with a suffix take 0R; those

without take 2R. Thus, from one to ten, the definite numerals are:

(7) 4, 5, 9, 10 ( 28A, s, .$, 2&,) + 2R

1, 2, 3, 6, 7, 8 ( $&A$ $?3, S$ 2./, 2o.,) + 0R

► 8.3.3 Family / Kinship Terms

Like in most Asian cultures, Tibetans distinguish 1-2R elder brother and A-&J elder sister from
/-2R younger brother and YA%-3R, /-3R younger sister. The less specific term sister or brother does

not exist. Note that for the expression younger sister, there are two words YA%-3R and /-3R. They
are not synonymous. YA%-3R is used when it relates to an elder brother and /-3R relates to an elder

sister. For example, Tom's younger sister is his YA%-3R and Mary's younger sister is her /-3R.

Tibetan does have the equivalent for the more general term sibling: %/. It is often used in a

question such as HR-:-%/-.-;R., how many brothers and sisters do you have? As Tibetans tend to

have larger families, the plural form %/-(-2R siblings is frequently used.

In the vast Amdo region, the family/ kinship terms are far from unified. Students (as well as

native Amdo speakers) may need to learn different terms when visiting different places. The

following diagram is a summary of the important immediate family terms that are
understandable to most Amdo speakers.

Colloquial Amdo Tibetan (2005, Revised), Kuo-ming Sung & Lha Byams Rgyal

A-MJ?, A-;J, grandfather and grandmother

(paternal or maternal)

father A-1, A-3, mother

I husband / wife

1-2R, /-2R, %-, *J?-0, / (%-3, A-&J, YA%-3R, / /-3R,

elder and younger brother elder and younger sister

son 2-5, 2-3R, daughter

Two more kinship terms need to be learned. One is A-/J aunt and the other is A-# uncle.
These two terms are used not only for the family relatives but extended to people outside the

family, as well. When a person appears to be one generation older than you are, you can

comfortably call him A-# or her A-/J. The term A-# is also used to refer to and as a direct
address to monks in the Amdo region.
► 8.3.4 Reduplication of Interrogative: ?-?- Who All

There is no equivalent to the English word all in Tibetan. The notion of universal

quantification denoted by all is therefore expressed by other means. When asking an exhaustive

question such as "who all did you see at the party?" (i.e. tell me each and every person that you

saw at the party without leaving anybody out), Tibetan simply reduplicates the interrogative

pronoun from ? who to ?-? who all. In the lesson, Tom asks Lhamo to tell him all of her family

members by reduplicating the interrogative: HR:-;=-/-29:-3A-?-?-;R., Other interrogative words

can also be reduplicated:

(1) :-(-2R-$A-.$J-c/-?-?-<J., Who (all) are our teachers? (for :-(-2R, see 8.3.5)
(2) .-v-z-?-/-?-?-;R.-$A, Who (all) are now in Lhasa?

(3) HR:-%/-(-2R-?-(-$%-$%-/-;R., Where are all your siblings? (Lit. where all)

Colloquial Amdo Tibetan (2005, Revised), Kuo-ming Sung & Lha Byams Rgyal

(4) HR:-.LA/-)A-$A-PR$?-0R-(-2R:A-MA%-%-(A-9A$-9J<-<, What are (all) the names of your English


(5).0J-(-:.A-(-2R-(A-9A$-<J., What are (all) these books?

Note that $%-$A means from where and $%-/ means at which place (therefore: where). When

$% is used alone, it means which. When the interrogative is not monosyllabic, it is less natural
to reduplicate it, thus (A-9A$ in (4) and (5), instead of the unnatural *(A-9A$-(A-9A$.
► 8.3.5 Singular, Dual, and Plural Noun

Colloquial Amdo Tibetan usually makes a distinction between a dual (two) and a plural

(three or more) animate noun phrase. To mark duality, the morpheme $*A-$ is attached to
pronouns or nouns. Compare the following formal (written) pronominal forms to their colloquial

(1) Formal Colloquial
sing. pl. sing. dual pl.
First person %-, %-5S, %A-, %A-$*A-$ %A-(:R, %A-(-2R,
inclusive we :-$*A-$ :-(:R, :-(-2R,
Second person HR., HR.-5S, HR, HR-$*A-$ HR-(:R, HR-(-2R,
Third person m. #R, #A-.$J #A-$*A-$
#R-5S, #A-(:R, #A-(-2R,
Third person f. 3R, 3A-.$J 3A-$*A-$
Each of the plural pronouns also has a trisyllabic alternative form: %A-(-2R (= %A-(:R) we/us, HR-(-
2R (= HR-(:R) you, and #A-(-2R (= #A-(:R,) they/them. The colloquial plural suffix (-2R can be
attached to regular noun phrases such as HR:-.LA/-)A-$A-PR$?-0R-(-2R your English friends.

For the first person, both dual the two of us and plural we, Tibetan makes a further distinction

of inclusive we and exclusive we. The inclusive we, as the term suggests, includes the listener.

The we in a common expression Let's go (the speaker is asking his companion to go with him) is

an instance of the inclusive interpretation. If a child is begging his parent to allow him and his
companions to leave the house and play, the expression Please let us go, then, contains the

Colloquial Amdo Tibetan (2005, Revised), Kuo-ming Sung & Lha Byams Rgyal

exclusive we, assuming that the parent is not going with them. As one can see, English does not

use two different words to distinguish the inclusive and exclusive interpretations of we. Amdo

Tibetan does. The forms given in the above chart are either neutral (like the English we) or

exclusive. When the listener is included, change %A to : , then attach the appropriate dual or
plural suffixes to form the inclusive :-$*A-$, :-(:R, and :-(-2R.

In the lesson, Tom asks #A-$*A-$-?-<J., Who are they two? The pronoun is duly marked with

the dual suffix $*A-$. More examples:

(3) ! HR-$*A-$-?-;A/,
#, %A-$*A-$-.$J-c/-hR-eJ-5K-<A%-$A-aR2-3-;A/, (neutral we)
A: Who are you two?

B: We two are students of Teacher Dorje Tserang.

(4) HR-:-2R.-MA%-9A$-;R.-$A, %-:-<-2R.-MA%-9A$-;R., :-$*A-$-:-2R.-MA%-;R., (inclusive we)

You have a Tibetan name, I have a Tibetan name. We both have Tibetan names.

Other examples of duality marking:

(5) #A-$*A-$-:)<-0/-$A-<J., HR-(-2R-$%-$A-;A/,

They two are from Japan. Where are you (pl.) from?

(6) %A-*J?-0-<-%A-$*A-$-2R.-;A$-$A-.$J-c/-;A/,
My husband and I both are Tibetan language teachers.

(7) .2%-3R-$A-A-#-<-A-/J-$*A-$-(/-0-<J., Rhangmo's uncle and aunt are both doctors.

► 8.3.6 Hometown, Home, Family, etc.

Hometown is 1-;=-. When ;= (or colloq., ;:) is used alone, it means home, the home that
offers you security, companionship, and happiness, not the physical structure that one calls a

residence. For the latter, Tibetan tends to use a different word, 5%. Therefore, one can say %?-
;=-S/-$A I miss home and not * %?-5%-S/-$A *I miss house. (The subject %? I is marked
ergative, an important grammar point to be introduced in L9.) However, the distinction is not
always clear-cut: ;=- and 5%- can be used interchangeably if they combine with a person's

Colloquial Amdo Tibetan (2005, Revised), Kuo-ming Sung & Lha Byams Rgyal

name, thus the synonymous 5K-<A%-$A-;: and 5K-<A%-5% Tserang's place. Note that 5% can directly
form a compound with a personal name without the genitive case marker $A linking the two.
That is, one does not say 5K-<A%-$A-5%. In the dialogue, Tom asks about the hometown of Lhamo,
using 1-;=-, as in (1). When he asks about Lhamo's family "at home," he uses ;= with the

preposition /, as in (2).

(1) HR:-1-;=-$%-/-;R., Where is your hometown?

(2) HR:-;:-/-29:-3A-?-?-;R., Who are all your folks at home?

If we consider the word family as an institution (e.g., family-owned business) and not the
collective term for the members of the family, the Tibetan translation could be either 5%- or ;=.
(3) :.A-%A-;:-$A-;A/, This is our family's (photo). (;=-$A (Gen))
(4) %A-5%-%-=$-*A->-,3-0-;R., My family has twenty sheep. (5%-% (Obliq))

For members of the family, it is either ;=-/-29:-3A- or /%-MA. As shown in (5) and (6):

(5) HR:-;:-/-29:-3A-?-?-;R., Who are all the people in your family?

(6) HR-:-/%-MA:A-:S-0<-AJ-;R., Do you have a picture of your family?

❖ 8.4 Cultural Notes

✽ 8.4.1 Finger Pointing

In the Tibetan culture, pointing at people or things with a finger is considered rude.

Naturally, pointing fingers at sculptures of religious figures, contents of religious paintings or

sutras, sacred objects in a chapel, etc., can also be taken with offense or, at least, as a reflection

of the doer's cultural ignorance. All too often, one observes curious travelers to the Tibetan

region pointing fingers at deities and sacred objects, asking local people "Who is this?" or "What

is that? Instead of pointing, the correct gesture is to hold out the arm towards the object with the

hand open naturally, palm facing up. This gesture is almost like when one shows an honorable

guest the way into a room.

Colloquial Amdo Tibetan (2005, Revised), Kuo-ming Sung & Lha Byams Rgyal

The same courtesy applies to asking about a Tibetan friend's family in a photo. One should

never point at a person in a photo with the index finger, asking questions. Pay attention to how

Tibetans use different gestures and one will learn to do it naturally and easily.

✽ 8.4.2 Pets

Tibetans, especially nomads, raise HA dogs and consider them a part of the family. However,

unlike in Western cultures, dogs are not indoor pets and usually receive no name from their

loving owners. People refer to a dog as someone's dog. Dogs are trained to guard the house (or

tent) and livestock and may attack strangers approaching its owner's premise. Beware.

Farmer and His Mule, Mangra Farmer Milking Cow, Sertar

=: Cats are common in farmers' houses. They are highly functional, as they catch mice and
protect crops from birds. Cats often sleep on brick beds or near the stove where it's warm.

Tibetans love it when cats snore, as the sound resembles (that is, to their ears) the sound of

chanting mantras. Some Tibetans raise chickens for their eggs, but they do not slaughter

chickens for food.

✽ 8.4.3 Livestock Terms

Livestock tending is an integral component of a Tibetan herdsmen's daily life. Minute

distinctions are made among members of the same species, resulting in a surprisingly large pool
of lexical items that rivals the complexity of words in the Eskimo language related to snow. In

Colloquial Amdo Tibetan (2005, Revised), Kuo-ming Sung & Lha Byams Rgyal

this lesson, we learned such generic terms as =$ sheep, <-3 goat, and $;$ yak. In reality,

herdsmen living on the grasslands employ more than 150 terms for cows, yaks, horses, goats,

and sheep, depending on the animal's age, gender, and whether it is castrated. If one takes into

consideration names describing (patterns of) colors, the shape and state of horns, etc., 300

additional words are documented. ( :V$-3R-35S,, 2003)

Such distinctions prove too complicated even for Tibetan townsfolk and farmers. Herdsmen

often joke about a farmer's incapability of distinguishing the obvious differences between, for

instance, a =$-$ (two-year-old male sheep) from a ,R%-% (three-year-old male sheep), or a 3R-
K$? (three-year-old female yak) from a ?R-$*A?-3 (four-year-old female yak). For our purposes,
it is good to know the generic term /R< for cattle. The following list of words about yak, spelled

in phonetic symbols for lack of orthography, should give the learner a rough idea of the

complexity of herding terminology.

Terms for Yaks
Generic Male Female
Generic zok nak hjak mdrə
1 year-old wi lə ho wi mo wi
2 year-old ja rə ho jar mo jar
3 year-old Xat ho xat mo xat
4 year-old -- so hnyi mo hnyi
5 year-old -- so wzhə so wzhə ma
4 and 5 -- hjə xə thu ma
6 year-old -- so trhək so trhək ma
7 year-old -- kha kang kha kang ma
6 and 7 -- hjak sar mdrə mo
8 year-old kha kang lo hchəx -- --
9 year-old kha kang lo nyi -- --
10 + -- hjak rgan mdzə rgan

Colloquial Amdo Tibetan (2005, Revised), Kuo-ming Sung & Lha Byams Rgyal

Now, can we spot the 5K<-3R (three-year-old female sheep) in the picture below?

Sheep Grazing in Grassland, Mewa, Ngaba

❖ 8.5 Key Sentence Patterns

■ 8.5.1 =R-.-… How old…?

(1) HR-.-=R-=R-.-;A/, How old are you this year?
(2) %-.-=R-=R-*A->-;A/, I am twenty this year.
(3) HR:-/-2R-=R-.-;A/, How old is your younger brother?
(4) #A-.$J-=R-.$-<J., He is nine years old.
(5) HR:-A-&J-=R-.-;A/, How old is your elder sister?
(6) 3A-.$J-=R-?3-&-<J., She is thirty years old.
■ 8.5.2 Numbers from *A-> 20 to .$-2& 90
(1) HR-:-:S-0<-.-;R., How many pictures do you have?
(2) %-:-:S-0<-*A->-;R., I have twenty pictures.
(3) HR-:-.0J-(-.-;R., How many books do you have?
(4) %-:-.0J-(-2o.-&-;R., I have eighty books.

Colloquial Amdo Tibetan (2005, Revised), Kuo-ming Sung & Lha Byams Rgyal

(5) HR-(:R-$A-aR2-9-/%-/-2R.-<A$?-.-;R., How many Tibetans are there in your school?

(6) 2./-&-,3-0-;R., There are seventy.
(7) aR2-.J2-:.A-:-aR2-5/-*A->-;R.-$A, This textbook has twenty lessons.
■ 8.5.3 ?:A Whose
(1) HA-:.A-?:A-<J., Whose dog is this?
(2) .A-%A-.0J-(-<J., That is my book.
(3) :S-0<-.A-?:A-<J., Whose picture is that?
(4) .A-%A-YA%-3R-(%-%R-$A-:S-0<-<J., (Male speaker) That is my younger sister's picture.
(5) $;$-$/-(:R-?:A-<J., Whose yaks are those over there?
(6) $;$-.A-(:R-A-#-]R-29%-$A-<J., Those are the Uncle Lobzang's yaks.
■ 8.5.4 Interrogative Words (Review)

(1) HR:-;:-/-MA-?-?-;R., Who all do you have in your family?

(2) .0J-(-:.A-5%-3-(A-9A$-$A-.0J-(-<J., What are all these books?
(3) 2R.-<A$?-$A-aR2-PR$?-5%-3-$%-/-;R.-$A, Where are all our Tibetan classmates?
(4) MA-:.A-$*A-$-?-<J., Who are both these two people?
(5) :S-0<-:.A-5%-3-?:A-<J., Whose are all these pictures?
■ 8.5.5 Family Terms

(1) ?R-nJ-$A-/-3R-$%-/-;R.-$A, Where is Sophie's younger sister?

(2) hR-eJ-$A-(%-3-.LA/-;A$-$A-.$J-c/-<J., Dorje's wife is an English teacher.
(3) %A-A-MJ?-<-A-;J-8A%-0-;A/, My grandfather and grandmother are farmers.
(4) %-:-%/-<-YA%-3R-3J., I don't have brothers or sisters.
(5) 8A-3R-(%-(%-.A-A-/J-2?R.-/3?-1R=-3-$A-8A-3R-<J.,
That little girl is Aunt Sonam Drolma's daughter.
(6) ^-2-1R=-3-$A-HR-$-%A-A-3-$A-/-2R-;A/, #A-.$J-%A-A-#-;A/,
Dawa Drolma's husband is my mother's elder brother. He is my uncle.
■ 8.5.6 Numeral + 0R / 2R in Definite NP's
(1) %A-(:R-:-\R$-[.-:.A-$?3-0R-3-$+R$?-3J., We have only these three computers.
(2) %-:-%/-:.A-28A-2R-;R., I have these four siblings.

Colloquial Amdo Tibetan (2005, Revised), Kuo-ming Sung & Lha Byams Rgyal

(3) 8-/$-$?3-0R-:.A-?:A-;A/, Whose are these three pencils?

(4) A-<A-$A-aR2-3-2&-,3-0-2R-.A-.-v-.-<%-2R.-/-;R.-$A,
Those ten American students are still in Tibet now.

(5) %A-(R:-aR2-9-:-aR2-#%-s-2R-:.A-3-$+R$?-3J.,
Our school has only these five classrooms.

❖ 8.6 Exercises
8.6.1 Listening Comprehension: True or False
(1) Dorje Drolma is our teacher’s elder sister.
(2) Dorje Drolma is fourteen years old.
(3) Dorje Drolma is not in Tibet now.
(4) The teacher has six sisters altogether.
8.6.2 Answer the Questions

A: My Grandparents B: My Family
Questions for Image A:
(1) :.A-$*A-$-?-<J., (grandparents)
(2) #A-$*A-$A-MA%-%-(A-9A$-9J<-$A, (Tserang, Sonam Jid)
(3) #A-$*A-$-=R-.-<J., (both 60 years old)
(4) #A-$*A-$A-L-2-(A-9A$-<J., (farmers)
(5) #A-$*A-$A-1-;=-$%-$A-<J., (Trika, Qinghai)

Colloquial Amdo Tibetan (2005, Revised), Kuo-ming Sung & Lha Byams Rgyal

Questions for Image B:

(1) MA-:.A-(:R-?-<J., (my wife, her mother, my daughter, son)
(2) #A-(-2R-$A-MA%-%-(A-9A$-9J<-<, (Drolma Tso, Tserang Jid, Gabzang, Sangji Lhamo)
(3) ?%?-o?-z-3R-<-{=-29%-$*A-$-=R-.-<J., (6 years old and 3 years old)
(4) HR:-(%-3-:-%/-AJ-;R., (an elder brother and a younger sister)
8.6.3 Translation
(1) A: How are your father and mother?
B: They are good. They are in Lhasa now.
(2) A: Where is this picture?
B: It’s my home.
A: Where is your home?
B: My home is in Yulshul.
(3) A: How many brothers and sisters do you have?
B: I have four elder brothers, three elder sisters, two younger brothers and one
younger sister.
A: How many people are there in your family altogether?
B: There are altogether twelve people in my family.
8.6.4 Composition: introduce a photo of your family by answering the following questions
1. How many people are there in your family? Who are they?
2. What do they do? Where are they now?
3. Where is your hometown?
4. Do you have any pets in your family? What are their names, ages, etc.?

Colloquial Amdo Tibetan (2005, Revised), Kuo-ming Sung & Lha Byams Rgyal

Lesson 9 What Are You Doing in Xining?

☛ Key Grammar Points in Lesson Nine:
1. Present Plain and Progressive Tense and the Auxiliary $A-;R.
2. Ergative Case Marking: - /? $A?
3. Introduction to Amdo Verb Inflection
4. Duality Marker $*A-$ Revisited
5. Location Word: ,R$
6. Conjunction: /R-$A Because

❖ 9.1 Dialogue

Dialogue 1 (Tom and John on the phone)

,:R-3:, A-<R, +R%-,
+R%-, A-<R, HR-?-;A/,
,:R-3:, %-,:R-3:-;A/, +R%-, HR-2.J-3R-;A/-/,
+R%-, 2.J-3R-;A/, %?-9A-=A%-/-2R.-{.-aR2-$A-;R., %?-:.A-/-.-<%-.LA/-{.-<-OA.-$A-;R.,
,:R-3:, %-<J2-!R%-/-;R.,
+R%-, HR?-<J2-!R%-/-(A-9A$-=?-$A-;R.,
,:R-3:, %?-%A-2R.-<A$?-PR$?-0R-]R-29%-<-3*3-$A-;=-2{R<-;J.-$R, %A-$*A-$?-.-v-2R.-{.-
2>.-$A-;R., %?-:S-0<-3%-0R-=J/-$A-;R.,
+R%-, ]R-29%-$A?-(A-9A$-;J.-$R-$A,
,:R-3:, ]R-29%-$A?-2f/-:UA/-/-v-$A-;R.-$A,

Colloquial Amdo Tibetan (2005, Revised), Kuo-ming Sung & Lha Byams Rgyal

American Students on a Study Tour to Qinghai and Tibet

Dialogue 2 (Rhangmo and Tserang)
.2%-3R, 5K-<A%-, HR?-(A-9A$-=?-$A-;R., HR?-HA3-.R%-=?-L-:VA-$A-;R.-/A?,
5K-<A%-, 3J., %?-\-.L%?-%-*/-/?-;A-$J-:VA-$A-;R.,
.2%-3R, :S-0<-,R$-$A-MA-:.A-$*A-$-HR:-1-3-$*A-$-AJ-<J.,
5K-<A%-, <J.,
.2%-3R, HR:-1-3-$*A-$?-L-2-(A-9A$-=?-$R,
5K-<A%-, %A-A-1-aR2-9-(J/-3R:C-aR2-.0R/-(J/-3R-;A/, #R?-2R.-$A-=R-o?-OA.-$A-;R., %A-A-3-:-L-
.2%-3R, 3R-$%-/-;R.,
5K-<A%-, 3R-%A-A-&J-5%-/-;R.,
.2%-3R, .A-/-(A-9A$-;J-$R,
5K-<A%-, %A-(:R-:VR$-0-;A/-/R-$A-;=-/-9R$-:5S-$A-;R.,

Colloquial Amdo Tibetan (2005, Revised), Kuo-ming Sung & Lha Byams Rgyal

Dialogue 1 (Tom and John on the phone)

Tom: Hello, John!
John: Hello, who is this? (Lit. Who are you?)
Tom: It's me, Tom. John, how are you?
John: Good. I’m studying Tibetan language in Xining. I am also teaching English here.
Where are you?
Tom: I’m in Rebgong (Ch. Tongren).
John: What are you doing in Rebgong?
Tom: I’m traveling with my Tibetan friend Lobsang. We two are speaking Tibetan.
I’m also taking a lot of photographs.
John: What is Lobsang doing right now?
Tom: Lobsang is watching television.
* * *
Dialogue 2 (Rhangmo and Tserang)
Rhangmo: Tserang, what are you doing? Are you doing homework?
Tserang: No, I am listening to music and writing a letter.
Rhangmo: Tserang, are these two in the picture your parents?
Tserang: Yes, they are.
Rhangmo: What do your parents do?
Tserang: My father is a college professor. He teaches history of the Tibetan people.
My mother doesn’t have a job.
Rhangmo: Where is she?
Tserang: She is at my elder sister's home.
Rhangmo: What do they do there?
Tserang: Because we are herdsmen, they two herd livestock at home.

❖ 9.2 Vocabulary

9.2.1 Vocabulary from the Dialogue

1. - ?, $A?, affix Ergative Case marker
2. aR2, v. to study
3. $A-;R.,[---28A/-;R.] aux. (see 9.3.3)
4. OA., v. to teach
5. <J2-!R%-, place Rebgong (Ch. Tongren)

Colloquial Amdo Tibetan (2005, Revised), Kuo-ming Sung & Lha Byams Rgyal

6. =?, v. to do
7. 3*3-$A, adv. together (also 3*3-.)
8. ;=-{R<, n. traveling
9. ;J., [LJ.] v. to do
10. ;=-{R<-;J., [;=-{R<-LJ.] v. (O-V) to travel (lit. to do traveling)
11. $R, [-----28A/-;R.] aux. contraction of $A-;R.,
12. 2>., v. to speak
13. 3%-0R, adj. (attr.) a lot of, many, much
14. :S-0<-=J/, v. (O-V) to take pictures
15. 2f/-:UA/, n. television
16. v, v. (obj.-ladon) to watch, to look at, to read
17. =?-L, n. work, task
18. HA3-.R%-=?-L, n. (N-N) homework (for school)
19. :VA, v. to write, to do (homework)
20. /A?, [---0-;A/] aux. contraction of /A-;A/,
21. \-.L%?, n. music
22. */, v. (obj.-ladon) to listen to
23. 2{<-;A$ n. letter
24. ;A-$J, n. letter, words written
25. 1-3, n. father and mother
26. (J/-3R, adj. (attr.) big
27. aR2-9-(J/-3R, n. (N-A) university
28. aR2-.0R/-(J/-3R, n. (N-A) professor
29. =R-o?, n. history
30. :VR$-0, n. herdsman
31. 9R$-:5S, v. (O-V) to herd livestock

9.2.2 Additional Vocabulary

Colloquial Amdo Tibetan (2005, Revised), Kuo-ming Sung & Lha Byams Rgyal

32. ]%?, v. to sing

33. aR2-.R%-;J., [aR2-.R%-LJ.] v. (O-V) to study (lit. to do studies)
34. <A/-(J/, person Rinchen
35. \R$-2f/, n. movie
36. 2f/-12, n. video (including DVD)
37. S-2, n. internet
38. S-2-#-:LJ., v. (O-V) to access the internet
39. S-2-:-2v, v. (O-V) to be online, to surf the internet
40. %$-.2%-, person Ngawang
41. :.R/, v. to read
42. .?-.J2, n. magazine
43. 5$?-0<, n. newspaper
44. lA?-<A$ n. mathematics
45. +-l=, n. art
46. \, n. song
47. L-;A?, [LA?-0] n. child, kid
48. 2R.-;A$-!-#, n. Tibetan alphabet
49. MA, [3A] n. people
50. #-2h, n. chatting
51. #-2h-;J., v. (O-V) to chat (lit. to do chatting)
52. aR2-9-(J/-3R-2, n. college student
53. aR2-OA., n. class (meeting, lecture)
54. {.-(, n. conversation, talk
55. {.-<A$?, n. language
56. /R<, n. cattle (generic for yaks, cows, etc. )

❖ 9.3 Grammar Notes

Colloquial Amdo Tibetan (2005, Revised), Kuo-ming Sung & Lha Byams Rgyal

► 9.3.1 Relation Between Case and Thematic Role

As mentioned in Lesson 4, the Ergative-Absolutive case system operating in the Tibetan

language (all dialects) is conceptually different from the Nominative-Accusative case system

with which most English speakers are familiar. In a typical Nominative-Accusative language,

the subject of a tensed clause, no matter what thematic (semantic) role it carries, is marked

Nominative, while the direct object of a verb is marked Accusative. The subject of an intransitive

verb is also marked Nominative. For example: (Pronouns are used here because they still reflect

the different case markings in Modern English.)

(1) I (Nom) hit him (Acc). He (Nom) hit me (Acc) back.

(2) I (Nom) left. He (Nom) left too.

Ergative-Absolutive languages mark the subject of a transitive verb with the Ergative case

and the direct object with the Absolutive case. The subject of an intransitive verb, however,

patterns with the direct object of a transitive verb, receiving the Absolutive case. Examples:

(3) %?(Erg)-)(Abs)-:,%-, I drink tea. (Subject %? is marked Ergative.)

(4) %(Abs)-:IR, I go. (Subject % is marked Absolutive.)

Compare the following Tibetan sentences with their English counterparts. One can

immediately see that the subjects of the English sentences are consistently marked Nominative

case while the subjects in the Tibetan sentences vary from Oblique case (marked by Ladon for

verbs like ;R. and 9J<), Absolutive case (not overtly marked by any morpheme), to Ergative case
(overtly marked).

(5) #R-:(Obliq)-.0J-(-9A$(Abs)-;R.,
English: He (Nom) has a book (Acc).

(6) #A-.$A-MA%-%(Obliq)-,:R-3:(Abs)-9J<-$A,
English: His name (Nom) is called Tom (Acc).

(7) %?(Erg)-2R.-{.(Abs)-aR2-$A-;R.,
English: I (Nom) am studying the Tibetan language (Acc).

Colloquial Amdo Tibetan (2005, Revised), Kuo-ming Sung & Lha Byams Rgyal

(8) 3R(Abs)-:IR-o-<J., (future tense, L10)

English: She (Nom) will go.

(9) %(Abs)-2.J-3R-;A/,
English: I (Nom) am fine.

The above examples should convince the student to abandon attempts to associate any case

(e.g., Nominative and Accusative) in the English grammar with a specific Tibetan case, Genitive

being the only exception. The case assignment in the Tibetan system, as it turns out, is closely

related to the thematic role each noun phrase carries in the sentence. We shall be more explicit

about this "thematic" approach.

What is a thematic role? Simply put, it is the semantic relation of a noun phrase with the

verb. The most common thematic roles are Agent, Theme, Experiencer, Goal, Source,

Instrumental, Beneficiary, etc. It is generally assumed that universally each noun phrase in a

sentence has a grammatical case. It is also assumed from a semantic perspective, that each noun

phrase must also have its own thematic role. In English, case is associated with syntactic

position, which is why the subject of a tensed clause always gets the Nominative case regardless

of its thematic role. In Tibetan, case is tightly associated with the thematic role, no matter where

the phrase is placed (i.e., regardless of its syntactic position). For example, the Agent (doer of an

action) always gets the Ergative case. This explains immediately why the subject of a typical

Agent-Theme verb phrase receives the Ergative case. Subjects of non-Agent verbs such as ;A/,
<J., ;R., and 9J<, as we have seen, do not receive the Ergative case since none of the subjects can
be thematically considered an Agent.

The correlation of the thematic role Agent and the Ergative case is further supported by the

fact that, when a transitive verb is of the type experiencer-theme such as the following examples,

the Ergative case is not involved.

(11) %(Abs)-:SJ-: (Obliq)-0$-$A, I fear ghosts. ( I is not an Agent, but an Experiencer.)

(12) %(Abs)-?J%-$J-: (Obliq)-.$:-$A, I like lions.

Colloquial Amdo Tibetan (2005, Revised), Kuo-ming Sung & Lha Byams Rgyal

(13) %(Abs)-\-.L%?-%(Obliq)-?/-$A, I dislike (am annoyed by) music.

It should be obvious that none of the above subjects carry the thematic role of an Agent, for

these subjects experience a psychological emotion, involving no action whatsoever. Also notice

that the subject of an intransitive verb is marked Absolutive, as shown earlier in examples (8)

and (9). The conclusion is that Ergative case is only assigned to the subject of a transitive verb

of the Agent-Theme type. Other types of transitive verbs such as the psychological verbs such as

0$-$A to fear, .$:-$A to like, and ?/-$A to dislike from (11) to (13) do not assign their subjects
with Ergative. Lesson 11 will have more on how to express likes and dislikes.

We have been using the notion subject and object for Tibetan sentences as if they had the

same meaning as for English sentences. While we will continue using these conventional

notions for pedagogical convenience, we advise the learner to pay more heed to the thematic role

of the noun phrase when it comes to case markings in Tibetan.

► 9.3.2 Ergative Case: - /? $A?

Following our discussion above, we shall understand the assignment of ergative case not in

terms of the transitivity of the verb, but in terms of its thematic property. If two noun phrases

carry the thematic roles of agent and theme, the verb is a typical agent-theme transitive verb.

The agent is marked with the ergative case and the theme with the absolutive case (unmarked).

The ergative case marker comes in two forms: - or? $A?. -? is attached to an open syllable; $A?
follows a closed syllable (i.e. with a suffix). For example:

(1) %?-2R.-{.-aR2-$A-;R., I study Tibetan.

(2) ,:R-3:-$A?-\-.L%?-=J/-$A-;R.-$A, Tom is singing songs. (Lit. singing music)

(3) .$J-c/-2-(%-$A?-0J-&A/-/-=R-o?-OA.-$A-;R.-$A,

Teacher Wuchung is teaching history in Beijing.

(4) 3:J-<J:J-$A?-A-3J-<A-#:A-\-.L%?-%-*/-$R-$A, Mary is listening to American music.

(5) 2?R.-/3?-1R=-3?-.LA/-{.-aR2-$R-$A, Sonam Drolma is studying English.
(6) ]R-29%-$A?-S-2-:-v-$A-;R.-$A, Lobzang is online. (Lit. looking at the internet)

Colloquial Amdo Tibetan (2005, Revised), Kuo-ming Sung & Lha Byams Rgyal

% HR #R 3R
In Lesson 5, we learned about the absolutive case for the personal pronouns , , , , , etc.
Those were the unmarked forms. Below are a few case conversions:
(7) HR (Absolutive) → HR? (Erg) A-1(Abs) → A-1? (Erg)
% (Abs) → %? (Erg) ]R-29% (Abs) → ]R-29%-$A? (Erg)
#R (Abs) → #R? (Erg) HR-$*A-$ (Abs) → HR-$*A-$? (Erg)
%A-(-2R (Abs) → %A-(-2R? (Erg)
► 9.3.3 Ergative Verbs: Regular, Intransitive O-V, and Object-Ladon Verbs

aR2 to study, ;=-{R<-;J

In this lesson, we will introduce several agent-theme transitive verbs:

to travel, 2>. to speak, OA. to teach, L-2-=? to work, :.R/ to read, :VA to write, ]%? to sing,

v to watch, #-2h-;J. to chat, and */ to listen. These ergative-assigning verbs come in three
types: (A) monosyllabic transitive verb; (B) noun (usually disyllabic) plus a verb, ;J or =?, both

with a generic meaning equivalent to the English to do (or suru in Japanese), and (C) verbs such

as v to watch and */ to listen.

Verbs of Type A behave like regular English transitive verbs, with an agent subject and a

theme object. Case marking in Tibetan is, as expected, ergative for the agent and absolutive for

the theme. Examples:

(1) %?-:S-0<-3%-0R-=J/-$A-;R., I am taking a lot of photographs.

(2) .2%-3R?-2R.-$A-+-l=-OA.-$A-;R., Rhangmo is teaching Tibetan art.

(3) %A-(-2R?-o-{.-2>.-$A-;R., We are speaking Chinese.

(4) #A-$*A-$?-.LA/-;A$-aR2-$A-;R.-$A, Those two are studying English.

At first, verbs of Type B do not seem to be transitive, at least from the English translation.

To travel and to work do not usually take a direct object. Yet, the subject of these verbs does

have the ergative marking. This is because the English translation does not reflect the inner

structure of these Tibetan verbs, which already have a built-in direct object and a generic (aka

light) verb to do. We call them intransitive O-V verbs to reflect its intrinsic (O-V) structure.

With the built-in object, these verbs are treated as regular agent-theme transitive verbs. The
learner must not be fooled by the English translation using intransitive verbs.

Colloquial Amdo Tibetan (2005, Revised), Kuo-ming Sung & Lha Byams Rgyal

(5) 5K-<A%-<-<A/-(J/-$*A-$?- [2R.-/-;=-{R<-;J.]-$R-$A,

Tserang and Renchen (Erg) are traveling in Tibet. (Lit. doing traveling)

(6) aR2-3-:.A-$?3-0R?- [aR2-.R%-;J.]-$R-$A,

These three students (Erg) are studying. (Lit. doing studies)

(7) #A-(-2R?-.-v- [L-2-=?]-$R-$A,

They (Erg) are working right now. (Lit. doing work)

Verbs of Type C (and in this lesson we have two of them, v to watch and */ to listen,) are
peculiar in that they mark their theme object with the oblique case by using Ladon; however, as

expected, they mark their agents with the ergative case. Perhaps this is because the object of the

perception verb is regarded as the goal (usually associated with directional Ladon, Lesson 10)

and not the theme, thus the oblique case marking. Putting speculations aside, the learner needs

to remember v to watch and */ to listen as Object-Ladon verbs. (Recall that earlier we

introduced Subject-Ladon verbs such as ;R. for possession and 9J< to be called.) Examples:

(8) ]R-29%-$A?-\R$-2f/-/-v-$A-;R.-$A, Lobzang is watching a movie. (/ is the Ladon)

(9) <A/-(J/-$A?-\-.L%?-%-*/-$A-;R.-$A, Rinchen is listening to music. (% is the Ladon)

Recall that Ladon takes variant forms according to the pronunciation of the preceding syllable.

In the above examples, it is the / in \R$-2f/-/-v- to watch a movie and the % in \-.L%?-%-*/-
to listen to music. In our next lesson, we will present a complete paradigm of the variants of


Below is a summary of the three types of ergative verbs:

regular transitive verbs: Agent-Ergative + Theme-Absolutive
e.g. to speak, to write, to sing, to study, to read, to herd, to take (pictures)
intransitive O-V verbs: Agent-Ergative (Built-in Object-Absolutive)
e.g. to travel, to work, to study, to chat
Object-Ladon verbs: Agent-Ergative + Goal-Oblique (marked by Ladon)
e.g. to watch (movies, videos, internet), to listen

Colloquial Amdo Tibetan (2005, Revised), Kuo-ming Sung & Lha Byams Rgyal

Remember that true intransitive verbs (e.g. verbs such as to go, to come, to arrive, etc.) and

psych-verbs (verbs of feelings and emotions) are not ergative verbs.

► 9.3.4 Verb Inflection: Preliminary Remarks

Classical Tibetan employs four inflectional forms for verbs: future, present, past, and

imperative. The tenses are not in an absolute temporal sense like English but function in a

relative way. For example, past tense may indicate anteriority with relation to another verb.

Similarly, present tense may indicate simultaneity with regards to another verb. We shall discuss

this property later. In this lesson, it is important to know that Tibetan verbs, although they

themselves are inflected for tenses, need the accompaniment of specific auxiliary verbs to

express different tenses and aspects. Generally speaking, inflected verbs stand by themselves in

written language but not in spoken Tibetan, a fact true to all dialects.

Literary or classical Tibetan verbs are inflected according to the following paradigm,

arranged in the traditional order: (The four components require memorization just like the

English: go-went-gone; do-did-done; sing-sang-sung, etc.)

(1) Classical Four-Form Conjugation

Future Present Past Imperative

29: 9 29? 9R to eat

2+% :,% 2+%? ,%? to drink

There is no single morpheme, like the English -ed, that functions as the default past tense

marker to form "regular" verbs. In other words, Tibetan has virtually no regular verbs like

English. A little less than one third of all verbs inflect for four distinct forms as A-B-C-D, such

as 9 to eat and :,% to drink. The rest have fewer forms to memorize. The good news is that, in

colloquial Amdo Tibetan, the present and future tenses have merged into one form in most

agricultural sub-dialect, effectively reducing the paradigm down to three components, namely,

present/future, past, and imperative. In the most linguistically conservative areas, such as Zeku
lJ-#R$), where the nomadic sub-dialect is preserved in its "purer" (usually synonymous with

Colloquial Amdo Tibetan (2005, Revised), Kuo-ming Sung & Lha Byams Rgyal

"archaic") form, the distinction between the present tense of 9 [sa] to eat and the future tense
29: [za] remains audible.
Speakers who distinguish between present and future tenses tend to be in the declining

minority. Given the fact that such inflectional distinction is considered neither standard nor

prestigious, the authors, considering the linguistic trend as well as the pedagogical advantages

for foreign learners, choose not to emphasize this present-future difference in this textbook.

The more popular (and simpler) agricultural three-way distinction in verbal inflection is adopted

in all lessons. For example:

(2) Modern Agricultural Three-Form Conjugation

Pres/Fut Past Imperative

9 29? 9R to eat

:,% :,%? ,%? to drink

In Appendix II (Verb Conjugations), however, all four forms are given. The student can

simply ignore the future tense column to get the paradigm of the three colloquial forms. Since

there is no distinct infinitival form for a verb, the present/future form can be regarded as its

infinitival, or base, form and will be the form used in the formation of present (simple and

progressive) tense. We will introduce other forms in the following lessons.

► 9.3.5 Present (Progressive) Tense

The present tense is expressed by the present/future form of the verb plus the auxiliary verb

$A-;R.. The objective perspective marker $A introduced in Lesson 6 can be added to $A-;R. to
remove the subjective/in-group interpretation of the sentence. The combination $A-;R. can be

contracted to $R, a form commonly heard especially when $A follows. The pattern:

(1) Present (Progressive) Verb + $A-;R. (= $R) (subjective perspective)

Verb + $A-;R.-$A (= $R-$A) (objective perspective)

(2) HR?-9A-=A%-/-(A-9A$-;J.-$A-;R./$R, What are you doing in Xining?

Colloquial Amdo Tibetan (2005, Revised), Kuo-ming Sung & Lha Byams Rgyal

(3) 1/-5S$?-$A?-.-v-(A-9A$-;J.-$A-;R.-$A/$R-$A, What is Puntsok doing now?

(4) %A-A-1?-aR2-9-(J/-3R-/-=R-o?-OA.-$A-;R./$R, My father teaches history at college.

(5) 1R=-3?-2f/-12-2-v-$A-;R.-$A/$R-$A, Drolma is watching a video/DVD.

The negative and interrogative forms follow the pattern of ;R.; therefore, $A-;R. → $A-3J.

(Negative) and $A-;R. → $A-AJ-;R. (Interrogative). Examples:

(6) %$-.2%-$A?-aR2-.R%-;J-$A-3J.-$A, Ngawang is not studying.

(7) HR:-YA%-3R?-.-v-=$-:5S-$A-AJ-;R., Is your sister herding sheep right now?

(8) %?-.J-<A%-aR2-.R%-;J.-$A-3J., I am not studying today.

This present tense can either indicate plain (habitual) present tense or an action in progress at

the moment of speech. Therefore, %A-A-1?-2R.-$A-\-.L%?-OA.-$A-;R., My father teaches Music

and 5K-<A%-$A?-.-v-\-.L%?-%-*/-$A-;R.-$A, Tserang is listening to music right now both use the

same V + $A-;R.-($A) pattern.

► 9.3.6 Duality Marker $*A-$ Revisited

In Lesson 8, we introduced the duality marker $*A-$. In this lesson, we introduced its

ergative form $*A-$?. Examples:

(1) %A-$*A-$?-2R.-{.-2>.-$A-;R., We two are speaking Tibetan.

(2) #A-$*A-$?-lA?-<A$-aR2-$A-;R.-$A, They two are studying mathematics.

(3) HR-$*A-$?-<J2-!R%-/-(A-9A$-;J.-$A-;R., What are you two doing in Rebgong?

Recall that the morpheme $*A-$ the two, does not have to be attached to personal pronouns.

It goes with regular nouns such as 1-3-$*A-$ both parents. Examples:

(4) %A-1-3-$*A-$?-aR2-9-(J/-3R-/-aR2-OA.-;J.-$A-;R.,

Both my parents teach at the university. (aR2-OA.-;J. do teaching)

(5) 1R=-3-35S-<-<A/-(J/-*A-$?-N%-$R-/-;=-{R<-;J.-$A-;R.,

Drolma Tso and Rinchen two are traveling in China.

(6) L-;A?-$*A-$?-2R.-;A$-!-#-:VA-$A-;R.-$A,
The two kids are writing the Tibetan alphabet.

Colloquial Amdo Tibetan (2005, Revised), Kuo-ming Sung & Lha Byams Rgyal

► 9.3.7 Pronouns: Colloquial Forms (Summary)

case Absolutive Ergative Genitive Oblique

(no marking) ? $?
(- or ) ( - A or )
: $A (=-.R/)

I, me, my, mine %-, %?, %A-, %-:-,

we, us, our, ours
%A-(:R, %A-(R?, %A-(R:, %A-(:R-:-,
we, us, our, ours
:-(:R, :-(R?, :-(R:, :-(:R-:-,
we two, etc.
(neutral, dual)
%A-$*A-$ %A-$*A-$?, %A-$*A-$A, %A-$*A-$-:-,
we two, etc.
(inclusive, dual)
:-$*A-$ :-$*A-$?, :-$*A-$A, :-$*A-$-:-,
you, your (singular) HR, HR?, HR:, HR-:-,
you, your (plural) HR-(:R, HR-(R?, HR-(R:, HR-(:R-:-,
you (dual) HR-$*A-$ HR-$*A-$?, HR-$*A-$A, HR-$*A-$-:-,
he, his, him #A-.$J #A-.$J?, #A-.$A, #A-.$J-:-,
3A-.$J 3A-.$J?, 3A-.$A, 3A-.$J-:-,
she, her
3R, 3R?, 3R:, 3R-:-,
they, them, their #A-(:R, #A-(R?, #A-(R:, #A-(:R-:-,
they, them their
#A-$*A-$ #A-$*A-$?, #A-$*A-$A, #A-$*A-$-:-,

► 9.3.8 Adjectives: 3%-0R and (J/-3R

3%-0R can be analyzed as a word that consists of the adjectival root (3%-), which carries the
meaning of the word (many or much), and a suffix -0R, which surfaces when the adjective is used

to modify a noun. (J/-3R big is of the same morphological structure. Adjectives typically follow

the noun they modify, for example, :S-0<-3%-0R many photos, =$-3%-0R many sheep, MA-3%-0R

Colloquial Amdo Tibetan (2005, Revised), Kuo-ming Sung & Lha Byams Rgyal

many people. The word aR2-9-(J/-3R university in Tibetan is a Noun-Adjective compound that
literally means school-big. A college student is called a aR2-9-(J/-3R-2.

Adjectives can also function as predicates similarly to stative verbs such as to be many, to be

big. We will learn how adjectives function as predicates in the next lesson.

► 9.3.9 Localizer ,R$

In Dialogue 2, Rhangmo asks Tserang :S-0<-,R$-$A-MA-:.A-$*A-$-HR:-1-3-$*A-$-AJ-<J., Are
these two in the photo your parents, using a word ,R$ after :S-0< photo. There is something

conceptually important about this ,R$. The English word photo can refer to the concrete object

made of paper (e.g. This photo is torn) or the image shown on that piece of paper (This photo is

beautiful). In Tibetan, the word:S-0< is the concrete object, not the image. To refer to the
image or content shown on the :S-0<, one needs to say :S-0<-,R$ what’s in the photo.

Literally the top or the upper part of an object, the noun ,R$ is a “localizer”, which is

attached to a regular noun to change it into a place noun, before it can be taken by a preposition.

This mechanism was introduced earlier in L7 when we learned the usage of /% inside. In this

lesson, we introduce the combination of noun (Gen.) +,R$. :S-0<-,R$ is still a noun phrase so it
can take the genitive case $A to from a larger noun phrase :S-0<-,R$-$A-MA-:.A-$*A-$ these two

people in the photo (Lit. these two people of the photo image).

Note that when there should be a genitive case marker between the noun and ,R$, it is often
omitted in casual speech, especially when the noun ends with a suffix. Nouns ending with a

vowel tend to retain the genitive . Examples:

(2) 5$?-0<-,R$ in the newspaper (the content, the news and ads, not the 40-page object)
(3) .0J-(:A-,R$ in the book (Note that .0J-( uses its Genitive form here)

(4) .0J-(:A-,R$-$A-:S-0<-:.A-?-<J., Who is (the person in) the picture in the book?

Another localizer /% inside is used in similar contexts as ,R$. The selection between /% and

,R$ could seem arbitrary to non-native speakers. For our purposes, use ,R$ for books, pictures,
magazines, newspapers, etc. Use /% for TV’s or computers (anything with a screen). For

Colloquial Amdo Tibetan (2005, Revised), Kuo-ming Sung & Lha Byams Rgyal

example, :S-0<-,R$ in the picture, \R$-[.-/% in the computer, 2f/-:UA/-/% on TV, .?-.J2-,R$
in the magazine.

► 9.3.10 /R-$A Because

The conjunction because is expressed by /R-$A, which links clause 1 (the reason or cause) and
clause 2 (the result or effect). The pattern:

(1) [ clause 1 + /R-$A ] + clause 2

Note that /R-$A belongs to clause 1, syntactically. It makes clause 1, the clause which it takes as a
complement, a subordinate clause. It is important to know that because the contrast of subjective-

objective perspectives is only expressed in the matrix (or main) clause. Thus, there is no ;A//<J.
contrast in this subordinate /R-$A clause. One should always use the default ;A/ and not <J. in the

subordinate clause, regardless of the person of the subordinate subject. The following chart

shows that the perspective-neutral ;A/ (the base form) is the verb used in subordinate or

embedded clauses. The ;A/ we encountered in previous lessons in the main clause expresses
subjectivity without overt markings. (In other words, one can imagine the subjective ;A/ in a

main clause as the combination of the base (neutral) ;A/ with an invisible subjective marker.)
form base form perspective marking

;A/ (subjective)
verb ;A/ to be ;A/ (neutral perspective)
<J. (objective)
clause type subordinate / embedded main / matrix

This phenomenon further supports the idea that the ;A//<J. contrast is not related to person
bur rather to perspectives. The same analysis also explains why the objective marker $A does not

appear in a subordinate clause. Examples:

(2) #A-(:R-:VR$-0-;A/-/R-$A-9R$-:5S-$A-;R.,
Because they are herdsmen, they herd livestock.

(3) #A-.$J-2R.-<A$?-;A/-/R-$A-2R.-MA%-;R.-$A,
Because he is Tibetan, he has a Tibetan name.

Colloquial Amdo Tibetan (2005, Revised), Kuo-ming Sung & Lha Byams Rgyal

(4) 5K-<A%-35R?-2R.-/-;=-2{R<-;J.-$A-;R.-/R-$A-.-v-;=-/-3J.-$A,
Because she is traveling in Tibet, Tserang Tso is not home now.

In the above examples, it is ungrammatical to say * <J.-/R-$A- and *;J-$A-;R.-$A-/R-$A.

❖ 9.4 Cultural Notes

✽ 9.4.1 {-:23 Kumbum and <R%-2R Rongwo Monasteries

The capital of the Qinghai province, Xining is the political and economic center of the Amdo

region. In Huangzhong, just 25 kilometers south of Xining, is Kumbum Monastery (Ch. Ta'er

3<-5S/-3(R.-0,) and relief embroidery work (:5K3-S2,).

Si), famous for its yak butter sculptures (

Further southeast, the town of Rebgong (<J2-$R%) boasts the prestigious Rongwo Monastery (Ch.

Longwu Si) and the school of thangka painting. Built in the 14th Century during the Ming

Dynasty, Rongwo Monastery had more than 2000 monks in its heyday. The picture below

(bottom left) shows the sunken footprints left by centuries of devoted pilgrims' prostration in one

of the halls in Rongwo. Rebgong painting is known for its delicate lines and audacious use of

red, gaining the reputation of "Rebgong thangka burns like fire."

Eight Stupas ( 3(R.-gJ/-2o.-0,) Rongwo Monastery

Colloquial Amdo Tibetan (2005, Revised), Kuo-ming Sung & Lha Byams Rgyal

Sunken Footprints at Rongwo Monastery Painting Thangka

✽ 9.4.2 Taking Pictures in Tibetan Area

Tibetans usually don’t mind being photographed. Generally speaking, no one would show an

objection to taking pictures of festivals, weddings, or any form of celebration. As courtesy, one

should ask 0<-o2-/-AJ-(R$-$A Is it OK to take pictures? beforehand. There are, however, more

somber occasions when one should refrain from acting like a trigger-happy, camera-toting

tourist. During the observation of a sky burial, the traditional Tibetan burial ceremony, for

example, one should pay due respect to the deceased and the family by not showing too much

enthusiasm in trying to get the best angle and best composition of the day.
Most monasteries in Tibet charge a nominal fee for taking indoor pictures. The permit to

shoot is usually equivalent to two to three US dollars. With it, one can take as many photographs

as one wishes. Kumbum Monastery is a rare exception; photography is strictly prohibited in

many of its halls.

Colloquial Amdo Tibetan (2005, Revised), Kuo-ming Sung & Lha Byams Rgyal

Sky Burial Site, Langmusi, Gannan

✽ 9.4.3 Amdo Folk Songs

Amdo folk songs are popular among all ages of Amdo Tibetans, farmers and nomads alike.

There are few people who can't sing, as singing is an essential component in all sorts of social

gatherings. Hosts sing to the guests to express their hospitality and guests to the hosts to express

their gratitude.

Among the various types of songs, one should pay particular attention to =-$8?, literally
meaning "mountain song". =-$8? is a type of love song that serves as the means for young men
and women to get to know each other. Though melodious, romantic, and usually with the lyrics

that wouldn't even surprise a ten-year-old American child, =-$8? must not be sung in the
presence of an elder generation; it is an absolute taboo. In fact, men do not sing it in front of

their sisters or female relatives and vice versa. There are cassettes and VCD's of =-$8? for sale

Colloquial Amdo Tibetan (2005, Revised), Kuo-ming Sung & Lha Byams Rgyal

on the streets in most towns in Amdo; however, the shop owner will refuse to play it as a trial to

avoid offending other customers.

❖ 9.5 Key Sentence Patterns

■ 9.5.1 Present and Present Progressive: Questions

(1) 3A-.$J?-L-2-(A-9A$-=?-$R-$A,
What is she doing?
(2) #A-(R?-L-2-(A-9A$-=?-$R-$A,
What are they doing?
(3) HR?-(A-9A$-:.R/-$A-;R.,
:.R/ to read is a regular transitive verb)
What are you reading? (
(4) 5K-<A%-$A?-?-<-3*3-$A-;=-2{R<-;J.-$A-;R.,
Who is Tserang traveling with?
(5) HR?-$%-/-2R.-$A-+-l=-OA.-$A-;R.,
Where do you teach Tibetan art?
■ 9.5.2 Present and Present Progressive: Declaratives

(1) %?-9A-=A%-/-2R.-{.-aR2-$A-;R.,
I am studying Tibetan language in Xining.
(2) %A-A-1?-aR2-9-(J/-3R-/-=R-o?-OA.-$A-;R.,
My father is teaching history at a college.
(3) %A-A-3?-;:-/-=$-:5S-$A-;R.,
My mother is herding sheep at home.
(4) 3A-.$J?-2R.-\-=J/-$A-;R.,
She is singing a Tibetan song.
(5) %?-.R/-P2-2-2R.-{.-2>.-$A-;R.,
I am speaking Tibetan to Dondrup.
(6) %?-2{<-;A$-:VA-$A-3J., HA3-.R%-=?-L-:VA-$A-;R.,
I am not writing a letter. I am doing my homework.

■ 9.5.3 Object-Ladon Verbs

(1) #A-$*A-$?-2f/-:UA/-/-v-$A-3J.-$A,

Colloquial Amdo Tibetan (2005, Revised), Kuo-ming Sung & Lha Byams Rgyal

They two are not watching television. ( Ladon)
(2) %?-:)<-0/-$A-\R$-2f/-/-v-$A-;R.,
I am watching a Japanese movie.
(3) HR?-(A-9A$-$-*/-$A-;R.,
(A-9A$-$ marked with Ladon)
What are you listening to? (
(4) HR?-2R.-$A-\-.L%?-%-*/-$A-;R.-=,
Are you listening to Tibetan music? (% Ladon, = Jeddul)
(5) %?-.LA/-{.-=-*/-$A-;R.,
I am listening to English (the language). (= Ladon)

■ 9.5.4 Two People: $*A-$ (Review)

(1) HR:-1-3-$*A-$?-L-2-(A-9A$-=?-$A-;R.,
What do both of your parents do?
(2) HR-$*A-$?-L-2-(A-9A$-=?-$A-;R.,
What are you two doing?
(3) %A-$*A-$?-:S-0<-=J/-$A-;R.,
We two are taking photographs.

(4) aR2-3-$*A-$?-.LA/-;A$-$A-.?-.J2-2-v-$A-;R.-/A-AJ-<J.,
Are the two students reading an English magazine? ( Ladon)
(5) <A/-(J/-<-z-3R-$*A-$?-<J2-!R%-/-2R.-$A-+-l=-<-\-.L%?-aR2-$R-$A,
Renchen and Lhamo are both studying Tibetan art and music at Rebgong.

■ ,R$ and /%
9.5.5 Localizers
(1) 2f/-:UA/-/%-$A-MA-.A-?-<J.,
Who is the person on TV?
(2) :S-0<-,R$-$A-aR2-.J2-.A-(A-9A$-$A-aR2-.J2-<J.,
What kind of textbook is that in the picture?
(3) \R$-[.-/%-$A-:S-0<-:.A-%A-A-<A:A-/%-MA-;A/,
The photo on the computer is my family in the US.
(4) :S-0<-,R$-$A-HA-:.A-?:A-<J.,
Whose is the dog in the picture?
(5) .?-.J2-,R$-$A-{.-(-.LA/-)A-$A-{.-AJ-<J.,
Is the language in the magazine English?

Colloquial Amdo Tibetan (2005, Revised), Kuo-ming Sung & Lha Byams Rgyal

■ /R-$A Because
(1) %A-(:R-:VR$-0-;A/-/R-$A-;:-/-9R$-:5S-$A-;R.,
We are herdsmen, so we herd livestock at home.
(2) %A-(R?-2R.-{.-aR2-$A-;R.-/R-$A-%A-(:R-2R.-MA%-;R.,
We are studying Tibetan, so we have Tibetan names.
(3) %?-.LA/-;A$-aR2-$A-;R.-/R-$A-.LA/-;A$-$A-.0J-(-;R.,
I am studying English, so I have an English textbook.

❖ 9.6 Exercises

9.6.1 Listening Comprehension

Dialogue 1: answer the following questions in English
(1) What is Sonam doing?
(2) What is Lobzang doing?
(3) How many classes does Lobsang have today?
(4) What are Sonam and Lobsang doing together?
Dialogue 2: choose the right answer
(1) Sonam’s younger sister is a
(a) student (b) teacher (c) herdsman
(2) Sonam’s younger sister is ___ years old
(a) thirteen (b) fourteen (c) fifteen
(3) Sonam’s family has ____ sheep.
(a) seventy (b) eighty (c) ninety
(4) Sonam’s family also has _____________ yaks and cows.
(a) twenty (b) thirty (c) eighty
9.6.2 Fill in the Blanks: mark the nouns with the correct case
(1) %_____2R.-;A$-_____.?-.J2-_____v-$A-;R.,
(2) #A-.$J_____\-.L%?-=J/-$A-;R.-$A,
(3) %A-MA%-_____1/-5S$?-9J<-<,
(4) %A-A-1-_____\R$-[.-3J.,
(5) %A-5%-_____$;$-$?3-;R.,
(6) %A-$*A-$_____3$R-=R$-_____;=-{R<-;J.-$A-;R.,

Colloquial Amdo Tibetan (2005, Revised), Kuo-ming Sung & Lha Byams Rgyal

(7) %_____%/-_____MA%-%-{=-29%-.R/-P2-9J<-<,
(8) 2?R.-/3?-_____z-?-_____lA?-<A$-OA.-$A-;R.,
(9) HR_____aR2PR$?-_____5B$-36S.-$%-/-;R.,
(10) %-_____%A-(:R-_____.$J-c/-_____.0J-(-:-v-$A-;R.,
9.6.3 Complete the Dialogues
(1) ! ___________________________?
#, %?-2{<-;A$-9A$-:VA-$A-;R.,
! ___________________________?
#, %A-A-3-OA-!-/-;R.,
(2) ! ___________________________?
#, %A-1-2R-=R-?3-&-,3-0-;A/,
! #A-.$J?-(A-9A$-;J.-$A-;R.,
#, ___________________________. (to teach; art)
(3) ! ,:R-3:, ___________________________?
#, 3A-.$J-%A-PR$?-0R-;A/,
! ___________________________?
#, 3A-.$J?-.LA/-{.-$A-\-.L%?-=J/-$A-;R.-$A,
(4) ! ?R-nJ, HR?-{.-<A$?-(A-9A$-2>.-$A-;R.,
#, __________________________________. (French)

! HR-n-</-?A-$A-AJ-;A/,
#, __________________________________. (No. Canada)
9.6.4 Pattern Practice: answer the following questions with the given patterns
(1) HR:-YA%-3R?-.-{2?-(A-9A$-=?-$A-;R.,
(2) HR-$*A-$?-:.A-/-(A-9A$-;J.-$R,
(3) HR:-A-3?-(A-9A$-;J.-$R,

Colloquial Amdo Tibetan (2005, Revised), Kuo-ming Sung & Lha Byams Rgyal

(4) HR:-8A-=A?-(A-9A$-=?-$A-;R.-$A,
9.6.5 Translation
(1) Sophie is traveling in Yulshul. She is taking pictures there.
(2) Are you reading an English newspaper? Is it your teacher’s newspaper?
(3) Both my elder brother and elder sister are studying Tibetan history at Tibet
(4) My parents are not farmers. They are herdsmen. They herd sheep, goats and
yaks at home.
(5) A- What language are John and Akimi (two) speaking.
B- They are speaking Amdo Tibetan. They are studying Tibetan at a university
in Xining now.

Colloquial Amdo Tibetan (2005, Revised), Kuo-ming Sung & Lha Byams Rgyal

Lesson 10 Where Will You Go?


☛ Key Grammar Points in Lesson Ten:

1. Future Tense and the Auxiliary o-;A/ and o-<J.
2. Directional Ladon Indicating Goal and Destination
3. Sentential Particle : Making Suggestions
4. Clock Time and Temporal Prepositions / / /?
5. Adjectives as Predicates: Adj. + $A

❖ 10.1 Dialogue

3:J-<J:J, 3#:-:PR #A-(:R-$%-%-:IR-o-<J.,

3#:-:PR #A-(:R-.0J-36S.-#%-%-:IR-o-<J.,
3:J-<J:J, HR-<-.0J-36S.-#%-%-:IR-o-;A/-/,
3#:-:PR %-.0J-36S.-#%-%-3A-:IR, %-9-#%-/%-%-:IR-o-;A/,
3:J-<J:J, .-.?-5S.-.-<J.,
3#:-:PR .?-5S.-2&-$*A?-+$-+$-<J., %-vR$?-$A,
3:J-<J:J, %-<-vR$?-$A, :-$*A-$?-3*3-$A-9-<J,
3#:-:PR (R$-$A, :-$*A-$?-(A-9A$-9-o?,
3:J-<J:J, A-<A:A-9-3-(A-3R-<J.,
3#:-:PR 8A3-o:R-8A3-$A-<-8J-!A-.!:-$A, :-$*A-$?-3A-9-/A-;J-<J,
3:J-<J:J, 2R.-9?-(A-3R-<J.,
3#:-:PR 8J-$A-8A3-$A,

Colloquial Amdo Tibetan (2005, Revised), Kuo-ming Sung & Lha Byams Rgyal

3:J-<J:J, aR2-9:A-,$-*J-/-2R.-$A-9-#%-9A$-;R.-$A, MA%-%-2N->A?->-5S.-9-#%-9J<-$A, :-$*A-$-

3#:-:PR ,$-AJ-<A%-$A, :-(:R-.?-5S.-$&A$-<->-4:A-,R$-/-aR2-OA.-;R.-/A-<J.,
3:J-<J:J, (A-9A$-$A-aR2-OA.-<J.,
3#:-:PR 3:J-<J:J, .$J-c/-hR-eJ-$A-.?-5S.-$&A$-<->-4:A-,R$-$A-=R-o?-aR2-OA.-<J.,
3:J-<J:J, .$J-c/-hR-eJ-.?-5S.-$&A$-<->-4:A-,R$-/?-,R/-,2-o-3-<J., #A-.$J-.-v-aR2-9-/-3J.-
3#:-:PR #A-.$J-/3-;R%-o-<J.,
3:J-<J:J, #A-.$J-.J-<A%-$A-.?-5S.-$*A?-$A-,R$-/?-;R%-o-<J.,
3#:-:PR .A-;A/-/-(R$-$A, :-$*A-$-9-#%-/%-%-:IR, :IR,
3:J-<J:J, :IR,

Tibetan Restaurant, Beijing
Mary: Kandro, where are they going? (Where will they go?)

Colloquial Amdo Tibetan (2005, Revised), Kuo-ming Sung & Lha Byams Rgyal

Kandro: They will go to the library.

Mary: Will you go to the library also?
Kandro: No, I am not going to the library. I will go to a restaurant.
Mary: What time is it now?
Kandro: It’s exactly 12 o’clock. I am hungry.
Mary: I am hungry, too. Let’s eat together.
Kandro: Okay. What will the two of us eat?
Mary: How about American food?
Kandro: It's delicious but very expensive. Let's not eat (there).
Mary: How about Tibetan food?
Kandro: (It's) very tasty.
Mary: There is a Tibetan restaurant near school. It’s called Trashi Dumpling
Restaurant. Let’s go there.
Kandro: Is it far? We have a class at 1:30.
Mary: What class?
Kandro: Mary! Teacher Dorje's 1:30 history class!
Mary: Teacher Dorje will not be able to arrive at 1:30. He is not at school now.
Kandro: When will he come?
Mary: Today he comes at 2.
Kandro: In that case, okay. We will go to the restaurant. Go!
Mary: Go!

❖ 10.2 Vocabulary

10.2.1 Vocabulary from the Dialogue

1. 3#:-:PR person Kandro
2. :IR, [:PR] v. to go
3. o-;A/, o-<J., aux. (see 10.3.1)
4. .0J-36S.-#%-, n. library
5. 3A, adv. (neg.) not (future, imperative)
6. 9-#%-, n. restaurant
7. .?-5S., n. time, hour, o’clock
8. +$-+$ adv. exactly

Colloquial Amdo Tibetan (2005, Revised), Kuo-ming Sung & Lha Byams Rgyal

9. vR$?-$A, [vR$?-0] adj. (pred.) hungry

10. 3*3-$A, [3*3-.] adv. together
11. 9, v. to eat
12. <J, [:3] sent. part. (see 10.3.3)
13. (R$-$A, adj. (pred.) okay
14. o?, [o-;A/] aux. contraction of o-;A/,
15. 9-3, n. food
16. (A-3R, [&A-:S] adv. interr. how, how about
17. 8A3-$A, [8A3-0R-<J.] adj. (pred.) tasty, delicious
18. o:R, […/A…] structural part. (see 10.3.7)
19. 8J-$A, [>A/-+] adv. very
20. .!:-$A, adj. (pred.) expensive, difficult
21. , [0<3R-]<J.]
/A[.!:- affix nominalizer (see 10.3.3)
22. 2R.-9?, n. Tibetan food
23. ,$-*J, n. vicinity
24. 2N->A?, person Trashi
25. >-5S., n. dumpling
26. <A%-, adj. long
27. ,$-<A%-, adj. (N-A) far (lit. distance long)
28. >-4, [KJ.-!] n. half (hour)
29. aR2-OA., n. class (meeting)
30. ,R/, v. to arrive
31. ,2, aux. to be able to
32. /3, adv. interr. when
33. ;R%-, v. to come
34. .A-;A/-/, [.J-;A/-/] adv. in that case, (if so) then

10.2.2 Additional Vocabulary

Colloquial Amdo Tibetan (2005, Revised), Kuo-ming Sung & Lha Byams Rgyal

35. :,%-, v. to drink

36. #-=R, n. cola (Eng.)
37. (, n. water
38. o-Y%-, n. street (Ch.), town center
39. 5S%-<, n. market
40. {<-3, n. minute
41. $/%?-! [?%-*A/] n. / adv. tomorrow
42. *=-#%-, n. dormitory
43. {R3-(, n. beverage, drink
44. 7-(%-, n. beer
45. ), n. tea
46. )-#%-, n. teahouse
47. =?-#%?, n. work place, company
48. ,$-*J, adj. (N-A) near, close (lit. distance short)
49. {R3-$A, [{R3-0] adj. (pred.) thirsty
50. (%-$A, [(%-2] adj. (pred.) small
51. (J-$A, [(J-2] adj. (pred.) big
52. ?%-=R, n. / adv. next year
53. $/%?-*A/, n. / adv. the day after tomorrow
54. 35S-}R/-0R, place Lake Koko Nor, Qinghai Lake

❖ 10.3 Grammar Notes

► 10.3.1 Future Tense and the Auxiliary o + ;A//<J.

The future tense is expressed by the present/future form of the verb plus o + ;A//<J.. The

choice between ;A/ and <J. follows our previous discussion on subjective vs. objective

perspectives. The combination o-;A/ can be contracted to o?, while the objective o-<J. does not

Colloquial Amdo Tibetan (2005, Revised), Kuo-ming Sung & Lha Byams Rgyal

usually contract. Note that Tibetan makes no distinction between regular future (will + verb) and

imminent future (to be going to + verb). Examples:

(1) :-(R?-(A-9A$-9-o-;A//o?, What will we eat? (What are we going to eat?)

(2) :-(:R-.-$%-%-:IR-o-;A//o?, Where are we going (to go) now?

(3) %?-2R.-$A-+-l=-aR2-o-;A//o?, I will study Tibetan art.

(4) HR?-(A-9A$-:,%-o-;A//o?, What will you drink?

The learner may be tempted to try and expand the sentence of future tense with locative

phrases such as in Lhasa, in Xining, at the restaurant, etc., thinking that such expressions have
been covered in Lesson 9. Strange as it may sound, employment of prepositions in Amdo

Tibetan is sensitive to tense. In this case, one needs to change the preposition / to a different
preposition /?. We ask the learner to be patient until Lesson 12. (12.3.7), when this difference

is explained.

The negative and interrogative forms follow the regular pattern of ;A//<J.: verb + o-3A//o-3-
<J. (negative) and verb + o-AJ-;A//<J. (interrogative). Examples:
(5) HR?-:S-0<-3%-0R-9A$-=J/-o-AJ-;A/, Are you going to take a lot of pictures?

(6) %-.0J-36S.-#%-%-:IR-o-3A/, I will not go to the library.

(7) HR?-A-<A:A-9-3-9-o-AJ-;A/, Are you going to eat American food?

(8) .0=-3#<-.J-<A%-;R%-o-3-<J., Hwalkar will not come today.

In some cases, when the context is clear, the future auxiliary can be omitted. In the lesson,
Kandro says, %-.0J-36S.-#%-%-3A-:IR %-9-#%-/%-%-:IR-o-;A/, I will not go to the library. I will
go to a restaurant. The phrase 3A-:IR here means :IR-o-3A/, will not go. Note that the prefix : in

:IR in (12) is now pronounced: 3A-:IR [mənjo] More examples:

(9) #A-(:R-$%-%-:IR-(o-<J.), Where will they go?

(10) <A/-(J/-$A?-(A-9A$-aR2-(o-<J.), What will Rinchen study?

(11) #R?-(A-9A$-=J/-(o-<J.), What will he sing?

(12) %-2N->A?-5%-%-3A-:IR, I am not going to Trashi's house.

Colloquial Amdo Tibetan (2005, Revised), Kuo-ming Sung & Lha Byams Rgyal

(13) %?-#-=-R3A-:,%-, (-:,%-o?, I will not drink cola. I will drink water.

► 10.3.2 Directional =-.R/

Amdo Tibetan makes a clear distinction between two types of preposition phrases of

place/location. If the preposition phrase carries the thematic role of locative, indicating the

locale where an event takes place, the preposition / is used. (Another preposition /? also
exists, which makes the ///? contrast an interesting peculiarity in Amdo grammar. We will

discuss this issue in Lesson 15.) If the preposition phrase is thematically the goal or destination

of an action, then the oblique case marker Ladon is used. We call this usage of Ladon

Directional. Compare the following sentences:

(1) %?-9A-=A%-/-o-;A$-OA.-$A-;R., I teach Chinese in Xining. (Locative: /)

(2) #A-.$J-35S-}R/-0R-:-:IR-o-<J., He will go to Lake Koko Nor. (Directional Ladon: :)

(3) HR:-o-<A$?-PR$?-0R-$%-/-;R., Where is your Chinese friend? (Locative: /)

(4) HR-.-v-$%-%-:IR-o-;A/, Where are you going now? (Directional Ladon: %)

(5) %-;=->=-=-:IR-o-;A/, I will go to Yulshul now. (Directional Ladon: =)

By now, one should be somewhat familiar with Ladon, which has appeared in different

sentence structures. As we mentioned earlier, the variants are decided by the sound preceding

the Ladon. This explains the = in ;=->=-= to Yulshul and the % in 9A-=A%-% to Xining. Here are

a few more examples:

(6) 2R.-uR%?-%-, to Tibet z-?-:, to Lhasa 35S-}R/-/, to Qinghai

3$R-=R$-$ to Golok A-3J-<A-#-:, to the US 35S-}R/-0R-:, to Lake Kono Nor
Go to the library is .0J-36S.-#%-%-:IR, but go to the restaurant is 9-#%-/%-%-:IR. The word

/% is inserted between the noun 9-#% and the directional Ladon %, this is because, instead of
saying "to the restaurant", Amdo Tibetan literally says to the inside of the restaurant. This is a

peculiarity that one needs to remember. Lesson 15 covers many location words like /% inside.
► 10.3.3 Sentential Particle : Making Suggestions

Colloquial Amdo Tibetan (2005, Revised), Kuo-ming Sung & Lha Byams Rgyal

The sentential particle <J can be attached to a present/future verb, indicating a suggestion.

(1) :-$*A-$-:IR-<J, Let's two go.

(2) 2R.-9?-9-<J, Let's eat Tibetan food.

(3) \-.L%?-%-*/-<J, Let's listen to songs. (N. B. */ is an Object-Ladon verb)

Making a negative suggestion is much more complicated. It is not done by simply adding a

negative 3A before the verb. The pattern is

(4) Making a Suggestion:
(i) Affirmative: Verb +<J
(ii) Negative 3A + Verb + /A+ ;J + <J

3A negates the verb and /A turns it into a nominal, the equivalent of a gerund (-ing). ;J is the
generic verb that means to do. So, literally, what the negative suggestion means is: let's do + not

verb-ing. Examples:

(4) :.A-3A-9-/A-;J-<J, Let's not eat this.

(5) 2f/-:UA/-/-3A-v-/A-;J-<J, Let's not watch TV.

(6) o-Y%-%-3A-:IR-/A-;J-<J, Let's not go downtown. (lit. to the street)

Omission of the particle <J changes the tone of (a negotiable) suggestion to a rather harsh

command. Beware.

► 10.3.4 .?-5S. and Clock Time

The word .?-5S. is ambiguous. It means hour (period of time) or o'clock (clock time). In

this lesson, we learn how to tell clock time.

(1) .-.?-5S.-.-<J., What time is it now?

(2) .?-5S.-$&A$-<J., .?-5S.-$*A?-<J., It's one o'clock, two o'clock, etc.

+$-+$, which comes after the clock time, means exactly. >-4 means half an hour, which is
linked to the x o'clock by the conjunction < and. More examples:
(3) .?-5S.-2&-$&A$-+$-+$-<J., It's eleven o'clock sharp.

Colloquial Amdo Tibetan (2005, Revised), Kuo-ming Sung & Lha Byams Rgyal

(4) .?-5S.-28A-<->-4-<J., It's four thirty.

► 10.3.5 Clock Time + ,R$-/ and ,R$-/?

In Lesson 9, we introduced the locative (related to locale) interpretation of ,R$ in :S-0<-,R$

in the photo. In this lesson, we will learn the temporal (related to time) interpretation of ,R$. In

English, for We have a class at nine o'clock, one only has to add the preposition at before the

clock time to form the temporal preposition phrase. The Tibetan temporal preposition / cannot
take clock time directly, giving the ungrammatical *clock time + /. One extra step must be

,R$. The pattern is:

taken, which involves

(1) Clock Time + $A ( Genitive Case ) + ,R$ + /


(2) %A-(:R-:-.?-5S.-.$-$A-,R$-/-aR2-OA.-;R., We have a class at nine o’clock.

(3) 1R=-3-35S-$A-.LA/-;A$-$A-aR2-OA.-.?-5S.-$?3-<-{<-3-s-2&-$A-,R$-<J.,

Drolma Tso's English class is at 3:50.

Amdo Tibetan has a peculiar semantic restriction on the type of preposition phrase led by . /
That is, when a temporal phrase is led by , such as .?-5S.-$*A?-$A-,R$-/- at 2 o'clock, the verb
must be non-action (such as to have) rather than action (such as to go, to study, to sing, etc.)

When the verb denotes action, the temporal phrase is marked by a different preposition /?. In

other words, while English does not distinguish between the temporal phrases in The class is at 2

and The teacher comes at 2, Tibetan does. The temporal phrase in the first sentence does not

involve any action, whereas the second involves the teacher's coming. Examples:

(5) %-:-.J-<A%-.?-5S.-2o.-$A-,R$-/-+-l=-aR2-OA.-;R.,
I have an art class at eight today. (use /)

(6) ;A/-/-<, %-.?-5S.-s-$A-,R$-/?-5S%-<-:-:IR-o?,

But, I will go to the market at five. (use /?)

(7) %-.?-5S.-2&-$*A?-<->-4:A-,R$-/?-;R%-o-;A/, I will come at 12:30. (use /?)

We will discuss more detail about the ///? contrast in Lesson 12 and Lesson 15.

Colloquial Amdo Tibetan (2005, Revised), Kuo-ming Sung & Lha Byams Rgyal

► 10.3.6 Adjectives as Predicates

We have seen the citation (or attributive) form of adjectives such as 3%-0R and (J/-3R in
Lesson 9. In this lesson, we will encounter adjectives used as the predicate of the sentence. The

difference is shown by the following examples:

(1) #A-(:R-:- [>-5S.-8A3-0R-] ;R.-$A,

They have tasty dumplings. (8A3-0R tasty modifying dumpling is an attributive.)

(2) #A-(:R-$A->-5S.- [8A3-$A,]

Their dumplings are tasty. (8A3-$A tasty is used as a predicate, i.e. verbal as to be tasty.)

In Amdo Tibetan, adjectives can function directly as predicates (like stative verbs) and do not

need to be accompanied by the linking verb ;A/ or <J. to be. When used as predicate, the

attributive suffix - (or its equivalent) is omitted and the sentential particle $A is attached. For


(3) %?-:S-0<-3%-0R-=J/-o-;A/, I will take a lot of photos. (3%-0R, attributive)

(4) :S-0<-3%-$A, There are many photos (Lit. photos are many). (3%-$A, predicative)

The $A is exactly the same $A we encountered in Lesson 6: the objective perspective marker in

9J<-$A, ;R.-$A, ;J-$R-$A, etc. Note that when it comes to predicative adjectives, $A in (2) and (4) is
usually (but not always) employed even though the subject is clearly first person or an

extension/in-group member. For instance, %-vR$?-$A I am hungry and >-5S.-:.A-8J-$A-8A3-$A, The

dumpling is very tasty both use $A at the end. Simply put, "subject + predicate adjective" is

normally expressed as an objective assessment, therefore always taking the objective marker $A.
We shall return to this issue in Lesson 11 for instances of expressing the subjective perspective

of a predicative adjective.

► 10.3.7 Adj. + o:R + Adj. + $A Granted It's + Adj., However…

Using this pattern, the speaker concedes that the subject indeed has the quality described by

the adjective, however he or she wants to raise concerns or objections on other grounds. This
complex sentence has the following structure:

Colloquial Amdo Tibetan (2005, Revised), Kuo-ming Sung & Lha Byams Rgyal

(1) Adj. o:R Adj. $A-< + main clause (the concern/objection)


(2) A-3J-<A-#-$A-9-3-8A3-o:R-8A3-$A-<-8J-$A-.!:-$A,
American food is indeed tasty, yet it's expensive.

(3) 9-#%-.A-8J-$A-Z-o:R-Z-$A-<-,$-<A%-$A,
That restaurant is indeed very good, but it's far.

(4) %-vR$?-o:R-vR$?-$A-<-.?-5S.-3J.-$A,
I am indeed very hungry, but I don't have time (to eat).
Not to be confused with the subjectivity particle < (Lesson 4) and the conjunction <
also/with/and (Lesson 5), the < in this pattern is a clausal conjunction that connects sentences,
we shall see more of it in later lessons.

► 10.3.8 (R$ and ,2

The English modal can is usually translated by ,2 or (R$ in Tibetan, yet the two Tibetan
words are very different. ,2 to be able to indicates ability/capability and (R$ to be all right to
indicates permission or prohibition when negated.

First, it is important to know that many Tibetan words that translate into English as modals

(e.g., can, may, should, etc.) or verbs are in fact adjective-like in Tibetan. This "mismatch" in

lexical categories between Tibetan and English deserves the student's special attention. In this

regard, (R$ is better translated by the adjectival phrase to be all right or to be OK, indicating
permission/prohibition. (R$ is not used, however, when you ask someone if he is OK when you

see him fall. In this lesson we learn to say set phrases such as (R$-$A OK, 3A-(R$-$A not OK, and AJ-

(R$-$A is it OK? More complicated sentences such as Is it OK for me to take a picture will be
introduced in our next lesson.

,2 is more like the English modal can in that it directly takes an infinitival VP before it. ,2
is verb-like in that it is compatible with the future tense auxiliary: o + ;A//<J.. (There is some
sense of conjecture in this case, see 17.3.9 for more discussion.) Examples:

Colloquial Amdo Tibetan (2005, Revised), Kuo-ming Sung & Lha Byams Rgyal

(1) .$J-c/-.0:-3R-35S-$/%?-!-;R%-,2-o-<J.,
Teacher Huamo Tso will be able to come tomorrow.

(2) %A-$*A-$-.?-5S.-$?3-$A-,R$-/?-.0J-36S.-#%-%-:IR-,2-2,
We two can go to the library at three o'clock.

(3) %A-1-3-$*A-$-$/%?-!-%-<-3*3-$A-9A-=A%-%-:IR-,2-o-3-<J.,
My parents will not be able to go to Xining with me tomorrow.

(4) HR-.?-5S.-.$-<->-4-$A-,R$-/?-%A-*=-#%-/%-%-;R%-AJ-,2,
Will you be able to come to my dormitory at 9:30?
(5) 1R=-3-;R%-3A-,2-/R-$A-%-#J<-<R-;=-2{R<-<-:IR-.$R-o-<J.,
Because Drolma cannot come, I will travel alone.

In the lesson, Mary says .$J-c/-hR-eJ-.?-5S.-$&A$-<->-4:A-,R$-/?-,R/-,2-o-3-<J., Teacher

Dorje will not be able to arrive at 1:30. The verbal complex ,R/-,2-o-3-<J. consists of the

infinitive ,R/ arrive, ,2 can, and the future auxiliary (negative) o-3-<J..

Finally, be advised that when can means know how to, Tibetan usually uses a different

verb >J? know or know how to, which will be covered in Lesson 13.
❖ 10.4 Cultural Notes

✽ 10.4.1 Variety of Food in the Amdo Region

Roast Lamb Sichuan Hot Pot

Colloquial Amdo Tibetan (2005, Revised), Kuo-ming Sung & Lha Byams Rgyal

The first American fast food restaurant to land in the Amdo Region was KFC, which earned

a beachhead in downtown Xining in the summer of 2001 and is still holding strong. The Golden

Arches, on the other hand, is no where to be seen from Gansu, Qinghai, to Northern Sichuan.

Unlike Lhasa, where an excellent fusion of Indian-Nepalese food is available, as well as

traditional Tibetan cuisine, most towns in the Amdo region have two types of food available

besides the regular Tibetan fare: Han Chinese and Muslim.

Chinese food is dominated by the hot and spicy Sichuan school, although cuisine from other

provinces can also be found. The all-you-can-eat hot pot (Ch. huoguo) buffet restaurant is
gaining popularity in the Amdo and the Kham Regions in recent years.

Hand-Stretched Noodle The Colonel Is Doing Great

Muslim restaurants are plenty, selling superb hand-stretched beef noodle soup ( =/-N:-@2-
<A%-,) and other home-made delicacies such as goat heads and Hui-style stir-fried gnocchi (Ch.
chao mianpianr) with beef or lamb. After a full meal, one must try the Eight-Treasure tea,

available in almost all Muslim restaurants.

✽ 10.4.2 Tibetan Art: Sculpture and Painting

Magnificent Tibetan sculptures and paintings are in permanent display at almost every

monastery. The subjects are uniformly religious in nature and show a distinct Indian and

Nepalese influence. Most Tibetan towns do not have an art museum. In every sense of that

Colloquial Amdo Tibetan (2005, Revised), Kuo-ming Sung & Lha Byams Rgyal

word, monasteries, with their collection of sculptures, fresco, thangka paintings, architectural

details plus other treasures, convincingly fill that role.

Thangkas ( ,%-$) are wall hangings depicting Buddhist deities, stories or teachings. Their

sizes range from several square inches to several hundred square meters, such as that exhibited at

the beginning of the 8R-!R/, Shotun Festival at :V?-%%?, Drepung Monastery. Because of their

devotional nature, thangkas are usually hand painted with meticulous precision by traditional

Tibetan brushes. A 3 by 2 square feet thangka can take anywhere from a couple of weeks to

several months to complete, depending on whether the artist decides to incorporate complicated
and fine details into the design. Under the dim light of a typical Tibetan room, such task often

seems impossible to westerners. The same effort goes towards the mural paintings one can find

in all Tibetan monasteries.

Shakyamuni ( >-G-3-/J), Gyantse Kumbum, Gyantse

Colloquial Amdo Tibetan (2005, Revised), Kuo-ming Sung & Lha Byams Rgyal

;3-(J/-3R, Prajnaparamita 35S-*J?-hR-eJ, Saroruhavajra

The first two images presented in the previous page are taken from Pelkor Chode Monastery

.0=-:#R<-3(R.-gJ/ at Gyantse), founded in 1418.

( o=-lJ-{-:23
It is famous for its stupa (

Gyantse Kumbum) that contains 10,000 sculptures and mural frescoes. The third was taken from

Gonchen Monastery ( .$R/-(J/-.$R/,) of the Sakyapa order, to which the prestigious Derge

Printing House used to belong.

Colloquial Amdo Tibetan (2005, Revised), Kuo-ming Sung & Lha Byams Rgyal

Wheel of Life (YA.-0:A-:#R<-=R:C-,%-$) Fresco in Jokhang ( z-?:A-)R-#%-$A-wJ2?-VA?,)

❖ 10.5 Key Sentence Patterns
■ 10.5.1 Future Tense
(1) HR-$%-%-:IR-o-;A/, %A-(:R-.0J-36S.-#%-%-:IR-o-;A/,
Where will you go? We will go to the library.
(2) HR?-(A-9A$-=?-o-;A/, %?-aR2-.J2-2-2v-o-;A/,
What will you do? I will read the textbook. (N.B. the verb is 2v to watch)
(3) 3A-.$J?-{R3-(-(A-9A$-:,%-o-<J., 7-(%-:,%-o-<J.,
What beverage will she drink? She will drink beer.
(4) 3A-.$J?->-5S.-9-o-<J.,
She will eat dumplings.
(5) HR:-PR$?-0R-$%-%-;=-{R<-<-:IR-o-<J.,
Where will your friend travel? (Lit. to where, directional)
(6) %A-PR$?-0R-2R.-uR%?-%-;=-{R<-<-:IR-o-<J.,
My friend will travel in Tibet.
(7) 2R.-9?-(A-9A$-9-o-;A/, What Tibetan food are we going to eat?
■ 10.5.2 Directional Ladon

Colloquial Amdo Tibetan (2005, Revised), Kuo-ming Sung & Lha Byams Rgyal

(1) HR-.0J-36S.-#%-%-:IR-o-AJ-;A/,
Will you go to the library?
(2) :-$*A-$-5S%-<-:-:IR-o-AJ-;A/,
Will we two go to the market?
(3) HR:-1-2R-)-#%-/%-%-:IR-o-AJ-<J.,
Will your elder brother go to the teahouse?
(4) 1R=-3-35S-<-2?R.-/3?-$*A-$-$/%?-*A/-o-Y%-%-:IR-o-<J.,
Drolma Tso and Sonam (two) will go to the street the day after tomorrow.
(5) %A-A-MJ?-<-A-;J?-$*A-$-0J-&A/-/-:IR-o-<J.,
My grandparents are going to Beijing.
■ 10.5.3 Clock Time and Temporal Phrases

(1) .-.?-5S.-.-<J., .?-5S.-2&-$*A?-+$-+$-<J.,

What time is it now? It’s exactly 12 o’clock.
(2) .?-5S.-$*A?-<->-4-<J.,
It’s 2:30.
(3) %A-(:R-:-.?-5S.-$&A$-<->-4-,R$-/-aR2-OA.-;R.,
We have a class at 1:30. (stative, thus /)
(4) 3A-.$J-.?-5S.-$?3-$A-,R$-/?-.0J-36S.-#%-%-:IR-o-<J.,
She will go to the library at 3 o’clock. (action, thus /?)
(5) #A-.$J-.J-<A%-.?-5S.-2&-$&A$-$A-,R$-/?-;:-:-:IR-o-<J.,
He will go home at 11 o’clock today. (action, thus /?)

■ 10.5.4 /3 When
(1) HR-;R-<R2-2-/3-:IR-o-;A/,
When will you go to Europe?
(2) HR:-*J?-0-9A-=A%-%-/3-;R%-o-<J.,
When will your husband come to Xining?
(3) 3#:-:PR-/3-,R/-o-<J.,
When will Kandro arrive?
(4) HR-HR:-=?-#%?-%-/3-:IR-o-;A/,
When will you go to your work place/company?
(5) HR-HR:-aR2-PR$?-<-3*3-$A-/3-;=-2{R<-<-:IR-o-;A/,

Colloquial Amdo Tibetan (2005, Revised), Kuo-ming Sung & Lha Byams Rgyal

When will you travel with your classmates?

■ 10.5.5 Adjective as Predicate

(1) %-vR$?-$A, HR-AJ-vR$?-$A,
I am hungry. Are you hungry?
(2) 9-#%-:.A-,$-8J-$A-<A%-$A,
The restaurant is very far.
(3) aR2-#%-,$-AJ-<A%-$A, ,$-3A-*J-$A,
Is the classroom far? It’s not near.
(4) %-8J-$A-{R3-$A, HR-:-(-AJ-;R.,
I am very thirsty. Do you have water?
(5) 9-#%-:.A-(%-o:R-(%-$A-<, 9-3-8J-$A-8A3-$A,
The restaurant is small; however, the food is very tasty.
(6) aR2-9-(J/-3R-:.A:A-.0J-36S.-#%-8J-$A-(J-$A, #A-(:R-.0J-(-<-3%-$A,
The library of this university is very big. They have a lot of books.

■ 10.5.6 Making a Suggestion with <J,

(1) 3*3-$A-5S%-<-:-:IR-<J,
Let’s go to the market together.
(2) :-(R?-.-v-2R.-{.-2>.-<J,
Let’s speak Tibetan now.
(3) :-(R?-2f/-:UA/-/-3A-v-/A-;J-<J,
Let's not watch television.
(4) :-(R?-:.A-/?-:S-0<-9A$-=J/-<J,
Let's take a picture here.
(5) %-{R3-$A :-(R-)-#%-/%-:-:IR-)-:,%-<J,
I’m thirsty. Let’s go the teahouse and drink tea.
■ (R$ and ,2
(1) :.A-/-y-(%-3J., #-=R-AJ-(R$
We don't have beer here, is cola OK?
(2) HR-$/%?-!:A-.?-5S.-2&-$A-,R$-$A-.$J-c/-2-(%-$A-aR2-OA.-=-;R%-AJ-,2,
Can you come to Teacher Wuchung's class at 10:00 tomorrow?
(3) %-?%-=R-1R=-3-35S-<-3*3-$A-2R.-=-:IR-,2-o-3-<J.,

Colloquial Amdo Tibetan (2005, Revised), Kuo-ming Sung & Lha Byams Rgyal

I will not be able to go to Tibet with Drolma Tso next year.

(4) %-?%-=R-A-3J-<A-#-:-:IR-o-;A/, %?-9A-=A%-/?-+-l=-aR2-,2-o-3-<J.,
I will go to America next year. I will not be able to study Art in Xining.
(5) 3:J-<J:J-A-3J-<A-$-$A-;A/-/R-$A-3A-.$J?-.LA/-;A$-$A-5$?-0<-<-v-,2-$A,
Mary is from America, so she can read English newspapers.
(6) :.A-/-\R$-[.-3J.-/R-$A-S-2-:-2v-3A-,2-$A,
Because there is no computer here, one cannot get online.

❖ 10.6 Exercises
10.6.1 Listening Comprehension
Dialogue 1: Answer the following questions in English
(1) What time is it now?
(2) Will Tom go to eat with Sophie? Why?
(3) What homework does Tom have?
(4) What’s Sophie’s suggestion?
Dialogue 2: Answer the following questions in English
(1) What is Mary’s suggestion?
(2) What will they do in Dondrup’s dormitory?
(3) Is Dondrup’s dormitory far from John’s classroom?
(4) When will John have the Tibetan Art class?
10.6.2 Telling Time
6 : 00 ________________________ 4 : 50 ________________________
10 : 15 ________________________ 7 : 40 ________________________
12 : 20 ________________________ 8 : 10 ________________________
1 : 30 ________________________ 11 : 40 ________________________

10.6.3 Tense Conversion

Example: 3A-.$J?-.-v-5$?-0<-<-v-$R-$A,
(1) {=-29%-<-#A-.$A-PR$?-0R-$*A-$?-.-v-0<-=J/-$A-;R.-$A,
______________________________________ ($/%?-!)
(2) ?%-=R-%A-(:R-;R-<R2-2-;=-{R<-<-:IR-o-;A/,
______________________________________ (.-v)

Colloquial Amdo Tibetan (2005, Revised), Kuo-ming Sung & Lha Byams Rgyal

(3) 3A-.$A-A-&J-$A?-.-v-;A-$J-:VA-$R-$A,
_______________________________________ ( $/%?-!)
(4) %A-/-2R-$A?-.-v-9R$-:5S-$A-;R.,
______________________________________ ( $/%?-!)
(5) %A-A-1?-\-.L%?-OA.-$A-;R.,
________________________________ (?%-=R)
________________________________ (.-v)

10.6.4 Translation
(1) Akimi is singing now. She will sing a Japanese song tomorrow.()
(2) A: Where are you going now?
B: I am going to the library. I will do my homework there.
(3) A: What beer are you drinking?
B: I am drinking Lhasa beer.
A: How is Lhasa beer?
B: Lhasa beer is good all right, but it is too expensive.
(4) A: Where will we go?
B: How about the market?
A: Is it far?
B: No, it’s near our dormitory.
(5) A: When will you come to my home?
B: I will come at 3:00 o'clock .
A: Very good. My teacher will also come at 3:00.
10.6.5 Reading Comprehension
A-3, A-<R, 1R=-3,
1R=-3, A-3, HR-2.J-3R-;A/-/,
A-3, %-2.J-3R-;A/, HR-$/%?-!-;:-:-;R%-o-AJ-;A/,
1R=-3, 3A/, %-:-$/%?-!-:-aR2-OA.-3%-%-9A$-;R., %-:-.?-5S.-2o.-<->-4:A-,R$-/-2R.-
$A-=R-o?-$A-aR2-OA.-;R., .?-5S.-2&-<-{<-3-2&R-s:A-,R$-/-lA?-<A$-$A-aR2-OA.-;R.,
;R., .?-5S.-$*A?-$A-,R$-/?-%A-$*A-$-;R-<R2-+-l=-$A-aR2-OA.-=-:IR-:IR-o?, .?-

What Do You Want to Eat?

..- Key Grammar Points in Lesson Eleven:

l. Expressing Price and Money

2. - -
llfl~ To like, l~ to Need, ~ll to Want, and .3511] - to Be All Right to
3. Decade markers and nwnbers from 21 to 99
4. Sentential Particle :t.: Subjective Perspective Marker
5. The Jeddul Particle ~1·i1 as Conjunction Or
•:• 11. 1 Dialogue ~

;i(tla·a~ ij·i~a~·~·r5'1·=1~·1N·iii11
<¥l~~!::!1 ij~·i:r:i:1 4·l~1 1·~c:_·as~·:i:·ar~1 ~·l!j~"l!j~'!!]C.":!"t~1
;ia-~a1 -a·~·l!ll·lll~1
' ""'

<¥l~f~'!::!1 iii'~1 ~-~;i·~·r5'·11jc:.·c:.·~:i:·ii·~-l!j~~-:i:1 1:r~~r~i:.-~·t!]r:.·:;:~:t.·~-z:::i!~-cq~I

- ..,, ~
:;·a·~-a.!:l:;· ~a·~ ·111·1!!ja·a1

:;·:i:·~-~-~-~-~lljll.'~1 ~-~;i-~·r5'·iil~-~1

a~~-iii~ 1
("(' (' C"',C"'c-

c:.111·11~·.,·31-~·ira~~-~1 rs·i~!;l111·4a·c.i~·~·,.·~·;i·a1~·~~1

~~~·~r:J 1 ~ ~·J.J·~c:_-~·~:.·~· ~1, ~ :.·~·~c:_·°'·r:.i°'·~·c:J!·~·ar~·~,
5i'~l \°i·c;_·~·q°'·'i,
C'\ C'\

l~~~r~r:J l ~· ~a·~·a;~·Q.ijC:,'°'·f~·~·~·f~·~ 1
cJJ~a.·a.~ -a5~·~1 ~

* • *
clJ~'~Q,1 'i!:!~·~~1 ~°'·~r:_·~~-~·~~l1
%crrr:.r~·~~-~·tri~~·~·;i·~1 ~~·4·~·~:_·~~·c:]41 o~·i·~·~:_·~, ~·~·.~·~:_·
- -
r;:]~~~-'J ~·~
~· ~~·~·~·~~°'.:_·~·~·
- -

Baked Potatoes and Tibetan Sauerkraut With Shredded Lamb

Waiter: What will you two eat?

Kandra: Waiter, what Tibetan food do you have here?
Waiter: There are noodles, dumplings, and also rice. Which will you two eat?
Mary: Do you have milk tea?
Waiter: Yes, a full large pot of tea is 12 yuan. A full small pot of tea is 8 yuan.

Kandro: Will we two order the large pot or (order) the small pot?
Mary: I really like drinking milk tea.
Kandra: I also really like milk tea. Let's order a large pot of tea.
Mary: Good. Waiter, I want a bowl of noodles and a dish of lamb me t
a· Wbatd
you want to eat? o
Kandra: Do you have beefjiaozi and (steamed) dumplings here?
Waiter: Beef jiaozi here are very tasty.
Kandro: I don't want to eat beef. How much is your porkjiaozi?
Waiter: It's five yuan per dish. There are 15 jiaozi in a dish.
Kandra: Good, then I wantjiaozi and beer.
Waiter: Is it OK to drink Lhasa beer?
Kandro: Okay.
• •
Mary: Waiter, how much money is it?
Waiter: Noodle is 3 yuan 5 mao, Iamb meat 14 yuan Jiaozi 5 yuan ·11c

' , m1 tea 12 yuan

beer 3 yuan, altogether 37 yuan and 5 mao. '
• 11.2 Vocabulary

11.2.l Vocabulary from the Dialogue I

I. n.
ij~'CII noodle
2. n.
~l~I dumpling
3. ~~, n. nee
adj. interr.

milk tea
(tea) pot
i·q', adj. (attr.) large
9. .... -

yuan, money
~·q, adj. (attr.) small
I I.
ai~, V.
to order, to do
~, [Qa/J Jeddul part. (see 11.3.9)
J 3.
~' (C:i.J affix
gerundival marker (see 11.3.7)

v. (obj.-ladon) to like, (or as adj. to be fond of)
1~"'1 adj. (pred.) good
15. 5i"~1 (!jllJ"~]
n. waiter
16. ~~·~t:11
17. 1"1-2:.·ar411 1 bowl
18. 4 meat

19. ~~-4 n. mutton (as food)

n. dish, plate
20. ~l:."J.!1
21. v. (subj.-ladon)
1~1 [1~~] to need, (or as adj. necessary)
22. conJ. if (provided that)
23. V. to want, (or as adj. desirable)
24. ~J.J"4 n. beef

25. n. dumpling, jiaozi (Ch.)
26. sent. part. (see 11.3.16)
J.l l
27. r.1111·4 n. pork
..,., ..,., ..,., n.
J.!l J.!"-1 (~l:.-~l:.] mao (Ch. one tenth of a yuan)
~~-~~-, n. pnce
(~J.J·~·> ~....-I num. part. decade marker 30 +

11.2.2 Additional Vocabulary

4nr1J.JI n. bottle
32. a;~·, n. chang, liquor
33. ~J.1·4 n. yak meat



<l~·> !I num. part. decade marker 20+
c~~-~">~I num. part. decade marker 40+

(~"~") ~-, num. part. decade marker 50+

~111·~·) ~, num. part. decade marker 60+

<~~-\~·> ~~I num. part. decade marker 70+

num. part. decade marker 80+
41. (i::iffir.;·~ ~I decade marker 90+
num. part.
(r.;!ff~") ~1 yak butter tea
43. e;·c:i~i::i~r;il
V. to make, to take
ffii::l l tea cup
45. e;·r.; "1:i::l chicken (as food)
46. 5·4
n. fish (as food)
47. ~-4
n. vegetable
48. fr_;·J.11
n. meat dish

..,, V. to buy

•!• 11.3 Grammar Notes

I• 11.3.l llf Which and 111... One 1

We learned r:ir:. where in the first few lessons, e.g. ~r:.·~ of where (origin), ~z::; ar
where (locative), and ~r:.·r:. to where (directional). When used alone, it is interpreted as
which, as in ij·~~-i:i~zrir:.·=1·t~1 which (which one of noodles, dumplings, and rice) will
vou eat? More examples:
(I) ji::i·~ij~·riir:.·~~-~$cJi'~ll!·~~·t·~~1 Which professor will teach English?
i2) ~?J.~·~r:.·~~·1·~·cJi·ii::i·1r:.·iil·~-ar~1
Which one of your brothers is studying in Lhasa?
~:; also has a homonym that has no interrogative interpretation. This ~r:. means full.
When attached to a measurement such as a pot, a bowl, etc., it refers to one full portion of
the measurement (potful, bowlful, etc.). Therefore, in Amdo Tibetan, when one asks
about the price of "one pot of tea," he literally says ~:~a.rzrir:. a full pot of tea. So, it is also
possible to simply translate ~r:. as one, referring to quantity as opposed to sequential
numbering. A large pot of tea is e;·~J.J·i·2i'·irir:., with the attributive adjective i·cS'
appearing between the noun (!t~J.I) and riir:.. More examples: ~zri·4·~.x;;.rriir:. one dish
of lamb meat: ~-'i;i·2!·~r:.·1 one bottle of chang (liquor), ~;i·4·~%.'J.l'~r:..·1 one dish of
yak meat. rrj·~lll"'i"12;·~r:.·1 one cup of coffee.

Numerals from 21 to 99 (excluding 30, 40, 50, etc.) have a uniquely Tibetan prosodic
structure that contains precisely four syllables. This rhythm is achieved by inserting an
extra syllable, known as the decade expletive or the decade marker, between the two
digits. For example: thirty is ~~-~ and three is~~~. but thirty-three is a four-syllable
~;.J·~-i~riri~J.l. --
The extra syllable~ completes the four-syllable rhythm. The following is
the chart for all two digit numbers. Note that the decade expletives, except for numbers
in the twenties and sixties, usually mimic ( with a little simplification of) the sound of the
tens digit.
tens digit decade expletive examples
21-29 "~-~ g "~-~·g·~cri (26)
31-30 ~J.l-~ -
~ ~J.l·~·ij·q~l (34)
z::i~·z::i~ ~ z::i~-~-~-cri~cri (41)
51-59 '1:!"~ r:. 'e!"~·r:..·1~ (59)
61-69 ~cri-~ ~ ~cri·~-~-z::i~~l (67)
71-79 z::i~~-~ --l~ -- <78 )
81-89 z::J!1·~ ~ " (82 )
91-99 11{1"~ --
cri -- <95 )
The decade expletives are distinctive enough (and in most cases sound close enough)
to suggest what number in the tens digit is. In other words, by hearing the decade
expletives alone, one knows what the tens digit number is. Therefore, it is possible (and
indeed commonly practiced) for one to omit the tens digit entirely as an abbreviated form
of the two-digit number. Examples: ~;_i-~·~z::i~ ~ ~z::J~; 'f!·~·r:..·z::iffi"i ~ Z::."z::Jffi"i·
I. . 11.3.3 Money Matters j/

The currency used in all Tibetan regions is Chinese Renminbi called yuan. One tenth
of a yuan is officially calledjiao but more commonly called mao. One tenth ofa mao is
called fen, which is rarely used nowadays. The Tibetan term for yuan is ~.:t_·J.J ( or simply -- --
V ,._, ,._, ...,., ,._,

~~) and J.lt:l. (or ~.:t_-~.:t_) for jiaolmao. ~.:t_·J.J is also the generic word that means money.
The monetary units come before the numeral, opposite of the English (or Chinese) word
order. Examples:

(I) RMB Y 3.50 jf:,;.·ij·ll1~.Jl"%,".Jl~"~"I (lit. yuan three and mao five)

(2) RMB Y26.40 ~:,;.·ij·~··~j"8"~111·:,;.·.;i~·r;:i~I

- -
Asking or telling the price (~c!i·qfc.) of something involves Oblique Case (i.e. marked
~ =i
by '11""c!i). The pattern is: Something - '11""c!i + Price + ""'
(3) ~2J·c5·Q.~·a.·~:,;.·;j'·~~~I How much is this book?
(4) 1~:~.;i·,i·cr111:.·c.·f:,;.·;j'·~·111~~-~~ I A large pot of tea is 12 yuan.
(3) is the standard way of asking for price. An alternative is to use i·;i'·s111 how, such as
Q.~·a.·i·if·s111·~~, How do you sell this? The use of Oblique Case on the subject makes
sense if one is to understand the Tibetan expression in ( 4) as, literally, For a large pol of
tea, it is 12 yuan.

I• 11.3.4 ~ to Need fllldW(Ult I

The Tibetan verb to need and to want is a subject-Cl!"?{~ transitive verb. The subject,
the person who needs/wants something, is marked Oblique Case with '1.!"~i, while the
object (Theme) is left unmarked (Absolutive). To make sense out of this, one may think

To me. something is desirable/necessary. The pattern is as follows:
Subject-'11'1:i.~ + Object + l:i.111 -
( l) c.·a.·25'~·t&l!fj·~·~iii·~(!:i."!lllj"l:i.afI I need a Tibetan dictionary.
(2) E:l!!J"'4~"a.''."t:l!t:J~f~""i'1]%."iif'1.1·~:.·1afi""-~1:ii~~1 Trashi wants a cup of butter
(3) c.·a.·f:,;.·;i'·Q.~·£!·~afI I don't need this money.
(4) ~t:1r:::i·a.·i111·:n~·a111·~~-llj Does Rhangmo need a computer?
Like the English counterpart to need, ~~ also takes infinitival VP complement
directly, meaning need to do ... Examples:

(5) :.~·~·~(!:i."Sllj";·~ar, I need to buy a dictionary .

...,,~ ~--- \"~'\"~'\.~1111..., You need to speak Tibetan
ij'l"C."t:J:1",";l"a."t:l' . . .
with my family.

(7) c.·~·~c.·jt:i·~·a.·~·if·~ijf·~I I need not go to school today.

The verb ~Ill also means to take (time) or to cost (money). Examples:

(8) ~~·&-111·~-~~·~t:i·c,,~·a.·(:t.·~-"'~-~l This English magazine costs 10 yuan.

(9) ~·a.·~'1"~'~¥-~ifl It takes three hours.

(10) ~{llj'l"%..ll"=iif1 It requires your help.

Also, when a person expresses gratitude by saying r::1111r.i.:5o\·i thank you, it is getting
popular to answer "r::l"1A.'So\'i·£i·i:;;iif (pronounced [kwadran~ margo ]". If someone
offers tea or bread, one can also simply decline it by saying £!·1iif no need with a smile.

ll> 11.3.5 11.11 to Want to

- --
One would expect the verb A-11 to want to pattern with "iCI] to need, a subject-llflo\ --
verb we just covered. They are very different. First, when the subject is C:. 1, 11.~". still
takes the sentential particle~- Second, A.~l does not take an infinitival VP like l~
but rather an embedded clause marked by the conjunction o\ if. This o\ is different from
the Jeddul particle o\ as in ~-i::i~·~·iQo\'o\· The conjunction o\ is used with a.~,:;; according
to the following pattern: (Note the pronunciation ofo\'A-11 is [nando], prefix A. being
(I) Pattern: [ embedded clause]+ o\ + A-11 + Clj-- "'
So, literally, Tibetan says it is desirable if I drink tea, instead of 1 want to drink tea.
(2) [ ~~-~-~Clj':il'] o\'A.rz1·~1 What do you want to eat?

(3) [ i;~·~,;.i·~a,·~o\·~·:il·] o\'A-1Z~i~1 I want to eat beef dumplings.

(4) [ ~~·(iJ.J·~·~·~cri·~z::.:] o\'A.1Z1·~1 Do you want to drink some beverage?
Negative and interrogative forms also require the use of auxiliary ~·ill and !N'ai\~:

<5) [ ~-1~·ij1·~·~·1sc:.~·c:.·~°'·1 o\'A.1Z1·~·il1·~1

They don't want to listen to Tibetan music.
(6) [ ~-J6~'J.Jlfo\'o\'~ll,l'i::](::i:.·,l::~·1 o\'A.~1·~·1N·ai1·~1
Do they want to travel in Qinghai?
Note that the case marking properties are decided by the verb in the embedded o\ clause.
The interrogative form, as shown in (6), is A.~ -~·1N·ai1·~. Finally, f.l.~l usually does

something, use -
not take NP complement. To express I want something, as opposed to 1 want to do
l Cl].
ll> 11.3.6 Subjective Particle .:i..: ~-iJ.I vs. ~,;.i-~

~en asked by Kandro, the waiter says (.l.~it~.JJ'""9a'~o\·~-~-~-~J.1'.J.II The beef .

dumplings here are very tasty. The final particle that goes with the root of the predicative

adjective~- is, as the learner might have noticed, not the usual 9, but a new comer:~-
Recall that in Lesson 10 (10.3.5), when predicative usage of adjectives was introduced,
we mentioned that~. the objective perspective marker, is usually attached to the
adjective even when the subject is first person or its in-group member. That is because
the speaker is describing the property denoted by the adjective about him in a plain and
objective perspective. Therefore, c:.·f~~·9 I am hungry is stated as an objective
description about the speaker. In this lesson, on the other hand, the waiter is endorsing
his statement of their dumplings being delicious. The statement is not treated as an
objective fact but a subjective claim with the speaker's subjective commitment. This
situation requires the use of the subjective marker to go with the adjective. This marker,
is the same subjective marker:; that we saw in Lesson 4 ( ~~z::.·z::.·i·s~·~:;·:;1
.vour name?) Traditional grammar does not have a name for it, so we shall call this -1- by
its function: Subjective sentential particle. It is the semantic opposite of~. Unlike~.
:; has several variants according to the sound of the adjective, e.g., ~;J ends with &J, so
the particle takes the fonn J.J. For convenience sake, we select~ to represent the
subjective particle for it appears to be the default form. The following is a complete
paradigm (five variants in total: :;l °"1 ~1 ~ 1z::.·p
Adjective Subjective Marker English meaning
~;J ;J tasty (let me tell you)

Ql~ ~ pretty

3i Q. (not:;) good

;J~~~ ~ fast

:; difficult; expensive
l g :; easy; cheap

;JC:. c:. many, much

I ~~ ~ good-sounding
' ~

I 11.1 happy, comfortable

I !"
Note that. although Sis an open syllable, it does not take the variant~. as do ~11'.2. and g.
It takes l'.2., presumably because of a sandhi rule that prohibits the consecutive
retroflexives •s·~.
I• 11.3. 7 ~"l~ to Like II

~~f.l. to like is a versatile and frequently used word. Its versatility entails a number of
fairly complicated patterns, whereas its usefulness necessitates us to memorize all those
-- --
Ofthe three verbs",~, Q.",",, and ",~Q., the first verb",~ takes a noun phrase NP or an
infinitival VP as its complement; the second verb Q.ll takes an embedded if clause led
by~ as its complement. The third one l"lQ. takes both, either an NP or an embedded
clause (but not an if clause). Compare the following two sentences: Sentence (I) has an
NP complement horses, while (2) has a gerundival phrase riding horses.

-- -
(I) i:: (Abs) i;'r.i.' (Obliq) 1!!]Q.'~1 I like horses.
(2) i:.·5·~~·tQ.·l~Q.':t.1 I like riding horses.
Note that the subject ~ I, being an Experiencer of the feeling rather than an Agent of an
action, cannot be marked Ergative. Receiving Absolutive case, it is left unmarked. The
object ofl"lQ. in (I), namely 5 horses, is marked Oblique case with Ladon. In this usage
(when it takes NP complement), ~!!]Q. patterns with adjectives in that it takes the
objective perspective marker ~.
Sentence (2) has the following structure:
Subject (Absolutive) +VP+ tQ. + 1!!]Q. + ~iii"'
The word t~ is the same t~ that we encountered earlier in Lesson 10: Adj+ t~ +
Adj+~ (though it is indeed Adj, however ... ). It is a nominalizer that turns the VP into a
gerund (-ing form). The subject remains Absolutive (unmarked). In this structure, if the
subject is first person or an in-group member, then the subjective marker :t. is used.
Observe that in sentences (I) and (2), the sentential particles are different, even though
the first person subject I remains the same. More examples:

(3) ~·5·~~-t~·l~Q,'~I He likes riding horses. (Cf. (2))

(4) i:.·25'1·~-i~·cii:t.·:t.·l~Q,'~I I like Tibetan opera .

.,., C°'\ ..., ....,
(5) i:.·i:::i1·tri·a1~·cii:t.·:t.·1ftQ.·l~Q.':t.1 I like watching Tibetan opera.

(6) i:.·25'1·1:~:~z::.:~~-~·~·l~Q.':t.1 I really like drinking butter tea.

The negative and interrogative forms of 1!!]Q. are ;l·lti]Q. and i,.l·lti]Q., respectively.

the particle~ is generally not used. Examples:

(7) i:.·zS'c;i'~·r.i.·;l·1ciiQ,1 I don't like butter tea.

(8) i!·ii!.i;·~-~~-c:i~~-a,l~-~~-~-"i~"-l Do you like traveling alone?
(9) {~·t,1·~-~-~a.·i~·c:i~·il\·c:i1r~~-~-"'~"'l
Does Dorje like watching American movies?

I~ 11.3.8 ~ to Be OK Revisited ~
We learned in Lesson IO that i~ means to be OK in a simple sentence such as~-~·~·
-~-Ill"' Is milk tea OK,? In this lesson, we introduce a more complicated pattern to express
robe OK (for someone) to do something. The pattern is as follows, using i'llj:
( I) [ embedded clause ] + il\ + illj + ~
This sentence pattern resembles that of the verb r.l,~~. The case marking of the
subject of the embedded clause is decided by the embedded verb, which also resembles
.... There is, however, a crucial difference between"-~~ and~~- We
the property of "-"i~· - -
shall jump the gun a little bit by introducing it here, since past tense is not covered until
Lesson 13. Compare the following two sentences, paying special attention to the
embedded verb Cl'l/ to watch:

(3) r;.~ (Erg) ~~-c:i~·il\ -

(2) r;.~ (Erg) fil'111·c:i~·il\ (Obliq) [ Cl'l/"] il\'"-~"i-~l I want to watch a movie.
.... (Obliq) [ r:;J~"!"] il\·a:;~·~ It is OK for me to watch a movie.
With -IPl,
With a..c::;.c::; to want, the verb in the embedded clause employs the present/future tense.
to be OK, the embedded verb is in its PAST tense. This usage is parallel to the
subjunctive (or irrealis) usage of past tense in English in the following contexts:
(4) Do you mind ifl brought a friend with me?
( 5) I prefer that you didn't smoke.
( 6) It's high time that we left.
So, the sentences involving VP+ il\"a511j literally says It is OK if I did (subjunctive past)
something. Understanding this subjunctive use of past tense with a5~ should help the
student learn to use the structure more intuitively. Nevertheless, it is still necessary for
the student to memorize the past tense for the verbs covered so far if he wishes to use
the pattern. Below is a list of some frequently used verbs as a starter. Note that some
verbs spell their present and past tenses differently in orthography, even they have
the same pronunciation.
(7) Verb Pres/Fut Past
to look at [ta] ~/r:;J~ [ta) Cl~"! [te]
to listen to ~ [nyen] ~~ [nyen]

to eat 31 [sa] ii~ [se]
to drink ~c;_ [thong] ~Z:.~ [thong]
to go
~ [jo]
to come
to take (photographs)
till:. [yang]
~Z:. [s'ong]
till:. [yang]
~Z:.~ [l:mg]

In the dialogue, the waiter asks ~-~a·1s·asz:.·~c;_~·~·fqr"1·£l·icii·91 ls it all right to drink

Lhasa beer? The verb ~Z:.~ is in its past tense even though it sounds identical to the
_. ~ _. -~...,.
present form: ~Z:.. The negative and interrogative forms of ttiC!] are ~·a:;"1 and ~·ascii,
respectively. More examples:
(8) z:.~·t:J:i;;~z:.~·~·lN·iC!] Is it OK for me to take pictures?
(9) z:.~r~~-31~·~·lN·icii ls it OK if I eat this?
..., ..,,, -~....,.,
(8) ~-~z:.·~·~·ascii Is it OK for you to go?

(9) t:ll;,'!t::1'~·£i·itlj It's not allowed to take pictures. (ffit::1: alternative verb for take)

(IO) !~z:.~·~·£i·icii·91 Singing is not allowed.

When a:ill] takes an embedded clause led by o\, no particle is needed on ttill] for-
subjective perspective. For objective perspective marking,~ is still required. Examples:
(11) z:.~·i::i~~·~·ijcii·i::i~~·~~·,,i:i::i~~·~·ii1r91 It is OK for me to watch this movie.
(12) rr~·i::i~~·~-~i'q·a5·~~·Q,·t::1~~·~·icii·91 It is OK for him to read this book.

• 11.3.9 The Jeddul Particle ~l.t'.l: The Conjunction Or

For asking alternative questions A or B, Arndo Tibetan uses a conjunction called
Jeddul ~~-i~ to conjoin the two alternatives A and B. Its function is like that of the

English or. The difficulty mainly lies in the fact that ~1·i~, like '1.1'~~' takes various
forms, also according to the sound of the preceding syllable. For example:
" ? ::.- - ]~t:.·i::i·l"1l
- - Do we two need a large or small pot of tea?
- -
The second~ (in brackets), the conjunction linking i:b· -
In sentence (I), the subject is marked by '1.1'1o\ (the first~), required by the verb 111'1. -
::, t::1 large and ~z:.·i::i small. is the

particle ~l.~l· ~1·i1 is often used to form yes-no questions by linking the
affirmative form and then the negative form of the same verb or adjective. Example:
(2) fqr111·£l·i111·~1 Is it OK or not OK?

,~i;;·ii;; has seven phonological variants: 11] :::.·1 ~I z::JI .J.I! 4111 and '"'I The complete
paradigm is as follows:
(3) verb/adj. ~1·i1 verb/adj. (Neg.) English translation

~ .JI ~·~.JI tasty or not tasty

"'.1,:::. ~ ~-~~ long or not long
~~ :::. --
.JI'~~ did or didn't go

X.1 41J .Jl'~1 is or is not

Ull 41J jJl have or don't have
Q. ~-~ go or don't go

~-ci}~ sing or don't sing

ai~ ~
ffiz::J z::J ,JJ" ~z::J made or didn't make
asiii iii ~·iiii OK or not OK
It is worth noting that the Oblique Case marker 41.J'Z:.,oi also has seven variants, with
identical phonological distribution as those of the conjunction ~1·t1· On the other
hand, the subjective perspective marker .l;., with no more than five variants, only overlaps
partially with the distribution ofaJ"~~ and ~l-~l·

The verbs to want/need, to like, and to be all right to are so frequently used that the

- -- -
student cannot afford not to master this bit of grammar. In this lesson, the authors treat
the Tibetan words 1iii ~lll 1iii'"'l and asiii as verbs pimarily due to pedagogical
concerns. Students would want to know how to express likes, dislikes, needs, wants, do's
and don'ts, at an early stage. In expressing these thougths, English speakers relate
naturally to the verbs like, want, need, and the auxiliary can. This is why we treat the
Tibetan words as verbs. The learner only has to memorize the following chart, with extra
attention paid to the case marking properties.
(I) Summary based on the verbal analysis

complement Sentence Pattern and Case Marking

i z:;.a;- NP/VP subject (Obliq) + object (Abs)+ l~


(V: present)
[ embedded clause]+~+~~~+~

NP subject (Abs) + object (Obliq) + 1cri~·~

gerund +t~ - subject (Abs)+ VP+ -
t~ + 1cri~ +~or Cl]"
-~cri clause+~
(V: past)
[ embedded clause ] + ~ + -~cri +"
For those who have problem remembering the case marking properties of all these

to be necessary; -
"verbs", a helpful alternative is to treat the verbs simply as adjectives. Thus, ~~ becomes
1cri~ to be fond of, ~~l to be desirable (if. .. ); and finally -~cri. to be all
right (if. .. ). The adjectival analysis makes sense in a number of ways. First, none of the
four words are conjugated for tenses and all of them take the subjective or objective
perspective markers(~ and " like an adjective. Second, for -
the idea of someone's
needing something is expressed in Tibetan as "for a person something is necessary".

clause) with ~11 -

This explains why the person is marked Oblique with Ladon. Third, the use of~ (if
and ~Q'j makes more sense with the adjectival analysis. The authors
encourage learners at least to understand this alternative analysis before returning to
the habit of using them as verbs .
• 11.4 Cultural Notes

i:~ 11.4.1 Tibetan Food 25'~·:1~1

When visiting a Tibetan family, no matter what time of the day it is, one is likely
to be entertained with tea, chang (alcoholic beverage made of highland barley(~~). 30 to
40 proof) with some traditional Tibetan food. Below are some of the most common items.
Tibetan dumplings (.fl'l~I) are very different from the Chinese counterpart
known as baozi. The stuffing is mainly minced beef or mutton mixed with fresh sheep
oil and seasonings; vegetables are seldom used. Steamed dumplings are served piping
hot, so one has to carefully bite a small opening to let the steam out first, suck up the
juice, then start eating.
Hand-grab mutton (4·z:::il~·J-Jp is made of big chunks of mutton (with bones)
cooked in clear water to perfect tenderness with nothing but a small amount of salt and
served hot on a big plate. When eating, one picks a chunk and tears off the tender meat
by hand, thus the name of the dish. One can also use the small cutting knife, which
Tibetans carry with them at all times. It is important Tibetan table etiquette to employ

the knife inward (i.e. towards the user himself) and not towards other people at the same

A Tibetan A1eal in a Farm House Making Tsampa

Tsampa (,!;r:.ip is popular in all Tibetan regions as staple food. It is made by stir-
frying highland barley (and occasionally peas are added) and then grinding it into flour.
\\ nen eating. one puts tsampa flour in a wooden bowl, then adds yak butter tea to make
the dough·lik.e tsampa with fingers. Depending on personal preferences, one can also
add sugar. cheese. or even chang. When traveling, the nutritious tsampa is the most
con \·enient food.

Stall Selling Fresh Butter Butter Tea

In an:, Tibetan market, one can find stalls selling large amount of fresh butter (o.ll:.),
made frum yak ur g(Jal milk. In the dry and cold climate due to the altitude on the

plateau, the calories provided by the butter are a necessity for the Tibetans. People buy
butter not by the ounce but by the kilo, a large portion of which goes lo the tremendous
consumption of butter tea.

Butter tea is indispensable in the Tibetan diet. To make it, one pours boiled tea into
a churn called dongmo (.;J~~·o.Jp, then adds butter and salt (sometimes milk as well),
then forcefully pumps the handle several dozen times. In some regions, people add local
products into the tea such as crushed walnut. If you are allergic to MSG, you might want
lo ask about that, as some seem to like its power to enhance the flavor. It is customary
that the host keeps filling the tea bowl during the conversation, so that the tea is
constantly warm. Non-Tibetans may learn to like butter tea, but if you are not a devoted
fan, drink slowly and only at the end of your visit finish the bowl.

Making Butter Tea, Miyaluo. Li Xian Vendor Selling Chura (Cheese). Lhasa

• 11.5 Key Sentence Patterns


• 11.5.1 ~~ Which

(I) ~·~~·~~·a;·~~·=3·t~, ~·~'?·cri~·~~·4·~·~~·.(=r~·t~l

-.,; C'\ ~ C'\ C'\ C'\

Which will you two eat? We will have pork and lamb.

(2) !~W!ili,i"IIJC.'~C."t"I
\\'hich "ill your father drink?
(3) c.111~·"l"'"~J~·.i:;·,r~c.·i"I
\\'e two will drink beer and tea.

(4) Q"'""i·.i:;·,s~·,i1·"l~·~·~c.·_~"·!·~c.·c.·1"l"'·~, . ?
(Between) Tibeten and Enghsh, which language do you hke.
• 11.5.2 Money Matters
(l) ~~·~·ij.i:;·ij'·~·~,,
How much money is it?
(2) "~·iF·~~-~·~2:;·ij'·~·~1,
How much money is this book?
( 3) ~-::i·,"12:;·~n.r~·r::,·(.i:;·;f~·~1,
How much money is a bowl of noodles?
( 4) e;·~Mi·ij·"Jr::,·c.·(.i:;·;f~·IIJ~·al~ l
A full large pot of tea is 12 yuan.
( 5) ~·4a.i·".J.l'll]C.'Z:::~.i:;·ij'·~·al~'
A bottle of liquor is 5 yuan.
(6, ri1·"is~·~-~~,·a.~·q·(.i:;·ij'·,·1·i·~·.i:;·.J.1~·11Ji.;.i·~;,
This Tibetan-English dictionary is 25 yuan 3 jiao.
• 11.5.3 NP+ =ill] -
I I) ~,·irrq·e;·~;i·i·cS';~·a,·¥·tf1af1
Do we two need the large pot or the small pot?
,., ...,, ._, " .,,., (?,,.

(2) 11fM'q1j"f~1·~111·111]·~,
They need a computer.

(3) "
It only lakes 20 minutes.
(4 J C.'q''f'l'l:l'Ci"l.2:;'~IJl'~·,an
I want a bowl of noodles.
<5 , c::·q·s·"fi.i:;·~·,ar,
He wams a plate of chicken.
16) e·q·iriirrc;af1
Whal do you need?

I 11.5.4 VP + 1tl]--
(I) i:,~·1·~-~J.J·jr::_·n.i~·5·r.i_9·l~I
We need to do the homework now.
(2) 1~·~3i·1~r.i.·if-J.Jlt1j3ir::,~.r1·~~t:1·~·1~·~1
Teacher Huamo-Tso needs to go home tomorrow.

(3) fi:_·::i::.·~·tl]ltl]~·~·~r::,·~·1s3i·~·~·ifitlj~·~::i::.·~·1~1
John and I need to buy today's Englsih newspaper.

(4l i:.·(: i: .·J.rJ.)r::_·r:;:~1·~-~.n.i~·711·n.i ~·1~I

Because I don't have much money, I need to work.

(5) ij~'3iJ.J"~1~·ifi3i"3i"t::l!::i::.·i49·r.i.9·1~1
When do you need to write the letter to your teacher?

(6) ij~·m·°'J.1·~°'·1~1
When do you need to sing?
I 11.5.5 191:i_ to Like
(I l c_·-- --
Q_·~· ~r::_·tr.i.·r::_· J.1·1 ti] r.i.I

I really like drinking milk tea.

(2) ~:a;if~J..!·4,li~iJ..!"t:1"19r.i.1
We like beef dumpling.
(3) ij·ij1·~·m·1sr::,~·~·~z::i·~1·,,.rlN·19r.i.1

(4) -
Do you like Tibetan music class.

i:.·~·:1~·:srtr.i.·1tljr.i.· : i: .1
I like eating Chinese food.

(S) ~'1J·~·ij·~·~r::,·t~·£l·19r.i.·3i·~·~r::,·£l·1~1
You don't need to drink the tea if you don't like it.

(6) fc_·~-~-~-~tlj·~r::,·~·~·r::,·~·t:1·~·,;f£l·19r.i.·1
I don't like going to the market because it is ve1y far.
I 11.5.6 Q.11 to Want

(I) ~·~·~·~'3i'lN'i:i_~1·~1
Do you want to go to Lhasa?
(2) ~-1~·~·r.i·::i::.·11rJ..1'tlj3i r::,~· 711·arr::,·3i·~~1·~·~ 1
Her father and mother want to come tomorrow.

What does your friend want to eat?

t4) i:.~~sa.~·cix.·x.·!iii·~·a.~~·~1
I want to take a picture of this place.
t5) ~·ij~.1;·ii'j·111~·iii·~·cli·.:i.·ian.i·{\11r111·iaai·r:::i\x.·x.·~·~·a.,~i9'~1
Tom and Sophie want to travel in Yulshul next year.
• 11.5. 7 Yes-no questions with a.s~·i~ Or
( 1) ~M·i·i5'·~ijf·a.·~::.·~·~~1
Do we need large or small?
(2) 1·~·i·,p:::~::.·~·ii!i·~·;l·~
ls Lhasa beer OK or not OK?
<3) !~·1,·:1·,~·a.·4·Q~·cr:1·,~1
Will you eat vegetables or meat dishes?
(4) ij·.:i.w~·i~·ai·~::.·ii·iii'11

<5) -is·~·4·~111a.·a.·s·4·~111a.1
Do you have elder sisters or younger sisters?

Do you like fish or chicken?
• 11.5.8 ~·~ It is OK toJ

(1) a.~·~·~·~-1iii~1
Is it all right to eat here?

(2) ~·~i:.·l::.·~·1iii·~1
It's all right to come today.
(3) ,ci·~(,·~·~·~::.·~·-151·~·il·~
It· s not permitted to eat in the library.
(4) ari~·,M~cii::.·~~·~·~
ls it OK ifl buy a bottle of beer?
(5) ~~·r:::i~~·,;r~ar~·~·~
Is it OK for me not to drink the butter tea?
~ ~

~ 1111
..,, .t!", ..,,

161 "'.~·~·x.·15•~a.i·4~·i:.i~·~·~·ar•~·~·il·iiii
OK., but at is not OK for you not to eat the beef dumplings.
~ 11.6 i:J.erdla
11.6.l I .lften!JII Compreben1lon: True or False ~
( I) Tom and John are eating beef now.

(2) John doesn't like lamb meat.
(3) John doesn't want to eat meat. He wants to eat vegetable.
(4) John is not hungry right now.
11.6.2 Fill in the Blanks: Use correct case markers, prepositions, or decade markers

~1 Q,"1 ij1 ~1 ~·1 r=.·1 cl\1 ~~1 ~1 ~1 9 ~1 ~ ~cl\1

( 1) !t::1"JJ"~ ~2l·;;·iit11·~qf·~1
(2) 1:::_,.,~J~JJ·~·-r::i~cl\·;1~~1

(3) ~ ~"ffl41.l"JJ"_lff l:c!"aT·~·r::i~· ~9·~11

(4) "-~·il9·~r;_· _Q,~1·~1

(S) r;,_l:c!'JJ"ll]~"1"-~'JJ"r::J~1·~t::1~1·iii'11 ~-J.1·9~9·_~~-~-1~·~--~·

(6) ~n.rr::i:.lr;,·"(·~·_:.l"('tlf;."cl\f;,~r;,·4_~9·~9·:.l·_url·~1

(7> ~-cii~·cii·fr::i·SJ-~cl\·~·-1 21 ·JJ(1·fl~--~·traicl\1

(S) ij·~r;_·~-~41.1·~~-ui-~-~-t~·~·1ciiQ,1

(9> ~_j'r::i·!cii~· 25\·iil9·_1"f'~·Q,s·t~~·1ciiQ,1

(lO) r;,_25'1·cl\~·~-z:i~·r::i~cl\"~9~~-'1)cl\"t"aicl\1
11.6.3 Complete the Dialogues
(I) 1 ?

fll r;,·~·~·1ciiQ,1 r;_·~·~r::i~·JJ·£!·1ciiQ,1

(2) '11 - - - - - - - - - - -?
fll s·4·~~·JJ·9r=.·i:f·Q,~·,.,.-~~-;.r,cii~cii·~·~·cii~~-a1cl\1 Q,s~·11:i:.-ur41.1·9r;,·25'·~·,.I°
;J'·9~JJ"aicl\ 1
r;,~ ___________. (music)
11.6.4 Translation

(1) A: I want to study Tibetan.
B: You need to buy a Tibetan-English dictionary.
A: How much is the dictionary?
B: It only costs 66 yuan.
(2) Waiter: Our beef noodle is very tasty·
A: Yes, their beef noodle is really tasty.
B: Okay. Let's order a bowl of beef noodle.
(3) A: Do we need a large pot or small pot?
B: Is it all right ifwe order large pot?
A: Okay.
(4) A: Whose songs do you like?
B: I like Sonarn Wangmo's songs.
A: Do you also like listening to American music?
B: No, I don't like listening to American music.
(5) A: Will we order milk tea?
B: No. I don't like the milk tea at this teahouse.
A: Which teahouse has tasty milk tea?
B: The teahouse over there.
11.6.5 Reading Comprehension

<eJ·i '1 ~·z:11 ~-clia:·~·~r;·1~·~o\·9·&J.r;i·~·1·ulo\l ~·~·o\·~-~~~·91

~·z:11 Cll'Dll J.1,;i·9·~1 e~·~·~c_-91

'ej'J.i1 ~·~,;·91 ~~·J.l·~·~Jt·~·ijr;·o\·i~·91

~·z:11 i~·91 1~·~°1·9·~~o\·z:i:1~·£J·taf1·~·~1I
'ej'J.i1 ~·1~·,..~·~·~~~·;i·~~~·il11 ~·aT·~·~·i·~~~-~~1
~·z:11 ~clili'.·9·1~·~o\·aT·t~11
'ej'J.i1 ~-1~·aT·z:i~·~·~·1~·~11
Answer the following questions in English
(I) Where will Lhamo and Dawa go?
(2) ls the place far? How long will it take to get there?
(3) Does their teacher have any children?
(4) How old is his son?
( 5) How old is the teacher?

11r Key Grammar Points in Lesson Twelve:

2. Purpose Construction with Verbs~ and .,

I. Days of the Week and Days of the Week with Temporal Ladon

3. ~c:.·~~·iii"/il~: It ls (Not) Interesting to+ VP

4. i.2:. to say + Embedded Clause
5. Ablative Preposition ~~from

•:• 12.1 Dialogue ~IIIS<-1 I

~'4!'ql!!c:.·1 jlll"J.J'J.Jl1 ~-~i;_·cri:ar.t.·t ~l1
j'41'J.J'J.Jl1 ~·~i;_·cri:ar.t.·~·~i;_~· ~l1
~"41-ql!!c:.·1 ~·ul ~·~ ·cri°ic:.~·1·cri:ar.t.·~~.~- ~l1
j'41·J.J·;il1 ~~·~·acri·til·~·r.t.~1·~ 1
~'4j'ql!jt;_'l c:.·fcri·r::i~~·~·t::I~'~'~'°i'r.t.~1·~1 icri·t::I~'~C:.'°i'l!'f~8.·~~·t::I~'acri·w~·
i'4!'J.J'J.Ji'1 c:.~·t::I~~·~·cri:ar.t.·~~·~·~·icri·t::I~°\·°\·t::I~~·°\·°\c:.·~°\·;l1·~1 ~·~11 1~·
~°\·~·~i;_·~·~c:.·~~·f·cri°\c:.~·,·~c:.·~·~·!"4'J.J'~~·~·~·~~·~·~·t·i:i_·~1 r;_·~·
1~· -2;.'J.J~J.J·~·~-°\·r.l.~1·~1
~'4!'ql!!c:.·1 ~cri~·cri·~·r.t.·~·1~·~·%cri·r.2.51
* * *
i'4!'J.J'J.Ji'1 1~·~°\·~·~i;.·1 r::i~·;'.f·uj°\·°\ 1
~-~c:.·1 e~·ij~ {lll'J.J'6.1i'1 r::i~·;T·ui°\·°\ 1

~'4j'ql!jt;_'1 cri°\c:.~·1·~·~~~·~,·~·ui°\1

~-~r;.·1 a)~l r::rcr~·~,·~·~·~c.·dl!'r::J1'~·~·t·~~,
ffl"l·~·~ar, a·211~·'1l~·~·ij1·~·!l'~·~·~·r::J~·~·~~1·~, !~·a·~~·'11·&1·~·lN·i~
~-~t;.·, "l'-4'a-;~
i~'c1J'c1Ji' j!·~~·~·g'4·m-~,
~·~·, ~~·i1'r::J!~·~·4·~·if1l'~~·fr::J'!J~~r~·i~rar~,
i~'c1J'c1Ji1 ~~·~~·~'11·~·~~,
~·~c.·1 atr;_~-~~·~·~-~~·i1·1~·~·i~·~~-~-~-~~, ~~~-~~·i'1'r::J~1·:t;·~~·~·
~~·:J:1~·, i·~c.·~~·,~·~~'c1Jt;.'~',;t'~~·l1·~·191
~·~·, ~~-,,·Q~~·1~l
~,~r~:s~·~·f~·~·~i, ~1~·s~·~,
~-~~·, j~·it,·~, ~~~~·1·ij~

Mother and Daughter, Mangra, Qinghai

Gabzang: Drolma Tso, what day of the week is today?
Drolma Tso: Today is Friday.
Gabzang: So tomorrow is Saturday. What will we two do tomorrow'?
Drolma Tso: What do you want to do'?
Gabzang: I want to go see a movie. There is an American movie showing at the movie
Drolma Tso: In my opinion, it's not interesting to watch movies on a Saturday. Oh, yes.
Teacher Wuchung Tserang said that he would go to Mengra to see his
parents in the farrning village. I want to go together with him.
Gabzang: Let's go ask him .
• • •
Drolma Tso: Teacher Wuchung, good morning.
Wuchung: Tom, Drolma Tso, good morning.
Gabzang: Are you going to your hometown tomorrow?
Wuchung: Yes, I am going (there) to see my parents and my wife.
Drolma Tso: The two of us also want to see a Tibetan farming village. Can you take us
there? (Lit. Is it OK if you took us?)
Wuchung: Sure, I can.
Drolma Tso: When do you plan to leave?
Wuchung: I am planning to leave at 8:30 from school.
Drolma Tso: At what time shall we meet?
Wuchung: The bus leaves at 9 in the morning. Let's meet here at 8:20.
Gabzang: How long does it take from Xining to Mengra?
Wuchung: It takes about 7 hours.
Gabzang and Drolma Tso: Thank you.
Wuchung: You are welcome. See you tomorrow .

• 12.2 Vocabulary
12.2.1 Vocabulary from the Dialogue
I. ~:!", l n.
which day (of the week)
n. interr.
2. ~:10,·~1 Friday
3. n.
~=10,·~·~c:..~1 Saturday
4. ~=10,·~~·~ l (see 12.3.4)
5. ~l part.

n. movie theatre
6. f ~·ci~·r:iz:.·1 to show
7. ~aq
phrase in one's opinion
8. z:.".rci11~r~ l
n. interest, meaning
9. i3iZ:.'~i!il
v. to be interesting
10. i!iZ:.'~~·iii"''
interj. oh yes
11. fi·~"il
n. farming village



to say

( verbal measure) a little

V. to ask
15. ll.Sl
n. mom mg
16. ,·~I [~~ri:i]
V. to bring, to take (a person)
17. ~"'' ~"il
18. ar~rir:i phrase sure it's OK, of course

19. !~, n. plan

20. i!i~I prep. from

21. f:lr:i V. to meet

n. bus, vehicle in general

22. ~~·~~,
23. ;.iz:.· ~ l place Mangra (Ch. Guinan)

24. i::i111a.·s~·i1 phrase thank you

25. ii!i'il"i·~, phrase your are welcome

26. !11i!iZ:.~'1'1'f:lr:i [~z:.·~~·~r:;il phrase see you tomorrow

12.2.2 Additional Vocabulary

27. lll!11'~1 adj. (pred.) pretty

28. 111:1a.·a:1·c:i1 n. Monday

29. ~il(.l,,";Jr:i·"i;i~I n. Tuesday

30. ~aa.·~zri·tJ I n. Wednesday

31 . 11lil"-''~!'~·~, n. Thursday
32. ~:;;ia.·~·3.11 n. Sunday

n. week (-day) (Ch.)
33. ~~·ii rcri=a.·~·''1
n. Monday (Ch.)
34. ~~·i·Q'j~Q'] [= 28]
" "' [= 29] n. Tuesday (Ch.)
35. ~~·a5'Q'j'1~,
n. Wednesday (Ch.)
36. ~~·i·Q'j~cJ.I, [= 30]
n. Thursday (Ch.)
37. ~~·i·r:J~l [=31]
n. Friday (Ch.)
38. ~~·Jr~·, [= 3J
n. Saturday (Ch.)
39. ~~·i·~Q'j [= 4]
n. Sunday (Ch.)
40. ~~·i·Cl~°\ I [= 32]
41. n. month; the moon
...., adj . next
...., n. next month
43. ~'Cl'Q'j~~'cJ.11
...., n. week
44. Q'j :! (.I,'~ ;i:;1
45. Q'j:!(.I,. cJ.I ~~ n. weekend

46. Q'j :! (.I,' cJ.I ~~ ·~ adv. on weekends

[11]=ll.'o.J~"1·~ l
47. n. day; the sun
48. place Nagqu (Ch. Naqu)
49. n. this month
~·r.i.~ a·°' c:,·c:,·, adv. in this month

51. ...., noon
5~·~, n.
5·....,~1 ....,[~'51 n. afternoon
53. n. evening
54. adv. tonight
~·~~c:,·, [~·~i;iJ
55. n. station
56. train
il·~;i:;, n.

•.• ll.3 Grammar Notes

, .... 12.3 .1 z;.-rr::i~..-cl\ In My Opinion I
The phrase i::.~·c:i~~-cl\ expresses the speaker's opinion. It literally says if I viewed

the verb CJ~~ in its past tense, yet again an instance of subjunctive/irrealis use of the
tense. When asking for opinion, ~~·c:i~~-cl\l in your opinion, is often used. Examples:
i::.~·c:i~~-cl\l 2f"i'=1~·~·~·1JJ'~I In my opinion, Tibetan food is very tasty.

<2) ij~·c:i~~-cl\l ~cii·JJ~\Q,~·Q,·~~-~·c:i1·~·~·'e!·~·JJ~·c:ii"'·scl\·cl\·~·"'1Q,·~1

Do you think Y45.80 is expensive for that dictionary?
(3) ij~·c:i~~·cl\'=l'JJ'Q,~·~·1JJ'~I In your opinion, is this food tasty?
(4) i::.~·c:i~~·cl\1 ~-~~-~i::.·if~·~·Cllcii·~1
In my opinion, his younger sister is very beautiful.

~ .... 12.3.2 Days of the Week~

Traditional names for the days of the week, the names actively used in the central
dialect such as the Lhasa dialect ('}f~a-~"'), are rarely used in Amdo nowadays. For
nomads and farmers, the lunar calendar is still the system in use and the days of the week.
which are based on western calendar, are of little practical value in their daily life. Thal
said, people in towns and cities do use days of the week, but with a twist: traditional
names are, for most Amdo speakers, replaced by loan words borrowed from Mandarin
Chinese. It would be beneficial for the reader to be familiar with both systems:
tradional names loan words from Chinese Chinese (romanized)
Monday cii:1a.·~ ·r;:i1 4~·i·cii%9 xingqiyi
Tuesday Cl']=IQ,'.JICl']'"'J.1~1 1cl\·i·9~~1 xingqi er
Wednesday cii:1 a..'ll cii.ci 1 4~·i·9~JJ, xingqi san
Thursday 4~·i·c:i~1 xingqi si
Friday Cl']=IQ,'CJ'~i::.~1 ~cl\·i·'e!·I xingqi wu
Saturday Cl']=IQ,'~cl\'Cl1 4~·i·~9 xingqi liu

Sunday 9=1Q,·~'J.II 4~·i·c:i~~1

xingqi tian
Note that in Tibetan and Chinese concept, the first day of the week is Monday, therefore
" " " Monday, lit. weekday one. For the remaining days of the week,
the term ~-a;·cii:scii
simply add Cl']~~ two, Cl']~JJ three, c:i4Jour, ~five, ~9 six, CJ~~ seven to the word~l
The question What day of the week is today, then, can be either (I) or (2).

(I) ~·x_r:::111=1r.1;~~11 (in some areas, ~·x.r:..·111:1r.1;i·~1P
(2) ~·x.r:..·~·i·~~l1 (non-standard but popular usage)
For practical reasons, we use both traditional and Chinese names in this textbook, but the
reader should bear in mind that the Chinese-based loan words are in much more frequent

- Al " " ;::,

The names for the days of the week are nouns. To form a temporal adverb such as on
Sunday, one needs to attach a c1,1·1~ to the noun. Examples:
- " What do you want to do on Saturday?
(3) ia"r9=1i,,·~~·t;1·,,:~·11cri·uf~'"-11·~1

(4) ~:~9"r?f·~·i·~·,,:uir:..·t·~11 My friend will come on Friday.

(5) 9:1i,,·~9·r~r"'·~·M·"'·g"r~9·~·je3·~1·ui11
We have math classes every Wednesday.

I),, 12.3.3 ObjectAI',~ Verbs: "'5 to Ask

We encountered two verbs that mark their direct object with c1,1·~~ (Oblique Case),
" to ask is
namely, i::i~ to watch, to read, to look at, and~~ to listen to. The verb~
another Object-'1,1'1~ verb. Examples:
(1) ~·1~·"' (Obliq)'"-5.1 Ask him. (Lit. Ask to him.)
(2) r:.."r{9·e3~·~(0bliq)'Cl'}/'~'"-~1·~1 I want to watch a movie.
(3) r:..~·~1sr:..~·r:..(Obliq)''?~·~·ui11 I am listening to music.
It is not unexpected that the person who is asked a question receives Oblique Case
marking, since the question itself is the Theme (Abs) and the person being asked is the
indirect object to whom the question is directed. When ask takes a clausal complement
such as John asked when you would arrive, use i.;; and not "'5 (see 12.3.6).
I• 12.3.4 ~ Go I arc:. Come + VP Expressing Pwpoae I
- - .
The verb~ to go and a.ir:.. to come may take a VP complement, expressmg purpose
of the subject's going or coming. The pattern is shown below: (Note that the particle~
functions as in order to in English.)
(I) Pattern: VP+~+~ I iij'r:._

(2) C:.(Abs)'~111·c:i~·°\·c:i'1'/·~·~·~~l I will go to watch a movie.

- " -
(3) C:.(Abs)'c:il·~·n.·~~·111·~·~~1 I will go to listen to Tibetan songs.
There is a crucial difference in Case-marking between want to do and go to do in Tibetan.
Compare the above two sentences with the two below.
(4) C:.~ (Erg)'~111·c:i~'°i'c:l'1'/'°i'~~l·91 I want to watch a movie.

(5) C:.~ (Erg)'~\·!n.''?°i·~·~~l'91 I want to listen to Tibetan songs.

The sentence-initial su_bject c::. I, in a sentence involving VP + +~I UIC:. go/come+
purpose clause. is considered the subject of go/come, therefore receiving Absolutive Case
(unmarked). With ~11 want, C:. is considered the subject of the verb c:i~, therefore
- ..,
receiving Ergative Case (marked by~). It is important to remember with~ I UlC:. taking
a purpose clause, the subject gets Absolutive case. Even by combining the two patterns,
forming want to go to + V, the subject will still be Absolutive. More examples:
(6) C:.~ (Erg)'12!·~·~111·;·~~1 I will buy a book.

(7) C:. (Abs) 12!·~·~111·;·9·~·~~1 I will go to buy a book. (= go buying a book.)

(8) C:.~'(Erg) 12!·~·~111·;·~·~~1'91 I want to buy a book.

(9) C:. (Abs) 12!·~·~111·;·9·~·~·~~1'91 I want to go to buy a book.

A useful pattern is "to go to a place (Obliq) to do something," shown by the following
"" - " -:;,- ~ I will come to Xining to buy a computer.
(I 0) C:.':l'/lJC:."C:.":Illl1'~1'=lll1"'?',i'UlC:.'ii'u.i°i1

( 11) ij·ttfJJ'~'f'n.·1s~·ul111·ic:i·9·°\~·~·~·ul~1
When will you go to the US to study English?
( 12) c:_·ij1·nra_s·r:J,2,·~c:_·ij·~111·iil~·9·~·~·~~1·91
I want to go to Tibet to take a lot of pictures.
<13) a·~~·~°'·;~:rc:i·111~·i·q·ij1·1lJ·~/lJ·c:i(,2,·,2,·~·~·~~1·~·91
My teacher wants to go to Tibet to travel next month .

... 12.3.5 °iC:.'~~·af1/JJ1: It Is (Not) Interesting to

The adjective interesting in Amdo is expressed by noun °'~:~°' interest/meaning plus

the existential verb iii11 (or il1l for the negative form). It can mean either interesting or
meaningful, depending on the context. The negative form not interesting is synonymous
to boring. Because the main verb is the existential a:r"i, the structure of something is
interesting with an NP subject requires Oblique Case marking on the subject:

(I) Subject (Obliq) + c!i~·~o\·ar"/i!1 (~)
(2) 25'1·~·1·i'1.l·n,r~·~·o\~·~o\·iif\~1 Tibetan art is really interesting.
(3) ~:i·/l.~'r.fo\~'~o\·iif1·~1 This painting is interesting.
When the subject is a VP, as in to do something is interesting, the Tibetan structure
uses the c!i if clause as the pattern below:
(4) VP (past)+ o\ o\~'~o\'iif"/i!1·~1
Note that the verb is in its past tense. This is again the subjunctive (irrealis) usage of the
tense that we covered earlier in Lesson 11, regarding the usage of ill]. Compare the
similarity between the two structures:
(5) ~~·11r~~:f111·1:J~o\'o\'1:J~~·o\·1N·i111
ls it OK if I watch( ed) an American movie?
(6) ~-~a·f11]·1:J~°'·°'·l:J~~·°'·°'~-~°'·1N·iif1·~1
Is it interesting if one watched American movies? (Is it interesting to watch ... ?)
More examples:
(7) ll]illl.'J.l~ll]·ll]·~1:J·j~·s~·o\·o\~·~o\·i!1·~1 It is boring to study on weekends.
(8) ~-~~-~·'1.l·~~·o\'o\~'~o\·il\~1 (~~ is the past tense of~)
It is not interesting to go downtown today.
(9) ;· ~~·11]:all.·ll.f~·111~11] ·;f·~·ar~·t·u1 o\·~·~·~·1~ ·~-J.l~J.l·~·fIll 'l:J ~ ·~'l:J~·~· i~·c!i·
~~-~o\·iif1·~1 Because Tserang will come next week, it will be interesting to
go watch the movie with him.

~ 12.3.6 The Verb i~: to Say and to Ask

The verb to say is the same verb ~::i; to be called, which we learned as early as Lesson
4. In this lesson, we introduce the structure of the embedded clause serving as a quote of
~~. There is an important issue at hand. In English, when say is used, there are two
ways to "report" the quote: direct quote with quotation marks and indirect quote when
what is said is embedded with the complementizer that. For example:
(I) John said, "I will not do it." ( direct quote)
(2) John said that he would not do it. (indirect quote with the complementizer that)
The Tibetan sentence has the following pattern:
(3) Subject (Erg) + [ clause J + ii~

It is not apparent whether the Tibetan structure is akin to the direct quote in (I) or the
indirect quote in (2). To have a meaningful comparison, we will bring up the verb4~ 10
know before it is formally introduced in Lesson 15 (15.3.8).
(4) Subject(Erg.) + [ clause J + ~ + 4~ (subject knows that ... )
Consider the following examples.
(5) "~-~~·~~·r ii'·~·~r:.·arr:.·,·~1·1 ~~·~1
The teacher said that she would come today. (teacher= she)
(6 ) 1~·~~·~~'[ ij'·~·~r:,·illr:.·t·ill~·~·14~·ui1·~1
The teacher knew that she would come today. (teacher= she)
( 7) 1~·a;~·~~·[j?:J'~?:J'Q,~'3i'~·1 ~~·~1
The teacher said that this textbook was good.
(8) "~·a;~·~~·[j?:J'~?:J'Q,~'3i'~·14~·ui1·~1
The teacher knew that this textbook was good.
Note that 4~ to know takes an embedded clause headed by the complementizer ~ that,
while ~~ does not. ~~ seems to simply follow what has been said. Another crucial
difference is that the embedded clause taken by~~ could retain its objective markers, as
in iiir:.·,·~'\ and 3;·~. atypical ofan embedded clause. The embedded clause taken by

4~. taking illr:.·,·ill~·~ and 3;·~ (with default or subjective perspective), behaves
normally. This contrast suggests that~~ actually takes a direct quote, therefore able to
maintain its original perspective marking in the embedded clause. Note, however, that
the personal pronoun in the quote can be changed accordingly. More examples:
(9) j,1r~.rj1·~~'[ ;j'·~·!lr:.·r:.·~·t· 1~~·~1
Drolma Jid says/said that she will/would go downtown.
oo) ?:J~rti~-~~- r ~~-11.1~·s·r.1,§·t·1 ~~-~1
Trashi says/said that he will/would do homework.
( 11) ~·~r:::j'\·~~'[ ;j'~·~1sz:.~·n,l~·t·J ~~-~1
Tserang Jid says/said that she will/would sing a song.
Note that even when the English translation would use past tense for the verb say, when
appropriate, the Tibetan verb~~ is always in its present tense.
When ii.~ takes an interrogative direct quote, translate~~ as to ask. Examples:
( 12) 1~·a;°'·~~·[j?:J'~?:J'Q,~'~'3i'~') ~~-~1
The teacher asks/asked if this textbook was good.
( 13> ;i~r.1,·a.!·~~·;i·1~·~i:ar.1,·~°'·~·r.farr:.·~·t11r~~~·"'S·~
Kandro asked if she can come on Saturday.

(14) ~:~1:::cJJ~r~·~-~-~-~"1·t;1·1"1c'.:l.'~~Ta.s·~·91
My wife asks if you like milk tea and noodles.
( I5) f r:.·~~·~·1~·~,;-~·l:\·t;1~·~"1·~·arr;·~·i"1'~"1·a.s·1~·~1
John asked whether he could come to the fanning village to take pictures.

ll"' 12.3.7 VP+ i~·iii'11 to Plan to

Like the modal "' to plan also behabes like a modal verb that takes
~i: :i to be able to, g~
an infinitival VP complement. For example, when Drolma asks Teacher Tserang ~-~cJ.I·
........ ~ ...,., "
When do you plan to leave,~ immediately precedes g~. More examples:
( I)
...,., ...,., " -~
...,., " ...,., ~
~~·~,;·"1·~~-lcJ.l'~l:\·~~-~~·u.fg~·ail1 ("?'cJ.l'~I:\·
for how many days, Oblique)
How many days do you plan to travel in China?
...,., ...,., .._,," ....,
(2) r:.·~rcii~cii·cJ.l·l:\·~·~·(.\·~~-~~-~-~-g~·ai11
I am planning to go to Lhasa next month.
auxiliary -
The learner may have noticed that the combination g~·ai~ involves the existential
Different from the present progressive auxiliary "'-Cll"i, this combination is
related to the continuous aspect. We will return to this structure in next lesson. For the
continuous aspect, an alternative auxiliary ~"] can be used interchangeably with ilj'"i,

(3) cJ.lfc'.:l.'c'.:l.~]'~J.l'l!-fil·~·rzr~·g~·af1·91 When does Kandro plan to go the US?

(4) "1~r:.~l"1r,·~·,,:r:.·il·~~·c'.:l.r;:i,:r~"1~·"1·a·!"1~·q(.\·~"1·9·~-i~·ar11
I plan to meet my friend at the train station tomorrow morning.
(5) ~cii~·cii·15\r~·(.\·~r;:i·jr;·ui·9·~-i~·~·ar11
Do you two plan to go to the US to study?

11 IJl> 12.3.8 Locative Phrase: 1' vs.~~ II

We introduced 1' as a preposition that can take either locative or temporal phrases in

compatible with stative ( or non-action) verbs such as

dynamic preposition;~ is used. Recall: (locative phrase in brackets)
Lesson I 0. When i3\ takes a time expression, it forms a temporal adverbial that is only
"'"i to have. With action verbs, the

(I) a·a;~·[~~·f1·"]%Clj·~·4·it,;i"j'~Tfr;:i·~1·af11 We have a class at I :30. (use~)

(2) a-a;~·[~~·l1·i:::it1·9·icii·~~Tij"j'1~1 We will meet at 8:00. (use~~)
The same stative/dynamic contrast applies to locative adverbials as well.

(3) [Q.~-~J'ij1·~·~·<1J·a9·ili1·~, There is a Tibetan boy here. (use~)
C\.. ...,.., &°'\ --
( 4) ~'M'[Q.1·~~]'ij11]'111JI We will meet here. (use~~)
More examples:
(5) eif~~:~:.-~a.·~a.·9~·9~·1·1rrie;·fl~·~~-~r~·ie;·~~-1~·~1
Tom and Mary are drinking milk tea at the teahouse now.

<6) i~-CIJ~~~-1a-,-~-~T~~·11·~·J:_·4 ·~·iCIJ·~~ril·~J:_·Q.t:1t:1·~CIJ~·~~-~~

We will meet at the train station at I 0:30 tomorrow morning.

, ..,. 12.3.9 From Xining to Golok: Ablative~~ ~

The preposition ~~from, not to be confused with the temporal/locative preposition
~~ we just covered, can indicate the origin or starting point of a place or time, (but not
nationality, as we learned in Lesson 5.) Some grammarians call it the Ablative Case
marker. Since this~~ has no variant forms, understanding it as the preposition.from
would suffice for the learner to master its usage; so we call it.from. It can signify either
from a place or from a time. Below are a few examples: (Without exception, the.from
phrase is marked by ili~ and the to phrase is marked by Directional Ladon.)
(I) a·nJ~-~~·~afa:i9·9 from Xining to Golok.
(2) '}/'~~~·~9-~·r.i:~~·f1·~-l~I How long does it take to get to Naqu from Lhasa?

(3) ~·as·~-~~-~·a;·Q.~'r.t'fll1]'~~-~l It is far from there to this place .

• 12.4 Cultural Notes


i:: 12 .4. I Entertainment and Recreation

Watching movies is a popular form of entertainment in Amdo. Some Hollywood
blockbusters are professionally dubbed in Amdo Tibetan. It is surreal (and a lot of fun)
listening to Keanu Reeves and Sandra Bullock conversing in Amdo Tibetan on the Santa
Monica Blue Bus to downtown LA. Most movies, however, are only available in the
original sound track with Chinese subtitle or, at best, dubbed in Chinese. Since DVD's
and VCD's can be easily bought or rented in most towns, watching movies at home is
common. Watching American movies with Tibetan friends is certainly fine, but one
needs to bear in mind that Tibetans are very conservative in some aspects. Scenes
containing kissing and nudity can create embarrassment among Tibetans especially when
an elder or siblings of the different sex are present. If an unwanted scene appears, you
can simply fast forward it and everyone will pretend to have seen nothing, appreciating
your courtesy. Violence, on the other hand, seems to be less offensive.

American Movie Dubbed in Amdo Traditional Dance in High Heels

Especially in Kham region, the folk dance known as Gorshi (ij~·cri~~p seems to be

the Tibetan answer to the Chinese Taichi or disco that one sees in virtually every public
park in the Han Chinese region. Literally "circle dance".~~·~~~ has a simple pattern of
brisk and graceful steps. In the town square of Dardo ~~~·~ ~-J.J~ 1(Ch. Kangding),
more than two hundred people from all walks of life gather every evening to dance in a
circle as their daily pastime.

Gorshi Danced Daily in Townsquare ofDardo, Garze

Tibetans enjoy picnics. On road sides, one often see such private functions being

held. announced by the smoke coming from the tea pot on an improvised three-stone
stove. Snacks such as tsampa, dried meat, cheese, and fruit are the usual fare. Passing by

tea. The correct response to this gesture of hospitality is to say~·~~.-
such a group of relaxed Tibetans, one is bound to be invited to join them for a bowl of
no need, politely.

Fami(v Outing. Rebgong Wind-Dried Beefand Cheese

In any to\vn of a respectable size such as county seats, one may find places called
~~·;i·(tl~ which are basically night clubs offering a variety show of singing, dancing,
stand-up comedy. skits, etc., with a floor for guests to dance between performances.
Chinese. Indian, Tibetan, and American pop songs are a11 heard here. It is gaining
popularity. as night entertainment is not just for youngsters but for families as well.
Traditional Tibetan operas are now only performed on special occasions such as the
Shotun Festival. Arndo Opera originated from Rongwo (Rebgong) and Labrang
monasteries and has spread to Golok in Qinghai, Aba in Sichuan, and Serda. In Golok,
the stories of King Gesar are perfonned with the troupe riding on horses in an outdoor
"stage" as big as a football field.

I Ip /

Tibetan Opera Durin[! Shol1.4n, Norbu Lingka, Lhasa "Horseback" Tibetan Opera

•:• 12.s Key Sentence Patterns
I 12.5.1 Days of the Week
(I) ~-~c:.·1rp;1Q:~c:r:X,~1 ~-~i::.:~:ar.i..·ci·~r;.,~·:X,~1
What day of the week is today? Today is Friday.
(2) f·gc:.·111:ar.i..·~.2;._-~· %,~1
Yesterday was Thursday.
(3) l ]~r;_,~·1·111:ar.i..· ~1:3· %,~1 ~~r;_,~·,·~:ar.i..·~·1:3· %,~1
What day of the week is tomorrow? Tomorrow is Monday.
(4) r:::11]:!r.l..'~·~·r.i.'il:l'ir;_,·uj·~~-£1-~~r.i..1
I don't like studying on Sunday.
I --
12.5.2 ~ I Ul!;., + Purpose
(I) c:.·~111·1:3~3i'3i'l:l'l9'~'3i'r.l..~"1'9 I
I want to go see a movie.
(2) ~~-~°\-~°\r;.,~·1·~c:..·~· r.i.·~·"I9·~·a.1·9~·9 ·1:31r~· ~·t :x_"'I
Teacher will go to see his parents in farming village tomorrow.
(3) c:.··~;~c:.·4n.i·"la.1·1:3~·~·9·~·tui3i I
I am going to buy four bottles of beer.
(4) ~-~;{"lsc\~·9·~9~·ar·r.fl:l5·9·ari::..·t·x.~1
They are coming to see their English friend.

(5l ~~~·9·9c:.·c:..·~9·q~31·31·q5·9·~·tai°iI
Where will we two go to see the movie?
• 12.5.3 cJiC:..'~cJi·cii'~/.iJ~ Interesting I Boring to
(I) r::,~·q5~'3i \ lf,r.iJ·~·,a.·~9·q~•\3i'l:l5~'3i'3iC:..'~°\·i}~·91
In my opinion, it's not interesting to see an American movie.
(l) ~.ac,_·~·;.i·r.i.·l:l~3i'~3i'3i'l:l5~·3i·31c:.·~3i·il~·91
It's not interesting to watch TV on Sunday.

(3) ij~·~·aJ'·t~·tJ~tJ1~r3i·4·~·3ir:.·~3i·ilJ~·~1
It's very interesting to study Tibetan history.

(4) i!.l~·ar9·~psn.i·~J:,·~·3i·4·~·31r:.·~3i·ar~·~1
Is it interesting to travel in Golok?
• 12.5.4 Go/Come to a Place+ Purpose
(I) c:.·~·c,_~a·3it:.'r:_·~~J:,'t:.l3i'3i'~'1.J·q~J:,'J:,'~·,·~3i \

I will go to Japan to travel this month.
(2) !'l'l'il·~·~·11·ij1·~·~1·iq~·!z:i·~1·aj·~·iiji:_·~·lN·a.~1·~,
Do you want to come to the United States to teach Tibetan language?

(3) i"'';.]':l;'J.J~a.·a.~-~~-~·li:,·-li'11':!'J.l'~'~'~'t~·1~a.·~,
Drolma and Kandro like to go the market to buy food.

(4) i:,·~·J.J·ij1·~·~i:_-~·11·ij1·©·11·z:i~-~-~-~-a.~1·~,
I really want to go to the farming villages to see Tibetan people.

(5) !·a.i;::i:.·~~-~-a.i;: :i;·~a;·~·~1·iq ~·!z:i·~·~·£l·19·~'

You don't need to go to Japan to study Japanese.
• ~J.l When
12.5.5 Interrogative Word:

()) ~c5ifa,J.J·~-l~I ~~-~=IQ..'~'J.l'11'~'l'[q~,

When will we leave? We will leave on Sunday.
(2) ~-i64'~J.l'ij~'l'~11 ~-~-~~·l1·z:i~1·~-£f~-~~-ij~'t'~11
When will they meet? They will meet to 8:00.

(3) ~~-~·,·t"''iz:]'~1'~J.l'~11 ~~-~·1·t"''iz:]'~1·~:1a.·~~-~-~l I

When is our art class? Our art class is on Wednesday.

(4) !·fi:,·:i:.·a;J.l·~·l·iq~, i:,·~:1a.·~:i;·~~~-;j'·11·~·l·iq~,

When will you go to the market?! will go next week.
• 12.5.6 ~:i:. to Say I to Ask
( 1) i,.i·~~-£i~-~~·a.i;::i:.·~a;·~·:1·J.J·~-~-~J.l'~·~:i:.·~,
Akimi says that Japanese food is very tasty.
<2 > ij·~'(JJ'~~·JJ·~·4·£l·1~a.·~:i:.·~1
Sophie says that she doesn't like fish.

(3) 1~·ifi~-~~·12l·a;·a.~·i1·~·~·a;i:_·~a;·iii1·~·~:i:.·~1 ~-~~·1·1:,~·~·a;·a.~1·~1

The teacher says that the book is very interesting, so I want to read it.

<4 > 11:Ji:,·JJ·~-~.n~~~~·1·1:J~a,·a_s~·a;·z:i~·t·tQa;·~:i:.·~ 1

Rhangmo says that she is watching videos at home right now.
(5) iji,i·1~·ifia;·i·~i:,-~·~i:_·afi:_·t·J.J·~1·~~-~-~-[qa;1

<6 J
._., -
Did you say that Teacher Tserang is not coming today?
" _., " " ,,.,.,. "
Tom asks whether you two are hungry.

My mother asks if you like to eat noodles.

.5.7 "' to Plan

1 12
...,., ""........ "" _.
(I) r::_~·1~"·~·i,.·~ci·~·r.i.1·~ci· g~·Ul l I
I plan to study this lesson in the evening.

(2) "~·~:.-~·ci~·ci~·~-~-~·%r:ir;.i(1·icri·~·g~·iij'11
I plan to buy that 45-yuan dictionary.

(3) ~-~;i·~·t\·~r:.~·~:.·r.i.cici·%cri~·cri·~·g~·ar11
When do you plan to go to the bus station?

(4) jr=.·~,.rr5'~·1·a5r::.·1;.i·2l·~·~r::.·g~·iij'1·?!:.·~1
John says that he plans to drink five bottles of beer.
..., -- " _. " -" ~
(5J ;iiiia..·a..~·:.·1·;.i·cri'?·cri·"rrz:ir::.·r::.·a.·~· ~r::.·cri·~· g~-Lil 1·cri I

Kandro and Lhamo plan to go to the teahouse to drink milk tea.

I 12.5.8 From Place A to Place B: ~~
(I) a·£lr:.·~~·;.ir:;:.·:,·i,.·~~·i1·~191
How long does it take to get from Xining to Mangra?
(2) a·£ir::.·~~·;.ir::.·-~:"'·~"l·i1·ci~~·191
It takes about 7 hours to get from Xining to Mangra.

(3) ij~'?n.rrz:ir::.·~"l'jCJ'!!]'i,.'£:lcri·~·~r::.·1
ls it far from your dormitory to school?

(4l r::.·i(1·~"l·~:,·r.i.z::iz::i·%cri"l·~"l·il·~:,·r.i.z::iz::i·%cri"l·llT~·1~I
I will go from the bus station to the train station.

(5) ~-~·~·~r::.·~:1r.1,·~:,·~~~·ij·i,.·~z::i·;r::.·~"l·~·9r::.·r::.·~c'.l.l"z::]~%,'%,'~·i~·iij'1·~1
Dorje Tserang plans to travel from Rebgong to Labrang next week.
•:• 12.6 Exercises ~c-•I
12.6.I Listening Comprehension
Dialogue I: Answer the following questions in English
(I) How many people is Dorje supposed to meet to eat at a Tibetan restaurant?
(2) Where are Dorje's friends from?
(3) Where is Dorje's hometown?
(4) How is Dorje's hometown?
Dialogue 2: Answer the following questions in English
(I) What do Dorje's parents do?

(2) When will Dorje go to see his parents?
(3) Will Tom go to Dorje's home this week?
(4) When is Tom's class?
(5) Will Dorje go back home next week? Why?
(6) When will Tom go to Dorje's home?
12.6.2 Pattern Practice: Answer the following questions with the given patterns
(I) ~1~rcri:1r.i.·J.l~Cl]'Cl]'i·~cri·C1J~'~i°ul~ l
(cri:1r.i.·~~·~, ~cri~·ij, J.l~J.l'~l ~·fl~·, ~·~~·~·~, cii:1r.i.·~·J.I, jt:i·fi;.·,)
(2) ~1·~·~~·~·~~·a.scri·~·r.f('l't:l~'(Q~'~'~~·~~·~·ar1·~1

< t:l'1!/~·~, ~·~·~~·~~·il1·~1 l

< ~·, ~~a.·~-, -

(3) cri:1r.i.·~;i:;·~·r;:i·ij·!~·i·EJcii·ui·~·a.~\~1

r.i.111 )
(4 ) ~~·~~~·fr;:i·§fcii~·~~l·t·uj~,
" i-.i·~C1J, )
( ~cri iSll
(5) ~·1~~·!~·i·E1cri·C1J~·,·uj~,

< ~·1~~·1 jt:i·§fcii~·~·J.l~J.l'~'t:l~~·~~·~·~p

12.6.3 Fill in the Blanks

( l)ij·cii~·Cl]~t:l'f'l~·~~·_i·EICl]'ail·~·arll
(2) ~·~cii·r;:i~·-r;:i~·-~·-a.~1·~1 ij·~·-~·uj~1

(3) 12l·as·~~-~~·i·~J.J·~·ii·r;:i~~·-i·~·x.11

(4) je1J·J.l·J.1l· ~1s~~·~~~·-~·~·iq~·~ 1

(5) ~~~;i:;·~~·l1·t:1~1-~;i:;·;.rr;:i!·~·-l~·-~·t·x.11
12.6.4 Translation
(I) In your opinion, which meat is tasty, yak meat or mutton?
(2) A: ls it far from classroom to the library?
B: It's near. It takes only S minutes to get from classroom to the library.
(3) A: Will you come to see the Chinese movie next week?
B: Yes, I will. How much is the movie?
A: It's 24 yuan.
(4) A: What time is it?

B: It's about 9: 18 in the morning.
A: There is a Tibetan art class at noon. Do you want to go with me?
B: Okay, let's go together.
(5) A: What day is today?
B: Today is Tuesday. What will you do today?
A: I will take my parents to the bus station in the afternoon. They are going
back home.
(6) A: Can you come tomorrow?
B: I have something. I cannot come. Can I come on Tuesday?
A: Okay!
12.6.5 Answer the Questions: Answer the following English questions in Tibetan
according to the bus schedule
(I) When does the bus leave from Xining to Yulshul?
(2) How long does it take to get from Xining to Yulshul?
(3) How much does it cost from Xining to Yulshul?
(4) When can you take a bus from Xining to Golmud?
(5) How long does it take to get from Xining to Golmud?
(6) How much is it from Xining to Golmud?
(7) Altogether, how long does it take to get from Xining to Mangra?
(8) How much does it cost altogether to get from Xining to Mangra?

Departure Arrival Duration of Price

From To Time Time Trip (Yuan) Note
Xining Yulshul 7:00 14:30 31.5 hours 128.00 Mon. -Fri.
Xining Go Imud 18:00 16:00 22 hours 97.00 MWF
Xining Thrika 6:30 9:40 3 hrs 10 mins 24.60 Mon. -Fri.
Trika Mangra 12:00 16: 15 4 hrs 15 mins 31.20 Mon. - Fri.

Bus Schedule

When Did You Arrive?

_. Key Grammar Points in Lesson Thirteen:

1. Past Tense: Plain Past, Focused Past, and Witnessed Past
2. Imperative Mood
3. Relative Clause and the Complementizer ~
4. Indirect Object and Dative Ladon
5. Verbs~ and iii'c;. Used as Directional Auxiliaries

•!• 13.1 Dialogue ~

~~=:1 l \l"cl.l1 tlJ?:."El']il•'.l.";.J~9·ij~·q7c;.·Ei!t!j c;_~-~t!j~·ij·9~~-ra1·n.i·arc;.·ar11 f"~~-

~"-1"!:li!?:."1 ~·ciillll~·i·~·!lt!j"cl.l"t!]~9~·£i·4~1
..,.. ..,..
IN.cl.l 1 cJi :.: c;.·4Ill cJi i:.·i:.·4 ll]

~~·1 lN';.J1 i:.~·t·t1·~t!j'ul11 Q.~"t!j~"t!j"~·iq·;.i·ul~1 f'1~'25°\~c;.·i:.·~n.i·r::i:;ii:;

~'cl.]"i! ::;·::;1;j~%c;.·i:.·j411·;.i·;.iliil::;·.1;,1
~~':Jill:."::;·j'1l'cl.]'cl.li1 ij·1::3~·;j·(IJ~·~ 1
lN";.i1 ij·cii~·cii·i::i~·;j·(IJ~'~1 ~;.i·ij~-~~1
j"-l·;r;.iii ~-ij·;.i·a"oi·~~1
IN"~1 !!l]"!CI] ,·~·i1 a;·Eli:.~1

~ai·t:1!!~~·111J·;.r ~11 i ~-~"\'91
iii'·i'~.r::.r.;.]·~ ~
·= ,
Jar~r~i'1 :1,.r~,~:~:,
(f,l'3J1 ~·i~·crit:.·~~·!!~'r;:J~·t:_·,
~;~~·i ~·a;~·r.s·i·!jt:.'r::J~,1.r~p:r~t::~r;.:~~·=~·~~·::.·,
~- t:'\ - "

(f,l'~1 ~-~·@·r;:J~'i~·<ir!;:r:_·~l·E.1'1.1,
~·ij:.·1 ~·~.;.i·~t:_·~·~11
~·~, ~·~~~·,·~·a.·~l'flll.l1 ~·~~·~·l~·~·ar~,
~·ij~·, lffaJ'~~-§~·1r~·r.(~-ij~·~E1rcri ~-~~~·i)'·~·r~r"'~a·~::.·::.·~·~·~·~·,·~~·
~'J-1\ ~·~~~·;J·ijt:_·~cri t'«JJ<i~·cri="'·i~·~~-~-~~-~·~·~·%°'·~~·i°'·i:J7::.·~cri

A Farmer's Family, Serda, Garze

\\"ucbung: Mom, it's the weekend again. I brought two students. They lmow Tibetan.
Gabzang: We know only a little Tibetan.
Mother: Come in. Come in.
Wuchung: Mom, let me do a little introduction. These two are my students. His
Tibetan name is called Gabzang Nyima. Her name is Drolma Tso.
Gab.z.ang and Drolmatso: How are you?
Mother: How are you two? When did you arrive?
Drolmatso: We amvedjust now.
Mother: Sit down. Sit down. Eat bread. Drink tea.
Drohnatso: Yes, yes. This is tea and chang that we bought for you. Also, there are
some apples.
Gabzaog: This is the khata we brought for you. Trashi Telek.
Mother: Oh my! Thank you.
Gabzang and Drolmatso: Not at all.
Mother: Did you two eat?
Drolmatso: We already ate.
Mother: Where did you all eat?
Wuchung: We ate at a restaurant in downtown Trika. Oh yes, is my elder sister not
Molher. Your sister went to Granny Degyi' s place.
Wuchung: When did she go?
Mother. She went this morning. She'll be right back.
Wucbung: Didn't Granny Degyi go to Lhasa? She said that she wanted to go to
Lhasa this month.
Mother: She didn't go because (Lit. the reason (being that)) her son came back from
Beijing last week.

(. 13.2 Voabalary ~
13.2.1 voeoamry rrom the Dialogue
I. o,r:q adv. agam
2. ~-,
J. a,(~)

LluJ.ji pan.
past tense auxiliary

(see 13.3.7)
4 ~ to know

n. I adj.
5. %'·~·a~ [ijc:.·~~1 a little
6. come (imperative)
v. (0-V)
7. t-fr.yiil11 rt·J1·s11 to introduce
person Nyima
8. ,·3J1
9. '\'~'3ll [!S\'?"1'7~] just now
IO. g~ [~1] to sit down
11. ;ff~, bread

12. ./ V. eat (imperative)

=! I
13. ijC.~, V. drink (imperative)

14. V. to bring, to take (a thing)
I5. [~] Lhaji part. (see 13.3.7)
16. part.
~1 [~) nominalizer (relative clause marker)
17. n. apple
18. a;·%'~ [fll'4~l adj. some
19. n.
~·c:i7~~1 khada (religious scarf)
20. 17,~<1.1, V. to give (honorific)
17,·ui I
~·c:i~-"'~~, phrase

(greeting) Trashi Telek

oh my!
23. V. ate (past tense)
!IC.'c:J~n.i 1 n. downtown

person Degyi
26. V. to go out, to get out
El n.i 1 aux. marking witnessed past
l . ~~·~,
[ijJ:.'~) adv. right away
~·ui11 aux. marking imminent future
~·~i;, n. / adv. reason; reason being that ...
{;·~, adj. last
~!,'j~·~.i;·f;·J.l, n. last week

33. 111:aa.·i~·~·a.1 - adv. last week (used adverbially)

13.2.2 Additional Vocabulary
v. to sleep (past), ~11.11 (present)
111"'"'1~1 v. to die
41 n. store, shop
36. it;.·(tic;_· 1 orange
37. i·~~1 grape
-s~·~1 n.


to stay
~Ill taste ( e.g. of a dish)
41. 9·r:i1 cigarette
~Cl1 V. to smoke
~ r;:c;. r:ic;_· 1

last night

last year
45. ~·a;c;.·1
n. yesterday
46. ('II'!c;,·1 ~·~r:..]
n. camera



to give

50. Ille;_~, V. to stand

51. -
a.t~'lllc;,~1 V. stand up (imperative)

52. ~-~,- n.


last month

53. i'!~·~,
54. sent. part. imperative particle

-!• 13.3 Grammar Notes

I• IJ.J. l , _ Pllt TIIIIC and the Auxiliaries r:::1'1' and fr:.. 1

We have so far covered present and future tense of the verb. Both tenses need the
accompaniment of auxiliaries to be complete. Present (progressive) has the form V + ~
ai'~ (~) and future takes cq~ /~l· t Past tense in Amdo Tibetan has an elaborate system
with nuances that call for the learner's discrimination and patience. We call the first type
of past tense "plain past" in this textbook as it seems to be the default pattern compared
10 "witnessed past" and "focused past," which we shall introduce shortly. Plain past

employs, immediately after the verb in its past tense, either the auxiliary i::JryC:. or the
auxiliary l!.lC:.. Generally speaking, if the verb is a transitive (action) verb, the auxiliary
is i:!7C:.. After i:::i17c:., if the subject is first person or an in-group member, the sentential
particle C:. (from .:i:., see 11.3.6) is attached to indicate the subjective perspective; to mark
" is used. Examples:
the objective perspective, the particle::!~
(I) ~-.'~~-~l!.1·::1·~·=ll!.l'i::J7C:.'C:.'1 We two already ate food.

(2) C:.l!.l'l2l·iFi·a:i::J~l!.l·i:::i17z::.·c:.·1 I read (past) a book.

(3) z::.·lqy2;~-~-~~·i:::i17z::.·c:.·1 I liked it, so I bought it.

(4) £)-l~~·=l·~-=l~·i:::ir~~ She already ate food.

(5) ~;~z::.·~~-\\"1",:fj'~CIT~~-i:::i~-~~ Wuchung bought some apples.

l!.lC:., on the other hand, can be used to accompany either transitive or intransitive
verbs. In the lesson, for example, Wuchung says UlC:."Cl']=l(.l,"~~Cl']·E:l~·l!.lc:.·11r·s the weekend -
again (Lit. Again weekend arrived.) Some native Amdo speakers feel that
with intransitive verbs, but the authors find this idealized clear-cut dichotomy between
l!.lC:. only goes

..,, dubious, as (for some speakers) there are many instances where --
t:17 Z::. and ~C:. l!.lC:. goes
with transitive verbs when the subject is third person, for example: (Be careful when
using ~C:. with a transitive verb, the objective perspective marker~CI'] cannot be there.)
(6) fl!.l'=l'~'=l~·ijz::.·1 He ate food. (wrong to put ;I~ at the end)

(7) J.lftl(.l,'(.l,~~~-~-~C:.~.rijz::.·1 Kandro sang a song.

(8) * z::.~·cq·~-~~·ijz::.·c:.·1 (Intended) I wrote a letter. (frrst person ungrammatical)

When ~C:. goes with an intransitive verb, it does take::!~ " to indicate objective
perspective, and in contrast, it takes C:. to indicate subjectivity. Examples:
(9) 1·~·~z::.·~c:.·a.~·~~l·ijz::.·;jll] The little child fell asleep.

(I 0) ~~r.;i·~·cii~·cii·~·ijz::.·~cii
There is no apparent difference between the choice of
Both her parents died.
-- -
l!.lC:. and i::J~ in ftl~"=l'J.l'=ll!.l'~C:.·1

and ~~·=1·cJ.1·=1~fC31r"!IC!] he ate food. It is a matter of preference of the individual
speaker. To form a question in plain past, the easiest way is to use the interrogative
adverb~ before a bare verb in past tense (i.e. without any past tense auxiliary.) For
negation, simply replace~ by cJ.J. (N. B. It's cJ.J and not£!. The latter is mainly for

( 11) -
present and future and the former for past and imperative.) Examples:
.::-. Did you two eat food?

(12) c:.~·=1·cJ.J·~·~c:.·cJ.1·=1~1 I haven't eaten food yet. I didn't eat food.

Generally speaking, past tense in negative or interrogative forms are not marked
for subjectivity but may be marked by !IC!] for objectivity. For example:
(13) i·e3=1c:,·~~-~·cJ.J·~c:.·!illj Lobzang didn't drink tea.
(14) ~~-n.i~·5·cJ.1·9~r!iCI] He didn't do homework.
Below is a summary of the two past tense auxiliaries:

plain past subjective objective

transitive (I) V (past) + z:J7Z:. + z:.·1 V (past) + z:J7Z:. + !19

transitive (2) -
V (past) + ~Z:. + z:.·1 V (past) + ~z:.·1 ( a9 impossible)
intransitive -
V(past) + ~C:. + z:.·1 V (past) + ~Z:. + !IC!]

interrogative ~ + V(past) ~ + V(past) + a"]

negative cJ.J + V(past) cJ.J + V(past) + a"]

When the speaker reports an event that he witnessed taking place in the past with an
out-group member (objectivity required) being the subject of the sentence, the verb (past)

takes the auxiliary El'1.I. In other words, ElnJ indicates the speaker's first-hand knowledge
of tbe event. El'1.I comes after i::iryi:., thus v-z:iryi::.·Eln.i, or replaces ~Z:., rendering V-l:!'11.
(I) 1~·ifi~-ij'~·i::i;i:;:ElnJ1 The teacher arrived.
(2) £rr::;~·i,rul·i::i~·i~·ii;.:1::;~~·Eln.i1 She went out to Granny Degyi's place.
( 3) ji::i·~-~-~~-~·~·~z:.·Jt:1·~~·n.i·3.rili'z:.·1:1n.i1
Those two students did not come to class today.

f llit- 13.3.3 Focused Past I
Sometimes, the occurrence of an event is already mentioned in the discourse or self-
evident by non-linguistic circumstances; yet the speaker wants to ask a specific piece of
additional information about the event, presupposing its occurrence. For example, seeing
you walking in the hall way, your friend asks "When did you come back?" The fact that
you came back is evident by your physical presence. It is considered old or known
information. The question is only about when, which is new information. The new
information becomes the focus of the sentence. While a number of languages such as
Tibetan and Chinese distinguish the two interpretations of the following sentence Joh11
came back yesterday, English does not. The sentence can be a plain statement: the
whole statement about John's coming back yesterday is presented as new information in
the discourse. It can also be an answer to I know John is in town now. When did he come
back? In the second case, the time phrase is the focus or new information; whereas the
event of John's coming back is old information. Chinese, for example, is strict about
distinguishing the two interpretations by using two different structures, the second one
even has its own named called Focus Construction. Tibetan has a similar device
available to make that distinction but its use is not as obligatory as in Chinese.
Nevertheless, it is frequently used and merits our coverage here.
We will call the structure "Focused Past", indicating that one part of the sentence is

Teacher Wuchong's mother sees her son at the door, she asks ~3fEl~-~~1 -
the focus, or new information, while the rest is already known. In the lesson, when
" When did you
arrive? This is a typical situation for the focused past, since Wuchong's arrival is already
self-evident. It's about when that she is asking. The pattern:
(I) Focused Past
V-past + ~-[tj~ (~·uj~ is often contracted to~~). or, for objective perspective,
V-past + ~-~ll (no contraction)
(2) ij·~~-~-~J.J·e'~-~~1 When did you two arrive?
(3) ~-~~-~·1·~·J.J·if~-~~l We two just arrived.
(4) ~~-,~-f~-~-~~-~-~'J.]'.:t,'~~-~J.J'~~-~-u1~,(~~)
It is in that store where I bought the oranges and grapes.
(5) ~-,~-~-f~-~-~~-s~·~-~~-~-uj~1(~~) It is at that teahouse where we ate lunch.
After hearing that his elder sister has left (i·l!\l·al·z:::i~·i1·~·~·~1'Ell'l.l), Wuchong
asked when, using the focused past: i'il\J.J'~~-~-~11 Note that in the above sentence, i~

is the past tense of the verb~ to go, and not the auxiliary ~Z::..-
Note that the auxiliary ~·al~ or~·~~ forms Focus Construction in general. In this
lesson. it is called Focused Past only when the verb precedes it is in past tense. ~·~~ or
~·~~ can take present tense form of the verb as well. See Lesson I 5 for other usages.

... 13.3.4 Durative Past and Continuous Aspect: V (past)+ a.il --

At the beginning of the dialogue, Wuchung tells his mother z::.~·~ll']~·ai'·lfj~~·~~·~·
ai::.·ai"J / brought two students.
-UJ", - -
He did not use the plain past, witnessed past, or focused

past. The verbal complex V (past)+ e.g. a.ii;·a.i~, is a fourth kind of expression
related to past tense. Called durative past, V (past)+ a.il is used to indicate the situation
where the action took place in the past but the resulting state is continued to the time of
speech. The following examples may not be translated into past tense in English, but
they all fit the semantic criterion of durative past:
( I) John is wearing a funny hat.
(His putting on the hat took place in the past. He is still wearing it.)
(2) I have eaten.
(My eating something took place in the past. I am still full now. The effect ofmy
eating continues.)
(3) The painting is hanging on the wall.
(The actual action of the hanging took place in the past. But the result of the
hanging is still there.)
Strictly speaking, Wuchung's action of bringing two friends ended at the time when they
arrived, which is why in English one says I brought two friends in past tense. However,
since the effect of his bringing the friends continues because Gabzang and Drolma-Tso
are still there at the time of speech, similar to the painting being still on the wall after the
action of hanging (in (3)), durative past is used. Another example: when asking
Wuchung whether they ate,~·~ says (4), using plain past. She could have said (5), using
the durative past. The English translations show the semantic difference adequately.
( 4) !·i41·:1·~·1ii·:1~,
Did you eat? (emphasizing on the occurrence of the event.)
( 5) ij·pi·:1·~·:1~·1ii·iq~,
Have you eaten? (emphasizing on the continuous effect of eating.)
Sometimes, the English translation of simple past does not give the impression

rendered by durative past in Tibetan:
(6) ~-r,r;;.rll']~·ll']~·a:i'·~c:r~J!!.ra.5·~ :i:::&Jc::ij·~ll']·!CJ"a:i'~-~ 1
My parents took a lot of pictures in Europe.
Durative past is employed in (6) because the speaker considers the physical presence of
pictures as continuous effect of his parents' having taking them. While in this lesson we
do not emphasize on durative past, the learner should be aware of its existence. The
continuous aspect involving CJ~~-Ul~ will be discussed in 20.3.1 .

... 13.3.5 all'] vs. ~·9·~~ A Little

" a diminutive verbal measurement preceding a verb. means doing a little hit of the
action denoted by the verb. In the lesson, for example, Wuchung says ~~.-~-j~·!i~·ul~1 I
do a little bit of introduction. Another example:

o> a.~·a;~-~~-~·"·~~-a:r~-~ia;·~&J·ui~ I §'·CJ·!i~·i~·~1

These are some oranges that I bought for you. Taste a little.
~ll'] can be attached to~-~ and form the indefinite ~-~-~II], also a little, as in
~-~-~ll']·~~I I know a little Tibetan. i·9·~Q"] can be used as an adjective, modifying a
noun. It can also be used as a pronoun such as in ~~·i·9·a~·&J·Q"]~~~·£!·4~11 know
only a little. More example of its pronominal usage:

(2) ~:~~-~~·i·9·~~'iCJ·~·a.~~-~1 We two want to study a little.

One can also add Ladon to i·~-~11] (7 i·~·all]'ll]). to mean doing something for a little
while. Examples:
(3) ~·i·9·a~·iii·~~-~-a.~~·~1 I want to sit for a little while.
(4) ~-i·9·~iii·~-l!j~~-~-~-fl!j Can I sleep for a little while?

... 13.3.6 Imperative Mood

Commands or requests employ the imperative form of the verb. The imperative form
of the verb may sound the same as the present/future, or the past, or have its own distinct
form. There is no specific morpheme that marks the imperative mood, so the student
need to memorize the paradigm. That said, when seeing a new verb and not knowing its
correct imperative form, the learner should use its present/future form as his safest bet.
(1) ~~-~·41!] Come in! (Lit. Inside-ladoncome!)

(l) !Ill ifi·~·i1 1:;,·~i:::.~1 (Sit down! Eat bread! Drink tea!)
These "commands" may strike English speakers as too direct, without the magic
word please. The fact is, Tibetan does not have that magic word. It is. usually the gestu
and the smile that soften the tone. The cordial and h_ospitable manner Tibetans display re
when using the imperative form works equally well 1f not better than the word please. In
addition, there are also a number of sentence final particles that can change the tone of
the imperative. a. (or its phonetic variants) is a common one that creates a softer tone:
~i:::.~a. Please drink. Another popular particle is l:., which offers a softer, even
negotiable, tone of the command. Example: ~i:.·.1:. Please go.
Negative command does not employ the imperative form of the verb at all. Instead

the present/future form is used after the negative adverb ;J: ;J + V-pres/fut. Examples:
(3) ;J"~1 [manJo] . Don't go!

(4) ~;i::rJ.ra.e~1 Don't smoke. (cf. sentence (5) where the negative adverb is~)

(5) C:.~~r::i·;t·a_e~l I don't smoke.

Note that the negator for imperative is ;J, the same one used for negating past tense, not
" which is mainly used for future and present tenses.
the other one .Jl,
Here is a list of frequently used verbs: (note that present and future have merged into
one form in colloquial Amdo Tibetan. For a complete table, see Appendix II)
(6) Present/Future Past Imperative

- - -
to go
to come

to bring/take
aii:. -

ell i:::.
~l:. ~l:.
to look
to listen
to write




to buy -

~ -!:J'-l
~~ --

to do ul~ I n,i~ ell~ I n.i~ 5~ I '7.1'-J
to eat
to drink


to smoke a.e~ a.e~ a.~~
to sit
!111 l~ i~

to stand n.ir:.~ n.ir:.~ n.ir:.~
to stay ~Ell CJ~~ ~~
to sing
to speak
II,, 13.3.7 ~ to Go and arr:. to Come as Directional Auxiliaries

~ and arr:. are themselves full-fledged verbs but they may combine with other verbs
to indicate the direction of the action. arr:. indicates an action carried towards the speaker
and~ away from the speaker. Two examples are offered in this lesson. One is ~l to
take/bring and the other~~ to go/come out. As reflected in the English translations, the
direction of the action is not an intrinsic part of the semantic of the two verbs. When ~~
combines with~. it means to take someone away from where the speaker is; whereas
~~ combined with ari::_ means to bring someone towards where the speaker is. Note that
inserted between the two verbs is a verbal conjunction iii, traditionally known as Lhaji
(~~·i::i-o~). Lhaji optionally omits in casual speech. (iil is a variant of a conjunction that
links verbs, ~ being another variant.)
(I) ~l +iii+ afi:;_ to bring (animate object)
~~+iii +~ (ijr:. for past) to take (animate object)
Tibetan makes a crucial distinction with regards to the object of the verb ~l-
It has
to be animate, a person or livestock or the like. For an inanimate object, the verb take
or bring is~~- With ~.J;,, having the suffix -.J;,, the inserted particle changes to~:
(2) ~.J;_ +~+arr:. to bring (inanimate object)

~~ +~ +~~ cafi: _ for past) to take (inanimate object)

(3) i:;_~·§]111~·q·ll']~~-~l·iii·afi:;_·l I brought two friends. (use ~l)
(4) i:;_~·fll']":Jl1"~1l']·~~-~-afi:;_·1 I brought a computer. (use ~.J;,)
(5) lz::iz:;_·~-~~-~·.J;,·il:ji:;_·~~-~-~-,-~ll Rhangmo will take tea and chang (there).
(6) i::_~·(E'·~1·iii·~·,·uj~l I will take him.

meaning is the idea to be out. Whether it is to go out -

~~ is another verb that does not have a built-in direction in its meaning. Its essential
~l-~ or to come out r,a1·afz::_
depends on the directional auxiliary. If directionality is not emphasized, r,a~ can be used

alone. as is the case for this lesson: li'·~·~·i::i~·il·a5z::.·z::.·~l·t::i'111 She left for/went out to
Granny Degyi's house.

.,. 13.3.8 Indirect Object: Dative -

Verbs of taking/bringing or giving usually have an indirect object as the beneficiary
of the action. taken by preposition to or for in English. This beneficiary is marked by
l'll'l~ in Amdo Tibetan. This usage is called Dative Ladon, but one should realize that
the case assigned to the indirect object is the same as Oblique. Examples:

(I) Z::.~'(Erg) !',f(Ladon) ~·~·~'(Abs) ~~·~·ilj'z::.·z:~:1

I brought tea and chang for you.

(2) i::i~·4~·~~·c:.·..·r:5'l·~·~·lsc:.~·r.l.~·;~·arz::.·~~
Trashi bought this Tibetan music for me.

(3) J.Jlc:.·l~c:.·~·~c:.·~~·ill.l·J..l·J..11·..·qi~·cq~·s~·~~
Tserang wrote a letter to Drolmatso last night.

, .,. 13.3.9 Relative Clause IJ

An Amdo Tibetan relative clause is anchored by~, at the end of the clause. The
whole clause then functions like a noun phrase. lfit modifies the head noun (the noun
--,, v

that is relativized in the clause, a Genitive case marker ~is attached to~. forming ~i
(1) relative clause+~~+ head noun
For example, in the noun phrase the dictionary which I bought at the bookstore, the
dictionary is the head noun. The word which is the equivalent of~. Therefore, the
word-for-word Tibetan counterpart of the above English phrase is:
(2) Z::.~ l~·~z::.-~·~~· ;~ ~~(Gen.) ~~·J..1(1
I-Erg bookstore-that-at bought which dictionary
More examples: (relative clause shown in brackets)
"""" ..,~_.,_., ~
(3) r.l.~'[ z::.·~~-~~·~·..·,~~·t11z::.·~~ l ~-~·~·t11~1
These are tea and chang which we two brought for you.
(4) ~'-,'[ " .., t11·
c:.~·9~·~~) " ~m·t11~I
"' This is a letter that I wrote.

(5) ii'·[ z::.~·~,-~~) ji::i·~~~·~·~l1 She is the classmate I talked about.

(6) [ !~'c!i'~Z::.'J.Ji-f~·~~·~i::i·~~ l 1'.2.5'CJ~·~·~·t11~·~1

The photos you took last year in Qinghai were very good.

When the head noun is not overt, the relative clause anchored by~ then is translated by
what, e.g., what I bought at the bookstore.

(7) j~-~~~-ci~·;:j'·r:;.~r9~·~·r.f~~i,,·~-~~-~1 The professor doesn't like what I wrote.
(8) a·~~-~~·r.i·~r~~·~~-~·/iir:;.·~~-~~-~·arr::.·~·=1~·~~
My brother ate what my parents brought back from Xining.
(9) ij~·~i:;_-~·2S'1·~·,=6~.:~11 What you are drinking is Tibetan liquor.
~ can be considered as a morpheme that turns a predicate phrase into a noun phrase. ~·s
function as a nominalizer is further discussed in Lesson 14 (14.3.4) regarding superlative
degree of adjectives.

1JJ, 13.3.10 ~·iii\ (9) Imminent Future: About to+ VP

(I) Imminent Future: V + -

Imminent future is a simple construction. The verb is in present/future tense.
~·Ull (~)
The sentence means the VP is about to happen. This sentence is different from regular
future tense (V + t + ui~/~l) in that there is a hint of conjecture from the speaker,
therefore less certain than the regular future. Examples:
(2) ;:f·1·~J.l·o.ri~·~·iij\1 She will be right back.
(3) at,;~-~~-~J.l"J.l"~·~·ar1·~1 The bus is about to leave right now.
- -
(4) f~·~·t:141·~·"l11 He is about to tell.

• 13.4 Cultural Notes


::: 13.4.1 Visiting a Tibetan Family

Tibetans are extremely hospitable people. However, there are certain customs that
one needs to learn before visiting a Tibetan Family. When being introduced, men usually
shake hands and exchange greetings. Tibetans are very gender-conscious; nodding or
bowing saying ij·~~-;:f1
to the female family members would be most appropriate for a
guest. Hugging, as one might guess, is a faux pas.
It is common to bring gifts to the host family. Brick tea, cigarettes, liquor, and fruits
are common items. If it is someone's first time visiting a family, to show respect and well
wishes, he may want to present the ceremonial scarf called f-~~~- khata to the family.
Khatas come in different colors, white being the most common one. When offering the

k'1a111, one is to use both hands, lifting it to the height of one's head while bowing down.
The re-Lipient will receive the khara also with both hands and hang it around his neck. It
is cL1nsidered impL)lite to wrap the khara directly around the rec.:ipient's neck, as this
is traditionally done only by a hierarchically superior person (such as an abbot) to his
inferior. This bit of khara etiquette, however, seems to have loosened among younger
generations in recent years. Let's hope. in the lesson, that Gabzang does not do that.
\\lien visiting a house, the guest is served food and hot tea regardless of the time of
his \·isit. fn the Amdo area. almost all rooms have a built-in wall-to-wall adobe bed,
which may occupy as much as a quarter of the entire room. Guests are led to sit near the
"head" part (close to the wall or window) to converse with the host, while enjoying the
tea. In social gatherings like this. female members of the host family do not sit on the
bed with male guests.
Liquor made by highland barley is usually offered to the guest. It may be impolite
to refuse it. Accept it with both hands, and before drinking, touch the liquor with the
ring finger and flick it lightly towards the sky. Repeat the same motion three times.
The gesture symbolizes the guest's respect to the heaven, the earth, and the gods.
(Another theory says it's the Buddha, the Dharma, and the Sangha.)

Tibetan HoJpitality, Mangra, Hainan

There are a number of taboos of which one should be aware. No matter how low the
lea table is, crossing it over the top is very rude. In fact, as a general rule, avoid stepping
over anything people may lay on the ground, especially a fire pit. Patting a Tibetan on
the head or shoulder is also offensive, as Tibetans believe their guardian angels are there,
protecting them.
It is likely that, without one's own transportation, a visit to a village requires an
overnight stay. If there is no extra guest room, the host has the obligation to
accommodate the visitor by offering the living room to them (recall that all rooms are
equipped with a wall-to-wall bed). This presents more of a problem to the Western guest
because there is usualiy no toilet in the house. Ask the host how and where to deal with
situations when nature calls, before hand, rather than three o'clock in the morning.
Typical Tibetan houses have a front garden, pens for livestock and an adobe (outer)
wall surrounding the property. After the visit, the host will at leasl accompany the guest
across the garden, through the front gate, all the way to the outer wall, if not further. One
should reciprocate this courtesy when a Tibetan friend visits his house. Waving good-
bye from one's couch in the living room shows lack of courtesy and respect.

Guest Room, Labrang, Cannan living Room, Mangra, Hainan

::: 13.4.2 Q:!r4~rz::i~·(ljz:ri~1

The expression t::l:!J'~~rt:J~·~tl'l~ Trashi Delek has been popularized as everyday
greeting in some parts of the U-Tsang region. Some tourist guide books even gloss it as
hello, which may explain why some foreign travelers equipped with the knowledge of no
more than three Tibetan phrases greet everyone in their path with Trashi Delek, an
amiable act but somewhat strange to Amdo Tibetans.
In the Amdo region, at least, the phrase has not evolved into such mundane status.
~~·4~.rr::i~·cit'll~, literally auspice as one wishes, is still used by Amdo Tibetans as a
well-wishing benediction, reserved mostly for New Year's. When Tom visits Teacher

Wuchung's family for the first time and offers khata to his mother, he wishes h •
. . . er e:i~-~~-
r:i~·illll]~. This is also an appropnate context for usmg 1t. For everyday greetings,
..,., ?-
however, a simple ~·r:i 1 ·;.i should suffice.
• 13.4.3 Honorific Expressions
:.: •

Those who study the Amdo dialect with the knowledge of Lhasa Tibetan will
immediately notice one major difference in the lexicon of the two dialects. While the
Lhasa dialect has an abundance of lexical pairs of honorific and neutral (and somet·•mes
humble) terms for the same thing, Amdo seems to be happy to do without the honorifics
This is almost always true, with only a few exceptions. ·
One such example is observed in this lesson. When Tom offers khata, he uses the
verb Q.~<lJ to give. This is an honorific verb typically used when someone respectfully
offers something to a superior or to a monastery. The neutral verb to give is ~:i;..
Another example is the pronoun for third person singular. In Lhasa Tibetan, the
..,., ..,.,
honorific fC:.. he (f being the neutral form) could be used to refer to any third person. In
Amdo Tibetan, its employment is closer to the English capital He, reserved for deities .

• 13.S Key Sentence Patterns


• 13.5.1 V (past)+ t::llf- + C:. I El~

( l) f'!C:..·c:..~·\l·~·a;·i~-~~·r:i7c:..·r~:1
I bought some apples yesterday.

<2) f.!C:..'1~-~~·~~·tS'1·cq~·71·f·~1·r:i7c:..·E1~
Teacher taught the Tibetan alphabet yesterday.

(3) J.J"' c:..·"'~c:..·c:..~·ij·~.J;.'J.J~J.J·~-~. J;.~ -~·~·{~ ·c:i~~ -~ ·r:i~ ~rc:i 71::z:.·1

I watched a French movie with Sophie last night.
<4) ~·:;r:;:~~r12l·a;·a.~·J.J·c:i~~·El~
Tserang didn't read the book.

" "
sJ c:..·~-"1~·~1sc:..~·c:..·1~a.·~·~·c:..~·~·1 ~-co·~~rc:i7c:..·c:..·1
I hked his music so I bought his CD.
" ...,. " ....,.,
( 6) ~.2;·~·"'·"'1a.·~·~·c:..~·J.!·~~1
The camera was expensive so I didn't buy it.

• 13.5.2 V (past)+ ijc:._ + c:. J itri

( I)
" i}'tri't::lij~·'!iJ.l~·~c:..·c:..·~l·ijz::~'1°]

1came home agam.
MY parents went to Sonam's place.

c::Cll i:.·~~.,,-~~·a.i ,::c:: I


...,_. ":!I. --"'

(3) a.~-~~-~~·cri:ir.i.·
" ~·z:p,·!~ ·~· a.· c1oi:.· ::t,· r.i.·~c:.::icri
Granny went to market last week.

(4l -- "' ~-~~-

a-~cri~·t:.1·1,-rf "' i?1."' "' _. "' "' o,i'
::i:.i:.·~·s·:!·nJi:.· ~:i::r.i.r::ic::ricri~·cri·ES~·r::i15i:.·isicri
:-:i _. (\

My friend Akimi arrived in the Xining train station this afternoon.

(5) ~-cri~·cri~fl·i~~cri·48.·JJcri·JJcri·~·=~1
Did you two eat their lamb dumplings?

(6) ~~-~·~c;_-~·.:r;cri~·t:.1::i:.·::i:.·~·r::i~~1 ~r::i·lij~·~·JJ·~lc;_·li3i'i:.·~cri~·ijc;_·i111

Didn't you read today's newspaper? The professor died last night.

(7) c:i~r~~·4·l~·=·fi:.·~i:.·~~-~-cri~·cri~·~·icri·=~·r.i.·1
What did you eat at Trashi Dumpling Restaurant?

(8) a·cri~·cri~·4·~::i:.-~·crii:.·::i:.·a;i:.·1~·,~rcrii~·~i:.~·r::i?"·c;_·1
We ate meat dishes and drank three bottles of chang.
I 13.5.3 V-'l7i:.·£l<l.l or V-tl<l.l
"' ...,
ol ,..,ffl''·r~·~·~·::i:.·~~J.!'
Drolma went out with Lhamo. (I saw them.)
(2) i·f~·ar~·~::i:.·i~·z:i,i:.·£:l<l.11
The bus arrived.

(J) i·~c;_-~·19·1~-~~·::t,·J.!~J.!'9'~1l']'z:J~~-~-~-~-~l·El<l.11
Tserang went to the movie theatre with John.

(4) ~- a;ti~'?J.!'9''?<l.i'f "'°i c;_· c;_· ~1·tl<l.11

They went to the dormitory together.
(5) ~,,,rr::i:11;:1·ij·J.1·a.~· r.i.·i~ '£:l<l.11
Gabzang just arrived here.

(6) !ij·~i9~ri:.·~·r.i.·1crir.i.·9·i~·~·~1·£l<1.11
Luma Tso said "I like you."

(7) ~-l~·~cri·a.l-9·~1'£l<l.ll
He went sheep herding.

I 13.5.4 V- ~-uj~ / ~~ / ~-~l

( l) ij~cll·i~·~~l
When did you arrive?

{2) ~~i::.·~!cri~~cri~·crr~~a.·~1·~~1
Did you take your friend to your hometown last year?
{3) "°"'~Mt·~z::.·z::.·ijz::.·~·ZQ~l (~~)
I just went to the street.
{4) a;·~i::.-c.~r.i·cll·cri~'lll·:::.·cll,cll'~·ar·~:::.·~~1 (~·~;)
It was last year that I spent the New Year with my parents.

t 5l i!'~·cll·a.~·~a:-a.·ir~z:.·z::.·ijz::.·~·~·ZQ;1
Did you go to Xining in the past few days?
(6) ~-,~·~·!z:.·i~·~·~,1
It was yesterday that he arrived.

• 13.5.5 V- -ai,m, t:\ t:\ ...,., ._,

( 1) ~·cll1 Z:.~ ~·a:1·1·!iilcri·~~·U11 l
Mom, I brought you a watermelon.
<2 > i::.~·~·icri~r~·r::i~1·ai1l
I am still full.
(J) i::.11r~·,~·~·~z:.·~i::.·i::.·Q·n.icri·•cri·~n.i·cii'11

(4 ) ~~r::i--·
I checked in my bags in his store.
Samdrup went and lived in Xining.
• 13.5.6 Imperative

'1, 111.i:·iiiQN1 f11rJQ'J ~·a.·ijz:.·1

Stand up. Please, sit down. Go out.

12 ! ~'M'.!11 ,2J·~·~·cll·~1
Do not eat this. Do not buy that book.
IJ' ~·-rirQ'&°~:::.1
Don't give it to Lhamo.

11, ar451 ar~ 1 ;is-~~-ll('cll''I

Don't ask · Don't smg.
. Don't buy their milk tea.
(8) !A~~-~·~s~·nr4'111

Bring your friend here.

(9) ~~~-~-~1· 111·~~-c:i~~-~-~-~-4~

Take your son to the movie.

J3.5.7 Indirect Object and ~l:. to Give

(I) ~~-~~-~~-~'fl'c:J7~~-~~-a.~'1l'~·a.~~·~1
You should give khata to the teacher.

(2) ~~-~~-~~-~~·i·c:i~·r.l'fc:i·~~-~~-~~-~~-c:i~~-c:i~~·e'111
The teacher showed a movie in class on Thursday.
(3l r:.~·ij·r.a.·c:i!l:.·ulciTs~·~·tM·i~
Is it OK ifl wrote a letter to you?

(4) r:.~·a.s·i:.il:_'(.l,~'~'o.!'f'1~·r.1,·~l;_'~'~'(.l,~1·~1
I really don't want to give this picture to him.

(5) ij~·r:.·r.a.·~%c:_"l:_"fl'!:.ll;,'l,'lc:_·~c:_~·~1·~·1M·i~
Can you give me your name and telephone number?

(6) r:.~·r:.i~·4·c:il~·;;ra.~·~r.a.·~~-~-ut~1
I bought the pork for you.
I 13.5.8 Relative Clause

oi a..~·c:_~·~· r.i.·~l;,· ~-arc:_·~·~·~· l;,· a:;c:_·til ~ 1

This is the tea and chang that we brought for you.
(2) 4·l1·a.~-a:;~·c:_~-;~·~til~1
These are dumplings that we bought.

(J) 1~·~1·a.~-~~·1·ij·o.1·;~·~·1M·ul~ 1
ls this the computer you just bought ?

(4) ~-~-1~·r.i.·1~·~·~·fc:i·~c:i·o.1·~11
That is not the textbook she wants.

(5) ij~f£l~·~~~~-cf1·~~·;;:1c:_~,r~·~·r.1.5·z:.il:.'!M'~~ a5c:_·o.1·~-~-u.i~·~1

Did you see the pictures of Tibet that Tom took? They are beautiful.

(6) c:_~rc:i~r4~-r~~-s~·~·~·12l·a:;·r.i.·c:i~·~·a.~1°~1
I want to read the book that Trashi wrote.
(7) r;:ij~·fl·tc:_· f c:_· l;_·~~-~~-arc:_·~~flo.i·~·a.~· r.a.·1~a.·~ 1
I like the peaches that you bought at the market yesterday.

I 13.5.9 V- ~·iii\

(I) ~·t,1·~·1·~~-~·ijc!\·~·iljll
My uncle is about to arrive immediately.
<Zl ~-~z;·1·~·~·ar11
The train is about to leave .
(3) 1·a;~·11.1c:.~·"i"Ql1l
The day is about to break (Lit. brighten)
( 4) 1·~"'-~1·~·~1·n:i·~~·l!,l·iii\l
He is about to finish talking.
( 5) q~·i\2l·~c!\·c!\·ic!\·l!-l·iii"i1
Degyi is about to arrive in Beijing.

•:• 13.6 Exercises

I C ~SC-l
13.6.l Listening Comprehension
Dialogue l: John knocking at the door ...
Questions: True or False
( 1) The conversation takes place on Saturday.
(2) When asked by John, Sophie knows what she wants to do.
(3) Tom is a student ofDrolrna.
(4) Tom will go see Drolrna tomorrow.
(5) Tom volunteers to take John and Sophie to meet Drolma.
Dialogue 2: Answer the following questions in English
(\) How long does it take to go to Drolrna's home?
(2) What did Tom do last month at Drolma's home?
(3) When and where will Sophie, John and Tom meet?
(4) When will they arrive at Drolma's home?

13.6.2 Tense Conversion

Translate the Tibetan sentences into English first, then convert the tense of each
sentence in Tibetan according to the time phrase given.

Example: ir1~·~·1~r:.·~-~~·i'1·~~1~;~·i9·°\~·i°I·(~~\
Translation: She will arrive at 8 o'clock this evening.

il·1~·~·ij·~.ri°\·~~·~9. (just now)

(I) t:.·~·,;i~zii:1~·~:r;·9~iirij·1:1·r:.·1:1·\l°~·a;·i9·~::1::~·ufr:.·(~~ \
Trans lati on:
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - · (last week)

(2) ,~~."~·tN·il·
,~I ~-~-~-~111~·cr·~qT~·111~·~l1
- - - - - - - - - - - - · (the day before yesterday)
(3) ~::1r.i:f~·J.ra.·c.·~r;;i·~111~·~111·r;;i~·°i·r;;i1r9·;i·ijc::!1~
- - - - - - - - - - - - - · (next Thursday)
(4) f'1~·tN·~~-~·tN·~·~·~c:.·il'.fi::.·t·~l1

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - · (last month)
JJ.6.3 Fill in the Blanks

~1 a.1 °i1 ~1 ~1 °i~1 ~1 ~1 111c:.·1 9~1 91 ;i·111~~~1 !1 l·~r:.·1 r:.-1

(I) a,~·~·25'1·~111·----Mr;;i·~r;;i·~l1 ~ijl·~~·_jr;;i·~q·~r:.·_ilj'l1

(2) ~-~r:.·_~°i·~r;;i·~~-~1 ij·_25'l·~c:,·_il'.fl1

(3) ~-~·2i'·a.~°i·g.r----Mi::r;i·~·~·-111~111·il'.fl 1 ~a-°i"'-~'tN"i!·~·,· - ~11

(4) ~-~r:.·a.~·----Mr;;i·~111~.rtlj~~- il1·~1 jr;;i·~~~-lll';a\'t:J'1'1f __'}/'~'°i'il'.f11

(5) ~-~°i·-~11 ~-1~-~-~ll
(6) fr;;i=1r:.·_r;;i~°i'~°i·-~·-il'.f1·~1

(7) ~-~-~-~tlj·-~r:.·~1 ~-~-~-~tlj·~·~r:.·~1

(S) ~-£ir:.·J·1·-~~·l1·~1~l

(9) ~-~--~1·~17.l, 1·~;.i·;.i·i°i_il'.f11

(IO) a_~·~·-~r:.·ul°il t!'f'~-~~ _ijl·~-~-~11 ;j'·°i;i·ijr;.·_~~1

13.6.4 Translation
(I) A: Please, sit down. Drink tea and eat bread. We also have apples. Do you
want some?
B: No, thank you. I am not hungry.
(2) Is this the lamb dish which we ordered? It's not very tasty but it costs 21 yuan.
I won't come to this restaurant again.
(3) A: It's already 9 o'clock. Where is Bai Li?
B: I don't know. Maybe she is still at home.

A: But the bus is about to leave right now!
t 4 ) A: Oh. my! My parents will arrive this afternoon. I need to buy some food.
B: Okay. let's go to buy some meat and vegetables.
A: I also need butter. Both my parents like drinking butter tea.
(5) A: father. can you buy an English dictionary for me this weekend?
B: Okay. What kind of English dictionary do you need, a large or a small one?
A: A small one. It costs only about 34 yuan.

13.6.S Reading Comprehension

.,, .,, .,,
~·;i1 ia·~·1 ~~~·i::rzric:.·;·ai11
ia·~·1 ~-1~·ffi·~c:.·c:.·ia"·en.i1
~-;i, ~-"~·ffi·~c:.·c:.·i·i!zri·zri·,c:.·~·~11
ia·~·1 ~-"~'"Q'iii'iii'~zri·~·~·~1·1;1n.i1
11r;i1 ~-"~~-~Q·c1ri·i!zri·~·a.~1·~·ar1·~1
~~·1 ~-"~~1·1r1s~·iqzrrf!:!·~·ar1·~1 ~-~·1·f ·1~~r1s;·tS'1·%zrrcl!(1·~~·,·
i,r;i1 ~1 ~-1~·;;i·~1·en.i1 ~i~·1·i1·;i·i1·~1
~~-, ~-"~·5·l'·~-~~-~-!;J~·..·4·~·lzri·~~·(·G\·~\£1~1 1·l~·~·ar1·;·£1r-·1 ~~­
11t·;i1 r.izri·4·:t.·a.9~·il·,~1
ia·~·1 ~kzriila.·f~·;rG\·il~·~·~·!"4zri·4·r.i::;1zria.·91 ~-~·9·~J.J·~1
Answer the following questions in English
( 1) Where is Wuchung's younger brother?
(2) What is Wuchung's younger brother studying?
(3) What does Wuchung's younger brother want to buy?
14) When did Wuchung's younger brother go out?
C5) What will they eat that night?


14   January Is the Coldest Month of the Year


☛ Key Grammar Points in Lesson Fourteen:

1. Comparative and Superlative Degrees of Adjectives  
2. Ordinal Numbers and Months of the Year
3. Nominal Suffix o Expressing "Something to + Verb" 
4. Degree Adverbs: A Little / Not Enough / Too / Not at All
5. $ and a Summary of Adjectival Sentential Particles 
❖ 14.1 Dialogue DISC-2

,:R-3:,  .J-<A%-5-2-8J-$A-(J-$A,  HR-3A-:5B$-$
2-(%-,   #%-2:A-/%-4B-$J-9A$-2?A=-$A,  :-(:R-#%-2:A-/%-/?-:.$-<J,
,:R-3:,  ;-;-;,
2-(%-,   AJ-{R3-$A,  )-9A$-:,%-o?,
,:R-3:,  )-5-o:R-3%-?R%-9A$  :H$-0-9A$-:,%-o-AJ-;R.,
2-(%-,   8R-;R., 8R-9A$-:,%-<J,  A-3?-o2-/R-<J.,  A-3?-o2-/R:-8R-5S%-#%-/%-$A-.J-
,:R-3:,  8R-:.A-:.A-3R-9A$-*<-$ ;A/-/-<-8J-$A-Z-$A, 
2-(%-,   $=-+J-!-<-9A$-2+2-/-.J-2v?-/-8A3-3, 
,:R-3:,  ;, %?-!-<-4B-$J-9A$-:.J2?-o-;A/, 
2-(%-,   !-<:A-3%-*%-5.-<J.-=, 
,:R-3:,  <J., !-<:A-3%-*%-5.-<J., %-8J-$A-.$:-$A,  HR:-A-3?-o2-/R:-8R-:-,<-$A-8A3-

2-(%-,   HR:-=?-Z-$A,  %A-A-3?-.L<-#-3-$+R$?-8R-3A-o$
,:R-3:,  %-.$/-#-:-.-<%-HR.-5%-%-;R%-/-:.R.-$A, 
2-(%-,   ?-:.A-/?-.$/-#-8J-$A-:H$-$A,  #%?-<-:22-2,  _%-<-(J-$A,
,:R-3:,  =R-$&A$-$A-/%-/?-:-,<-$A-:H$-/R-^-2-.-2-<J.,
2-(%-,   ^-2-.%-%R-<J.,  :H$-o:R-:H$-$A-<-8J-$A-*A.-0R-2R-<J.,
,:R-3:,  =R-$&A$-$A-/%-/?-:-,<-$A-5-2-(J-/R-^-2-.-2-<J.,
2-(%-,   .-{2?-<J., 
,:R-3:,  .A-;A/-/-/3-^-:-,<-$A-Z-/R-.?-5B$?-/3-<J.,
2-(%-,   ^-$?3-0-<-28A-2, s-2-.JA.-!-<J., ^-$?3-0-<-28A-2-:-*A/-o/-(<-:22-$A, 
        ^-s-2-/3-^-:-,<-$A-Z-<J?-<J., .J-.?-SR-o:R-SR-$A-<-4B-$J-9A$-<-3A-:5B$-$A,
,:R-3:,  $=-+J-%-KA<-<-N%-$R-:-;R%-,2-/, ?%-=R:A-^-s-2-:-HR-:-2v-$A-;R%-o-;A/,

Sheep Crossing a Frozen River, Mangra, Hainan

Tom: Today is really hot. Aren’t you hot?
Wuchung: It’s a bit cooler inside the house. Let’s stay in the house.
Tom: Yes. Yes.
Wuchung: Are you thirsty? Will you drink some tea?
Tom: Tea is too hot. Is there something cold to drink?
Wuchung: There’s yogurt. Let’s have yogurt. It’s something that my mother made.
Mom’s yogurt is more delicious than the store’s.
Tom: Wow! The yogurt is so sour, but it's good.
Wuchung: It tastes better if you put some sugar in it.
Tom: OK. I will put some sugar in it.
Wuchung: Is it sweet enough now?
Tom: Yes. It is sweet enough now. I really like it. The yogurt your mom made
is the best.
Wuchung: You are lucky. My mother only makes it in the summer.
Tom: I want to come to your house again in winter.
Wuchung: In this place, winter is too cold. It snows. It’s also windy.
Tom: What is the coldest month of the year?
Wuchung: It’s January.
Tom: What’s the hottest month of the year?
Wuchung: It’s right now.
Tom: So, when is the best season?
Wuchung: March, April, and May are the spring season. It often rains in March and
in April. May is the best time. It's warm enough and not hot at all.
Tom: If I have enough money, I will come back to see you next year in May.

❖ 14.2 Vocabulary
14.2.1 Vocabulary from the Dialogue
1. 5-2, n. heat
2. @-&%-, adv. very much
3. :5B$-$A, adj. (pred.) hot
4. #%-2, n. house
5. 2?A=-3R, adj. (attr.) cool
6. 3%-?R%-9A$ v. to be excessively…
7. o, nominal suffix something to +V

8. 8R, n. yogurt
9. 2v?-/,  prep. than, (lit. if compared to)
10. :.A-3R-9A$ [:.A-:S-8A$] adv. so
11. *<-3R, adj. (attr.) sour
12. *<, adj. (pred.) sour
13. $  [----2-=-A%-,] sent. part. (interj.) expressing exclamation
14. $=-+J, adv. perhaps
15. !-<, n. sugar
16. 2+2,  v. to put, to put in (past tense)
17. :.J2?, v. to put, to put in (present tense)
18. 3%-*%-, n. (A-A) amount, quantity
19. 5., n. fit, match
20. :-,<-$A, [@-&%-$A?] adv. very much, the most
21. /R, [0] nominal suffix (see 14.3.5)
22. 8A3-/R, [8A3-0] nominalized adj. the tasty one
23. =?-Z-$A, [=?-29%-$A] adj. (N-A) lucky (lit. fortune-good)
24. .L<-#, n. summer
25. .$/-#, n. winter
26. :H$-$A, adj. (pred.) cold
27. #%?, [#-2] n. snow
28. :22, v. to fall (snow, rain)
29. _%-, n. wind
30. ^-2-.-2, interr. which month
31. ^-.%-%R-, [^-.%-0R] n. the first month, January
32. *A.-0R-2R,  nominalized adj. the beautiful one
33. .-{2?, adv. right now (=.-v )
34. $/3-$>A?, n. weather (= /3-^ )
35. .?-5B$?, n. season

36. ^-$?3-0, n. the third month, March
37. ^-28A-2, n. the fourth month, April
38. ^-s-2, n. the fifth month, May
39. .JA.-! n. spring
40. *A/-o/,  adv. often
41. (<-2, n. rain
42. .J-.?, adv. at that time
43. SR, adj. warm
44. KA<-<, [KA<-=] adv. back (marked with Ladon)
45. ?%-=R, n. next year

14.2.2 Additional Vocabulary

46. ^-$*A?-0, n. the second month, February
47. ^-S$-0, n. the sixth month, June
48. ^-2./-0, n. the seventh month, July
49. ^-2o.-0, n. the eighth month, August
50. ^-.$-2, n. the ninth month, September
51. ^-2&-2, n. the tenth month, October
52. ^-2&-$&A$-0, n. the eleventh month, November
53. ^-2&-$*A?-0, n. the twelfth month, December
54. !R/-#, n. autumn
55. 3%<-3R, adj. (attr.) sweet
56. $R/, v. to wear
57. l-$A, adj. (pred.) easy, cheap
58. fA%-0, adj. (attr.) old (quality)
59. $?<-2, adj. (attr.) new
60. $;J<-3, n. hot pepper

❖ 14.3 Grammar Notes

► 14.3.1 Overt and Implied Comparison of Adjectives

Classical or written Tibetan has formal declension of adjectives, but formal

declension is not commonly used in spoken Amdo Tibetan. A comparison is made by
inserting a 2v?-/ phrase meaning if compared to into the sentence, without declining the
adjective itself. The pattern is:
(1) Comparison: A + B (Obliq) 2v?-/ + Adj. (A is more Adj. than B)
For example:
(2) ,$-0-:.A-8A3-$A, This noodle is tasty.
(3) ,$-0-:.A- [ :V?-:-(Oblique) 2v?-/-] 8A3-$A, The noodle is tastier than the rice.
(Lit. The noodle, compared to the rice, is tasty.)
Note that the noun phrase that precedes 2v?-/ is marked Oblique Case by =-.R/. The
"word" 2v?-/ consists of the past tense of the verb 2v ( 2v? ) look at plus the
conjunction / if, so it literally means if (one) looked at. This immediately explains why
the noun that is compared to (i.e. B, or the rice in (3)) is marked by =-.R/, for 2v is an
Object-Ladon verb. The exact translation of the above comparison sentence is thus: If
one looked at the rice, the noodle is tasty. The 2v?-/ phrase is usually inserted right
before the adjective, but it can also appear in other places: ( phrase in brackets.)
(4) 5K-<A%- [2?R.-/3?-3-(Oblique) 2v?-/-] =R-(J-$A, Tserang is older than Sonam.
(5) [2?R.-/3?-3-(Oblique) 2v?-/-] 5K-<A%-=R-(J-$A, Tserang is older than Sonam.
(6) \R$-[.-:.A-5KJ-<A%-$A-\R$-[.-=-2v?-/-?R-3-<J.,
This computer is newer than Tserang's.
(7) %A-;:-/?-!R/-!-.L<-#-:-2v?-/-*A.-$A,
In my hometown, autumn is more beautiful than summer.
(8) 2R.-;A$-.LA/-;A$-$-2v?-/-.!:-$A, Tibetan is more difficult than English.
It is appropriate to note at this point, that, without the morphological distinction
between base and comparitive forms of the adjective, a regular sentence such as the
noodle is tasty can potentially be a comparitive sentence meaning the noodle is more
tasty (compared to something that is not mentioned in the sentence but may be clear from
the discourse context). This scenario is called "implied comparison." Compare the
following English and Tibetan sentences.
(i) English: A: Between you and your brother, who is taller?

B: I am taller.
(ii)Tibetan: A: Between you and your brother, who is tall? (No declension)
B: I am tall. (implied comparison)
Implied comparison can be aided by a little phrase 4B-$J-9A$ a little. In the lesson,
Tserang says #%-2:A-/%-4B-$J-9A$-2?A=-$A, Inside the house is a little cool. By using 4B-$J-
9A$, the intended meaning is obvious: It's a little cooler inside the house. More
examples of implied comparison:
(9) .0J-(-.A-4B-$J-9A$-Z-$A, That book is a little better.
(10) A-<A:A-9-3-4B-$J-9A$-.!:-$A, American food is a little more expensive.
Naturally, 4B-$J-9A$ is compatible with overt comparison with 2v?-/ phrase.
(11) ,:R-3:-$A-2R.-{.-+R%-%-2v?-/-4B-$J-9A$-Z-$A,
Tom's Tibetan is little better than John's.
(12) 9-#%-:.A:A->-5S.-9-#%-$8/-0-:-2v?-/-4B-$J-9A$-8A3-$A,
The dumplings of this restaurant are a little more tasty than that one's.

► 14.3.2 Too Much, Not Too Much, Enough, Not Enough, and Not At All

Excessive degree of adjective is expressed in English by a single adverb too. It is

more complicated than that in Amdo Tibetan. The pattern is shown as follows:
(1) Excessive Degree: Adj. + o:R + 3% / (J + ?R%-9A$
The morpheme o:R
is a nominalizer that turns the adjective into a noun; 3%-
and mean (J
many/much and big, respectively. So, literally, when expressing the idea too hot, Tibetan
says the heat is (too) much or (too) big. This expression usually ends with the past tense
auxiliary ?R%-9A$, which we just covered in Lesson 13. Examples:
(2) #-nJ-:.A-5-o:RR-3%-?R%-9A$ The coffee is too hot.
(3) )-:.A-5-o:RR-3%-?R%-9A$ !-<-:.J2?-o:RR-*%-?R%-9A$
The tea is too hot. Too little sugar was put (in there).
(4) 9-#%-.A-,$-<A%-o:RR-3%-?R%-9A$ That restaurant is too far.
One peculiarity in Amdo Tibetan concerning the expression of excessiveness is that
the statement almost has a sense of irrecoverability (thus the past tense) due to someone's
doing. A situation that cannot be attributed to some man-made result, therefore, cannot
be expressed by 3%-?R%-9A$
. Direct translations of the English expressions such as it
rains too hard, the weather is too cold, the mountain is too high, the wind is too strong,

etc., all sound strange to Tibetan ears, because these are natural phenomena that are not
caused by the fault of men. In contrast, the road is too narrow, the bus is too crowded,
the room is too cold, etc., are perfectly acceptable, because these situations are caused by
men. Instead of saying the sun is too hot, Tibetan says:
(5) .J-<A%-5-2-8J-$A-(J-$A, Today the sun is very big.
(6) * .J-<A%-5-2-(J-o:RR-3%-?R%-9A$ (Unnatural)
Intended meaning: Today the sun is too hot.
The negation of too, namely not too + Adj., is expressed by negating the word 3% (i.e.
3%), often seen in a phrase such as .A-3R-9A$-3A-3%-$A, not so much. Examples:
(7) \R$-[.-:.A-.A-3R-9A$-3A-.!:-$A, The computer is not too expensive.
Tibetan has no word-for-word translation for the adverbial use of enough to modify
adjectives such as sweet enough, cold enough. The idea is expressed in a number of
ways, depending on the context. For our purposes, .A-3R-9A$-3A + Adj. not too, not so is
semantically close enough. Examples showing different ways of expressing "Adj. +
(8) 9-#%-.A-,$-8J-$A-*J-:-, Is the restaurant near enough?
(9) 2R.-.LA/-5B$-36S.-:.A-8J-$A-3,$-$A, ;A/-/-<-4B-$J-9A$-.!:-o:R-3%-?R%-9A$  
      This Tibetan-English dictionary is big enough, but a little too expensive.
(10) %A-2R.-;A$-$A-(-5.-.A-3R-9A$-3A-Z, My Tibetan is not good enough.
(11) \R$-[.-.A-.A-3R-9A$-3A-.!:-/R-$A-.-%?-*R?-2+%-%-, 
      That computer is not that expensive, so I bought it.
(12) ^-2-$?3-0:A-/%-%-$/3-$>A?-.A-3R-9A$-AJ-SR-:-, 
      Is the weather in March warm enough?
For the expression not Adj. at all, Amdo Tibetan uses 4B-$J-9A$ + < + Adjective in its
negative form. < is the same word as < also, still. Here it is an obligatory part of the
expression and can be translated as even, rendering the phrase with the meaning not even
a little bit Adj. The pattern:
(13) Not Adj. at All: 4A-$J-9A$-< + 3A + Adj (Negative form: 3A + Adj.)
(14) aR2-5/-:.A-4B-$J-9A$-<-3A-.!:-, This lesson is not difficult at all.
(15) :R-)-:.A-4B-$J-9A$-<-3A-%<-$A, The milk tea is not hot at all.
(16) 8A-3R-.A-4B-$J-9A$-<-3A-;$-$A, That girl is not pretty at all.
One more important usage of <: attaching < to the 2v?-/ phrase of a comparative

sentence gives it the meaning of even. For example, $=-+J-!-<-9A$-2+2-/-.J-2v?-/-<-
8A3-3 If one puts some sugar (in it), it's even more delicious.
► 14.3.3 Ordinal Numbers and Months of the Year

The ordinal numbers are formed by attaching the suffix 2 or 0 to the corresponding
cardinal number, with the exception of the the first, .%-2R first. Note that there are some
irregularities in the colloquial pronunciation such as .%-%R first, S$-$ sixth.
Ordinal Cardinal Cardinal Ordinal
1 $&A$ .%-2R (or %R) 11 2&-$&A$ 2&-$&A$-0,
2 $*A?, $*A?-2, 12 2&-$*A?, 2&-$*A?-0,
3 $?3, $?3-0, 13 2&-$?3, 2&-$?3-0,
4 28A, 28A-2, 14 2&-28A, 2&-28A-2,
5 s-, s-2, 15 2&R-s-, 2&R-s-2,
6 S$ S$-0(or $) 16 2&-S$ 2&-S$-0,
7 2./, 2./-0, 17 2&-2./, 2&-2./-0,
8 2o., 2o.-0, 18 2&R-2o., 2&R-2o.-0,
9 .$, .$-2, 19 2&-.$, 2&-.$-2,
10 2&, 2&-2, 20 *A-> *A->-2,
The months of the year in Tibetan are formed by the word ^-2 moon, month and an
number, with January being the first month ^-2-.%-2R and December the twelfth ^-2-2&-
To ask which month of the year it is, one replaces the ordinal number by .-2, the
interrogative word asking for ordinal number. Example:
(1) ^-2-.-2-<J., "What month is it now?" (Cf. ^-2-.-<J., How many months?) 
It is important to hear or say the ordinal suffix 0 or 2 clearly, because it could be easy to
confuse names of the month, e.g. ^-2-$?3-0 March, with duration of time, e.g. ^-2-
$?3 three months. Finally, note that in casual speech ^-2 is often abbreviated to ^: ^-

► 14.3.4 Temporal =-.R/ (Revisited)

In Lesson 10, we learned that the expression .?-5S.-$*A?-$A-,R$-/(or /?) at 2 o'clock
can take either or / /?
, depending on the stative or dynamic nature of the verb. A
common alternative to express the clock time adverbially (e.g. at 2 o'clock) is to use the
ordinal number with .?-5S. and mark it with =-.R/. For example:
(1) #A-.$J-.J-<A%-$A-.?-5S.-$*A?-0-:-;R%-o-<J., He will come today at 2 o'clock.  
The noun winter is .$/-#; the adverbial in winter is .$/-#-:, marked by =-.R/. To
express in January, in February, etc., one needs to add the word /% inside after the
month before =-.R/, which always takes the form % in this case. Examples:
(2) %-.$/-#-:(temporal) -.R/-P2-5%-%- (directional) ;R%-/-:.R.-$A,
I want to come to Dondrup's place in winter.
(3) %A-A-&J-.L<-#-:-:)<-0/-/-;=-{R<-<-:IR-o-<J.,
My elder sister will travel in Japan in summer.
(4) 1R=-3-35S?-3A-.$J-^-S$-0:A-/%-%-9A-=A%-%-;R%-o-;A/-9J<-$A,
Drolma Tso says that she wants to come to Xining in June.
(5) d-2-/?-!R/-#-:-,<-$A-*A.-/R-$A, %-^-2&-2:A-/%-%-.J-:-;=-2{R<-<-:IR-lA?-;R.,  
    Because autumn is the best season in Ngaba, I plan to travel there in October.

► 14.3.5 Superlative

Like comparative sentences, the superlative degree is not reflected by declension on

the adjective itself. The superlative degree is expressed by a fair amount of grammatical
complication. Recall that an adjective comes in two forms: the attributive form (when it
modifies a noun, e.g. (J-2R, big) and the predicative form (when it functions like a stative
verb. e.g. (J-$A big). As one can see from the following chart, the attributive form consists
of the root and a suffix (not phonologically predictable, thus must be memorized),
whereas the predicative form is simply the root of the adjective. (The sentential particle
$A is extra and not considered part of the adjective).
(1) Attributive and Predicative Forms of Adjectives

Attributive Predicative
(J-2R, (J-$A, big

(%-%R-, (%-$A, small

8A3-0R, 8A3-$A, tasty

:H$-0, :H$-$A, cold

<A%-%-, <A%-$A, long

.!:-3R, .!:-$A, expensive,

;$-0R, ;$-$A, pretty

*A.-0R, *A.-$A, beautiful

Both forms can be used to express the superlative degree, but both need to be
nominalized first. This is achieved by attaching a morpheme - 2R to the attributive form
/R (2R) to the predicative form of the adjective. The result is a nominal phrase
or -
meaning big one, small one, tasty one, etc. (N.B. /R(2R) lengthens the /R as [no:] )
(2) Nominalizing the Adjective:

Attributive + 2R Predicative + /R (2R) Nominal Form:

Adj. + one
*(J-2R-2R,  (J-/R, big one

(%-%R-2R, (%-/R, small one

8A3-0R-2R, 8A3-/R, tasty one

:H$-0-2R, :H$-/R, cold one

<A%-%-2R, <A%-/R, long one

.!:-3R-2R, .!:-/R, expensive / difficult one

;$-0-2R, ;$-/R, pretty one

*A.-0R-2R, *A.-/R, beautiful one

is ruled out probably because the repetition of - 2R-2R
does not sound natural to
Tibetan ears, leaving (J-/R
as the only nominal form for big. After this step of
nominalization, one can now express the superlative degree using the following pattern:
(Either - 2R or - /R form can be used to stand for "adj. one" in the following pattern.)
(3) Superlative: (Among A, B, C), A + :-,<-$A / 8J-$A + Adj. one + <J.
The degree adverbs :-,<-$A and 8J-$A both mean very and are translated as the most in

this particular pattern. Literally, the pattern means among A, B, and C, A is a/the very
Adj one. This is how colloquial Amdo Tibetan delivers the sense of superlative degree:
Among A, B, and C, A is the biggest. Examples:
(4) .J-<A%-5-2-8J-$A-(J-/R-<J., Today is the hottest.
(5) ^-2-.%-%R-:-,<-$A-:H$-/R-2R-<J., January is the coldest.
(6) .0J-(-:.A-:-,<-$A-.!:-3R-2R-<J., This book is the most difficult.
(7) 2.J-*A.-:-,<-$A-;$-3-2R-<J.,  Degyi is the prettiest.
(8) 8R-*<-o:R-*<-$A-<-:,%?-/-8J-$A-8A3-0R-2R-<J.,
Yogurt is sour indeed, but it tastes the most delicious.
(9) HR?-]%?-/R:-:S-0<-:-,<-$A-;$-/R-<J., The pictures you took are the prettiest.
(10) !->-<-5-=3, #3-2-$A-/%-/?-#3-2-?A=-+R$-:-,<-$A-3%<-3R-2R-<J.,
Among apples, oranges, and peaches, peaches are the sweetest.
(11) HR:-A-3:C-{3->:A-0/-8B-:-,<-$A-8A3-0R-2R-<J., 
    Your mother’s beef jiaozi is the most delicious.
The phrase among/in/of... is expressed by ...+ /%-/ /%-/?.
or Example: A, B, C /%-/?-
2.J-*A.-:-,<-$A-;$-/R-2R-<J., Among A, B, C, Degyi is the prettiest.
:-,<-$A + adjective /R: can precede a noun to form the phrase "the most adj. + noun".
The hottest month, for example, is :-,<-$A-5-2-(J-/R:-^-2. More examples:
(12) =R-$&A$-$A-/%-%-^-2-.%-2R-:-,<-$A-*A.-/R:-^-2-<J.,
In the whole year, January is the coldest month.
(13) 1R=-3-35S-%A-(R:-:6B/-9:A-/%-/?-:-,<-$A-;$-3-2R-<J., 
     The prettiest girl in our class is Drolma Tso
► 14.3.6 Something (Adj) to V: o 
Adding the morpheme o to the base form of a verb (present/future) creates a noun
that means something to V, e.g., :,%-o something to drink, 9-o- something to eat, *R-o
something for sale (lit. something to buy), $R/-o something to wear, etc. These phrases,
by nature indefinite, are often attached with the indefinite marker 9A$ a certain.
(1) hR-eJ-*A.-$A?-HR-:-9-o-9A$-:HJ<-<J-;R%-;R.-$A,
Dorje Jid brought you something to eat.

(2) %-:-$R/-o-$&A$-<-3J., I don't have anything (lit. even one thing) to wear.
It is possible to modify this noun of V- . In the lesson, Tom asks
o 2?A=-3R-9A$-:,%-o-AJ-
;R., Is there something cool to drink? The attributive form of the adjective 2?A=-3R cool
is used to modify the noun :,%-o. More examples:
(3) :.A-/-&-=$-;$-0-*R-o-;R.-$A, There is something beautiful to buy here.
(4) 9-o-8A3-0R-;R.-$A, There is something tasty to eat.
(5) HR-:-v-o-/%-.R/-;R.-/A-9A$-AJ-;R., Do you have anything interesting to read?
(6) .J-<A%-:.A-3R-9A$-:H$-$A, %-:-5-:.J-9A$-:,%-o- .$R-$A, 
     It's so cold today. I need something hot to drink.
► 14.3.7 $ and a Summary of Adjectival Sentential Particles

In the text, Tom uses $ in lieu of the expected objective perspective marker $A when
he comments on the yogurt: 8R-:.A-:.A-3R-9A$-*<-$. The yogurt is so sour! The $ is a
sentential particle that marks the statement as an exclamation. $ has no variant form. So
basically, one can simply change the $A to $ and create an exclamatory expression.
Let's review some of the sentential particles that we have so far introduced:
(1) 8R-:.A-8J-$A-8A3-$A, The yogurt is good. (plain, objective perspective)
(2) 8R-:.A-8J-$A-8A3-3, The yogurt is good, let me tell you. (subjective perspective <)
(3) 8R-:.A-3A-8A3-3, Is the yogurt not good? (:LJ.-#., interrogative when the
adjective is negated.)
(4) 8R-:.A-:.A-3R-9A$-8A3-$
The yogurt is so good! (exclamation)
The following chart is a summary for these four adjectival sentential particles. (Strictly
speaking, :LJ.-#.is a conjunction, but here it functions like a sentential particle, thus its
inclusion in the chart.)

function base form other variant forms

L6 objective $A none
subjective =-/-%-3-$ (< after open
perspective < syllables)
interrogative in a (:LJ.-#.) =-/-:-%-3-$-2- (: after open
negative sentence syllables)
L14 exclamation $ none

❖ 14.4 Cultural Notes

✽ 14.4.1 Three Calendars

It is important to know that, except for towns and cities, in most agricultural and
nomadic areas in Amdo, the lunar calendar ( =$?-fA%) and not the Gregorian (=$?-$?<)
is used. Therefore, ^-2-.%-2R
would normally mean the first lunar month of the year.
Tibetan does not have another set of names for Gregorian months, so the names become
ambiguous, with Gregorian terms such as January, February, etc. as secondary
meaninigs. Events using Gregorian calendar need to be so stated. If one makes an
appointment with a farmer or herdsman, without specification on either calendar, one
should assume the lunar calendar. It is always a good idea to clarify.
There is yet a third system, the Tibetan calendar ( 2R.-=$?,
), which is widely used in
Tibet (TAR) by farmers, nomads, and for traditional occasions, such as the Tibetan
New Year. The Amdo region, closer to Han China, does not use the Tibetan Calendar.
As a result, the Tibetan New Year in Amdo region coincides with the Chinese lunar New
Year (Ch. Chunjie) and not with the Tibetan New Year ( ) in Tibet. =R-$?<,
The Tibetan calendar uses the five elements and the 12 zodiac animals to number the
year. The five elements are: wood, fire, earth, metal, and water. Each element is divided
into a masculine year ( =$?-$?<,
) and a feminine year ( =$?-fA%-,
). The following chart
shows the system of year designation according to the Tibetan calendar:  
1R  3R 1R 3R 1R 3R 1R 3R 1R 3R 1R 3R
m. f. m. f. m. f. m. f. m. f. m. f.
>A%-, 3J, ?, t$?, (, >A%-,
wood fire earth metal water wood
LA-2, \%, !$, ;R?, :V$, 4=, g, =$, 3J=,  L, HA, 1$,
rat ox tiger hare dragon snake horse ram monkey rooster dog pig

This system repeats the "gender-element-animal" combination in 60-year cycles, which

customarily starts with the year of the feminine fire hare. The year 2005, for example, is
>A%-3R-L, year of the feminine wood rooster. (So, what year is 2006?)
Tibetan calendar differs from the Chinese lunar calendar in one way: it counts the
full moon as the 15th of each month, as opposed to the Chinese method that counts the
new moon as the first of the month. The two methods may generate a one-day difference
in some years but identical dates in others. In years when Tibetan calendar adds a leap
month, the difference can then become one full month (plus one day in some years). If

lucky, one can observe the Tibetan New Year celebration in Amdo (using Chinese lunar
calendar) then observe the U-Tsang celebration all over again in a month.
✽ 14.4.2 Tibetan New Year in Shinaihai Village, Mangra
People get up early on the morning of the New Year's Eve to haul back home big
chunks of ice from the frozen river just outside the village. Big pieces are broken down
to pint-sized rugged-faced ice rocks. Men then decorate the adobe wall surrounding the
house with these ice rocks. Under the winter sun, the ice reflects the sunshine and
sparkles from all angles, making the otherwise dull-colored farm houses festive and

Digging Ice on New Year's Eve Preparing to Decorate the House

Winter Scene of a Farming Village, Shinaihai, Mangra, Hainan

There is a lot of food preparation for the biggest festival of the year. Sheep and goats
are slaughtered, sausages stuffed and bread baked, in order to entertain well-wishers the
next day. Candies are also prepared for the hordes of children who may brave the cold
to go to every house at three o'clock in the morning doing the Amdo trick or treating.
Early in the morning, people in their finest clothes go to parents' or elder family
relatives' houses to wish them a Happy New Year. Younger generations kotow to their
family elders. This is the time of the year when visitors see an otherwise sleepy village
come to life with a display of their best costumes.

Children Asking for Candies Early Moning on New Year's, Shinaihai, Guinan
✽ 14.4.3 Summer Festivals
In the summer months, each county holds celebrations known as Horseracing Festivals,
which can be best described as a combination of sporting competitions (dancing, archery,
horse-racing, weight lifting, running, etc.) and a Carnival-like fair. Some places such as
Yulshul, Golok, Litang ( =A-,%-, /$-(,
), and Nagqu ( ) have established a reputation which
attracts visitors from all over the world. Less known small farming towns have just as
much to offer. For example, the traditional costumes of the local area are not easily seen
elsewhere. Fewer people also means easier lodging and transportation arrangements. With
fewer visitors around, one enjoys a more intimate bond to the locals and is likely to receive
more hospitality than attending bigger celebrations.

Archery Contest, Shinaihai Village, Mangra

Dancing Contest, Shinaihai Village, Mangra

❖ 14.5 Key Sentence Patterns
■ 14.5.1 Comparative Sentences
(1) .LA/-;A$-2R.-;A$-$-2v?-/-l-$A, 
  English is easier than Tibetan.
(2) .$/-#-:-?-:.A:A-$/3-$>A?-A-<-?A:A-$/3-$>A?-:-2v?-/-SR-$A, 
  In winter, the weather here is warmer than Russia.
(3) 2R.-;A$-$A-.L%?-$?=-.LA/-;A$-$-2v?-/-.!:-$A, 
  The Tibetan alphabet is more difficult than English.
(4) A-3?-o2-/R:-8R-5S%-#%-/%-$A-.J-:-2v?-/-8A3-$A, 
  Mom’s yogurt is better than the store’s.
(5) 9-#%-:.A:A->-5S.-9-#%-.J:A->-5S.-:-2v?-/-8A3-$A, 
  This restaurant’s dumpling is better than that restaurant’s.
(6) aR2-.0R/-(J/-3R-:.A:A-aR2-OA.-aR2-.0R/-(J/-3R-.J:A-aR2-OA.-=-2v?-/-/%-.R/-;R.-$A,  
  This professor’s class is more interesting than that professor's.
■ 14.5.2 Too Much

(1) .J-<A%-8J-$A-:H$-$A, (N.B. * 3%-?R%-9A$ )

Today is too cold.
(2) .JA.-!-:-_%-8J-$A-(J-$A, (N.B. * 3%-?R%-9A$ )
The weather in spring is too windy.
(3) #-nJ-:.A-5-o:RR-3%-?R%-9A$ 8R-:.A-*<-o:RR-3%-?R%-9A$
The coffee is too hot, and the yogurt too sour.
(4) \R$-[.-:.A-fA%-o:RR-3%-?R%-9A$ %?-$?<-2-9A$-*R-/-:.R.-$A, 
  This computer is too old. I want to buy a new one.
(5) 5B$-36S.-:.A-(%-o:RR-3%-?R%-9A$ %-:-(J-2R-9A$-.$R-$A,
This dictionary is too small. I need a bigger one.
■ 14.5.3 Not At All
(1) A-3.R:C-#-{.-2a2?-/-4B-$J-9A$-<-3A-.!:-$A, 
  Learning Amdo Tibetan is not difficult at all.
(2) 2.J-*A.-1R=-3-4B-$J-9A$-<-:IR-/-:.R.-$A-3J.-$A, 
  Degyi Drolm doesn't want to go at all.
(3) \R$-2f/-#%-aR2-9-/?-,$-4B-$J-9A$-<-3A-<A%-$A, 

  The movie theatre is not far from school at all.
(4) %?-2v?-/, \R$-2f/-:.A-:-/%-.R/-4B-$J-<-3J.-$A, 
  In my opinion, that movie is not interesting at all.
(5) %-9-#%-.A:A-/%-%-9-3-9-$A-:IR-/-3A-:.R.-$A .A:A-/%-$A-9-3-4B-$J-<-3A-8A3-$A,
I don't want to go to eat at that restaurant. Their food is not delicious at all.

■ 14.5.4 Something (+ Adj.) to V

(1) :.A-/-&-=$-;$-0-*R-o-;R.-$A, 
  There is something beautiful to buy here.
(2) :.A-/-:H$-0-9A$-:,%-o-AJ-;R.,   
  Is there something cold to drink?
(3) 9-o-8A3-0R-;R.-$A,  
  There is something tasty to eat.
(4) .0J-36S.-#%-/-.0J-(-Z-/R-:-v-o-AJ-;R.-$A, 
  Is there any good book to read in the library?
(5) $/%?-!-$9:-%J/-0-<J., %-:-$R/-o-$&A$-<-3J., 
  Tomorrow is Saturday, I don't have anything to wear.
(6) .-v-%-:-=?-o-$&A$-<-3J., HR?-(A-9A$-=?-/-:.R.-$A, 
  I don't have anything to do now. What do you want to do?
■ 14.5.5 It's Even More… If…
(1) $=-+J-HR-.$/-#-:-;R%-/-8J-$A-:H$-$A,
It’s even colder if you come in winter.
(2) $=-+J-$;J<-3-9A$-2+2-/-.J-2v?-/-<-8A3-3, (N.B. Subjective particle: ) 3 
  It’s even more tasty if you put some hot pepper in it.
(3) $=-+J-!-<-9A$-2+2-/-.J-2v?-/-<-8A3-3,
It tastes better if you put some sugar in it.
(4) $=-+J-HR?-%A-A-3-:-2R.-{.-2>.-/, 3A-.$J-8J-$A-.$:-o-<J., 
If you speak Tibetan to my mother, she will be even happier.
(5) $=-+J-4B-$J-9A$-:H$-o-/-#%?-:22-o-<J., If it is a little bit colder, it will snow.
■ 14.5.6 Superlative Sentences

(1) 5S%-#%-:-,<-$A-,$-*J-/R-2R-AJ-<J.,
Is this the nearest store?

(2) =R-$&A$-$A-/%-:-,<-$A-:H$-/R-^-2-.-2-<J.,
What is the coldest month of the year?
(3) ^-2-.%-%R-=R-$&A$-$A-/%-:-,<-$A-:H$-/R:-^-2-<J.,  
  January is the coldest month of the year.
(4) 2R.-$A-?-(-N%-$R-o=-#2-$A-?-(-:-,<-$A-;$-/R-2R-<J., 
  Tibet is the most beautiful place in China.
(5) :6B/-9:A-/%-/?-3A-.$J-aR2-3-:-,<-$A-Z-/R-2R-<J.,
She is the best student in the class.
(6) 9-#%-:.A:A-/%-/?-{3->-:-,<-$A-8A3-0R-2R-<J.,   
  The yak meat in this restaurant is the most delicious.
(7) .LA/-{.-<-:)<-0/-$A-{., 2R.-{.-$?3-0R:C-/%-/?-:)<-0/-$A-{.-:-,<-$A-.!:-3R-2R-<J.,  
  Among English, Japanese, and Tibetan, Japanese is the most difficult.
■ 14.5.7 Seasons and Months of the Year
(1) ^-2-:.A-^-.-2-<J.,  
  What month is this month?
(2) =R-:.A:A-^-2-$*A?-0-^-2-.%-0R-2v?-/-<-:H$-$A, 
  This year February is even colder than January.
(3) %-.L<-#-:-;=-2{R<-;J-o:RR-.$:,  
  I like to travel in the summer.
(4) !R/-#-.JA.-!-:-2v?-/-*A.-$A,  
  Autumn is prettier than spring.
(5) 5K-<A%-<-hR-eJ-$*A-$-^-2-2&-$&A$-0-:-;:-;R%-o-<J.,   
  Trerang and Dorje will come back home in November.
(6) ^-2-28A-2:A-/%-%-(<-(-3%-$A, 
  It rains a lot in April.
❖ 14.6 Exercises CD-R

14.6.1 Listening Comprehension: True or False DISC-2

(1) Dondrup doesn’t like the weather in his hometown.

(2) The winter in Dondrup’s hometown is even colder than here.
(3) August is the best month of the year.
(4) May and June have good weather.
(5) Bai Li wants to go to Dondrup’s home this spring.

14.6.2 Fill in the Blanks

/R, $A /?, /, <, o:R, o, ?, 2v?-/,
(1) 2N->A?-#%-2:A-/%-____;R.-$A, #A-.$J-#%-2:A-/%-___;R%-o-3-<J., 

(2) A-3____o2-___8R-5S%-#%-/%-$A-.J-:-______8A3-$A,  HR?-:,%-___AJ-;A/,

(3) )-5-____3%-?R%-9A$   2?A=-3R-9A$-:,%-___AJ-;R.,

(4) %-___.R/-P2-.$/-#-.-<%-z-?-:-:IR-____:.R.-$A HR-:IR-/-AJ-:.R.-$A,

(5) ;A-$J-.A-#A-.$J-VA?-___<J.,  #A-.$J-VA?-____8J-$A-;$-$A, 

(6) .$/-#-:H$-____:H$-$A-___8J-$A-*A.-0R-<J.,

(7) =R-$&A$-___/%-:-,<-___5-2-(J-__^-2-S$-0-<J.,

(8) %A-$*A-$-HJ.-5%-____2#.-___AJ-(R$   3A-(R$- ___KA<-aR2-9<-:IR-o-;A/, 

14.6.3 Image Description: Compare the photos and answer the questions

$;-1R/, A-;J-$/3-35S, 2?R.-/3?-1R=-3, 

(1) :.A-$?3-0R:A-/%-/?-:-,<-$A-(%-/R-?-<J.,  
(2) =R-:-,<-$A-(J-/R-?-;A/,  
(3) 2?R.-/3?-1R=-3-$;-1R/-/-2v?-/-(J-/A-AJ-<J.,
(4) HR?-2v?-/-A-;J-$/3-35S-=R-(A-3R-9A$-;A/-o-<J.,
(5) HR?-2v?-/-$;-1R/-=R-(A-3R-9A$-;A/-o-<J.,
14.6.4 Translation

(1) A: Please put some sugar in my coffee. It’s not sweet enough.
B: Is this enough? Do you also need some milk?
(2) The pork is a bit too salty. I like sour and spicy pork.
(3) A: Come in. Come in.
B: Thank you. It’s so cold outside. It’s warmer in your house.
A: Drink some hot tea. My tea is the best in our village.
(4) A: Which month is the most beautiful month of the year?
B: April is the most beautiful month.
A: How is the weather in April?
B: It’s warm.
(5) A: Is there something hot to drink?
B: We have milk tea and butter tea. Which do you want to drink?
A: A large pot of milk tea please. Don’t put too much salt in it. Thank you.
14.6.5 Complete the Dialogues
(1) !  _____________________________?
#, .J-<A%-$9:-z$-0-<J.,
!  $/3-$>A?-(A-3R-<J.,
#, ______________________________. (cold and windy)
(2) !  _________________________________?
#, %A-(R:-aR2-9-/%-/?-3:J-<J:J-.LA/-)A-$A-.$J-c/-:-,<-$A-Z-/R-2R-<J.,
!  _________________________________?
#, 3R-.LA/-)A-o=-#2-$A-<J.,
(3) !  __________________________________?
#, %-9-3-#-5-/R-.$:-<,
!  9-#%-$%-/%-$A-9-3-#-8J-$A-5-$A,
#, __________________________________. (Puntsok’s restaurant)
(4) !  .J-<A%-$A-2f/-:UA/-/%-/%-.R/-;R.-/R-$A-=J-5/-AJ-;R.-$A,
#, 3J.-$A,  _______________________________________
14.6.6 Answer the Questions: Answer the following questions according to the chart

(1) =R-$&A$-$A-/%-%-9A-=A%-<-;=->=-$A-5-2-:-,<-$A-(J-/R-^-2-$%-<J.,

(2) .L<-#-?-(-:.A-$*A-$A-:H$-/R-$%-<J., 
(3) =R-$&A$-$A-/%-:-,<-$A-:H$-/R-^-2-.-2-<J.,
(4) ^-2-s-2:A-/%-%-?-(-$%-%<-$A,
(5) .$/-#-?-(-$%-4B-$J-9A$-:H$-$A, 

Temperature in Xining and Yulshul Xining


Temperature (Celsius)

Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec

14.6.7 Guided Composition: .L<-#-:-HR:-1-;=-$A-$/3-$>A?-(A-3R-<J.,

Write an essay by answering the following questions:
(1) Is it hot in the summer in your home town compared to where you are now?
(2) Which month is the hottest in the summer?
(3) Is winter rainy or windy?
(4) Which month is cooler than other months?

The Post Office Is Opposite the Bank

_. Key Grammar Points in Lesson Fifteen:

1. Location Words, Localized Nouns, Locative and Directional Phrases

2. Comparison of Prepositions~ and~~

3. To Finish Doing Something: V (past)+~~+ il5~ (~~: Lhaji Particle)
4. Adverbial Construction: V + ~ + Right I Wrong
5. Complementizer ~ and the Verb~~ to Know

6. Focus Construction and l~~·~l Should

•:• 15.1 Dialogue ~SC-!

--ai·i::i:1~·1 ~~-~-~~·ui1·~·ar11
t1ri·ij~ ~~·1111a.·~~~·111·aj·~·a.9·~·ar11 \s~·~·a5.::i:.:~·ar11 ra~·i::i~~-~-i:;,~·aj~·
il11 ;'.i'·c)·~~-~-i::i~i;,;·ar1I 1·~-~-~-~-~"l·CJ~~-ai-~·ar1I
~1 ~-ui°'·°'·ij~·ui~·1i::i~re111·~·s~·~-~~-~~-~~ ~~~-~~~r~1·n.i·9~·~1
tl<l."ij~ ui -~·i::i\::i:·~a:%r:.·~~·r:.·a.9·1~-~· x.11
~-i::i:1~·1 c:;~n.i·n.i·a.s·1i?i'·~·x.11 ij~·s~·~·a.fu~·~1
"· s~·~·a5::t·iji:;,·r:.· 1 ~-~~·ai·i::i·~i::ia·~~·i::i· ~ ~11
pri::i·~-lll~"l·~1·c;J1 ~·x.11 f'~r:.·t::1~1·1:Jd.'CJ~-~~~·~:1a.·~~-~·x.11 ~-

s~·~~ a.~·r:.~re~~r~,;·25'·ll.·uJ·~·c:J~~·~·uJ~, r::.~·~·~"·~~~·::1~·flr::.·~r;·~·aj~-~· ~-£!·
~~, f§1~rj~·~a·°',;·~·~"'~·=1~.r~r;·tir~·~·il~·~·tN·4~,
~·~ai:.·1 il"i·~ l js·a.~·ci2;.·~ !!j't:.·1:J~lll'll.l'~-'\~·91 is~·~,¥·'\~ll.l'flt:.'"lt:.·~·ili\~·IN·
e~·6~ ~~·a.1 ~·~°'·~~·~·q·~~·if·c:J~·~·~·~·ar~,
f·eJ!!'-'1 ~~"f'=!~'f ~·~~·~a.·~~aJ·~r;·~·~·~~·°'·iij'~1
a~·ij~ ~~~·fr;· ~·f·~'?~·~·ar~-~·~2l·~r;·~· ~~·"'l,
teJ:ar;·, ~~-~~1 ~~~r=1~.r~r;·~cl·~,;·~·~~~·5~~r~·i~, ~·~~·~·~·fil~l
e~·ij~ c:~·~~·$·s·~·q·~·iiuJ~1
ij'CJ!ll;'l t::!·~·;J~~.r9·ifr;·~·~·i~ r;·~~·fr;·c.:%crr~·~~·~, z::a·a.s·tJ~'c:J~~·ar~·

Street Scene, Barkhor, Lhasa

Lobsang: What are you doing?
Tom: I am writing a letter to my friend. (I'm) about to finish writing (it) now. Take
a look. Is what I wrote on the envelop correct?
Lobsang: Is your friend also living in Xining?
Tom: No, she lives in Beijing. Right now she is traveling in Lhasa.
Lobsang: Oh, then what you wrote on the envelope is wrong. You should write her
address on top and your address at the bottom.
Tom: Where should I write the name of the addressee?
Lobsang: You should write it in the middle. What you wrote is correct.
Tom: Now I finished writing. What date is today?
Lobsang: The 12th, I suppose. No. Yesterday was Thursday, August 12th. Today is the
Tom: This is my first time sending a letter. I still don't know where the post office
is. Do you know whether there is a post office on campus?
Lobsang: No, you have to go downtown. Do you know where Bank of China is?
Tom: I do. I have my money exchanged there.
Lobsang: The post office is right opposite the bank.
Torn: Isn't it the bookstore that's opposite the bank?
Lobsang: Yes, yes. The post office is to the left of the bookstore. When will you go?
Tom: I'll go there this afternoon.
Lobsang: Can I go with you? I need to go the photo shop. I want to see whether my
photos are ready.
•:• 15.2 Vocabulary ~
15.2.1 Vocabulary from the Dialogue
1. -
,9r.i.·l;~~, [""'!If]~] n. boy or girl friend
2. "'
s~i v. to write (past tense)
3. V. finish
4. ... n. envelope
5. - ~, [c:i]
structural part. adverbial construction
6. adj. correct

CJ~'-;'Ul'-;l - verb+ aux. to be staying, to be living

~9 adj. incorrect, wrong

n. address
9. ~·~~~,
location n. top
~ll location n.
I I. ~~ bottom
12. 1~·~·~1l[1~~-i::r~1l should
V. to send
13. cti:i:.1
14. cti:i:.·~, addressee (of letter)

15. location n. middle

16. ~~·i::11 ~~, day (of the month)

~~·i: i·~, n. interr.

sent. part.
which day (of the month)

conjecture marker (I suppose)

19. (Cl'~C.'l n. I adv.
yesterday(= !'l:l'!C.'I)
20. "'
ct!1'i:.Jr.t.1 n. of August (marked Gen)
21. n.
sc.~1 time (as in.first time)
22. sc.~·11:.·z::i·-r.i.1 [""'i:.J-4,J
- adv. phrase for the first time (marked Obliq)
23. ~~~·:1;.i·~c.·1 n. post office

24. ~, [z:i] comp. complementizer that or whether

a."l'i:.J :i:. 1
~ adv. definitely (must, will)
l~Cll·~c.·1 n. bank
27. V. to change, to exchange
28. location n. opposite side
121 ·~c.·1 n. bookstore
~Ul~'{~~~1 location n. left side
~·s1 adj. afternoon (= " -
~·:i:.1 )
t:J:i:.·~c.·1 n. photo shop
Cl~~, V. to develop (photographs)

15·2,2 Additional Vocabulary

i~·~, [~~~-~ location n. front

'1!/111."1 Ci1 11rf:!J
location n.
location n.
rear, back

location n. the side (either left or right)

37. "
!Cl1 location n. the top (above an object)
38. ~c::1 outside
location n.
39. "
40. -S"1~1
Z!lCII l!f
location n. right side



to put (imperative)
i1111!f~1 to park (past tense)
43. Cl!'¥1 V.

n. grassland
iac.·1 invariable form for Lhaji
Lhaji part.
;i I c111t:. J
sent. part.
(see 15.3.5)
complementizer that or whether
48. -
n. north

49. --
n. south

50. -
~.1;·s111~1 n. east

_- n. west
n. Sichuan (Ch.)
52 .
~·isi3i I
53. n. novel
54. n. US dollar
n. Renminbi (Chinese currency)
55. ii·~;it:..~·4111·~:,;I
56. n. stamp
57. -
~!!~-~-, n. hotel

to sell
51!. r::i!c.·, V.

n. fruit

-:. 15.J Grammar Notes

I• ts.J.l L• Ss1Ws si;b #zr1Ncmnt,~ui4Di1eetiol,ll-a

Unlike English, Arndo Tibetan does not have a large inventory of prepositions such
as behind, in front of. inside, outside, under, above, beside, over, beneath, etc. Basically,
il has two, namely,~ and~~. three if we count the Oblique Case marker 12.1·~~- ~ and
~~ simply mark a noun phrase as locative (similar to in/ at in English) and the /lJ'l"i

mark the noun phrase directional (similar to to/into/onto in English). They do not specify
the positional detail as the English prepositions listed above. Among the listed
prepositions from English, in front of stands out as a special case because it is not a single
word but actually a phrasal (or compound) preposition that contains a nounfront.
Tibetan employs the same mechanism as the English phrasal preposition in front ofto
denote all kinds of positional relations. For example, the English preposition phrase on
this table is expressed by "this table's top + "i I "i~" in Tibetan.
Formation of a locative preposition phrase is a two-step task. The first step is to
combine the location words such as t"i front, ffi~l~II] back, ;n1t --£ill!] top, --<.2.11] bottom, !~
side, 1a12.1 center, etc., with a noun, forming a Localized Noun:
English (PP) Tibetan (localized phrase, not yet a PP)

in front of X X 9't"i (the front of X)

behind X X 9'ffi~I~!!] (the back ofX)
beside X x 9·i~ (the side of X)
at the top of X X 9·;n1 (top part of a flat surface X)
above X X 9·~~ (the area above a 30 object X)
inside X X 9·~~ (the inside ofX)
outside X X 9·~ (the outside ofX)
in the middle of X X 9· ~12.1 (the middle/center of X)
opposite X X 9'fl'll]?l (the opposite side of X)
to the left of X X 9·9iif"i'$!!]~ (the left side of X)
to the right ofX X 9·9a.i~·s9~ (the right side ofX)

under X X 9·~11] (the "under side" of X)

on X X 9·£ill] (the surface ofX)
A regular noun, X, must be marked Genitive before taking the location word. We call the
output a localized noun phrase. Some nouns such as :!'fl~ restaurant are intrinsic place
nouns. They can directly take location words to fonn the localized noun phrase (e.g. :l'

ri:ir=:~i:..). Place nouns such as il'(tli:.. contrast with regular nouns only in this regard. Once
localized, they are on equal footing, ready for the second step.
The second step is to put the appropriate preposition (O.., I a.,~ or 11.1·10..,) at the end of
the localized noun phrase to fonn an adverbial similar to the English preposition phrases
in the list above. This mechanism is different from the formation of English PP's ..
English simply selects the right preposition and use it directly with the noun, e.g. into the
restaurant. Tibetan needs to say :!'(!li:..·a.,i:..· restaurant's inside + a., I a.,~ or 11.1·~0..,- The
following is a summary of the preposition formation we just discussed.

Noun Phrase ~ Step 1: Localized Phrase ~ Step 2: Preposition Phrase

regular noun-Gen + a.,t a.,~I (locative)

place noun
+ location words
+ c1.1·10.., (directional )

The two-step process explains why the preposition a.,t °\~ does not, indeed, can not,
immediately follow a regular noun phrase, forming a preposition phrase like in the photo
(*0.S'QJ:;'Oi) (see 9.3.6). The word a.s·QJ:; photo must be localized first by taking a
location word such as illj before the localized phrase (a.s'QJ:;'9'itlj) can be taken by the
preposition °I, rendering the correct a.s·QJ:;'9'itlj'0i in the photo. (!ll:..'z::J house, for another
example, cannot form *(!li:..·z::i·a., in the house. The correct phrase is fi:..·z::ir.i.(Genitive) ~i::~
in the house. Why ri:ii:..·z::i house is treated as a regular noun while :!'fl:.. restaurant a place

basis. Note that place names such as 1·~ Lhasa,

localized phrase, therefore can directly precede
~· ~°'
noun is just some idiosyncrasies that non-native speakers need to learn on a case-by-case

a.,ta.,~ -
Beijing, etc., are treated as a
or c1.1·10..,.
A localized noun phrase is still a noun phrase, not a preposition phrase. This is
evident in examples such as ii:..·(!li:..·r.i.~a·a.,i:..·~·~~·~,;i·~ The yogurt of this store is tasty.
~ "' " "' the inside of the store is marked by the Genitive Case :;,~ •
The phrase cti:..·ri:ir=:r.i.1r.i.·a.,i:..·zii 1
Once we understand the mechanism of how a localized phrase is formed, the rest is
simple. for there are only three choices to form a preposition phrase: a.,I a.,~ and 11.1·~~-
The distinction between 11.1·~°1 on the one hand and a.,la.,~ on the other is quite clear: a
localized noun marked by c1.1·~0.., carries the thematic role of Destination or Goal. It is
directional in nature, as opposed to a phrase taken by a.,ta.,~, which is locative in nature.
Compare the following two sentences:
(i) He is jumping on the ground. (Locative, as the ground is the locale of the action)
(ii) He jumped onto the ground. (Directional, as the ground is the goal of the action)

Amdo Tibetan is consistent in making this distinction. In fact, we have witnessed this in

(I) - -
earlier lessons. For example:
G·ciii:.·i:~:~·l"'I Where are you going (PP ciii:.·i:.: directional)
- --
(2) G·ciii:.·~-Cl.l~I Where are you at? (PP 91:.·~: locative)

(3) il"(tll:."~l:.·i:.·~I to go to the restaurant (PP: directional)

(4) il'(tll:."~l:.'~·Ll.l~I to be at the restaurant (PP: locative)
In this lesson, Tom asks Lobzang about writing the address on the envelope. In the
" ...,,, " ...,,, ...,.,
phrase what I wrote on the envelope i:."'·Cl.lcii·~ci"'·eicii·9·9"'·~1
The /JJ-~~ is used "cii"
because, in Tibetan thinking, people write things onto the envelope. For the same reason,
where to write my name should be ~"' " also using (JJ"~~ to indicate the
i:..·iji:.·91:.·1:.·Q.s, -
directional nature of the action. More examples:
(5) '2_·%'cii~-r;·~ii:.·~i:.·~·i~·~"'·ci19·~·!N·icii
Is it all right ifl parked my bicycle in front of your store. (locative)

(6) j9·~·if9·qr~cii~1 Put it on the table. (directional)

(7) j11J·~·~2l·ii:.·~i:.-~i:.·1:.·~-~-Q.~~-~-~I
Drolma wants to go into the bookstore. (directional)
One last thing, the location words such as - -
t~ front, ©CJ/~9 back, ri]~fEl9 top, f.l.9
bottom, gci side, ~~llJ center, etc., can be used as independent nouns with the
appropriate prepositions. For example:
...,, ...,, ....,., _. ...,.
(8) ~~~-~·f.l.9"1lT1cii~1 Put your money underneath.
(9) ~~~-9~~-:Ij~·•'\1"9~1 Write her address on top.

(10) i:.~r'2.·%'9~·;·i~-~~·ci19·ci~·i:.·1 I parked my bicycle in front.

(11) gci·~~·'l.li:.~I Stand at the side.

I~ 15.3.2 ~ vs. ~"' Revisited JI

In Lesson IO (I 0.3.5), we introduced the contrast between two types of temporal

adverbials: the stative~ phrase and the dynamic ~"' phrase. ~"' (instead of~) is used to
mark temporal phrases such as (we'll meet) at 8:00 ~"'·i1·ciil·~·if9·~"'
when there is
an action (to meet). The same stative/dynamic contrast also applies to locative phrases
(see 12.3.7).
The above generalization is essentially correct. We will learn in this lesson, however,

that there is complication with regards to the dynamic ( or action-oriented) sentence. It
turns out that the use of; or;~ may both be acceptable in a dynamic sentence but their
employment is sensitive to tense and aspect. Compare the following sentences:
ll) i:..~·~c:J'ft:..·;i:..·;· (i~ OK) ic:i·ji:..·al·~I I am studying in the classroom.
(2) ~·gi:..·i:..~·ic:i'ft:..·;i:..·;~ (*i) ic:i·ji::al·~·ul;I (*i: ungrammatical to use~)
I studied in the classroom yesterday.
o) ~;i:..~i·i:..~·ic:i·fi::;i:..·;~ (*i) ic:i·ji:..·til·t·ui;1
I will study in the classroom tomorrow.
Observe that even though the sentences are all dynamic in nature, ;~ is used for
sentences in past and future tenses, while "i for present ( or present progressive aspect) .
In sentence (4) below. the existential verb Ul~ denotes continuous aspect, regarded as
stative, therefore, always take;. Imperative sentences such as (5) use;~ as well,
patterning with future tense.

ij·2i·~;·;·c:i~1·iii'11 She is living is Beijing. (L 15)

(5) " ;t:..·;~·~lfl·..._1
~M'fl:..'c:JQ.' :::. Let's stay in the house. (Ll4)

More examples:
(6) f £:!t:..·;~·c:i~l1 to live in grassland
(7) f£lt:..·;·c:i~1·iii'1 (~1) to have been living in grassland, to be living in grassland
A more detailed summary of the i vs.;~:
I Sentence Preposition
Type Present Past Future lmoerative
stative i yes yes yes yes

i yes * * "'
;~ (OK) yes yes yes

That the selection of preposition; I;~ should depend on the stative or dynamic
nature of the sentence is already unusual for a language. It is truly spectacular that such
selection is also sensitive to tense.

I• 15.3.3 ~ to Finish I
The verb ~ to finish often combines with other verbs (past tense) in the following
pattern, meaning to finish V-ing:
(I) Pattern: Verb (past tense)+ i. + ~

The morpheme ~. traditionally called Lhaji ('}ltlj"c:!~~). is a conjunction particle that
connects two verbs (see 13.3.5). It has several variants, namely,~.~ and n:!, depending
on the sound of the preceding syllable. Lhaji can be replaced by a non-variant~~-
The main function of Lhaji is to connect two verbs, indicating the semantic relationship
of the two verbs as a logical or temporal sequence. The verb preceding~+ a(l;. is always
in past tense, even though the entire sentence may well be in past, present, or future. This
usage of past tense is to indicate anteriority and not the absolute past tense. Examples:
(1) r::.~·;·~-=1~-~~-,~·~-1;.·ijr:::1 I finished eating bread.
(2) r::.~·12l·~·a.·c:i'1!J~-~~1~·a(.1;.·ijr::.·1 I finished reading the book.
(3) ~~-~1·~~/u,(00-l:.·~r::.·iltlj He finished talking.
"Y' ::.. .., - "

(4) il·1~~·~r::.~·~~/~·~.1;.·~·i'ij'\·91 She is about to finish singing.

In the lesson, Tom is about to finish writing the letter to his girl friend, he says "
laf:i::~·af11 He uses the present progressive instead of the imminent future ~-afl that

imminent future V + -
we covered (13.3.8) That is because there is something intrinsically objective about the
~·U31, which renders it compatible only when the sentence
expresses the objective perspective. When the subject is first person or an in-group
member, the present progressive is used instead. Literally, Tom is saying I am finishing
writing the letter, in which sentence the sense of imminent future is clear. Examples:
(5) r::.~·";)~-~~-~l:.·9·af11 I am about to finish listening.
(6) r::.~·~1·n:i·~-1:.·9·af11 I am about to finish talking.

(?) r;:i~·i1·jn.r~~-~~·1r::.·n.i~·s·s~·~·~.1;_-~·af1·91
Degyi Drolma is about to finish doing her homework .

.,, 15.3.4 a.~9 Right and ~9 Wrong

The word<.2.~C!] right and ~9 wrong are syntactically asymmetrical. While both
a_~~ and ~9 can function as a verb, only a.~9 can also function as an adjective. It is
important to know this asymmetry:
(I) r::.~rs~r~·a.~9·91 What I wrote is right. (<.2.~9·~ as adjectival predicate)
(2) r::.~·s~·~·a.~9·ijr::_·a9 What I wrote is right. (Q.~9·ijc::!llf1 as past tense verb)

(3) •i;~·s~·~·~9·91 Intended meaning: What 1 wrote is wrong.

(~9 cannot be used as an adjectival predicate)

l4) =.~9"1·~-~~·ij1::.:iQ'] What I wrote is wrong.

The subject of the above sentences ::.~r§~·~ is a relative clause translated as what I
M:rott' lsee 13.3. 7). Notice that when one judges something to be right or wrong, there is

past tense auxiliary -~=.·l!IQ'" ].

an implication of that thing having been done or completed, thus the employment of the
This is not reflected by the English translation in present
tense. Examples of the interrogative and negative forms:
(5) =-~9~~-a.~Q']·~·il·a.~Qj'~I Is what I wrote correct or not correct?
(6) C:.'lf9~·~-~Q']·ijc:.·~·tN·~~I Is what I wrote wrong? (compatible with~-~~)
(7) £r~~~-~~·ij=:_·~Q']·~:,;;·~I She said (it) wrong.
(8) G~~-,~·%c:.·§~·~-~Q']·iji::,:iQj You wrote his name wrong.
(9) G~~?:1-~-;~~r~·~Q']·ijc:.·~Qj You bought the wrong book.
ln (9), notice that the English expression of right or wrong modifying a noun (e.g. the
MTong book) is conceptually different from the Tibetan expression. Wrong is not an
intrinsic property of the book in question, it is the person who made a mistake in buying
that book. Therefore. in Tibetan, one says you bought the book wrong and not you
bought the MTong book.

, ... 1S3.S "~·~, Should I

ln focused past (Lesson 13) we introduced the auxiliary ~-~~1 and ~-[q~I When
used with the past tense of a verb, it is usually interpreted as a focus structure, focusing
on one piece of new information about a known event. In this lesson, we introduce the
combination of"~·~·~,1 should. Examples:
" .... c,.. "' c,.. ...,,~ :::i
'I) ai·ii,·Cl,.l;'Sl<.rijc:.·r:iz~:c:.·a.s·,ll'j·cr"'\I Where should I write the recipient's name?
(2) "~arai·a.:r"cri·~-....:!l. ~1 It should be written in the middle.
c,.. --~

The negative form is, naturally, V + ~af·~-~-~~. which in fact has two possible
interpretations in Tibetan: should not and need not/do not have to. Examples:
0) ij·~·l:iii;·~·ar~~l You shouldn't/don't have to go.

(4' f·ci•c:.·~;Ji-~Cl·"·"~ai-~c:.·~c:.·c:.·~·1ar,·~~ i
Lobsang Dondrup should go to the bank right now.
,s, !'·~·Q·ir·" ~-~·a11rQ2;·,~;i~c:.·,ai·~ ·3.1· ~"11
If you don't like to, you don't have to drink that.

To express regret or blame shouldn't have ... , for past tense, add sentential particle ;f at
the end. Examples:
(6) ~·~·1~·~·.J.1·~1·if1 You shouldn't have gone.
(7) i::.~·~·~1·1~·~·.J.1·~11 I should not have said that.

(8) ~·;f· ::i::: ~· ~r~:~ ~.r:sr~r:::°\ r:.·°\ ~·:1·.J.1·:1· ~~·;.i·~l1

Lhamo and Trashi shouldn't have eaten in that restaurant.

!~ 15.3.6 Date I!

In Tibetan, the date of month and day and the day of the week are expressed in the
reverse order of English: month+ day+ day of the week. To ask about the date, one uses
~·r:i·~·r:i for which month and ~~ri::r~ for which day. When combining which month and

which day together, one needs to mark the month phrase with Genitive case: "
~1~rr:i·~1 (Remember names of the months have r:J/t:J alternation, so the Genitive form
also has two variants: z:::i~t:Ja) Example:
(I) ~-~r:.·a1·z:::i·~·z:::ia·~~·z:::i·~·~11 What is the date today?

(2) ~-~r:.·a1·i:::i·i:::i~1·t:Ja·~~·i:::i·~-~~.J.l·~:1a.·~J:.·~·~11
Today is Thursday, August 13th.
One often hears the abbreviated version of a date, where the word ai·r:i and ~~·r:i are
omitted. Sometimes the first syllable of ~~·z:::i is kept. Examples: z:::i~l·t:Ja·r:ii·~· Aug.
15th (Lit. 8th's fifteen); ~~·t:Ja·~·l~1 June 19th (6th's 19). Note that the Genitive case

marker a. on the ordinal numeral representing the month is obligatory. More examples:
(3) ~·~r:;.·z:::i~l·t:Ja·~·~~.J.1·~11 Today is August 13th. (Lit. eighth's thirteen)
(4) ~·~r:;.·~~·z:::i·t~l1 ~·~r:.·~·~·~·~·~11 What date is today. Is today the 25th?
Note that in (4 ), when expressing date after the twentieth, one can use the abbreviated
form: l,fJ~%~ 21st, ~·~·~~~ 22nd, etc., omitting the decade marker!' as well as~~·
CJ. This kind of abbreviation is limited to reporting the date. Recall that, for the regular
abbreviation of double digit numbers, one usually omits the double digit and keep the
decade marker, e.g. !·~%~ !'~~~ 21. 22 (see 11.3.2). This kind of abbreviation is
not possible for dates.
In some areas, the interrogative word~ is replaced by~- To ask how many days or

months, one also hears the interrogative i·if·;i~. Examples:

(5) n'.i'~%~·~·~·z:::i·i·if·Ej~·a:f11 How many months are there in a year?

Note that <7.l""i~ is used for the subject (treated as the possessor here), its pronunciation .Q]
often weakened to a fricative similar to the Spanish g in amigo. "
~·.J.J day is a synonym of

The adverbial use of date such as on the sixth and in May is expressed with n,r~~ to
mark the date or month. Example:
(7) ~·~·r::i·q·1 ~-~El]"Q"q'I ~-z::i~~·Q·q·I in May, in June, in July

, .... 15.3.7 Sentential Particle q I

The sentential particle Q expresses the speaker's conjecture. It makes the statement
less assertive. Example:

(I) ~-~r:;:,i"~·r::i·~·cii~~-~l-QI Today is the 12th, I suppose.

(2) ~-~?;:~=11:,.·~·.J.1·~1.QI Today is Sunday, I suppose.

(3) :.~fr::J'l/~~-~~-~~-~·~:.·ili:.·1·~11 The teacher is coming today, I suppose.

(4) ~t,ri,.r~~-~~-i~·JJ·~11 :.~·z::i~~-~-~·~~·q·1 21 ·Jj·.J.1:.·?J·ar~it·~11

Your father is a professor. He has a lot of books, I suppose.

I• 15.3.8 Complementizer ~ and the verb 4~ to Know II

The verb~~ to know was introduced in Lesson 13, where it takes a noun phrase as
its complement: ~-~~·~~ (Erg) 25''-i-~"i·~~-~ They two know Tibetan. Note that~~.
like regular action verbs. ~~ can also directly take a verb phrase, meaning know how to
~ verb. For example: :.~·1:,.~·1:,.9·~~ I know how to write this. In this lesson, we
introduce the structure where~l!<I takes a whole clause as its complement.
It is common in world languages that, when a verb takes a clausal complement, a
functional word, called complementizer, such as que in French and Spanish, dass in
German, and that in English, -to in Japanese, marks the embedded clause. Some Tibetan
verbs do not require an overt complementizer, such as
.:1.::. to say (Lesson 12
~-~i:;:?;:~·,~s.z::~1 Drolma says that she is going to the street.) Verbs like i.1, are in
the minority. Most Tibetan verbs that take a clausal complement do require an overt
complementizer. In Amdo Tibetan, the complementizer is~- The verb~~ takes a
clausal complement marked by ~ in the following pattern:

(1) Subject (Erg.)+ clause+~+ 4~
(2) ~~·~·~~·~·~i:;:,~·~C!]ll.'~·4~1 I know that he likes drinking tea.

(3) ~-~~-~~·~·~~~·~·~·~~·~~·~·4~·iij~·~1 Tserang knows that he should do it

(4) ~~·i::i~~·~·rs~·~·cii~·~·11·~·~~·ij~·~·4~·,·~~1
You know that they two have gone to Tibet, I suppose.
The embedded clause taken by the verb to know is usually taken as factual,
technically known as a presupposition. So, In the sentence Mary knows that John is sick,
that John is sick is presupposed to be true. When the verb to know appears in
interrogative or negative sentences, the presupposition is not necessarily there anymore.
In fact, the embedded clause can often be an indirect question following do you know, I
want to know, I don't know, etc. In these cases, if the embedded question contains an
interrogative phrase, the English complementizer that cannot surface. If the embedded
clause is a yes-no question, such as do you know if he can do it or not, then the
complementizer becomes whether or if (or not). Amdo Tibetan does not have the
equivalent of whether or if for indirect yes-no questions. The following discussion is
about how Tibetan sentence structure differs from English with regards to the use of
complementizer in these situations. Consider the following examples, where the
embedded clause in each sentence contains an interrogative phrase:
(5) ~~·~·~r~:~cii~"!lor~i:;;~~·~·ar~-~l:.'£!·4~1
I still don't even know (*that) where the post office is.
(English complementizer that cannot be used.)
(6) ~~·~t::1!l~'Elj!lll.'~'i::J'r.,;iij'~·~·4~·~·(.l.~~·~1
I want to know (*that) on what day Lobzang will come.
(7) ~~Jf~'~l:.·~o,1·~·~·£l·~~I I don't know (*that) when the bus will go .
The adverb l:. also in (5) after the complementizer ~ in a negative sentence means even.
We will discuss this important usage of l:. in Lesson 16. Our present attention is focused
on the complementizer ~ in all three sentences. Unlike the English that, when there is an
interrogative phrase in the embedded clause, the Tibetan complementizer ~ should still
be used.
Now consider the following sentences, where the embedded clauses are interpreted as
yes-no type of question, indicated by the overt use of whether (or if) in the English
<s> ~~·ij·,::i=:1~·ar~·~·~·ar~·~·£i·4~1

I don't know whether Lobzang is coming.
(9) r:.1~rJn.r~rcJJi·cJJr:ia:a.~·~·~·iii' ·~·i! ·~·4~r~·a.~1 ·~l
1 1
I want to know whether Drolma Tso is at Kandro's place.
:r.. ..., " .., ...,,,
The verbal part of the embedded clause of(8) and (9) is, respectively, ru.JC:.'c!i';J·air::o.]
coming or not coming and [iii'1·~·il1·~] is or isn't. The complementizer is not only
overt, it is repeated at the end of both the affirmative form and the negative fonn of the
verb. This contrasts sharply with the English mechanism of employing an entirely
different complementizer whether/if. In very casual colloquial form, the affinnative and
negative forms of the verb are tied together without the complementizer:

( 10) C:.~l"fflil.l'cJJ'iii'1·il1·4~·~·a,~l·~l I want to know if Drolma is there.

(11) r:.~·~·i:;~·iii'r:.·~~-£1·~~1 I don't know if he is coming.

The contracted form iii'~·il~ is pronounced [yomal]. Note that, as indicated in (11), the
complementizer ~ can optionally surface.
The complementizer ~ is not the only complementizer in Amdo Tibetan. An
alternative word is~~-~~ can also be used as a verbal auxiliary, which will be
discussed in Lesson 20. Here~~ is simply a complementizer, interchangeable with~-
The following chart is a summary of our discussion of the Tibetan use of complementizer
marking an embedded clause of the verb to know.

English Amdo Tibetan

know + that + [ clause ] [clause]+~ +4~

(don't) know (cannot have that), [ clause ] + ~ + (£!) 4~
clause containing
who, where, when, which, etc. clause containing interrogative words

[affirm.verb~+ neg. verb~]+ (£1)4~

(don't) know+ whether (yes-no
type question) or, [ affirm verb+ neg. verb](~) (~)4~

I• 15.3.9 V + ~·~11\
Recall the contrast between~~ and ~i:;. The same subjective/objective perspective is
,:,.. "' ,:,.. ~
reflected in ~-CIJ~ and ~·.a..i:;. We have covered two specific usages of the combination V
+~-~'\.namely, the focused past (Lesson 13) and in this lesson '\ijf·~·~~ should. There

i:-. .....
,s another instance in this lesson whl'n thl' auxiliary~·~~ 1s obsi.:rvl..'d. rh:H i~ wlwn !'um

The focus of the scntcm:c is for flH' /irsr rime i..llld thi.: auxi h,iry ~· l:~ dl'lih·r, th;it
.... ""
nuancl.!. Without employing a,·~~- Tom woulJ han~ mi.:ant I s,:nd II l1·rta /or rh ,· /inr
time, losing the emphasis on the phrase It is/or th<' /irst ti111t' 1h111 ... N\lll..' that~::..~·'-::..·~
is a noun phrase that means.first timl'. Also. llt)k that Ill s:..1y L'!.L f/,(' /ir,1 f/111,· as an
"' ....
adverbial PP, one needs to mark the r,hrase with (lJ'~~: £J~~·~::·~::r.~. :\mdu lihi.:tan dt\l·~

not use the expression 1111·1rour1hi.,·,.-her/ir.,·t time dui11g somer/1111,i:. as lh)l'~ Fnglish.
~~·r:i·~cri~..r~~~,r~~:r:r~·~·~~·Q.·1~·~~~·UJ·~·L~f J::~.1
"" C', ' ....... ......- ...,.,., ....- .........................

( 1)
ls this your first time traveling in AmJo?
('\ ...... .....,
(2) ~~·i=:.~·~~~·~~·~·Q_·~~(1.rR?;:~r:.:a,~-r~~·~·~f2'·~o;,
.....- " .........~~ "'""''
...... _..............

This my first time ~xchanging money in a bank. Wh:1t should I du?

' ' ~ ...., " ,~ .:-,..
~ ...,. ...... ..., ...... ,-
(3) t11"l·~y~·~ ...._....... (' ........ ('

c..~· ~ ~: ~r,'l·t::J~. cri· ~cri~.r:.JQ.'('3~· c~r ~r:.·o; ·u.i3i·~1 13~rrz:r!:Jry~ ~~.r=1cii ·1~ ~. ~ t:!1.
If you visit a Tibetan friend's house for the first time. you should bring a khclfc1.
• 15.4 Cultural Notes
::; 15.4. l Street Signs
lt is the Chinese government's policy that in Tibetan autonomous ;.m:as all s1µ11s use
both Chinese and Tibetan. Stores that violate this language policy an: lincJ. That said.
most signs except those of governmental enterprises or bureaus plan: Tibetan in a
conspicuously secondary role. Additional infonnation besides the name ol' tile store is
usually given only in Chinese. which is pcnnittcd by the lav,. The cxampk below is thc
sign of a telephone "supcm1arkct". a charge-by-the-minute pri\'atdy uw11cu shop with a
number of phones hooked up for long-distance and'or international scn·icc . One can sec
that the rate of domestic long-distance calls is advertised only in Chinese.

Sign of a "Telephone Supermarket"

Tibetan signs are easy to read, for the function of the store is always given. Common
ones are tallow variations): -- hotel, :sr~=..·l restaurant, l~<ll·f1=..·, bank,
!f1~f=~l'(t:!?:.'t post l~(fice, !j~'f1~:1 clinic or hospital, ~1·f1~'I toilet, and photo
development (key word: ,~s·i:.i.1:.p.

ti:J ~ ·,""Q~ ~-~°'. i:::]~ ~-c~ !!::.... '

ta JI~ ff ii ~Ji

The following road and street signs should not pose any problem either. The road
sign Serda (to C11~%;·~p, is given in Tibetan, Chinese, and English. Street signs are given
in Tibetan and Chinese with Romanization. The crucial word to know is '1.Jo-11 road

::: I5.4.2 Banking and Postal Service
- (\
In banking and postal service, written Tibetan e::::i~·UJ~) is not used. That is to say
that sending a letter within the Tibetan region, one would nom1ally write an envelop in
Chinese or even in English, but not Tibetan. In terms of spoken Tibetan (:j"~·~~ ). basic

or "l~·~~,
vocabulary in these areas such as i~·:!J~l transition register hookier ( from Ch. cim::he)

stamp (from Chinese youpiao) also show heavy influence from the Chinese

::: 15.4.3 Tibetan Bookstores

Sign of Xinhua Bookstore in Tibetan, Barkham. Sicl1Ua11

One can count on the biggest state-owned bookstore Xinhua Shudian (New China
Bookstore) to run a branch office in the town of the county seat. There is always a
section of Tibetan books with a fairly good selection of recently published religious and
secular books in the Tibetan language. One of the most sought-after books. according to
the salesperson at the Xinhua Bookstore in Maqu, Gansu, is Tibetan Language, Volume/,
used by first graders in Tibetan elementary schools. "A lot of nomad parents would ride
their horse for a couple of days to buy this volume from us so they can go home and
teach their children to read Tibetan," said the salesperson.

Tibetan Book Section. Derge, Garze Children's Books, Barkham, Ngaba
• 15.5 Key Sentence Patterns
I 15.5.1 Location PP used with°' I~~

(I) ~9~·:1a.r~~:~ ~'1.!'flr;:~·r:riUJ ~·5~~·~·af~1

The post office is right opposite the bank

l2) i~1:::ij·,1:11:;:crji::r!!J~·gci·~·ar1,
Tsrang's house is by the school.

l3l ?S"c:;~:1-~·E.'f'l:IC:.·~·111ai~·scri~r~·ar1·~1
The Tibetan restaurant is on the right of a teahouse.

l 4) ~~Q-~c:.·ii1·~·sc:.·!9~·~·ar"' ffi'lll..:;·~r::.·~·~·{·siri~·~·ar~'
Russia is to the north of China; India 1s to the south of Chma.

(5) ~~~-Q-~~·~·~ci·siri~·~·ar1,

The Kham region is in the west of Sichuan.

15.5.2 Location PP used with a.i·l~ -

<1>tc:.~\l"~·~9·;ia·~r::.·c:.·ci'f1·i::ilf-·£ln.i 1
John put the apples inside the bag.

(2) c:;ji::r~fis·f.l·~·~·a.~1·~,
I want to go outside the school.

(3) c:.~c:;2!·~·~c:.·c:.·~a.s·ci.:;·i::i;a.i·~·~·~
Can I put your photograph in the book?
._. ..,. .:")....,
l4J !r::rr~~:~c:.·c:.·~c:.·~·w,·iP1

(5) --
ls it OK to go inside the classroom?
I need to go inside the photo shop.

(61 ci~·a;;i~§c:;·~~ii·1~·E'<l·;i·9~·~·a.s·ci.:;·!cri·~·icri·~·i::i~iri·ar~·~1
Sonam Jid put her parents' picture on the desk.

• 15.5.3 Verb (past tense)+~+~ Finish V-ing

( 1) ~s-~·~·11rarc:;1
I'm about to finish writing.
(2) ii·"il""~·a;·f.l·t:1~111·~191·~·191·iq1·~'
She hti finished reading the book.

( 3) ~:ji::r!111·~-C3~·~~-~·r::i,-'1·~191-~·l91·iq1·~1
My c l a s ~ finished watching television.

,4, ~-"~i::.·e•isarti:..·11111rs·s11r~·~·~,
Can you finish doing the homework this evening?
,. r ,. ~

(5 I ~·c:;5a;·lllll1'111'1,l:..'111,a.t·a.c:;·f.l·t::1~lll'~·&i·~·~1

haven't finished reading the English novel.
..- .l!"l·~·~·~~l ~~·:1~·~·~~·i~·r;:l
15~ .
Have you finished eatmg? I have finished.

1 15
.5.4 r.1.~EI] Right and ~9 Wrong
(I) ~~·9~r~·~El]·ij~·El!!']
What you wrote is wrong.

(2) ~~·~·~~·~~·s~·~·a.~11']·~1
You wrote his name correctly.

(3) ~~·i!!]';;J(i:;i~~·~·~tlj'i~·Ejll']
You bought the dictionary wrong.

(4) f·i:iJ:.·~~·~~~·a.~·~ll']·i~·Ejll'] ~~-~~~11']~1rij·,.-ui~·9~QTs~·~1

The telephone number is wrong. You should ask your friend again.

(5) c,~·~r;.·~&,·~~~-fl;."~·~::_·%11']'r.l.~·s~r~·tN·r.1.~11']·~1
Did I write the words Bank of China correctly?

I 15.5.5 ~~-~-~l Should

(I) ~~r~-~~·~r;.·:Jl1·~·r.1.9·1~·~-~ll
You should write her address on top.
(2) ~~·~·isll']·~~-1~·~·~11
You should bring some tea.

(3) ~~-~!!]·48:ii-;·~·:1·i-;~·~·~1 l
You should taste their lamb dumplings.

(4) c:.·~·~·i::ia.·~::_·~·;;i~·.,Jll']·ll']·~~·r::i(~·~·~·tiu1~1 ~-4~·i-;·i;.~rr:i~·~·ui9·ij·a9·~·

I will travel to Golok in October, so I should buy a good camera.

(5) ~~·i!·c1li::_·~~·l!\l· ~a.·~~·~r-~·i-;;;ii;.~·411']·~~· ~·r::i~·~~·~· ~l l

You should exchange US dollars to Renminbi in Xining.
I 15.5.6 Date

(I) ~·~c:.·~~·r;i·t~ll
What date (which month's which day) is today?

(2) ~·~c:.·~·~9·r:ia.·~~·r::i~·1~r9:1r.1.·~11']·1aJ~·~11
Today is Tuesday June 19th.

(3) r:rgr::i~'Q'~S~"il
What was yesterday's date?

( 4) r:i·gr:.·~·~~~'QQ,'i~·~·~·g·~·~l l
Yesterday was February 25 .
(5) ~411·~n.r~·;·~~·~~·i~·~·i::r~~~·Qa·i~·~·~·~·r.i:~11
The horserace in Yulshul is on the 25th of July.

<6) ffl41l'J.!'"i~·~a·i~·Q·~~JJ·;J·1,r~· ..·~·~·~11

Drolma will go to US on the third of September.

• 15.5. 7 ~ I ~II] + 4~ to Know That I Whether

(I) r:.~l·~r:.·~~~·=!J.!'flZ:.'ll']Z:.'~'LQl'~'l:.'£!·4~1
I still don't know where the post office is.

(2) r:.~·l·~r:.·~·"i~'~Z:.'l:.'£!·4~1
I don't know what his name is.

(3) r:.~·"i·~r:.·~M·~·"i9·~~·1llr:.·~·ul~·~·l:.·i!·4~1
I don't know where our teacher is from.

<4 ) ij~·~~~·sr:.·~r:.·~~·:;·1~·~·~·4~1
Do you know where to buy stamps?

<s) ij~"i2:1·11lr:.·JJ!~·flr:.·~·lllar~·!lll~·~·ar1·~·~·4~1
Do you know whether the bookstore is to the left of the hotel?

(6) r:.~·il·19·fq'·lai·l:.·~r;:_l:.'Q~'ll']Z:.'~'ul~·~il·4~1
I don't know whether she is Korean or Japanese.

(7) !~·~~a·a~·~·~·t,ri!·~·fla'=l'flZ:.'ilT1·~·~·4~1
Do you know if there is an American restaurant near here?
(8) r:.~·~411·~·~r:.·~·~ir:.·~·ar"i·~·£i·4 ~1
I don't know where they sell fruit.

• ?!r:.~·lr:.·iS'·~: For the First Time


(I) ~~·r:.,r£!r:.~~r:.·i5°'·,.·ul·9·~~l:.·~·ul~1
This is my first time sending a letter.
_., "' _., " ..., " ~
(2) jll'E!r:.~·~r:.·~·..·c::~t::i:.·air:.·~·""l1
This is her first time coming to my home.

<3) ~~_·c.::~111~·ij:er:.~·111~~·Q· ..·iS'\<lJ'~<lJ·~~l;.'~·arr:.·~· ~11

This 1s my friend's second time traveling in Tibet.

•:• tS.6 Exercises le~.)
. .1 Listening Comprehension: True or False
15 6 ~DISC",J!
(I) Dorje is writing to his parents.
(2) Dorje will finish writing the letter soon.
(3) There is a movie at 3 o'clock.
(4) Dondrup doesn't know where the movie theater is.
tS.6.2 Complete the Dialogues
(I)1 ~·~r::~~·~·~·~11
fl - - - - - - - - - - · (January, 31)
1 - - - - - - - - - -?
f I ~·~r::9:1a.·~I\T~·~1 I
..,....,.., ...,., ...,,
(2) 1 ~~~~·~·~r;_-~·ai11

- -
fl _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ . (sitting at the back of the bus)
1 ~~·~·:9r;,·~·ai11
fl _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ . (parking outside hotel)
(3) 1 - - - - - - - - - - - - - ?

fl 5J~, a.~·r;,·~·~r;,·j1·~·~~r.(~t;,~·1r;,·~·ijr;_·~·~c1i1
1 5J·1~·~~9r;,·~·ar1·~1
fl - - - - - - - - - - - - - · (to the right of the teahouse)
(4) 1 uj·~·Cl~%,·~·~·a.~~·~,
fl ~·a.~9·~,
1 ----------------
fl !~·u1·~·Cl~%,·~a·%r;.·u1~·~Cl~·~·~~·~·a.s·1~·~·~11
15.6.3 Fill in the Blanks: fill in the blanks with the correct form of f.2.S1·i11 for the

(2) a)-~·§1~r~·a.~~-~-a_~~-~I
(3 l ai·::igj1·:.ri·i~ri·_~·i·~1

(4) ii·1~·a)~·1c:i~·ai'1_il1·~,
(5) ij·~·;s·~·a_·iji::,· J.]'ijc,·,

(6l ~-1~·1·ES1·~·~·1si::,~·iilil\·t·~1 J.1'~11

(7) - - -
( 8) ij~·ar~·§~·li:i::· J.ri:i::1
(9l -
1~il\'!~-G~~~~Ell "
( I 0) fi::,·~i::,·a,~Q.·,l\:::~-~-~J.J·_~·~J.11
15.6.4 Answer the Questions

0 ~CJ'!!j'i~·~1
• tJ,4'J.]~'
• ... V"
:l~J'4Gl·4·~~·:1·~r:::1 i:;·~c:_·'

- ., . ,

ED~iii~·::16.l·~c:_·1 CD l~·flli:.·1
CB ~"'·qfii:i::·
t:l:JCJ'~GI! 811~·~1:,·,
4I!) i~c:_·6.l§j~·~c:_·,

Part A: answer the following questions in Tibetan according to the street map

(2) ~c:~·1~".ffT~:12J'fZ::~·s~~·~~·~·iij'1·~1
(3) !~~·:1.;i·fz:_·1 21 ·fz:_·~·s~~·~~·~·ar1·~1

(4) s·~r~:.;i~~'f%:_'ij~'f%:_'~·s~~·~~·~·iii1·~1
(5) i,r.;i~·~·f~·ici·9:J·i~·iji:i:5~~·~~·"i·iii1·~1
Part B: answer the following English questions in Tibetan
(I) Where is India? (use the word south)
(2) Where is Qinghai? (use the word north)
(3) Where is Nepal? (use the word south and north)
(4) Where is Sichuan? (use the word east)
JS.6,5 Translation
(I) A: Where did you buy this yogurt? It's better than American yogurt.
B: I bought it behind the bank.
(2) She is standing in front of the library talking with her boyfriend.
(3) A: What is she singing? Do you know what song this is?
B: She is singing a Tibetan song.
A: How is she singing? ls she singing correctly?
B: Yes, she sings very well and she sings correctly.
(4)A: Do you know whether she brought money?
B: Yes, she did. She brought all the money.
A: Where did she put it?
B: She put it on the table.

15.6.6 Reading Comprehension

Dialogue 1
1:1lt~~ ~·~I ~~1 ~~rl2l·f~·,~:ij.i:.·~·i·ij·~~·~·arl·~·tN·4~1
ij·~1 ~~·4~·a.1 l2J·f~·1r~·;J~~·f~·~·~Ul~·!~~·~·ar11 ~~~·:1.;i·f~·~·r:i·~~r-i"
arl1 ~~·;J~~·f~·~~·~·arl·~·tN·4~1
1:1~·~~ ~~·4~·a.1 ;J~~·f~'~'i;l~·£l·~~·~1
~·~, ~l2J·iii·;·~·<Wt·~·uj~1
1:1~·~~ uj~1 ~~·ijl·uj~·~·l2J'iii'~~·;·~·a_~l·~, ~·~·~·;J~;J·~·~·~'tN'Q,~1·~1
~·~1 !'~;J·~·t·Gl~1
1:1,fij~ ~·~~·~·~·<Wt·Gl~1


}i, }1:7

16W flll(

}i6 }~
i< i.{
~ -
}1:7 ~

~ ~ LI? i.r
. Ctl i.r
i.r - >·w ii:!v-- - <le,
. -

>w ~0
}. i.r

!"< If
~ '!6 1lOil
i.r ..c



If 'iii
E, iif
~ }Er
i.{ ~
ij',? u
i., '"!11 C

}t6' U..l \ i.r I'£_ ~ ;; . ;; If U..l if ;;
• C 18' • 0 t6' ,....- - C I'£_
~ ·- . _(u
l J i<
:, LI
i.{ i.r .i.r
..0 i.{

H" fl(
v== U
(!"( }g
iif }"
. !6'
~ }t6'
LI ·-

·.= v-- }~ E,
~ }[1

16W ~ .9
., I'£_
~ }il(r jc) , ~ ~ ·.= ~ i< I-( }~

2 ~ ci:! ~ }~ CB' }ii> i'.l
}i6 i< -
6- (!fl E, ' ~
Oil,v-- G1'f v-- ~ i< ~ i< !tP i.{ ~ CE, 6-
~ , ~ G!"( }i'JI> ~ _ ic, }E, oo
q,i) ~ ~
V-- ~ i.t

~ G~ .5 H" ~ (!ffi' ., If ~ :i:r C~ i . , ,V7 i.{ .9 Er };.,. ~

. E, ~ !JP iif }iif .s - ~ If! }t6' (i6" ;.,, 1ft) ~ '"' !" (u
~ hD .9 r:! GEr i< (IW( • • • •
• 0 ....,, H" i.r
}e=- ~
.,,... ,.., 0 i.{ i:!? ~ ~ C •
}i/f i.{
<! (u
}i'JI> }iJl;'ll [7
- ~"'
;:§ ~ raw ;i?
c.,::; I'£_ t6' ~
~ -5 r.1' }(!
i.r G"l
G"l ': ~ ~ ~ -5 }(! r.1' }ff
~ ~

... :i -~ - 'II1 i.rw
0 ,- ,- ,- ~ }(! (~"Y }(! (!ffi' }(! ~ ,- ,- ,-
}iif 'III ~ -
~ ~
~ ~ w }iif w }iif w ~ :::, !::!.. C
Q ~
It's Called Tsampa in Tibetan

..- Key Grammar Points in Lesson Sixteen:

I. Instrumental Case: ~~1 -~1

2. Quantifiers: Every, All, Some, and None
3. Subordinate When Clause: .. -~~

4. Comparison Between the Predicate Adjective and the Attributive Adjective + ~l

5. Easy I Difficult to Do: ... °\ + 1"1'1. / g

•!• 16.1 Dialogue

._,. "" --

~ ·r: :i =:1 i::: 115~·a;·=19·=:1·9·uil1


c1.~·«·cj'l-~l·~~-g~·~·il~1 r:_~·1s~-~l·9~·i·4~·il~·~~-~-ii·4~1 elS:·

ij~ ~~·ls°1·~1·~~-~·«·i·~9·il~-~-ar~1
r:.~·il·4~1 ~-il·~-~-~-c1.~·ill·~1 c1.~·=1~·~·ui·~~-~~-:X.~1
~-t~-~~-i:::i~~·°'·~·ui·~a5°'·i9·aj°'·~·~1 ~-~·cj'l·~-~,~-~-~-:1~·cri~·i~·
!!9·:X.11 cj'1·~-~-4~-~~-~-~-:X.· :X.·«·:1·~-ar~-~·:X.11 r:.~· ~-~~-i:::i~~·iQ1·~~·:1·
r:.~·£ir:.·%9·c1.~·~i:::i-~-c1.~1·~1 cj'l·uicri·9~·g~-~-c1.~·4~·s~·~·c1.fu~·cri·£i·
~-c1.~9·91 ~-g·r:::i79~·g·~·r:::ii;cri·i~1 ~1 g~·~·:x.l,
ar~-4~1 %·a;r:.·~~-i:::i~·4~-~-~l1 ~:a;IS:'·«·~i~·~·=1·~·c1.·~~·9·~r:::i~·r:::i~·ci'·
:X.11 ~r:.·19~·r:::i~~-:x.-~r:.·19~·:1·~·~11

ar.i:ij~ ~·i·iillj'~''f!!'1af·~·~1 l
~· =:i !I c:.· I ~·'1Jllj'Q'lfl:J~~· ~· 11·1ar·~· ~11
!:l;;:·~~ 114·.il·~·~·~·gJ.J'Q'!!'J.l~~·.il11 ij~·z;:i·4~·z::i~·1ar·~·gz::i·~·~·i~
-~·:i11c:.·1 ar~illJ !~·a.~·4~·~~1
a~·~~ t:l'1!/~·~·~·9·11a.·91 !J.l'Q'z::J~·~~·z::i~z::i~·~·~·~·l1a.·t·~·~1l
a1·:i11c:.·1 1'1]ll.'~'J.)'~1l ~·9·g·~·~ll
a~·~~ ~~·c:.~·l1·~·all]·LQ1
j·:i11c:.·1 gJ.)'Q ·J,Jc::c:.·a llJ' J.)' a.~ z::i ~ l
a~·~~ a.·ai 1 c:.~·z::i~·£J·4~·91 1afc:.~·r:.i·J.J'll.iJ.1~1
,~·.il1·~ l =-~·~«·z::i~·~iri~·(Q·~·~·firi
z::i~·~iri~·LQ·£l·1af1 z::i1a.·5~·i1 c:.~·~c:.:l~~·z::i~~·~·firi
gJ.l' l:.l'J.JC:.' c::~ iri ·£)·a.~ z::i ~·t~· J.l'z: J ~l 1
Tom: Lobzang, what are you eating?
Lobzang: It's called tsampa in Tibetan. I don't know what it's called in English. Tom,
what do you call it in English?
Torn: I don't know. We don't have this in the US. It tastes strange.
Lobzang: Though in a foreigner's opinion it is strange, for us Tibetans, it is important.
Some Tibetans eat this every day. I eat it when I travel.
Torn: I want to learn this word. Is it correct to write tsampa this way?
Lobzang: No, (it spells) T-S-A-M-P-A, tsampa.
Tom: Do all Tibetans know how to make tsampa?
Lobzang: Of course, all do (lit. know how to knead it). As far as we are concerned, it
is the most convenient food. One (self) makes it, one (self) eats it.
Tom: How do you eat it? (Lit. What do you eat it with?)

A JJ·a,•e/ing Nun 1Haki11g Trnmpa. Derge. Gar:e
Lobzang: We make it with hands then cat it.
Tom: In America, no one cats tsumpa. Can you teach me ho\v to make it?
Lobzang: Of course. You do it this way.
Tom: lt looks difficult. Is it difficult to learn how to make tsampu'?
Lobzang: It ' s not difficult. It's very easy .
Tom: Let m e try.
Lobzang: Don't use (Lit. sprinkle) too much flour.
Tom: Oops, I don't know how. I am sorry.
Lobzang: No problem. ls it OK for me to help you make some?

Tom: No, thanks. (Lit. Help is not necessary.) I can make some for myself.
Lobzang: Remember don't use too much flour.
Tom: What do you think (about this)?
Lobzang: Now it's good.
Tom: I need more practice. (Lit. to do more practice)

•:• 16.2 Vocabulary [e§?~

16.2.1 Vocabulary from the Dialogue

~~, -(II, suffix Instrumental Case marker

~. adv. in Tibetan
ij1·~~-~~1 r-·-~
3. g;i·ci, n. tsampa (either flour or dough)

adv. interr. how, in what manner

i·4~1 [~·~:t;]
5. v. (Object-Ladon) to look, to seem (no Agent)
ar;i~1 11.

7. "'
s·t~·ci1 n.
foreigner(= ~-ffi~·~·51)
8. "'
(Ill~-~-~, (!llC:] COnJ. although, though

9. prep. ( Ladon + ) for ( as far as .. is concerned)

10. adj. (N-A) important
11. adj. (quantifier)
~-4~·~(111 r-~~1 some (here marked Ergative)

12. l;i<~·~·G\1 n. every day (N. B. not an adv.)

13. COnJ. when ( + clause)
£Jc:·~ n. word (lexical item)
15. ... ' ...
a.~-+1~1 adv. this way (referring to manner)


to hang (used in oral spelling)

put (past, used in oral spelling)

18. ...
t:l{J V. to knead (tsampa)
19. aj"~, adv. of course ( + V)
,it:J~rt:J~ 1 a. convenient
21. ...
~c:·~~' [:t;c:·~1 reflexive pro. self
22. ...
t:l{~I V. to knead (past tense)

2J. i·s9·~~1 r%·~11r~~1 with what (Instr)
24. ai9·ci1 hand
25. ~(II~ I one who ...
26. gc:i, [~11 to teach (how to)
21. ~~, to knead (imperative)
28. i'1·~, try
v. (0-V)
29. t\l"11 rt1·~·s11 to try

JO. ~·u.i, interj. oops

V. (0-V)
31. ~9~·[Q1 rtiri~·s11 to help
32. V.
c:J~ll to forget
33. V.
~·c:i~11 to remember
34. ~r:,~·z:i1 n. practice
35. J.]t:,·r:,·~~ [;it:_·~;i] adv. more

16.2.2 Additional Vocabulary


~,9~~, [~] n.


to cut
38. n. thief
c:J~11 V. to kill (past tense)
"' 'Y"
n. the police
l:J~~, V. to steal (past tense)

~~, [~~] COilJ.

when(= ~~1)
~'J.]t:,~·;j, n. sweet tea
44. V. (0-V) to teach (lectures, classes)
ii:i·~1·al11 ['""51]
~·~r~1·~~1 [. . .~ adv. in Lhasa dialect (Instrumental)
~~·J.J, n. chopsticks

fll'1!:l~ n. fork
48. ~

~~, V. to ride

to use

n. urcha (Tibetan sling whip)

51. V. to throw (e.g., with an urcha)

52. V. to tum (an urcha)

n. flour(= ,g;i·r.i unkneaded)
53. ,g;i·ci,
54. -~·~, n. butter

55. n. digital (e.g. camera)

56. -
~·ci.:i;·er:.15ll v. (0-V) to make a phone call

t,1 V.

58. adj. (N-A) young

•:. 16.3 Gnmmar Notes

I• 16.3. I Instrumental I Case

The tenn Instrumental is a semantic term for phrases carrying the thematic role of
Instrumental. Usually marked by prepositions such as with or by means of, Instrumental
ptnws e,q,ress the inanimate force or object causally involved in the sentence. It is in
some way related to the thematic role of Agent, but it is not Agent. The distinction
between the two is very clear. Consider the following sentences:
(I) The thief opened the door. (the thief Agent)
(2) The door was opened by the thief. (the thief Agent)
13) The key opened the door. (the key: Instrumental)
14 J The thief opened the door with the key. (the two thematic roles unchanged)
The reader is able to see from the above examples that the thief, either in active or passive
voice, carries the role of Agent; while the key, either the subject or in an adverbial
IJitj)()MUOIJ phrase, carries the role of Instrumental.
In Tibetan. the Instrumental phrase is marked by the Case marker -~ or~~. the
lialDe morpheme that mads the Ergative Case of the Agent (9.3.1 ). This fact, which can

be rcpided u simply mcidentaJjust like the fact that the English morpheme-sis used
for nmkm& plurality on nouns and marking third person singular agreement on present
teowd vcrbi, baa cauted some grammarians to call, erroneously, the Ergative Case for the
role of Agent u Instrumental. For pedagogical simplicity and clarity, we call this Case

marker on Instrumental phrases Instrumental, noting that it has the identical fonn as
The following Tibetan sentences contain typical Instrumental phrases.
(5) =-~· [ ©:~~·1~o.1·4·El]~~1
I-Erg cut the beef-Abs with a knife-Instr.
(6) ":l'r.l..~' [ ~Elj'i:JE!j~'~~-1
The coat-Abs is made of sheepskin-Instr.
(7) Q,~'"' [ ?.5'~-~~·~~·1 !J.l'i:J'~:i:.1
This -Oblique is called tsampa-Abs in Tibetan-Instr.
(8) gJJ·i:J·n.i~·i:J~·c:i~~·i_·:sr~~-~-~~1
We make tsampa by hand and eat it.
The preposition phrases©·~~ with a knife, ~Elj"i:JE!j~·~~ of sheepskin, and 25'~-~~-~~ in
Tibetan, are all marked with Instrumental Case. More examples:
(9) i!i,~"J.!"Q,~~- ©·~~·~·r.i..~·c:i~~·c:i7r;·~Elj The thief killed the man with a knife.

(10) ~s~·ui!lj·~~-r.i..~·4~·s~-~-r.i..~Elj·Elj·~·a.~Elj·~1
ls it correct if I write (Lit. wrote) it this way in English?
(11) r;~·,-~~·ul·~·s~1 I wrote with a pen.

(12) ~~-~~r;·?$\ul!lj·~~-9~·~·~·i!lj Can you write your name in Tibetan?

(13) =-~·i:J:i:.·a;~·~r;·i:J·r.i..~~ri:J:i:.·~c:i1 I take photographs with this old camera.
Note that it is common that sentences involving an action can have both Ergative case
(marking the Agent) and Instrumental case (marking the Instrumental) simultaneously.

I~ 16.3.2 Tibetan Passive Construction II

It is worth mentioning at this point about the passive construction in Tibetan.

Consider the following pair of English sentences:
(I) The police arrested the thief. (active voice)
(2) The thief was arrested by the police. (passive voice)
In the active voice, the Agent the police is marked Nominative case, while in the passive
voice, the same phrase is marked Oblique by the preposition by. Another prominent
feature of the passive construction is the change of the verbal fonn from arrested to was
arrested. This change of verbal form does not exist in Tibetan. In fact, the Tibetan
counterparts of (I) and (2), given below in (3) and (4) exhibit no change whatsoever of
the Case marking on the two noun phrases in question:
(3) [ ~~-;Elj'i:J~' l [ ~~'J.l'l c:i~r;·1

The police arrested the thief. (active voice in English)

<4) [ ""' -
~~·;n [ "'~·;~·r:i~q i:i~r=:1
The thief was arrested by the police. (passive voice in English)
~~-~Cl]'t:!~ the police is marked Ergative in both sentences. So is the Absolutive marking
on ~-JJ the thie( It is important to observe that there is no change of the verbal fonn in
the Tibetan sentences (3) and (4). In fact, Tibetan, as an Ergative-Absolutive language,
employs no formal mechanism to distinguish the two voices. To achieve the same effect
of an English passive sentence, Tibetan simply states the Theme phrase (the thief) first,
giving it semantic prominence over the Agent (the police). More Examples:
(5) [ ~r@~11r~~-l %'~~-~·a.~·i:i~~·iji::::~~ A child stole the bicycle.

(6) %'~~-~-a_~· [5·@~-~~-~~-l r:Ji!i~·ii:::~~ The bicycle was stolen by a child.

(7) [ =-~·l @·~-9~,r~·~·ij,:.:i:::1 I finished writing the letter.

( 8) @·~·[ z::.~·l 9~r~·a5:i;:·ijz::·z::.·1 The letter is finished by me.
(9) £i·~-9~·~·a5:i;:·ijz::·z::·1 The letter is finished. (omitting the Agent)
Thus. the learner should not wony about the passive morphology in Tibetan because
there is none. To emphasize the object (or Patient) of the action, employ O(S)V order,
instead of the regular SOV.

IJ> 16.33 Quantifiers: Every, All. Some, and None II

There are several ways to express the universal quantifier every. For people, the word
~-;i (Lesson 7) is used either alone or attached after a nouns:

~Cl]~a5-i::.·JJ every student, all students. -
a;i::.·J.l everyone, all, ~er
~...,:JJ~ (Erg)
For example, in this lesson, i::Jr\t:1·1,:,

!J.l·i:ri:::ii'·~~I All Tibetans knows how to make tsampa.

receives interpretation of "partial negation" not every. For example,
The negation of such sentence
""' " ""'
Not every Tibetan knows (how to !>peak) the Tibetan language. (For
"total negation", one uses the word none. See below)
To express some people, attach f"4~ some after the noun. For example, 2i~·r:,qzr~~r
~ "' ......... c,,.._., :)~
111111·~·;i·:i;:·:i;::i;:·goi·r:i·il·~·ui11 Some Tibetans eat tsampa every day. -,.:...._, which also
means every, is placed after a non-human noun. Note that the Ergative case for the agent
ii marked on iit::."JJ and fl·-9111 (a5-i::."JJ~/fl·4~·~~) and not the noun preceding them.
For the expression there is no one who+ VP, Tibetan uses the noun J.lf~ a person
who to take a verb phrase. Literally, the pattern says people who does VP doesn't exist
('I".) For example, 111·3l·~·r:i·~·gJJ·c:.i·il·oir:i~-~l1 There is not a person who eats tsampa

in the US. In fact, this pattern, depending on whether it is affirmative, negative, or
interrogative, can deliver the idea of someone, anyone, and no one. The pattern:
(I) Someone, Anyone, No One: VP+ ;;Jf~ + iii'~ I ~·iii'~ t .iJ~
More examples:
(2) ~$~·~~·4~·;;.if~'tN'UJ"ll Is there any person who knows English?
(3) ll.~·~·2j~·ult!]'"-S'"4~';;.Jf~·.il1l No one here knows how to write Tibetan.

(4) ·1li1·~·~~·1t!]"-';;Jf~·til·iiJ1l Does anyone like to eat dumplings?

For none or nothing, there is QI;, to be covered in Lesson 20.

Ill- 16.3.4 Quantifiers ( continued): Interrogatives + .: t.

Tibetan employs a construction that involves interrogative words and the particle .::t.
to express the idea of none. While many East Asian languages share this mechanism, it is
uncommon to speakers of Indo-European languages, including English, and thus requires
special attention. The pattern is: Interrogative + .::t. + VP (in negative form). Consider
the meanings of the following sentences:
(1) i:::.~·[t'.::t.'] ~·4~1 I don't know anyone.
(2) i:::.~·[ ~·!lt!]'.::t.'] ;·~·~·"-~"l.~I I don't want to buy anything.

(3) C:.'[~i:::.·i:::.·.::t.] ·~·r.2,~I I'm not going anywhere.

(4) je11·.J.1'[~r.\'.::t.'] ~·1t!]r.2.'~I Drolma doesn't like anyone.

With interrogative + .::t., the above sentences no longer have the interrogative
interpretation. They are unambiguously understood as declarative. The particle .: t.
derives from the written form -
e11·r.2,,;, in which the C11 is the Oblique Case marker e11·1~,
and the ll,J; means also; therefore, the .: t. in this pattern can be regarded as a contraction or
combination of the two words. More examples:
(S) "'~.::t.·~~·~·~·~~·m·~1·..::t.:1s~·~11 z5'1·~~cri~cri·.::t.·~1·ii·4~1
Among the Chinese, English and Tibetan languages, that Japanese person doesn't
speak any (of the three).
(6l ~e11·~cri·r.2.~. ~cri~·~·r.i·~<l.l·~·o,1·~~~ ~-~·a5·cri~ ·~·crii:::.·~·.::t.·il1 I
No place has this kind of fruit except for my hometown.
Compare the following two sentences. Both mean No one here knows how to write
Tibetan and both are commonly used patterns.
(7) a_~·~·2j1·uj~·r.2,9·4~·.J.!fl~'il11 There is no one here that knows Tibetan.
(8) a_~·~~·[t~· ..::t.:J z5'1·ult!]'r.2.S'~'4~l (synonymous to (7))

( • 16.3.S Subordinate When Clause~

The subordinate clause when ... is taken by the word~~. the first syllable of~~·~
rime. ho11r. One also uses ~~ in place of ~~- The main clause, as usual in Tibetan,
follows the subordinate clause. Examples:
( I) r:,~~ll.J't::Jij.l:.'Qll'~·~~·t;,p:;r:::r~·ajll When I travel, I eat tsampa.
(2) t,4·~~·£1~·"'" %,'l:;Jo\'o\·ar1·~~·1~·~31· ~11 J.Jifo\·o\·ar1·~~·Jt::i·J.1·~11
When Akimi is in Japan, she is a teacher; when in Qinghai, she is a student.
(3) r:.·t::J~'~3i'c3\''1f~~··~;a;r:.·~r:.·t~·1~"-J l like drinking beer when I watcb TV.
(4) ij1·fr:.~·o\·ar1·~~·r:.~·~·J,J' ~·~·a:~·J,Jt:,%,'ij·~r:.·~·ar1 l
When I am/was in Tibet. I drink/drank sweet tea every day.
The verb in the when clause is in present/future tense. This, again, is the relative sense
of present: the tense in the when clause is concurrent with the tense of the main clause.
(Recall that past tense in a subordinate clause may indicate anteriority.)
The subordinate when clause can also be in the progressive aspect. For example:

(5) ~·c,rt.l~·2i1·o\·ft::J·~1·iil1·~·~~1 r:.·~·1~·r.i.·~·~·ijr:,·~r:.·r:.·1

When my father was teaching in Tibet, I went to see him.
(6) jn.i·J.1~~&0.rjr::.·ll.l~'S'"-S'~·~~, r::.·£l·1~·r.i.·1r~·ijr:,·~r::.·r:.·1
When Drolma was doing her homework, I went to see her.
The progressive aspect in the when clause emphasizes the simultaneity of the two
events (one in the subordinate clause and the other in the matrix clause.)

• 16.3.6 i~• How? ~141 Like This

The interrogative a;·~~ how merits some attention. First, it is not to be confused with
ai'3l. the other word that also means how. ~~
a:i'J.l is used when asking for opinion or
description about the quality of something, such as ij~·t::J~~·<l\·i·~~ll What do you
think (about this)? a;·~~ is about the means of performing an action. For example:

(I) ~·a.~·11·~·~1·~" (Instrumental) a;·4~·~1·1~~-~ll

How do you say this phrase in the Lhasa dialect?
- " ~ " " ·1:ri"'Z::J7<!\'3i'Ul3il
(2) ij~f3J?:;'iP1'"-"'cJ5'~ ..,, " " How do you read this word?
.,., "'~ ..,, "r..
(3J ~111·~·Cl~Z::Jllf.Jl'cJ5'~llll'Z::J~l'l.l'~'U13iJ How do you make butter tea?

(4) ~~·~·i·4~·!~.~~·~·i1·4~1 I don't know how to make yogurt.
(5) ij~·~l)T4a.·i'~·a.i·~·4~·i::i~a:~~·~·tN·4~1
Do you know how to make lamb meat dumplings.
Sometimes a body gesture is used to demonstrate how something is done. "You do it like
this/this way." In Amdo Tibetan, the expression is r.i.~·.il~. formed by replacing~ what
by~~ this. Examples:
(6) - .".a
15~·r.i " (imperative). You make (tsampa) this way!
~·~ 1~·~~1
(7) ij~·ij~·a.i·r.i.~·4 1~.rr.i.~~·~~·~·~11 You need to hold the chopsticks this way .

~ 16.3.7 .;: - -
~i::i to Teach (!1::1' gi::i· gi::i) and i::i~i::i to Learn

~~ to know how to do something and f i::i to teach how to do something are two
different things (pun intended). To know is much easier: VP + ~~- To teach, on the
other hand, requires the verb to be embedded in a~ clause, as shown in (I):
(I) To teach how to V: ~-4~ + V + l~ + ~ + fi::i
gi::i takes an embedded clause marked by the complementizer ~. The
The verb -
embedded clause contains the interrogative adverb ~·4~ how and l~ to need.
(I) ~~·z:.·a.·~·4~·a,9·1~·~·fi::i1 (imperative). Teach me how to write.
(2) ~~·z:.·a.·~·4~.ra,9·1~·~·.gi::i·~·tN·i~ Can you teach me how to write?

Recall that with V + IN'illj can/is it OK pattern, the verb must be in past tense, thus gr:i,
the past tense of .gi::i. More examples:
(3) ~~·z:.·a.·.ga.i·~·~·4~·i::i~·1~·~·.gi::i·~·IN·i~
Can you teach me how to make tsampa?
(4) ~~·z:.·a.·1~~·~·~·4~·~~·t~·.gi::i·~·1N·i~
Can you teach me how to ride a bicycle?
To complete the paradigm, let's introduce the third verb Q~l::l to learn. Fortunately, to
learn how to do something is not as difficult as it is to teach it. Q~Q to learn takes the
nominal form of the verb (VP + tli, see 11.3. 7) as its complement. Examples:

(5) ~~·ij~~~·i.i;·a;·~·4~·a,~~·,~·jt:i·~·r.i.~1·~·91
Tom wants to learn how to use urcha.
(6) Z:.~r2f1·iQ~·a,9·t~·ji::i·1af91 I need to learn to write Tibetan (the alphabet)

A summary of the three verbs:

4~ to know how to v+4~

gz::i to teach how to i·4~ +V +l~ + ~+ gz::i
z::J~z::J to learn how to V +t}'~ + z::J ~ z::J

~ 16.3.8 g Easy and l"l"- Difficult

In Amdo Tibetan, the adjectives g easy and l"J"- hard/ difficult are the same
adjectives that mean cheap and expensive. Note that the pronunciation of 1"1"- [ka] can
be easily mistaken for llfJ"- [ga J to like ( 11 .3. 7). Fortunately, the sentence structures of
l"l~ and llfJ~ are distinct. The expression it is easy/hard to VP, known as the Tough
Construction in English, takes~ clause (=if clause):
(1) Tough Construction: VP (past tense) + i + 1"1~ I g·
The past tense in the~ clause is the subjunctive use that we discussed earlier. Examples:

(2) ~1·~1·z::i~z::i~·~·~·~·g·~I It is very easy to learn Tibetan.

(3) l~~'(ll'r.i.·~1·;~·~n.i·z::i~.l;.'UJ~'i''\"1"-'~I It is difficult to travel in Tibet in winter.

(4) ~·i~~i;·9~·;·g·~I It is easy to write their names.

(5) 5·~n.i·~·~·a.·~1·~1·~1·;·11"-·~1
It must be difficult to teach Tibetan to foreigners.
The interrogative and negative forms are straightforward: £1·1 "l"- I £1·g and ~·~,!( I
(6) g;ri:rz::i~·t~·z::i~z::i~·;·~'C\"l~'~I Is it hard to learn how to make tsampa?
., ,::,
'1f~,r~i;·~·~·11~·cri1"' Is it difficult to go to Lhasa?
., "' It's not easy to eat noodles with chopsticks.

I~ 16.3.9 z:::J~lll"i to Look, to Seem II

In the lesson, Tom says z::J~"'·~·~·~·l"l~-~l

It looks very difficult, employing CJ~~·~.
a phrase meaning compared to that we encountered in comparative sentences (14.3.1)
earlier. Here z::J~"''c!i is best translated by to look as in z::i~·~1·n.i·i::i~~,r~·UJcri'~I Degyi
looks beautiful. Note that the subject is marked Oblique with n.i·~~. making this verbal
usage ofr:J~"'·~ resemble a Subject-Ladon verb. The pattern is as follows:

(I) Subject (Obliq) + r:::J~~fi!I\ + Adj
(2) ~·1:i"c:J~~l'i!l\'~"11:1.'~I It looks difficult.
(3) ~;i·4·r.i.~·,,:c:i~~fi!l\'~33'91 The beef looks tasty.
(4) ~-~c::~·aj·r:::ii~·i!l\33~·33·r:::i~~ri!l\·~·~·~lljr.l.'Ul~'~I Granny Sonam looks happy today.
When the context is clear, the Oblique subject can be suppressed, in which case the
" could
sentence would simply starts with r:::J~~·i!I\· English translation for r:::J'l!~'i!l\'"''111:1.'~
be, quite appropriately, looks difficult, without a subject.
While we are on the verbal usage ofr:::J~~·i!I\, it is worth noting that when the subject
carries Ergative Case, the phrase means in the opinion £?(the subject. Please review
12.3.1 for more examples of this usage.

The Tibetan reflexive pronoun is ::.i;.·~~. which is best translated by a single word
self, for ::.i;.·l~ is not person specific and it can be used independently as a regular
noun, carrying various case markings. For example, in this lesson, Tom says r;.~r:i;.r;.·
~~~(Erg)'i::J~~,r°\·it!] I can do it by myself (lit. I myself can do it.) Like the subject is
i:.~. ::,z::: El]"l is also marked Ergative Case. More examples:
(1) jr;.'9"l (Erg)' ::.i;.·"'~·t:\ (Obliq)'%Clj·33(l·!!llj'~"l'r:::J?r;.·!!EI]
John bought the dictionary for himse If.
(2) ;·~i;.·::.i;.·19·(Gen);·t:\·1ciir.i.·9·il1'91
Tserang does not like his own horse (lit. of himself).
(3) J.lflr.l.'r.l.~'J.Ji-9 "l' ::.i;.·19 ( Gen )'"'5'1:J.l:.'UJ C!]'~ll]'4 "l'/:1.~~·~·~ 1
Kandro Tso wants to know whether her picture (lit. of herself) is pretty.
(4) jn.i'J.J"l (Erg)'l!:l:!J'"4"l'£l·1~·(.\ ( Obliq)'£l·1r:ii~·~·i!::.·~1
Drolma says that Trashi doesn't like her (lit. herself.)
As one can see from the above examples, the reflexive pronoun ::.i;.·l~ is used in a
very different way from its English counterparts. While a detailed analysis is beyond the
scope of this book, the reader may benefit from remembering the general rule that ::.r;.·l~
is used quite freely as long as it can find a corresponding antecedent in the sentence.
Unlike English, ::.i;.·l~ has no difficulty taking Genitive Case 9. If the antecedent is
clear from the discourse context, sometimes it does not even need an overt antecedent in

the sentences. For example, "i::l~ (Genitive) ~·a_·~"·~·~.JJ·~·~ll Yogurt made by
onese((tastes best. (Lit. Selfs yogurt is the most delicious.) Try and learn to use .1;~:l~
as an independent word. More examples:
(5) r.i.~·ij·"::.·1~'tN'CQa;I Is this your own? (Lit. you+ self+ 's?)

(6) "::.·l~~'(Erg.) 9~·~·"::.·l~~·"'(Erg.) £j-.~~·~1

What one wrote himself, one cannot recognize.
( 7) f"'·;i~·"::.·1~·1s~·{qllj·~·Mr:::i·~~·~1·~·~1
Drolrna is teaching herself English lessons.

• 16.3.11 r:::J~l to Forget and .JJ'z::J~l Don't Forget

Toe verb i::J~l to forget talces a VP complement that has to be nominalized by t~,
(Cf. VP+ '"' + 1111"- to like to do something, 11.3.7, and l:J~z::J to learn, 16.3.7) The

pattern is VP+ l~ + r:::i~l- Examples:

(I) ::.~·~·r7i·~·q1'a;::.·::.·1·"·r.i_~r:::i~·t~·r:::i~l·iji::EIC!j
I forgot to put sugar in my coffee.
(2) 1,ri°q~·r:::iij ·a;;i~·~~·~"·;.T·"-G" t~·r:::i~\ij::.·Elcii
Granny Sonam forgot to bring money.
Note that, like"4~ to know, although r:::i~l is not a typical Agent-Theme transitive verb,
its subject is marked with Ergative Case.
Asking someone to remember doing something is usually rendered by don't forget
to .... employing the negative imperative form ofl:J~~-
(3) 6--')~25'·a.·~2l·as·~·t~·;i·r:::i~ll Remember to buy your younger brother a book.

In the dialogue, Wuchung says .g;i·1;r;ii::::.·El11j'cJl'Q.~z::J~'~~·.JJ·z::i~ll Don't forget not

too much flour. The embedded VP takes negative adverb .;I and the imperative verb tl~l\
takes ;J_ Recall that ;J negates past tense and imperative mood. The word ;ii::i::(~~)
modifies the noun that precedes it, meaning too much of something. See note below.

• 16.3.12 to Do More or Less: JJ::.'illl and~'illj

The adjectives JJ!;."r:J many/much and '?f-''ff-Jewllittle have nominal forms that are
used in the following construction, meaning to do more/less o_f something:

(I) N + ~~(~)a~ or ~:arii + Verb
In this lesson, the above phrase combines with the pattern l~'l'~l need to:
(2) -
~~·1~·~·~~·=1~·"iil-~ ·lrii·~· ll I need to practice more.

-- -
(3) ij~·ijl-~l·~~-~·arii·t::34l·l~·~·~ll You need to speak more Tibetan.
" ,.,~
(4) ~~-~~·~·J,Jr:::r::::1rii··"' -
l~.:1::lrii·~·~ll He needs to bring more money.
(5) ij~·a;~·~·~·arii·~~·l~·~·~ll You need to drink less chang.

In the previous lesson, we learned the auxiliary i;;qf·~·~i;; should ( 15.3.5). i;;~·~·~i;;
and ~~~-~l both signify the necessity of one's doing something, the subtle difference

being that V + l~·~·~l is stronger than V + l~·l·~l· The former does not leave much
room for negotiation or hesitation.

lill- 16.3. I 3 Attributive Adjective + ~l

In a plain declarative sentence with a predicative adjective, Amdo Tibetan simply
ends the sentence with Adj. " as we have seen in an abundance of examples thus far.
+ If],
However, there are times when the speaker wishes to add an assertive or contrastive force
to the statement, usually to clarify the quality denoted by the adjective, the speaker may
then use the attributive form of the adjective and the verb ~l to be. Compare the
following examples:
(I}~-4~·~1 It is delicious.
(2) a.~·~·4~·~1 Is this delicious?

(3) l·4~·~·~ll Now it's delicious. (It wasn't so good.)

Sentences (I) and (2) are the default cases; (3) is used only in the restricted context as

lill- 16.3.14 ~~~riil to Help

The verb tcii~·iil to help can take either a noun phrase or verb phrase as its
complement. Since t111~·iil already is an 0-V transitive verb, containing a built-in direct

Oblique with
object~~~. the person being aided is considered an indirect object being marked

n.i·l°I. Examples:
~~·i:iij,·.3\JJ~·~·t~~·iil·.3\·~·i~ Can you help Sonam?

\\<ben ~r:t~·~ takes a VP complement, the verb is in its present/future form: VP
(present/future)+ -
~£11~''1"'.1. For examples:
(1) ij~·=::,f~2}·~·~·~~~·~·~·LN·i'9 Can you help me buy the book?
(3) ij~·z::.·,l·~~·~·Q~·~9~·uj·~·~·i'9 Can you help me exchange the money?

(4) z::.~·~·~~·~5~·{Qcri·jz::rt~·~·l9~·iQ·z::i~«'IJ'~f I want to help him study English.

(5) ij~·z::.~·ij·.·f~£11~·~·~·~·z::i~.;r~l Do you want me to help you?

(6) z::.~rij·,l·~~~'ri·il9·ut·ijz::i·~l Can I help you do anything?

• 16.4 Cultural Notes


::: 16.4.1 Uniquely Tibetan

Some objects shown in Exercises 16.6.4 are unfamiliar to Westerners. There are a
number of objects and symbols that are prominent, and probably unique, in the Tibetan
culture that may not have a ready English translation. Here are some common items:

( 1) o.l~: a set of plate-like metal containers filled with highland barley and
other grains, one laid on top of the other like the shape of a pagoda. It is placed in the
family prayer room. At its bottom layer, a bronze mirror is placed so that one can see
1the true nature of) oneself.
(2J ~·~ (prayer flag): a piece of cloth or paper printed with auspicious text.
They come in five different co]ors, symboJizing the five elements. In the center is the
galloping horse in the clouds, thus the name lf'ry "wind-horse". On the horse back is the
Three Jewels. Cloth lf'~ is usuaJly hung on mountain tops, rooftops, river ban.ks,

altars, etc. People toss paper ~c;.·~ in religious ceremonies and festivals. Do not be
alanned when a bus reaches a mountain pass and suddenly the othenvise skcpy and
peaceful Tibetans on the bus start shouting '}f !j'1J"'ll1 Gods are l'icrorious ! and tossing
paper~"·~ out of the window.
(3) ,1rq~~ (latse): a group of wooden poles with their tips carved into Lhe

nearby on a special "Arrow Insertion" Festival .-

shape of an arrowhead, inserted on selected sites on mountain tops by \'illagers living
... "'
(~·~\J~·q~,\~Q.·~~.ra;~p. The site is
first dug with a meter-deep cubic hok, after the ceremonial burning of the juniper incl!nsc
(Q~r;·~"1'i;JP and other offerings, each participant (sorry, male only) will present to
the mountain god (or other local deities) a carefully wrapped pack (~~c;.·ffi~) of grains,
medicine, gold, and silver to be buried within. Before the insertion of the "arrows". a
rock platform is laid on top of the packs as the foundation. During the insertion, people
toss ~~·5 and chant. <ll"z::J~~1 is a common sight in Amdo.

(4) 1:J'i'~Z:::. (bucket hook): an ornament hanging on the leather belt of nomadic

bucket when women milk cows, -

women in Amdo and Kham areas. Used originally as a convenient tool to hold the
has evolved into a highly decorative piece of
jewelry made of silver, coral, and turquoise.
(5) ~·~~ (braid pouch): All Tibetan women wear long hair. If a Tibetan girl
comes home with short hair, her parents will be as upset as conservative parents in the
US seeing their daughter come home with a Mohawk dyed in neon pink. Tibetan
costumes exhibit different ways to highlight the beauty of women's long hair. In Hainan
Prefecture, near the Monguor minority, known for their elaborate embroidery

cr;iftsmanship, women from fam1ing areas wear ~·1i::i~ to hold the braids.
( 6) ,~:::r~::i~ (sewing kit): a sewing kit that has become purely decorative, mostly
\\\)m by men in the Kham region. The ~z:::i·~z:::i~ shown on the previous page is made
1Jf sih er
and gold inlaid with coral and turquoise. The eight gold buttons come with
detailed designs of the eight auspicious symbols: !:-l~J the lotus, ~Q(lJ'CJ~J the eternal
knot. cii~~·11 the golden fishes, Cl'l~Cll~l the parasol, ~<\!·~a5~ 1the victory banner,~~·~,
~ ' .
the treasure: vase. ~~·~"l~I the white conch shell, and ~~'"1J1 the wheel.

'7) ~:;in.i·z:J~l ( eternal knot): one of the eight auspicious symbols, often seen
independently as a decorative motif due to its geometric shape. The eternal knot does not
ha\·e a beginning or an end, symbolizing the everlasting wisdom and compassion of the
Buddha. Secular interpretation sees it as a symbol of eternal happiness and, for some.
( ~) ~.;,p:::i~·~.!:::p:.:~°'I (All-Powerful Ten): a monogram incorporating the second
to the eighth initial consonant letters of a Kalachakra mantra (Om Ham Ksha Ma La Va
Ra Ya Sva Ha}. The syllables represent, externally, the astronomical elements of the
univers~ ( apparent when one looks at the crescent moon, the sun, and the flame on top of
th~ main body of the monogram), but they also, internally, deals with the energy of a
person's mind and body. The interweaving strokes of the seven letters form one of the

ofound and beautiful mystical symbols in the Tibetan culture
rnost Pr ·
•:• 16 .5 Key Sentence Patterns
• 16 .S.l Instrumental Phrase
(I) ~~·a.·r5\~r,i'~"l'!J.ft;J'1!::t:1
[l's called tsampa in Tibetan.

(2) " "~

~~·gJ.J'~"l'CJ~"I'~' 11
It's made with flour.

(3) ~~·a.·1s~·cq~·~"l·i·~~· 11 ::i::·~1

What do you call this in English?

(4) E;,'i:J~CJ"l'J.I'r.i.~· ~· ::i;·~· J.I'~ "l'CJ~Cll'~' ~11

Tibetan tea is made with tea and butter.

(5) !~flf,IC.'ry~"l't;J::t:'a5"1'~"1't;J::t:' ~CJ·~·1,.f::i Lii ~ 1

" C\ • C'\

Do you take pictures with a digital camera?

1 16.5.2 Every One, Not Every One, and No One

(I) 5'16C:.'J.I~'!J.l't;J·i·4 ~·CJ~'l~·~·4 "I·~·~· ~l 1

Does everyone know how to make tsampa?

r2) 5·*.·J.J·i:S'1·~·m-1sr:..~·r:..·"?~·t~·1~r.1.·~1
Everyone likes listening to Tibet music.

(J) 15 \~·~·ir:..·J.J·~~·i:5'1·cq~·4"1·~·J.1·~11
Not every Tibetan knows the Tibetan alphabet.

(4) Q,~·~·~·~CJ'"l'aii'a_'ijr:._·~r:..·J.1~~·~~~·.:z;,·;l11
No one here has ever been to Europe.

(5) ~·&J.l·~a·~r:..·~·1s~·~1·~1·1"1·~·~~~·.i:.·;l11
No one in my family knows how to speak English.
I 16.5.3 Interrogative Word+ .:Z:.
0l ~·t~·.:z:.·s·r:i·~·Cll"l·r.i.~1·;i1·~ I
No one wants to do that job.

(2) r:ii,\~J.1~·~~·12l·as·~~~·::t:·r:i~·~·r.1.~1·~·;i1·~1
Sonam doesn't want to read any book.

(J) i:.~·ll·r~a·j~·r:i~~·iii~iii·iii·.i:.·r:i~·~·£i·r.1.~1·~1
I never watched any American movie.

(4) ~·~c:.·~~· 21 ·~~·~"1·%·iii%~·.:z:.·~·£!·4"11

Tserang doesn't know anyone in Beijing.
<5) I"-!' ~
.;i·r5' -~·~· a;·zii%zii·zii ·~·~"'. c:i(~· ~-ijc._·.;i ·i r::~ iii
Drolma hasn't traveled to any place in Tibet.

• 16.5.4 ~~ When Clause

( 1) £l·~9·jc:i·,;i·aj°l·~~-~·r.(c:J~~-~-~~ l
She read it when she was a student.

(2) ij'c:J'~~·~·~·1·~·°'·iij'~·~~-~~-~·~~ l
They bought this robe when they were in Lhasa.
(3) r::~"-l'c:J(~·~·~·~~-i:i~·a;~·~~-~·ijc._·~·aj~ l
1 take my camera with me when I travel.
(4) z::.·~·~·r..·~~-~-~-~~-~zii~·aT·i'·r..·tJ.1·1:1·i·9·~~-~~-~-Gl°'1
When I go back to the US I will bring some tsampa for my friends.

(5) ij·~·~z::.·il·~~·~c:ic:i·~zii~·zii·e~·~~·z::.·r..·f·i:i~·ec._~1
When you arrive in Xining train station, please call me.

• 16.5.5 -
!c:l to Teach and c:J~c:J to Learn
(I) ij~·z::.·~~·i·4~·"-l~·~~-~·iz:i·~·[N·i~·~1
Is it okay if you teach me how to make it?

(2) ij~·c._·r..·~~·%'zii~r~~·i·4~-~~~-{~·iz:i·~·1N·i~·~1
Can you teach me how to use urcha?

<3) i:i~·i·4~~zii·~~-~-i::i~r::i~·~·~z::.·~~·iG'1·~·~1I
It must be interesting to learn how to take pictures.

(4 ) z::.~-?5'~·'1J·i·4~-~~-1~·~·iz:i·~·~~1·~1
I want to learn how to wear Tibetan robes.

<5) z::.~·~·~·r..·c;z:i~·s·i·4~·t·1~·~·ti::i·~·~~1·~·~·~·19~·ir::i·~·a_~1·~·il1·~1
I want to teach Dorje how to dance but he doesn't want to learn.
• 16.5.6 ! Easy and 11~ D(fficu/t

(I) g;i·i:i·c:i~-~~-z:i~r::1~·~·~·~·~1~·1:11
ls it difficult to learn how to make tsampa?

(2) 1~·%'zii~-~~~-~~·ir~1~·~1
It's not difficult to use urcha.
( 3) ziilllql"~:·,~·tN·g·~1

Is it easy to herd yaks?
~" "
(4) ii'·~·r:i(11J·l..i.·;rg·iii l
It's not easy to make butter tea.

(5) Q\~~·is11J·t::1(.:i::.·ui\~~·l!'l·~a-~.:1::ii·c:i~·,iS:·irg·~1
11 is not easy to exchange American dollars when traveling in Tibet.
..,.. "
(6) ~-~~-~J.!·4·iiifiC:J·la.·i·iii1
It is easy to cut the yak meat with a knife.

(7) Q~·~·i·4~-~~-~~-~·jc:i·,~·g·~1
It is easy to learn how to wear a Tibetan robe.
I 16.5.7 r::J~~-~ to Look
(I) ~~rfi::.:i::.·~~f~~·iljr:::~~(!lJ.rr~;,,:c:i~~-~·1JJ·~l
The peaches that you bought at the market look delicious.

(2) ~~-9~r~~ij\alQ']·711·f·a.·r::15~·~·iru.iQ']·~1
The Tibetan alphabet I wrote doesn't look pretty.

(3) a_s·CJ.:i::.·iQ']·~-~~r.i·JJ·a.·c:i~~-~-~-~-ar-~i:.·~1
Your parents in the picture look very young.

(4) f~-~~-a.~·a.·t::1~~-~·~i:,·1:.r~~, ~~-~JJ"r::Jli:.·,·ui~l

The computer looks old. When did you buy it?

(5) ~-a.~·a."r::J5~·~·1JJ·~·.:i::~i:.·~·1.:i::.·~1
The yogurt looks tasty, but it is really sour.

I 16.5.8 .:i::.i:.·19 Self

(I) i:_i~r.:i::.i:.·19~-~~-~-i,.~l-~l
I want to make some for myself.
(2) i:_1~r.:i::.i:.·19·CJ.:i::.·.:i::.·JJ·~i:.~1
I didn't take a picture of myself.

(3) :i:.i:_·19~r~c:i-~·~·li:.·fi::~i:.·~·~·a.·c:i5~·~-~JJ-~l
Yogurt made by oneself tastes better than the store's.

(4) ai·~-a.~·~·.:i::.i:.·19~·a.s"jj·ai~·~1
Did you yourself write this letter?

(S) i:_~-r~;a.~·l!'l·~·a.·~·t·al~l 12l·a5"a.~·.:i::.i:.·19·a.·~,·al~l

I will buy tea for my uncle and this book for myself.

• CJ~l to Forget and ~·ci~l Don't Forget

(I) c.~·~·~c.·Mci·r:ic.·~c.·~~·25'1·{ij~T~'MCJ'~CJ'~~-~·iiic.·t~·c:i~1·ijz::!l111
I forgot to bring my Tibetan textbook to class today.
(2) f c.·~~-~1c.·1~c.·c.·~2:j~i"t~·c:i~1·ijz::.·aj111
John forgot to call me last night.

(3) c.~·2:i1·~1·~~·i·4~·i1~·1~·~·c:i~1·ijr:::~111
I forgot how to say it in Tibetan.

(4) 1·~·~c.·c.·!l111·~~ci~·t~·~·ci~11
Remember not to put too much sugar.

(5) ~i!111~·ij·q·r:i·~·!l111·~·t~·~·c:i~11
Remember to buy some coffee for your friend.

( 6) ~·~111~·:1~·r:ic.·c.·~·~~·c.·q·~111~· sc.·~~·~·t~· ~·c:i ~ 11

Remember to buy stamps for me when you go to the post office .

• 1~·t·~1
(I) c.~·~·~·~·~·q·~~·5·~c.·c.·~llj·~s·1~·~·tN·~1 l
Do I need to do more homework everyday?

(2) ~~·~2:i1·~·!~~·2J·q·25'1·~1·~1·1~·t·~11
You need to speak Tibetan with your Tibetan friends.

(3) ~~·~c.·~·1~~·r:ic.·~c.·~~·t,r~a·~~·;f·£l·1~c.~·4~·~~·~-c:i~·1~·t·~11
You need to exchange US dollars to Renminbi at Bank of China.

( 4) ~·~c.·c.~r:i·~·~c.·!l111·~c.~·1~·~·~11
I need to drink more coffee today.

(5) c.~·c:i~·~~~·~·~·~·!l111·ci~~·~·2:i1·~1·~c.·c.·!l~·~c:i·1~·~·~11
I need to watch less TV and study more Tibetan.

•:• 16.6 Exercises

16.6.l Listening Comprehension: True or False
(I) Lhamo knows a little bit of English.
(2) Lhamo is learning English now.
(3) Lhamo 's elder sister studied English last summer in England.
(4) Lhamo thinks English is not too difficult.
(5) Lbamo's English is much better than her elder sister.

(6) Lhamo's elder sister is in England now.
. .z Fill in the Blanks
16 6
~~l ~1 3il ~l ~<il 91 ~·1 iii
(I) ~-i·all]·:1·_ar11 li4·~o,.1·~1

(2) .,_~a.·%~- 25'1·~~·-i·i~·i...·91

(3) ijr:;i'~ll]·-ij~~~-a.~·4~·9~·. ___ll.~~- _ &l'll.~11]'91

(4) ~~-~·,,:a.~·i·4~-~~-l~-!r:J'3i'tN'iiii

(5) ~11j·a.i'_~·9·11a.· _ii·11a.·91

(6) ~~-r:i~~--ii·1~·uillj·~r£i·uiiii·~1

(7) ~-~·(.\·1s3i-~\--r:i~·ij·i·4~·i~·1~· _gr:i· __ li4·i111·~1

16.6.3. Complete the Dialogues

(I) 1'1 ?
~, ill]'~ ~~·ij·a.'ij%,'o,J'i·4~·11.~3i'1~·~·gr:i·3i·illj·91
m1'1 ?
~1 ~~I °'~~·2S'1·uill]·ll]?"1·~·g·91
<3) 1 2S'1·9·%·~~·o,.1·a.aso,.1·t·4~·~·~·~1l

~1 o,.1·~11---------
1 ~·~~'o,J'll,~'o,J'l::]~'l~'111jll.'~·~·~1l
~I 111]°'·~·~11 ~~·r:i5~·31· - - - - - - - -
(4) 1

~l a.~·go.r~·~11·..,1 o,J~-~~-r::i~~-~-~11
16.6.4 Translation
(I) A: Look at this Tibetan knife. Don't you think it's beautiful?
B: Yes, it is. ls it easy to use?
A: Of course. Do you want to try it?
B: Okay.
(2) A: You look hungry.
B: Yes, I didn't eat this morning.
A: Do you want more tea?
B: Yes please. But don't put too much salt. It was a little too salty.

(3) A: It's my first time using knife and fork.
B: It's easier than using chopsticks?
A: When you eat meat, it's easier than chopsticks.
(4) A: Where did you take this picture? [ like it very much.
B: I took it when [ was traveling in Europe.
A: When did you go to Europe?
B: Last autumn.
(5) A: Is it difficult to wear the chupa?
B: No, it's very easy. I wear it everyday.
A: Can you wear the chupa all by yourself?
B: Sure.

16.6.5. Name the Objects: Name the objects in Tibetan according to the names given

Example: ~~-~-ij~-~~·~~·a;~-~~·il~·~,

(e.g.) a;~·~~l

Reading Comprehension
- " "" ' "- 1
tlla·i.a.1 ~·~, ~~·a.~·~·a;·:sc!p1J~'~lU3~
@·~, ~~·~·~·4i·~·aj~,
~a·i.a1 itri·a.i·t7i·~·~,Q.-~ 1
~·~1 %'·~·s'll·~·ir~111~·~1
~a-i.a.1 ij~·J::·~·~·4,-ra.:~·~~,
~·!:JI -
~~I ::.i~.r~~ ~ " "
" ~·Q.~~r°'·ui°'I

~a·i.a.1 a.~·~·sqr~~1 ij~·~~·~~-""~·.~·

" ..... " 1

~·Q1 "- "


J.Ja·x.a.1 2j'~·~·~·ir::.;.i~r~~ ·~·4 ~·a.~°'·

~'!:11 .iJ~·4~1 :::i~·~·~'J:;'"1Cll'Q.i'
('\ -"'
~a.·i.a.1 1 ~~·~-.~-~~.-~·
~·~·~1(1.J·;f;~· ~'\
~·q I -- " ' ~rcri~cri ~·°'". ~i:;.
(lJ~·c15~ ~"·4 ' 1
J,Ja.·i.a.1 ~~·i1·~-s~·~ 1
~·r:,1 ij~·cri~cri~r~·~·~·~~cri-~1 ~·i§·E:·~ra.§rzr~rE~·~r£~·~1
Answer the following questions in English
(I) What is Dawa doing?
(2) What does Dawa use when herding goals'!
(3) What is the whip-slinger called in Tibetan·~
(4) Who knows how to use an urcha?
(5) What is Dawa·s comment on Mary's pcrfonnance when sht: tries the 11rcha'!

iJ ~( ~ ~( -~ ~( iJ ~( ~ •!•
!.!Jai ~~ ~~ !.!Jai ~- •
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-· a - si:; ...~- ..cc: '<
.e ~
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_g? ~ ~ _g_, µ

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~') lll'
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ay J1 Ji'> __.,' =' . _e, . . . .,
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2:!.'·' ,~, J'! ---9! ~{ JJi, .s-.
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Tihetan Rohes I.Yorn Dwing a Festi\'l1/. Yulslw/

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(\ (',...,.,,....,,..
e~·ij~ ~1~·a;·t~'~!::~::'.::1~ ~~~·cJJ·~·~.l~ftlJ1l

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£!7i·ij~ z::_~·t:15~-r~ ·~~· t:l~ ~~·~~·a_·~~·~·~·~·q· ~11 ~· ~·s~·~ ~·~~· ~·~" 1
~q~·~~ I ~-~~~-~ ~-~z::_·2-·~· ~ ~·cri~·~·~-aj~·~. ~~ 1 £:·i~-~~~-~·~·ffqr~·~·tri~Ell~·£J·
('\ -- - -- '

~~·ij~ 5i'c('\ri I ~~-l:J~'":1'~1·~·

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~:a:,a,·a.1·~,~·e1:,::.·~~·~·~·~~~1 .... -
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t5'1.~.r.t'~l,.i '·t::1 ffi'l,·t: 1 ffi1·~· ~·~ 1 ~ 'l,Cl]'I\T ~l,.ii'·t::1 ~·~I
ii'·~~·t::1ffi·l,·~·~·!·~·~1 I
1~r=.~ri:J·~·r.i.l~~1 r.i.~·1·~·~·!·~·2J·~~ I

Clerk: How are you? What will you buy?

Tom: I'm thinking of buying a Tibetan robe for my girlfriend.
Clerk: We have many kinds of robes. Summer robes are cheap and pretty. There are
two styles. One style is only 185 yuan; the other style is 300 yuan. There are
winter robes that cost several thousand yuan. Look.
Tom: Why are winter robes so expensive?
Clerk: They are made of Iamb skin, so they are expensive.
Tom: I don't think I can afford (have enough money for) a winter robe. I'll buy a
summer robe.
Clerk: Very good. How tall is she? The same as my height?
Tom: She is not as tall as you. A little shorter.
Clerk: Then medium size will probably fit (Lit. be a fit). Look, is this brown one pretty~
How is its size? Length? Thickness?
Tom: The color is too dark. Do you have a lighter color?
Clerk: Yes. How about this blue one? It's very pretty if one ties a red sash to it.
Tom: I think that belt over there is the most pretty. What is it made of?
Clerk: It's made of silver, inlaid with coral and turquoise. We wear it only with winter
robes. The price is 3,500 yuan.
Tom: Okay, I'll take this robe and the red sash. !fit doesn't fit, is it okay to bring it
back and return it (for a refund?)
Clerk: I'm sorry. At our place one can't return. Exchange is okay. Do you want
anything else?
Tom: I also want to buy a pair of black shoes for myself.
Clerk. Sorry. We don't sell shoes or boots here. There is a shoe store next door.
Tom: Then, how much is it altogether?

Clerk: The robe is 185 and the belt is 40. It's 225 altogether.
T . Can it be a little cheaper?
Clerk: I'm sorry. This is the cheapest.
,:• J7.2 Vocabulary ~~msc-21
17,2.1 Vocabulary from the Dialogue
I. 11;!\ n. robe

2. Q~J.I, V.
to think (of+ V) (n. heart)
3. ~~~, n. style, kind
4. n. (N-N) summer robe
5. num. hundred
6. adj. other
7. n. (cf. num.) thousand
8. adj. several
ar~~ [f·4~l
9. ~~, pro. one (that ... ; with ... )
10. i·i~·~ [~~:~~] adv. interr. why (marked Obliq)
I l. n. lamb skin
12. Qi!~,
V. to make, to sew (past tense)

13. adj. (pred.) to have enough money for
14. n. (a person's) height, build
~r;:,-~r:.·1 n. (A-A) height, length, size
~·i~~ [~-~-~!!]] adj. I adv. same, equally
a,9r;:,·r;:,·ij1 nominalized adj. medium one
;·as~l [!"cl,1ri~J adv. probably
19. n.
;~I fit, match (takes Uf~ I~~)
20. n. color
ffi'~~ adj. brown
~-~r:.·1 n. size (Lit. big-small)
23. ~c:r;i~~ thickness (Lit. thin-thick)

adj. (N-A) (color) dark
adj. (attr.) blue
25. ~-rj1
n. sash
27. , ~:a:..:a:.'- adj. (attr.) red

28. ~:: .~, V. to tie

29. ~:::.~, n.

to decorate clothes with jewelry

31. ,~ai, n. silver


34. ~
adv. back (returning)
35. ... V. to return (goods for refund)
36. ;f:::.·1 n. business
37. n. shoe
38. ... adj. (attr.) black

39. ~,
measure word parr

~-,... -1
next door

42. ~lz;.-~·, n. shoe store

verb phrase to make it cheaper
17.2.2 Additieoal Vocabulary
,. n. ten thousand (a numeral unit)
45. n. hat
46. n. otter fur
47. n. sheep skin
M~ n. flower
49. adj. (N-A) light

n. (A-A)
so. r:iai:.·i:.~ I quality (Lit. good-bad)
n. (A-A)
SI. ~i·1J.JQ.I height (Lit. high-low)
n. (A-A)
52. ~~~·~i:.·1 newness (Lit. new-old)
n. (A-A)
53. ~·Ult:.'l weight (Lit. heavy-light)
adj. (attr.) heavy
54. iii'l..,,
adj. (attr.)
55. Ult:.'J.11 light ( in weight)

56. n. weight
adj. (attr.) bad
57. ~·~1
aux. expressing strong conviction
58. f'El~·~~l
..,.. num. two (quantity, not number)
60. measure word gyama (half a kilogram)
f i'J.11 ..,,

i ~·~,
adj. (attr.) white
61. 11.:;·.:;1
62. adj. (attr.) yellow

63. adj. green

64. adj. pink
65. adj. (pred.) rich
66. n. headdress
67. adj. good to watch (e.g. movie)
68 . n. shirt

•!• 17.3 Grammar Notes

~ 17.3.1 z::i~~ to Thinko/DoingSomething

The verb r:::J~~ to think can take the present/future form of the verb to express the idea
of thinking of doing something. r:::i~~ is preceded by the verb directly, without the
nominalizer t~ or the complementizer ~- For example:
0 J i:.~·~~~·rlll~·~·z:i'~·'1:l·~iii·;·r:::i~~·~1
I am thinking of buying a Tibetan robe for my girlfriend.
Note that in (I) the indirect object ~·~iii~·~iii~·iii (for) my girlfriend is marked with the

Dative n.i·~~ (Ill). More examples:
( 2) 111:1r.i.·~Ill'r.i.~. r.1"ij•t1r i·all'1·111~·i::i~J.1·~ l
What are you thinking of doing this weekend?
( 3) aJ·~~lll·~· ..·~·a;l5:·?5'1'"'l'~·i::i~J.1·~·i'Q11
We are thinking of going to Tibet next year.

( 4) ~·~ai-r::.·~·fillll'l::]~"3i'l::]'7!i'~·~·~·i::i~J.1·~ l. .
Are you thinking of going to see that movie tomght?
( s) r::.~·s~·~·~·a;li·~~~·aj·z::i~J.I·~ 1
I am thinking of helping those children.

, ... 17.3.2 Adj. +air:.+ Adj. + ~ II

This pattern does not stand alone, it must be juxtaposed by at least one other
adjectival phrase of the same pattern. As the pattern is repeated, as shown below in (I),
the interpretation is an emphatic both Adjective 1 and Adjective 2:
(I) Adj. I Cllr::.· Adj. I ~. Adj 2 OJr::.'Adj. 2 ~
( 2) 2j'~i'1:f r.!.~"!'Cllr::.·t·~ Cllllj'Cllr::.'OJ!!j"~1
This Tibetan robe is both cheap and pretty.

(3) r::i~ ~r::.·~·9·1~~-f. ~r::.·Cll r::.·~r::.·9·~1!j'OJ r::.·~11]'~ 1

The winter in my village is both long and cold.

(4) =l'(llr::.·~a.·:1·J.1'~J.l'(JJr:;.'~J.l'9'!'Ul r::.·t·91

The food in that restaurant is both tasty and inexpensive.
The pattern in (I) have variations. If the adjective is a complex one, such as one with an
internal Noun-Adjective structure (e.g. i!J.1~·i::i=1r::. 'heart-good', good-hearted), one needs
to separate the N and Adj and say "Na.ii::. Adj ~," for example:
(3) ~-;j"·~-Ul~'Cllr::.'Ul~·~-~J.l~'Ulr::.·i::i:1r::.·91 That girl is both beautiful and kind.

(4) i·~r:::.·Cllt::~·~11 ~~·qfr:::.·Cllr:::.·r.i.~~·91 In terms of size, it fits, in tenns of price,

it's right. (It not only fits but the price is also right.)

• 17.33 Numerals in Hundreds, Thousands, and Beyond

The words hundred and thousand are I::]~ and ir:::., respectively. For numbers over a
hundred, add the conjunction .i; between hundreds and tens. Examples:
( I J 185 c:J;Ji'.J;'l::]iJiC','i'01''1.11
~ ~ 1 ~ ,al, c::. 200 "'

Note that the numeral quantifies t::l~ precedes it. fr::. (or any unit larger than fr::.) behaves
differently from c:i~ hundred in two ways: (i) It may take the plural marking i: (ii) The
-- follows it. Examples:
numeral that quantifies ,ic:.

(2) 1000 ~z::9~9 3625 ~c:.·i·"1~J.l·:t.·~9·c:i~·::i_·~·~J'!'~1

2000 ~c;.·f9~~ (~r::.·9~~) several thousand ~c:.·i·~·%"1
Numerical units larger than ~C:., given below, all pattern with -- ~c;. and not c:i~:
(3) 1,000 I 0,000 I 00,000 1,000,000 I0,000,000 I 000,000,000
~c:.·1 ~1 r.i.~J.l 1 ~·ui 1 s·c:i1 ~c:.·1:t.1
Note that in Tibetan each numerical unit is used rather strictly. For example, 1500 must
be read one thousand five hundred and never *fifteen hundred. Similarly, the unit~ ten
thousand is used when appropriate. 12,000 must be one~ ~c;. ~-"1~"1·::i_·~c;.·ttl·
" and two -- " " ;G' ":ti.

~~~) and cannot be "'twelve thousand. Examples of large numbers:
(4) A: How much money is that?
B: That's 1,530 yuan.
1 ~-Q,·~::i_·ij·~uj~1
~1 ~·Q,·~~·ij·~c:.·9~9·~·~·c;i~·~·~J.l'~'al3i1
(5) A: How much money does that new computer cost?
B: It's 14,800 yuan.

1 f 9·~ \"1~::i_·c:i·~9·~-~~-~c;.·c;.·~~·ij·i·ij·~"1'~"1

~1 ~~·ij·~·cii~9·~·~r::_·c;i~·~·c:i~"'C:,~'~"1
(6) A: How many students are there in your school in the US?
B: Our school is very big. There are 35,000 students altogether.
:-i C"\ C"\ .....,., ....,, _.,, _.,. " _.,. ~ _.,.
1 l!>l'o.J' ::i_·r:ir.i.·~·~~~t::l'.9)'Q,'~t::l'J.l'~'J.l'::19·ui "1
~1 ~·~~·~·~t::l'.9:!'~·~·i·r.i.·1 t::]~J.ll~f~~·~c:i·;.i·~·"1~J.l':t.'~C:.'i'~'ai"1

I.,. 17.3.4 Instrumental Case Revisited J!

In Lesson 16, we introduced Instrumental Case and learned that phrases expressing
the means of an action are marked Instrumental. In this lesson, we see that phrases
expressing material (what something is made of) also carries Instrumental case. For

(I) 12.~·~-~~"l'([nstr)E:Ji"l·~~~- 1a.·~-~ll
It's expensive because it is made of lamb skin.

(2) ~·i·12.~·~J-l"~"l"E:Ji"1·~·~·~1l This hat is not made of otter fur.

Note that. as we mentioned earlier, Tibetan has no overt morphology for passive voice.
The above examples, if with an overt subject (Ergative), could be translated in active
( 3) r5"i;;·~"I· (Erg)~ll'j"t::lll'j"I"~ "I' (Instr )1~°1 '•1Jl:Ji·~·aj'l l
The Tibetan people make their winter robes with sheep skin.
Also. using a language as the instrument for communication warrants the Instrumental
case (Lesson 16). These sentences can often be translated in passive voice in English.
(4) c:;;Q·~·12.~·1s°\'u/ll'j'~"l'S"l"~'~1l The book is written in English.

(5) t,4·~a·1~·q~°'·~·r5"c:;;·~i:;;·~·~·~11 1s°\·~c:;;·9~·~"'-f °i·~·~1

Is that American movie shown in Tibetan or Chinese or English?
(6) ~"·;i·12.~·i·~cii·~"l'll.J"l'~·~i:;;1 What is this dish made of?

I• 17.3.5 ~ One i
The word Q°\ is best translated by the pronominal use of the English word one,
such as the green one, the one behind the couch, ones that people would want to buy, etc.
~ can refer to the kind of object previously mentioned in the discourse. For example,
there were many horses at the festival, but there was not one that runs fast. In this
lesson, the store clerk is talking about winter robes, when she says "i~°\''1Jll'j6~'~·\z;·if'
~::.·i·~-~lll'Qi:l\'LQ"il there are also ones that cost several thousand yuan. The pattern is
different from English: Q~ follows a noun phrase to create the pronominal phrase (NP+

~) that means one that has ... For examples: ~-~-Q~ (said oftsampa) one that has
chura (cheese) in it; ~'-'J.l'Qi:I\ (said of people) one that has money, etc. Sometimes, the
referent is overtly expressed, as shown below:

... ..,., - tea that has milk (in it)
~-'l'-'J.l'Q~l 'people who have money/the rich
o, ar.-~~·~ 111"·i:i·a1111·111·111~111·111·~~-i·~·la;·i9·Q°'·iii'c:;;·~1
As for new cars, there are ones that cost several tens of thousand yuan.

I• 17.J.6 ~ for Equal Comparison I

lbe phrase a.5·;i·si9 the same as is used to express equal comparison. The pattern is
as follows, meaning A is as Adi. as B.
" + Adj
(I) Equal Comparison: A+ B (Absolutive) ~-~·:19 -
Note that the noun phrase being compared to (i.e. B) in the - " phrase is marked
Absolutive, different from the Oblique Case in the r::i1;~·~ phrase (see 14.3.1 ). For
(2) j•1.r~·;.1f~·~·;i"·si9·~~91 Drolma Tso is as tall as you.
Proper English grammar requires that the things under comparison be of the same
type in order for them to be comparable. For instance. the (a) sentences below are both
supposed to be changed to (b ), because sentences in (a) "sloppily" compare things of
different status/type.
(3) a. *The population of India is larger than Japan. (sloppy)
b. The population of India is larger than that of Japan. (proper)
(4) a. *His writing is better than me/I. (sloppy)
b. His writing is better than mine. (proper)
Tibetan, like most East Asian languages, has a rather relaxed attitude about the two things
being compared. As long as the intended interpretation is in no danger of being obscure.
"sloppy" comparison is rather normal. Indeed. one finds this kind of comparison more
often than the supposedly proper one. In this lesson, ;i~9~9~·~-~~~~~~·;i·i9·~1l
She is as tall as I. literally says that "the height of her build is as tall as!." comparing
someone's height with a person is improper comparison from the English point of view.
In Tibetan, it is a perfectly natural way to express the idea.
~-~·:19 + Adj." logically should mean that A and Bare
The negation of the "A + 8
not equally Adj. For example,
._,._, -(\ (\"
;.i·~·a.5·itl·:19·~-~~91 (\
(literally) You and she are not of
the same height. In fact, the actual interpretation is exactly like that of English: inferior
comparison. The English negation of an equal comparison sentence changes the meaning
to inferior comparison as shown below:
(5) Mary is as tall as John. ( equal)
(6) Mary is not as tall as John. (Mary is shorter. on top of being not equally tall)
The Tibetan equivalents of(5) and (6), given in (7) and (8), are synonymous to English:
::,,::,'.:)- ~" " " (= 5) i\lary is as tall as John.
(7) d-.Jr.l.·...._,.:iz:;:(Abs)

(8) ~3,-~3-·j~(Abs) ~·;jj°·~9·£i·~i:;_·~1 (= 6) Mary is not as tall as John.

To express the inferior comparison of (6). Tibetan often uses the comparative structure
introduced in Lesson 14:

(9) ;ia·~a.·1c::.·c:.(obliq)'t:::l~~·~·~c::.·~, Mary is shorter than John.

I• 17.3.7 Colors I
Tibetan adjectives describing colors only have the attributive form and usage, by
follo\\-ing the noun they modify. Colors cannot be used as predicates. In cases such as
This flower is red, one uses the attributive form plus the auxiliary ~"- Example: ~.;i:i.·t
red. ;!1711'J·~;i.2;·~ red flower, ;i·;iii·a.~·l;i.i:.·~·~11 This flower is red.
The noun J.!~11] color can be modified by i big and ~C::. small to form compound N-A
adjectives ;J~ll'J·i dark (lit. color-big) and ~~iri·~c::. light (lit. color-small.) Example:
( 1) •lJa.~·;i~ll]·i·t~·;ic::.·ic::.·!i9 This robe is too dark.

(2) J.l~ll'J·il·i·~·~·iij'~1 Is there one that's not (too) dark?

(3) ~~r~.2;·9~:;·z::i·a.~a·~~iri·~·~·ii9·i·t~·~~·ic::.·ii9
The color of your new car is a little too dark.
- -
The word cl\ in example (2) is the same nominalizer cl\ introduced in Lesson 13 (relative
clause) and Lesson 14 (superlative). If the color is too light, one can say J.!~11'1·;!~·~1 no
Colors modify nouns from its right but precedes demonstrative pronouns. To express
this white one, this brown one, etc. one says J.!~9."i''1.i:.·~·a.~I ~~9·ffi·19·a.~1 etc.
(4) ;J~llj'!cl\'ti·a.~·~·Ulllj'~1 Is this blue one pretty?

I• 17.3~8 "Quality• Nouns I

Nouns about quality such as size, length, thickness, width, etc., are formed by
combining the mono-syllabic roots of two antonymous adjectives describing the relevant
quality. For example:
( I J "::.c::. long ..._ ~c::. short 7 ".i:.c::.·~c::. length
J.lC::. many/much+~ few/little 7 J.Ji;·~ quantity
?:llilC::. good + i:::.a; bad 7 z::i31i;·~ quality
i big + ~c:. small 7 i·~i; size
J.lE! high +.CiJ.!47. low -
7 ~El'1J.Ja. height

iii~ new + ~ old 7 9~-2;·~ newness

f" heavy + DIC:. light 7 ~
!'Cl.II; weight

Another word-formation, similar to the English morphology, is to select one adjective
and attach it to the word ~i:;.. which in this context means more or less the -ness in
thickness. Examples: ~~cri·~l thickness,~{-~ height, ~l-~l heaviness, etc. Asking
about the quality of something, one uses the interrogative phrase i·;i'·~cri- Examples:
(J) ij1·'1;1·r.i.~a.· ~r::.·~r::.· ~l· ~l I ~ "i'"i' :i..·r.i.~a.-~~cri·~1· ~-n:~·r.i,c:ic:r~ I
The length of this robe is just right, but I don't like its thickness.
(4) fl:.'CJ'(.l,~a.-~,-~1·i·;i'·~cri·~11
How tall is the house? (Lit. What's the height of the house?)
(5) ~~cri·~·9·~\~1·i·~~cri·~11
How heavy is your bag? (Lit. How is the weight of your bag?)
(6) ~~~·r.i.{6':i..·9·cri~:~:~r::.·i·;i'·~cri· ~~ 1
How new is your car? (Lit. How is the newness of your car?)
(7) i:.~ric:i·~-"i~·~cri~·:1~·fi:.·9·c:i:i..·ecri·i·;i'·~cri·ar1·~11]·4~·"i·r.i.~1·~1
I want to know the distance from school to the post office.
Note that in Amdo Tibetan, for a person's height, one uses ~l:.'ijl:. length and not ~{·~i:;. .
._ 17.3.9 ~·~~ andf'El'~T~~ Expressing Conjecture
An English speaker expresses different degrees of conviction of his statement by
employing adverbs such as definitely, surely, probably, possibly. perhaps, maybe, etc.
Tibetan does it by using different auxiliaries, that is, by wrapping a statement with certain
auxiliary verbs at the end of a sentence. In this lesson, when the clerk wants to reassure
Tom that a certain robe will probably fit, she says ~l:.'ij!:.'r.1,9!:.'1:,'ij·7·~2-·~·~°1·,·~11
The medium size will probably fit. That the robe fits cannot be stated as a fact, even
though the clerk is convinced of that; therefore, the sentence is wrapped with the
auxiliary ,·~l to deliver that nuance. The pattern:

(I) Conjectural Assurance: [clause]+ t·~l

Using the pattern in ( 1), the speaker assures the listener that, based on the speaker's
past experience and personal judgment, some event in the future will (or will not) take
place. Lacking a better term, we call it conjectural assurance. What precedes ,·~l can
be either a verb or an adjective. More examples:

(2) ~:!ll]~fey~·9·1crir.i.·t·~11
My friend will surely be very happy.
(3) ~°'i:,~·,1r~·.;.rj~·~·afr::.·t·~11 I am sure Nyima Drolma will come tomorrow.

The adverb~-~ probab(v can be used in addition to the t·~l structure. If one

\\ishes to express an even stronger conviction of a statement, the auxiliary phrase ~-ii~·
~,. This phrase takes an embedded clause headed by~- Examples:

l 4) ::i~·i,·~~·ij'r.(!!';J'~.l,'lai~·t~·c:i~1·i1:::~·~·ezir~11
Degyi will definitely remember to bring you some food.
l5) ~~l~.qj~-~~-~·~·il.1,·~·~·ezir~11 Our teacher will definitely say OK.
l6) at~~~.1,·~-~~-~·t·til~·~·~·ezii·~11 The bus will definitely leave today.
• 17.3.10 Measure Wo

Words that function as measuring units of other ( countable or uncountable) nouns

are called measure words. In this lesson, Tom wants to buy a pair of black shoes. The
word pair is a measure word. Note the position of the measure word in a noun phrase:
noun + Adj. + m. w. + numeral. Examples:
(I) "
'}!;J·~·r:ii"1i~1 two pairs of shoes
~;.r.,li·~·ll]~;i1 three kilos of beef
Many measure words are in fact regular nouns ( of containers, for example) used as
measuring units: Example:

(2) ~·l:i,;i·~r:ii~·1 one bottle of chang

a:~:;:::,1 ol'l:!]'"?~1
- "'
two pots of milk tea
a set of clothes
When talking about quantity, Tibetan has an alternative word l:i,, which also means--
two., is commonly used to replace Cl]'"?~ in expressions of quantity (and never number),
after a measure word. Examples:
~ e-,. ...,,.,...,,.,

;i~·t·;r,1 - two meters in height

two gyama of yak butter
~-~·;i·r::q two gyama of chang
The word ~-;i gyama is a popular measuring unit for weight. It is half a kilogram,
slightly more than a pound. fl~ is a loan word from meter (indirectly from the Chinese

I• 17.3.11 More oa Adjeetivea I

Most adjectives in Amdo Tibetan have a monosyllabic root. The root can be used as

predicate, taking the sentential particle for objective description of something. Each
adjective also has its own suffix, which is attached to the root when the adjective is used
as an attributive modifying a noun. Examples:
(I) g;.rr:.r~~r~1 Tsampa is delicious.
(2) g;.rr:.r~~,rij·f.l.~·~·~c:.·J.J~·r;:i~~r~·~~1 This delicious tsampa is made by my wife.
Each adjective has its own adjectival suffix. There are only a handful of them,
namely, r:i, -- _., _., -r --
Cl, t:l, t:l, ~. J.l, J.l, I;, .a.., and~- Which suffix goes with which root is
unpredictable and independent from the sound of the root, so the learner has to memorize
each one. Here are a few adjectives introduced in this lesson:
c:.·c:.· 1 -
J.J~9·r:i 1 -~·r:i1
(3) good

r;:J :!

o\9"CJ 1 -
9~ %;,.CJ 1

big i·i:i1
blue ,~·CJ1

clean lf1 ~c:.· J.l 1

new hard ~'J.ll
thin ~r;:i·~1 yellow ~:l;,·t1 cold -
slow 1'1-l'J.ll - close ~·~1

Note that, when following an adjectival root with a final lf1, CJ and-CJ change the
pronunciation to [kwa] and [kwo ], respectively. -
CJ and Cl also changes its voicing to
[ba] and [bo] when following a nasal sound.
There is a small number of adjectives that are formed by reduplicating the root. One
early example from Lesson 8 is ~·~·~c;,·~c;,·(.l,~ this little child. Other adjectives from
this category include:
(4) ~-~·1 few/little
i:~ns1 multicolored
Recall that in Lesson 14, when introducing the superlative degree of adjectives, we
mentioned that the adjective must first be nominalized (see 14.3.4) by attaching t:l to the -
- -
attributive form. This process applies to the reduplication-type adjectives in (4) as well:
f-·f-·i::i1 ~z:::.·~c:.·i;:il IE·IE·r;:il -
Sometimes the entire attributive form of an adjective can be reduplicated, signifying
an intensified degree of the quality described by the adjectives, such as C.,"1%;,'%;,"C.,"l:l;,"%;,
_., -- --
- -
very white, J.lE!i3\'CJ'J.lE!i3\"CJ very high, ~z:::.·~z:::.·~z:::.·~z:::. very small. More examples:
(5) 2i'~·~·~·as·~·9i3\J.J"{i3\·q·f~·q·i!9·~11 The sky in Tibet is very blue.

(6) ~·a,~·J.lii3\·q·J,Jij'~·~il9·~~1 This mountain is very high.

(7) ~·~·~z:::.·~z:::.·l!!llj·~~·is·r;:i~,~r~~I A small girl is looking for you.

The 8djectiva.l reduplication is commonly heard. The student is encouraged to leani
this on a case-by-case bas.is.

+ 17•.t Cultural Notes

0 1"1.4.1 Amdo Costumes
Tibelan costumes vary dramatically from region to region. For many Tibetans
simple glimpse 31 the headdress, the braid pouc~, th_e ~angdan apron (Qz:;:~~~p. or the
iXDIIDCDIS is sufficient for them to tell a person s ongm.

In Amdo. the hem of a traditional (cloth or sheepskin) robe is decorated with otter
fur. \\'omen wear long robes that cover their ankles; men wear knee-length short robes
h ti stylish to wear the robe single-shouldered, leaving the right sleeve dangling at the

Alfldo Framer Women, Mangra Amdo Nomad Women, Mangra

~ ""001a1 wear a apmaJ kind of braid piece called mardan ("&1~'4'~1) made of
tboi..-. of coral and turquoise beads. It spans more than two feet wide, designed to be
'* _. the OU!Da"OUI llllall braids which takes three to four hours to arrange.

~:c 17.4.2 Kham Costumes
Kham robes emphasize a mixture of cloth, brocade, and hem-decorating fur, which is
wide and patterned and different from Amdo robes. However, the most distinctive
element in Kham costume is probably the lightly polished and naturally shaped amber
chunks that women wear on their heads. The qualities, sizes, and of course, the number
of the chunks indicate the wealth of the wearer's family. The amber chunks are sewn
onto strips of brocade and decorated with other semiprecious stones. Longer strips can

Kham Headdress. Chamdo Jewelry-Wearing Kham Style, Go/ok

Bracelets and Rings. Golok Decorated Leather Belt. Yulshul

almost reach the ground with several dozen amber pieces, but normal1y it rests just
below the waist. Khampas typica11y wear leather belts, as opposed to the cloth sashes
worn by Amdo Tibetans. Belts, themselves decorated with silver buttons as large as tea
bowls, hang other jewelry pieces. Khampa women in their full attire wear what may
seem to foreign eyes tons of jewelry. This is not quite true, actual1y. They weigh only
about thirty to forty pounds .
.Khampa men are easy to spot in a crowd mixed with Tibetans from all places, thanks
to the long red tassel they wear as a headpiece. On a special occasion, men wear as
many pieces of jewelry as women: coral necklaces, robes with leopard fur, a ring on each
finger, decorative sewing kit, plus a sword. Khampa men and women in their holiday
best are spectacular.

Khampa Man Khampa Girl

•!• 17.5 Key Sentence Patterns

• l 7.5. l ~~6-l to Think of Doing Something

- - "
( 1J ~~P:;~a::i:cri~·Cll·?:l~'":l·=3~·~-?:l~011·~1
Jam thinking of buying a Tibetan robe for my girlfriend.
(2) I\I I . f (' . I
They are thinking o trave mg m Japan next year.
_....,. _. _."
(3) IN'~~·~·~9~·~·a;·11.''i'ffiC!rt::J~a.J''\9'91
My mother is thinking of making Tibetan yogurt for my friends.
· 4) ~·1~·~2J·~~·ar·t~·~t::1·t::1~a.J·'\~·~1
( Her younger brother is thinking of studying history.
(5) ~~·~i~·~·.,.·~·~9·~·t::1~a.J·~·iif11
What are you thinking of buying for your husband?

(6) c:.~·
I am thinking of studying English in England.

I 17.5.2 Adj.+ UJ!; +Adj.+ II]"

(I) 1S:,;:·,y~"UJ!;'!'ll]'"'UJC!]'UJ!;'UJll]'l"l] 1
Summer robes are both pretty and cheap.

(2) f·1~'t:J =!!;'U,1 !;'t::J=! z;·~.ij9. U,1 z;·ijll]'~1

He is both a good man and rich.

(3) lil'~c:.·a.~a.·~z;·~·~a.J·4a.·l1'a.J't'UJ!;'!'~'~a.J'U,l!;'~a.J'~1
The beef dumpling of this restaurant is cheap and tasty.

(4) l~~·~·~·a.~·~~·~9'U,1!;'~9·~·~z;·U,lz;'i'~1
The winter here is both cold and windy .
I 17.5.3 t:lffi and ~z;

(' l ~:,;:·iJ·t:lffi':,;:·i::i ffi1·~·~·'1:! 1 ~:,;:·;i'·r:;i~·~1 t:J~a.J~·~~·~:,;:·;i·~~ft:Jffi':,;:·~·~· g·~· ~"I

185 RMB and 40 RMB is 225 RMB.

(2J 1~~·":l·r.(9~9·9·~:,;:·;i·Wz;·l' a;·%'9·0 °i· :,;:·iii'~ I

A winter robe costs several thousand yuan.
(3) ~~·~~·~~·.,.·~:,;:·;i·Wz;·l·t:J~~·:,;:·~9'1:lffi':,;:·~·~·~~I
This computer is 7, 650 yuan.

(4l ~·~~·~·~i::i·!!]·... ~t:J'a.J·~·cri~~· :,;:·wz;·l'cri~a.J·a:r~ 1

Our university has 23,000 students.
(5) ~·,~~i:_·~·~1 &~·a5i:,·f·4~·..·:,;:·~cri·i::iffi·~cri·a;·i9·a:r,;;;-~1 ~·ii~cJi·a,-z;·z;·~:,;:·;i'·wz;·~cri·
~·~·~9·~~1 In our village, some families have several hundred sheep and goats.
They are worth several tens of thousands of yuan.

• 17.5.4 ~-31"1·"1 Why and r.i.~·;i'·i!icri So
(I) {il-~~-~-3i"1·"1·~.rij'cl\·~·~1I
Why hasn't he arrived?
<2 ) ~-isi111·cri·r.1.~·;'.i·isicri·~1r.1.·~·~1I
Why is it so expensive?
<3 ) G·i·sicri·cri·1~·iJJ~1·~~-~-tcl\·cl\~·i:i~~-~-ui°\1
Why are you sitting in front of the library?
<4 > i·siiri·i.,-1~~-i'l:l·~-r.i.~-r.i.~·;f·isi"l-~"1·~- %."II
Why is this winter so cold?
<5> G~·i·sicri·"l·~:i:.-~"1~-a.~cl\·~11.1· ~-4 ~-~-%."II
Why is it that you don't know how to use urcha?

• 17.5.5 Instrumental Case (Review)

( 1) iJJ~-~-~°\·a;·a.~·j~·411.1·:i:.·i~~r11.1~r~·9·~·9·11a.·91
The head piece is made of amber and coral, so it's so expensive.
(2> "1S°\.~'\·9~·~.-i~·~r:.~·~:i:.·a.~·~9~·11Til~-~~-c:i~·il:i:.·9 i:S'1·~1·9~·~·a"1·i~·~1
We call this kind of car a "minivan" in English. What is it called in Tibetan?

(J) ~°'·~:i:.·"~°'·'1;!·~cri~·~cri~·9~·c:ii·9·iii'1·~·9·9~-~-~·9·s·91
A winter robe is usually made of sheepskin. It's warm when worn.

(4) c:i!!J·4~-~~-~-9~·1r~·cri~cri~·9·91
Trashi is sharpening a pencil with a knife.

(5 ) !~r~&~·jt:.'11.1"1'5'fil9'~1·9~·s~-~-ui~-~·11.19·q~·9~r~·uj ~1
Do you do (write) your homework with a computer or by hand?

• 17.5.6 -o~ One

o>r:.~-~~-~z::i·Eacri·~·t·~~-~1 ij·r.i.·1s~·~cri·-o~·cr·ti.1·a:r11
I'll buy a magazine, do you have ones that are in English?
(2) ~-~-~~''1;j'iJJt;_'t;.'!!ll1'iii'1·~·1~~-fl'9~'\-o~·q·i\l1
We have many robes, but not ones that people wear in winter.

( 3> 1~·~o;·~-~-~(1·iJj·iciriii'1·~\ ~°1·°1·~-r:.~·z::1;11.1·°1·Icii·~·-0°1·cr·i\l·~\

The teacher has several dictionaries, but not one that I can use.

<4> c.~·25'1·~~-CJ~·~z:.·z:.·acri·~z:.~·a:rl·s·25'l·~ -~-a:rl·~·-o°'·cr· ~-~-~-~,

I have taken many photos in Tibet, but only a few ones with Tibetan people.

(5) ~·(If~' q·~~·ffi~·a:;·i~·ar"i1 ~a·~c:_·~·~~·ij'·~·as·iiii·~~·cj"·~·ifi'~1
MY mom has several head pieces. There is one that's worth several tens of thousands
of yuan.
(6) ,c.·fi:.·~ i:.·~·?5'1·":I.J.J c:.·c:.·s iii·ar1·~ ·~·c:.·1iiir.i.·~·~~·er·~~·~ 1
The store has many kinds of robes, but not one that l like.

I 17.5.7 a_s·3:f·s~ for Equal Comparison

(I) ~·1~·z:.·t.1.5·3:f·s~·li4·~c:.·1
Is she as tall as I am?

(2) ~·1~·ij·a_s·3:f·s~·£r~c:.·1
She is not as tall as you.

(l) ~·e;·a.~·~l!',l.J.Jl~.ri:::i~n.J·~·r.1.5·~·s~·~·~·~1
The milk tea you make is not as good as that your mother makes.

(4) ;i;;·~·a.~·~~·~·r.1.5·~·s~·li4·~·~1
Is this goat as heavy as that sheep?

(5) i'~'-'1 ~·~·~"i·~·~·~r::ij~z::~·r.1.5·~·s~·ti4·~11

Tserang, is Dorje Jid as old as your younger sister?

(6) %·1ll~'%'~J.J~·~·~·~~·w~·cj·~·~s·~·s~·ti4·1111~·~1
Is this pink shirt as expensive as the yellow one?

(7) ~·~;i;;·~·%~·r;:i~~·~·~·~a·%~·r;:i~~·r.1.5·~·s~·ti4·UJ~·~ 1
Are Indian movies as good (to watch) as American movies?

I 17.5.8 Aux t·~l and Adverb ;·a:;~ Probably vs. ~·eiiii·~~ Definitely
(l) ~r::~z::~sz::c:_·c5'·7·a:;.:i;.·~1·al~·t·~11
The medium size is probably right.

(2J ~~~·~·1s.:i:.·":I· i.·r;:i~~·~ ·~::.·J.Ji·t· ~"i 1

A winter robe is probably more expensive than a summer robe.

(3) a.~·(.\·ij1·~1·~~·~·s~·il.:i:.·~·f·1~~·,·a:;~·4~·t·~11
He probably knows what to call this in Tibetan.

(4) a.~·q·ij1·~\~~r~·s~·il.:i:.·~·f·1~~·4~·~·ei~·~11
He surely knows what to call this in Tibetan.

(sJ !';Ji1·~J.J~·J.Jl'~·M·i.·J.J~J.J·~·ari:.·~~1·~·~·~·ei~·~~1
Sonam Tso will definitely want to come with us.

(6) ij~·lc:,·~i:.·~ a:~ i:.·~ ~·ti'~·4 n.J·~·J.J';·ijr;:i·~·~·ei ~·~~ 1

You can definitely buy real amber in that shop.

(7) ~a;~'f"J'a3·r.:ri·~·~·e"l·~l I
It will definitely be very hot tomorrow.

•!-t 7.6 Eiercises

17.6.1 Listening Comprehension
Dialogue I: True or False
(I) Tserang bought a hat in Beijing for his sister.
(2) Tserang's sister doesn't like the color.
(3) The hat fits Tserang's sister very well.
(4) The clerk assured Tserang that this hat would tit.
(5) The hat can be changed if it doesn't fit well.
Dialogue 2: Answer the following questions in English
( l) What did Tserang buy for his brother?
(2) What did Tserang's brother think of the gift?

17.6.2 Translation
( 1) A: I am thinking of buying a new TV. Do you like this black one or that grey
B: I think that grey one is better. The black one is too dark.
(2) A: I have altogether five shirts. There is only one that is Tibetan style.
B: What color is it?
A: It's red. I like red colors most.
(3) A: Why are you standing outside the teahouse?
B: My friend and I will drink tea here. The milk tea here is both cheap and tasty.
A: Where is your friend?
B: She is buying cigarettes over there.
(4) A: Why is this hat so expensive?
B: It's made with fox fur.
A: I need to buy six for my family.
B: Very good, they cost 3,240 yuan.
A: Can you make it cheaper.
B: Yes, how about 3000 yuan?
(5) There are two movie theatres in town (lit. on the street). The one that is to the
east is the newer one. The other is right by Trashi dumpling restaurant.
17.6.3 Reading Compreben1lon

1111·~1 !f-l';J1 r::.~·z::i~~r~·r::.·i·cii~:i:.·1::riilcii·:;·1~·~1
~·~1 ~·Ejcii·cii·1~·;i1 15~·~·~,:;.·ij·;i·i·{cJi·ij·r.i.~·~~·~·£!~·~~1
1111·~1 ~ ·~r::.· ~.r.i.~ ·1·%'· ~ ·Ei cii· ~r::.· iji::.·iilcii r::.· ~·~r::.· r::.·z::i~ ~· ~. cii~cii ~· ~ ~·z::i;r::.·i!l cii I
~·~1 ij~·~tN·~·~·i·~~·~·icii·~1 ij·ir1~·:i:.·~r::.·~r::.·il1·~1
1111·~1 il ·~~I r::.~·z::i ~ ~·~.£l·1~· cii~cii ~· r::.· q·z::i~ ~·cJi·~r::.·~ t!'f J.l I lr::.·r:ir::.·~ r::.· ~·':l·
iif\~I r::.~r~·;·~·r.i.~1·~1
~·~1 ~I ~:i:.·~·~%,11 ~r::.·;ii·~·;·~z::i·i;i·%,1I
j111'd>!1 ~:i:.·~·z::i~~·z::i t' :i:.·~·~· %,11
"4'~1 tN·%'1 ~·~·11r.i,·~·~cii ~·1s:i:.·1·~1·"-l·1'U~·~·~11
j111·d>!1 1s:i:.·1·%,11
"4'~1 j"-l'J.l I 15,~r ~·~cii·cii·:i:.r::.·1~~·~·~~·il·z::ii·~ ~ 1
jl1l'd>! 1 r:;.~·i:Ji·£l·4~·r.i,1
? - ;, ~ - ~ _a - ..,.,..,., ..,., " ..,., ~ -~
"4'~1 ,·!~·o-11· ~ I1,:;.~·~·q'":fet·, I~·i:J=1·1cii·~·!z::i·~·~~·cii I ~~tN·-o ·it::J.J1~rz::i=1·,.
ffll1.l'd>!1 tcii·~1 t!\l'J.l1 11r.i,·~·~·~11
"4';.j 1 %'·~·~cii·:i:.·£l·11r.i.·~ 1
ffl 11.l'do] 1 ~:i:.·~·~·~·~~·~·t'%,11
"4'd>] I £1·4 ~1 al~·~· :i:.·lr::.·fr::.·~r:;.·~~·;~·~·r.1..5·~·~~·£l·11r.i.·t'J.J' %,11
Answer the following questions
(I) Why does Drolma need a new robe?
(2) Is Drolma as tall as her sister?
(3) What does Drolma want to buy?
(4) Will Drolma's mother buy the robe? Why or why not?
(5) What does Drolma's mother think of the cost of making a robe oneself?

 18  Have You Been to Yulshul?

☛ Key Grammar Points in Lesson Eighteen:

1. Experiential Marker MR%
2. }R/-/ Before and eJ? After clauses
3. Adverbial Construction with /R
4. Perception Verbs: <A$ to See and $R to Hear
5. As Soon As: VP 1 (past) /A-<- + V2 (past) + /A-<J.

❖ 18.1 Dialogue DISC-2

,:R-3:,   .$J-c/-2-(%-,  .$/-$/%-2+%-eJ?,  HR:-2?3-5=-;A/-/-:-(-2R-$%-%-lJ-$A-?R%-
2-(%-,    HR-;=->=-=-?R%-AJ-MR%-,  
,:R-3:,   3-MR%-,  ;A/-/-<-%?-.A-?-(-*A.-0R-9A$-;A/-/R-$R-MR%-%-,
2-(%-,    %R-3-.A-3R-<J.,  %A-A-&J-$A-3$-0-;=->=-$A-<J.,  *A?-!R%-$?3-=R-:-%-AJ-&J-$/?-
:IR-$R-.?-?R%-MR%-%-,  %?-?-.A-3A-2eJ.-$A,
,:R-3:,   ;=->=-<-HR:-;:-KR$?-$*A-$-:-3A-:S-?-(A-9A$-;R.-$A,
2-(%-,    3A-:S-?-3%-/A-<J.,  ,R$-3<,  #A-(:R-$A-{.-(-A3-{.-<-:S-/A-3-<J.,
,:R-3:,   <J.,  .0J-(:A-,R$-/-<-;=->=-$A?-#3?-{.-2>.-/A-<J.-9J?-;R.-$A, %?-#3?-
{.-$R-MR%-3J.,  HR?-2>.-AJ->J?,
2-(%-,    2>.-3A->J?,  ;A/-/-<-4B-$J-9A$-$R-:-,  $*A?-/?-;=->=-$A-C-,%-8J-$A-(J-$A, .A-/-
:VR$-0-3%-$A,  MA-5%-3-K$-0R-<-<J.,  $?3-/?-#A-(:R-$A-$R/-o:R-<-3A-:S, 3$R-

,:R-3:,  .A-3R-9A$-;A/-/R:-$A-.-HR-(R?-&A$-2v?-/A-<-?-#3?-0-;A/-/R, ?-A-3.R-2-;A/-/R, ?-
2-(%-,    <J., %?-HR-:-$R/-o:R-:-2v-YR=-l2-/, $8$-/?-HR?-<-.LJ-2-2!<-,2-/A-<J., 
,:R-3:,  %-/3-9A$-$-?R%-/-Z-$A, 
2-(%-,    ;=->=-$A-g-o$?-.?-(J/-^-2-2./-0:A-/%-%-<J.,  MA%-(J/-0R-;R.-/A-<J., .A-<J?-
,:R-3:, .A-<J?-.A-/-MA-3%-/A-<J.-=, 
2-(%-,    3%-/A-<J., C-,%-,R$-/-<?-$<-<-3%-%-;R.-/A-<J., 2R.-$A-MA-:-3PR/-lA?-<-(J-$A, 
  $=-+J-HR?-#A-(R:-{.-(-2>.->J?-/, #A-(R?-HR-<?-$<-/%-%-$./-:SJ/-8-/-<-,%-, 
,:R-3:,   8J-$A-Z-$A  *A-:SA?-.L<-$/%-%-.-%-:IR-#R-,$-;A/,  3-?R%-}R/-/-%?-#3?-{.-

Yak Racing, Yulshul, Qinghai

Tom: Teacher Wuchung, after winter vacation starts, where do you think I should
go. (Lit. It’s good if I went to have fun where.)
Wuchung: Have you been to Yulshul?
Tom: I haven’t. But I heard that it is a beautiful place.
Wuchung: It is indeed. My elder sister’s husband is from Yulshul. I went there in 2003
when my sister got married. I won't forget that place.
Tom: Is there any difference between Yulshul and your hometown?
Wuchung: There are many differences. First, their (spoken) language is different from
the Amdo dialect.
Tom: Yes, in a book it also says that they speak Kham dialect in Yulshul. I have
never heard Kham dialect. Do you know how to speak it?
Wuchung: No, but I understand a little. Secondly, the grassland in Yulshul is very big.
There are many herdsmen. They are also very rich. Thirdly, their costumes
are also different. What they wear on their heads and what they wear on
their bodies are both different from U-Tsang and Amdo regions.
Tom: Therefore, as soon as you see people, you know who is from Kham, who is
from Amdo, and who is from U-Tsang.
Wuchung: Yes, if I teach you how to look at costumes, you can also distinguish the
differences in the future.
Tom: When is the best time to go?
Wuchung: The horse-racing festival in Yulshul is in July. It's very famous. If you go
at that time, you will be able to see lots of beautiful costumes.
Tom: There will be a lot of people, won't there?
Wuchung: Lots! There will also be many tents in the grassland. Tibetans are hospitable.
If you speak their language. They may invite you to stay with them in the tent.
Tom: Great! I’ll definitely go in the summer next year. Before I go, I will study the
Kham dialect.

❖ 18.2
Vocabulary DISC-2

18.2.1 Vocabulary from the Dialogue

1. .$/-$/%-, n. winter vacation
2. 2+%-, v. to have (holiday/vacation)
3. eJ?, conj. after (+ clause)
4. 2?3-5=, n. opinion, thought
5. lJ, v. to play, to have fun, to play (sports)

6. MR%-, aux. experience aspect marker
7. *A.-0R, adj. (attr.) beautiful
8. $R, v. to hear, to understand
9. %R-3, adv. indeed
10. .A-:S, [.J-:S,] adj. (it is) so, like this
11. 3$-0, n. husband (= *J?-0)
12. *A?-!R%-$?3-=R, n. year 2003
13. $/?-:IR, [-----=-:PR] v. to get married
14. $R, aux. contraction of$A-;R.,
15. 8A%-#J, n. farming village (= PR%-#J)
16. 3A-:S-?,  n. difference
17. ,R$-3<, adv. first
18. ;=-{., n. (local) dialect, speech
19. A3-{., n. Amdo dialect
20. :S, adj. same
21. ;=->=-$A?, [-----IA?] n. Yulshul marked Ergative (as
22. $?3-/?,  adv. thirdly
23. K$-0R, adj. (attr.) rich
24. $R/-o:R, [IR/-$R?,] n. costume
25. 3$R-2R, n. head
26. 2+$?, v. to wear (headpieces, etc.)
27. =?, n. body
28 $RR/,  v. to wear (clothes, etc.)
29. .2?-$4%-, n. U-Tsang
30. A-3.R, n. Amdo
31. ?-#=, n. region
32. .A-3R-9A$-;A/-/R:-$A, phrasal conj. therefore; so then

33. . /A-<, [.J-3-,$]
( )… conj. as soon as
34. 2v-YR=, n. way / method to look
35. $8$-/?, adv. in the future
36. .LJ-2-2!<, v. (O-V) to make a distinction, to distinguish
37. /3-9A$-$ [/3-8A$-=] interr. adv. at what time (marked Obliq)
38. g-o$?, v. (O-V) to race horses
39. .?-(J/, n. festival
40. MA%-(J/-0R, [3A%-(J/-0R] adj. (attr.) famous
41. .A-<A?, [.J-.?] adv. at that time
42. <A$ v. see
43. <?-$<, n. tent
44. 3PR/-lA?-(J, adj. (N-A) hospitable (lit. hospitality big)
45. $./-:SJ/-8, v. to invite
46. /-,%-, [---=?-(J] aux. expressing conjecture (perhaps)
47. *A-:SA?, [?%-=R] n. / adv. next year (= ?%-=R)
48. .L<-$/%-, n. summer vacation
49. }R/-/, conj. before (+ clause)

18.2.2 Additional Vocabulary

50 }R/-(., adv. before, in the past

51 :(3, n. cham (Tibetan religious dance)
52 VR, n. traditional (Tibetan) dance
53 $+/-/?, adv. never (in a negative sentence)
54 ~/-3R, adj. (attr.) good-sounding
55 .=-$A, adj. (pred.) slow
56 3IR$?-$A, adj. (pred.) fast
57 :KA-$A, adj. (pred.) late

58 *J?, v. to be born (past)
59 i-=%-, n. earring
60 {J-o/, n. necklace
61 $R/-0, n. clothes
62 362-.NA?, n. ring
63 =$-$.2, n. bracelet
64 KA-\A%-0, n. foreigner ( = KA-o=-0 )
65 2$., v. laugh
66 o=-#2, n. country (in country use Ladon: 2)
67 *J?-{<, n. birthday

❖ 18.3 Grammar Notes

► 18.3.1 Subordinate Clauses: }R/-/ Before and eJ? After

The conjunctions }R/-/ before and eJ? after take a subordinate clause as their
English counterparts.
(1) Before... 3 (Neg.) + Verb (past) + }R/-/ + main clause
After... Verb (past) + eJ? + main clause
cf. When… Verb (present) + .? + main clause (16.3.5)
Note that the before clause must be in the negative. That is, instead of saying before I
go, Tibetan says before I haven't gone. This is understandable because the Tibetan way
of looking at the before clause is that the event of the main clause takes places when the
subordinate event has not happened. Also note that the subordinate verb in both the
}R/-/ before and eJ? after clauses are in the past tense. In both cases, the past tense is
employed in its sense of anteriority. Examples:
(1) 9-3-9?-eJ?-o-Y%-%-:IR-<J, Let's go to the street after we eat.
(2) ;=->=-=-3-?R%-}R/-/-%?-#3?-{.-aR2-o-;A/,
Before I go to Yulshul, I will study the Kham dialect.
(3) %?-3-2a2?-}R/-/-2R.-{.-.!:-/R-3->J?,
Before I studied it, I didn't know Tibetan was difficult.

(4) .L<-$/%-3-2+%-}R/-/-HR?-(A-9A$-;J-/-:.R.-$A,
What do you want to do before the summer vacation starts?
(5) 2R.-;A$-2a2?-eJ?-35S-}R/-/-:IR, Go to Qinghai after we study Tibetan.
}R/. In example (5), 35S-}R/ Qinghai
Incidentally, the adjective blue is also written as
which literally means blue sea, is marked with / (=-.R/). The last two syllables
of the phrase 35S-}R/-/ to Qinghai are not to be confused with the conjunction }R/-/.

► 18.3.2 MR%: Experiential Aspect Marker

The syntactic property of MR% is straightforward, it follows a verb in past tense; 3-MR%
for negative form; and AJ-MR%
for yes-no interrogative form. Semantically, MR%
as an experiential marker indicating that the subject of the verb has the experience of
doing the action denoted by the verb. It can usually be translated by ever in an
affirmative/interrogative sentence or never in a negative sentence. Examples:
(1) HR-;=->=-=-?R%-AJ-MR%-, Have you ever been to Yulshul?
(2) %-0J-&A/-/-?R%-3-MR%-, I have never been to Beijing.
(3) %?-l3-0-9?-MR%-%-, I have eaten tsampa before.
(4) HR?-}R/-(.-2R.-;A$-2a2?-AJ-MR%-, Have you studied Tibetan before?
(5) ,:R-3:-35S-}R/-/-3-;R%-}R/-/-)-2Y2?-3-:,%-3-MR%-9A$
Tom had never drunk butter tea before he came to Qinghai.
(6) A-;JJ-1R=-3?-}R/-(.-A-<A-2-<A$-3-MR%-9A$
Granny Drolma had never seen an American before.
The adverb }R/-(.before, in the past is often used in the above examples, expressing
experience in the past. Note that for I have been to…, Tibetan uses ?R% (past tense of :IR
to go) and not ;A/ to be.
Although English employs present perfect to indicate experience, not all sentences
expressed in present perfect are related to experiential expression. The following
sentences, for instance, should not involve : MR%
(7) Have you seen Tom today?
(8) Have you had breakfast yet?
Assume that the speaker and the listener are both acquaintances of Tom. For sentence
(7), clearly the speaker is not asking about whether the listener has ever seen the face of
Tom. Likewise, the second sentence cannot be a question about whether the listener has

ever had the experience of having breakfast. In Tibetan, simple past tense is employed
for (7) and durative past for (8), as shown below:
(9).J-<A%-HR?-,:R-3:-AJ-<A$ Have you seen Tom today?
(10) HR?-/%-)-:,%?-2+%-/A?, Have you had breakfast yet?
Try not to equate MR% with English present perfect.

► 18.3.3 <A$ to See and $R to Hear

The perception verbs <A$ $R
to see and to hear are different from the volitional action
verbs 2v?to watch, to look at, and */
to listen. Recall that2v? */
and are Object-
Ladon verbs, which mark their direct object Oblique Case with =-.R/. <A$ and $R mark
their direct object Absolutive case (no marking), like any regular transitive verb. Note
that the subject of all four verbs are marked Ergative Case. Examples:
(1) ;=->=-/?-HR?-$R/-o:R-;$-0-3%-%-<A$-/A-<J.,
You can see lots of beautiful costumes in Yulshul.
(2) %?-}R/-(.-:(3-$+/-/?-$R-3-MR%-, 
    I have never heard of cham dance before.
(3) A-;J-2.J-*A.-1R=-3?-}R/-(.-A-<A-2-$+/-/?-<A$-MR%-3J.,
      Granny Degyi Drolma has never seen an American before.
The adverb $+/-/? never is frequently used in a negative sentence with MR%, meaning
never have the experience of… The English perception verbs usually take an infinitival
complement such as see/hear someone + VP (infinitive). The Tibetan perception verbs
<A$ or $R take a finite clause as complement, evidenced by the use of the complementizer
/R that. That is, instead of saying I saw John dance, Tibetan says I saw that John danced.
It is possible that the subject of the main clause and the subject of the embedded clause
both carry Ergative Case. The pattern:
(4) Subject (Erg) + [ finite embedded clause ] + /R + <A$ or $R
(5) %?-2N->A?-<-.R/-P2-3*3-$A-.0J-36S.-#%-%-:IR-$R-/R-<A$-$
I saw Trashi and Dondrup go to the library together.
(6) HR?-#A-.$J?-.$J-c/-/-#-2h-;J-$R-/R-AJ-<A$
Did you see him talk to the teacher?
(7) %?-1R=-3-35S-$A?-\-~/-3R-]%?-/R-$R-MR%-%-,
I have heard Drolma Tso sing that beautiful song.

$R can also mean to understand by listening (cf. English: I hear ya.) For example:
(10) .-%?-$R-?R%-%-, I understand now.
When $R takes a complement clause (to hear) that + clause, it patterns with >J? to
know by taking the same complementizer /R. They contrast with 9J< to say, and :SA to
in that 9J< and :SA do not take an overt complementizer when taking a clausal
complement. The pattern is shown as follows:
(11) $R to hear / >J? to know that: [ clause ] + /R + $R />J?
9J< to say / :SA to ask: [ clause ] + 9J< / :SA (no complementizer /R)
Compare the embedded clauses in (12), (13) with that in (14)
(12) %?-.A-?-(-*A.-0R-9A$-;A/-/R-$R-MR%-%-, I have heard that that is a beautiful place.
(13) %?-#R-.J-<A%-3A-;R%-/R->J?, I know that he is not coming today.
(14) .$J-c/-$A?-#R-.J-<A%-3A-;R%-9J<-$A, The teacher said that he was not coming today.
Recall that, since 9J< to say / :SA to ask take direct quote as complement, it is
possible to use objective particles or auxiliaries in the embedded clause.

► 18.3.4 ... /-Z-$A vs. ... /R-Z-$A and the Adverbial Construction

When the adjectiveZ-$A good takes a / clause, it means it is better if... The pattern
is:VP (past) + / + Z-$A. Note that the verb in the / if clause is in past tense, reflecting
its subjunctive (irrealis) usage. Examples:
(1) :-(R?-(A-9A$-9?-/-Z-$A,
What is better for us to eat? (Lit. It is better if we ate what?)
(2) When is it good for me to go?
(3) _%?-:#R<-$%-9A$-$-2#.-/-Z-$A, Which bus is better to take?
Note that in (2) the word /3 when is marked by the indefiniteness marker 9A$, then the
phrase /3-9A$ is marked with temporal =-.R/ ($), meaning in what time. The verb ?R%
went is in past tense, required by the pattern.
The pattern is compatible with the adverb :-,<-$A very much. Its addition (/+ :-,<-
$A-Z-$A) renders an even stronger suggestion from it's better… to it’s best… Example:
(4) /3-?R%-/-:-,<-$A-Z-<J?-<J., When is the better/best time to go?
When Teacher Wuchung recalls his experience in Yulshul, he says %-lJ-/R-Z-$A, I had a
good time. The sentence also ends with Z-$A but it is an entirely different structure, most

notably with the particle . We call this pattern the Adverbial Construction.
(5) Adverbial Construction: VP (past) + + /R Z-$A
(or other adjectives)
The structure changes the interpretation of the adjective good to a manner adverb
well. lJ to play also means to have a leisure time enjoying oneself. It's an intransitive
verb in this case. The sentence literally means I enjoyed myself well. The adjective that
follows /R in the above pattern is not limited to Z-$A. More examples:
(6) HR?-$R/-/R-;$-$A, You are dressed nicely.
(7) 3A-.$J?-]%?-/R-~/-$A, She sings beautifully.
(8) #R?-;J-$J-VA?-/R-.=-$A, He wrote slowly.
(9) g-:.A-o$?-/R-3IR$?-$A, This horse runs fast.
(10) #R?-.0J-(-2+R/-/R-Z-$A, He studies well (lit. He reads books well.)
(11) %?-2>.-/R-:K$-?R%-9A$ I said it wrong/incorrectly.
Amdo Tibetan does not have morphological marking like the English -ly to derive
manner adverbs from adjectives (e.g. slow Æ slowly; beautiful Æ beautifully) The
Adverbial Construction of "V + /R + Adj." does the job. Recall in Lesson 13, we
introduced the structure of the relative clause, which also ends with the same functional
/R /R
word . The two 's have quite different functions. One /R is to lead a relative clause
and the other to introduce (or rather, to turn an adjective into) a manner adverb.
Compare the following two sentences:
(12) [ #R?-{ }VA?-/R:- ] ;A-$J-Z-$A, The letter/words that he wrote is/are good.
(13) [ #R?-;A-$J-VA?-/R- ] Z-$A, He wrote the letter/words (referring to handwriting) well.
A relative clause is so named because there is always an element in the clause that is
"relativized," therefore missing from or leaving a gap in that clause. The gap is marked
with { } in sentence (12). It represents the head noun ;A-$J the letter/words, which leads
the relative clause. In (13), the clause has no missing element, the subject #R?- and the
object ;A-$J- are both there before the verb VA?. It is patently not a relative clause. The /R
in (12) is pronominal, standing for what he wrote, and can take Genitive Case : before it
is connected to the head noun. The /R in (13) is not pronominal. It connects to an
adjective. There is no mistaking that these are two different structures. More examples
for this important Adverbial Construction:
(14) %$-.2%-;R%-/R-8J-$A-:KA-$A, Ngawang came very late.
(15) %A-(:R-5%-3-$*A.-/R-2.J-$A, We all slept well.

(16)1R=-3?-2R.-{.-2>.-/R-3IR$?-$A, Drolma speaks Tibetan fast.
(17) #A-.$J-o$?-/R-3IR$?-$A, He runs fast.
(18) 3A-.$J?-]%?-/R-~/-$A, She sings beautifully.
Again, none of the part that appears before /R in the above examples can be sensibly
interpreted as a relative clause.

► 18.3.5 In Year 2005

Recall that for !R% thousand the numerical that quantifies it must follow it, e.g. !R%-
5S-$?3 three thousand. For the calendar year 2003, the word order is the opposite:
*A?-!R%-$?3-=R. Remember to put the word =R year after the number, unless you intend
mean a long period of time over two thousand years. For any year in the 20th century,
the simplified (and customary) way of naming the year is, for example, $&A$-.$-.$-
2&-$R-2o.-=R, 1998, which literally reads as year one-nine-ninety-eight. Examples:
(1) .-=R-,A-=R-.-<J., What year is this year?
(2) *A?-!R%-s-=R-<J., It is the year 2005.
For the adverbial preposition phrase in + year, one needs to add =-.R/ to the word =R
year. Since =R is an open syllable, the =-.R/ (:) is not audible in colloquial Amdo, but
the written form =R< clearly shows that it is marked Oblique. Examples for this temporal
phrase of year:
(3) HR-/3-$A-=R-:-z-?-?R%-/A?, What year did you go to Lhasa? 
(4) %-$&A$-.$-2o.-&-I-2./-=R-:-?R%-/A?, I went there in the year 1987.
(5) HR-/3-KA<-<-A-3J-<A-#-;R%-/A?, When did you come to the United States? 
(6) %-:.A-:-$&A$-.$-2./-&-.R/-s-=R-:-;R%-/A?, I came here in 1975.
(7) HR-/3-*J?-/A-;A/, When were you born?
(8) %-$&A$-.$-2o.-&-I-$&A$-=R:C-^-2-$*A?-0:A-5K?-0-28A-:-*J?-/A-;A/,  
    I was born on February 4th, 1981.
Tibetan, like most East Asian languages, states a date from bigger units to smaller
units, the exact reverse order of English. For Sunday, January 14, 2004, Tibetan says
*A?-!R%-28A-=R:C- (Genitive) ^-2-.%-0R:C- (Genitive) 5K?-2-2&-28A-$9:-*A-3. Note that each
time unit (year, month, and day) is linked with the Genitive Case.
In Tibetan numerical script, the above date looks like: 2004=R:C-^-15K?14$9:-*A-3,

► 18.3.6 The Suffix ? Place/Aspect and 3A-:S-? Difference
Lesson 17 introduced the word :S-3R-9A$ the same as, which appears in a sentence of
equal comparison, for example:
(1) ]R-29%-HR-:S-3R-9A$-<A%-$A, Lobzang is as tall as you.
(2) 1R=-3?-]%?-/R-HR?-]%?-/R-:S-3R-9A$-~/-$A, Drolma sings as well as you.
In the lesson, Wuchung says #A-(R-$A-{.-(-A3-{.-<-:S-/A-3-<J., Their language
(dialect) is not the same as Amdo dialect, using the morpheme :S same as an
independent word. :S same is an adjective, able to modify the demonstrative .A: .A-:S
like that (pronounced [təndra] ). For example: %R-3-.A-:S-<J., It's indeed like that. :S is
also part of the word 3A-:S different [məndra], literally not same. Both :S and 3A-:S can
take the morpheme ? to become nouns :S-? and 3A-:S-? that means sameness and
difference, respectively. Examples:
(3) 3A-:S-?-(A-9A$-;R.-$A, What's the difference?
(4) 3A-:S-?-3%-/A-<J., There are many differences.
?, literally place, means aspect here. It is combined with a number of adjectives to form
nouns: .!:-? difficulty, l-?
easiness, Z-?
good quality, 3IR$?-?
(5) 2R.-{.-8J-$A-.!:-$A,  ;A/-/-<-l-?-<-;R.-$A,
Tibetan is hard, but there are also aspects that are easy.
(6) %A-;:-?-(-*A.-0R-9A$-;A/,  ;A/-/-<-3A-*A.-?-<-;R.,
My hometown is a beautiful place, but there are also aspects that are not so good.
(7) ;=->=-<-HR:-;:-$A-8A%-#J-$*A-$-3A-:S-?-(A-9A$-;R.,
Are there differences between Yulshul and your farming village?
In (7), for the phrase between the two A and B, one says A < B $*A-$. More examples:
(8) ;A-$J-:.A-<-;A-$J-.A-$*A-$-3A-:S-?-(A-9A$-;R.-/A-<J.,
What's the difference between this word and that word?
(9) o-<A$?-<-2R.-<A$?-$*A-$-3A-:S-?-(A-9A$-;R.-/A-<J.,
What's the difference between a Han Chinese and a Tibetan?
? is a bound morpheme, to use the word aspect independently, one needs to say ?-(. For
(10) ?-(-:.A-<-?-(-$/-$*A-$-3A-:S-?-$%-;R.-/A-<J., 
What's the difference between this place and that place?

► 18.3.7 2+$?, $R/ to Wear
Tibetan employs two verbs that mean to wear: 2+$? and$R/ . It would appear
to foreign learners that it is difficult to generalize a simple rule to predict when to use
which. Below is a list of examples, which strongly suggests that the best way to deal
with this wearing issue is to learn each phrase on a case by case basis.
(1) 2+$?
i-=%-2+$?, to wear earrings; {J-o/-2+$?, to wear a necklace.
(2) $R/
$R/-0-$R/, to wear clothes; E-3R-$R/, to wear a hat; 362-.NA?-$R/, to wear a
ring; =$-$.2-$R/, to wear a bracelet.

► 18.3.8 As Soon As

For the expression As soon as + clause 1, clause 2, Tibetan employs the following
pattern, with a conjunction :<
(1) VP 1 (past) /A-<- + VP 2 (past) + /A-<J. or past tense ending
(2) HR?-&A$-2v?-/A-<-?-A-<A-2-;A/-/R->J?-/A-<J.-=,
As soon as you take a look, you know who is American?
This sentence merits a quick analysis for it contains a number of key grammar points
that we covered: (i) &A$ is the verbal measurement, usually translated as a little. (ii) ;A/
is the default/objective to be in embedded clause; <J. would be incorrect. (iii) /R is the
complementizer that, selected by >J?. Although the English sentence does not have the
overt that due to the interrogative pronoun who, the Tibetan sentence obligatorily has /R.
(iv) Lastly, with assertion structure V /A-<J., the yes-no question is formed with the
grammatical particle :LJ.-#., which takes the variant = after <J..
In the lesson, Tom's question is longer than the above example, containing three
parallel embedded clauses, all of which need the overt complementizer . /R
(3) .A-3R-9A$-;A/-/R:-$A-.-HR-(R?-&A$-2v?-/A-<- [ ?-#3?-0-;A/-/R-] [ ?-A-3.R-2-;A/-/R-]
[ ?-.2?-$4%-2-;A/-/R-] >J?-/A-<J.-=, 
Therefore, as soon as you take a look, you know [who is a Khampa] [who is
an Amdowa,] and [who is from U-Tsang]?

More examples:
(4) %?-2R.-{.-2>.-/A-<-#A-(R?-%-KA-\A%-0-9A$-;A/-/R->J?-,=,
As soon as I spoke Tibetan, they knew that I was a foreigner.
(5) 1R=-3-,R/-/A-<-%-:->R., As soon as Drolma arrives, let me know (lit. tell me).
In (4), the verb >R. is the imperative form of the verb 2>. to speak. In this context, it
means to tell. The object % is marked Oblique with Ladon.
Below are examples of Verb 2 ending with past tense auxiliary:
(6) %?-*/-/A-<-$R-,=, As soon as I listened, I understood.
(7) #R?-2v?-/A-<->J?-,=, He knew how (to do it) as soon as he watched.
(8) %?-2R.-{.-2>.-/A-<-.2%-3R-2$.-2+%-,=,
Rhangmo laughed as soon as I spoke Tibetan.

► 18.3.9 V + YR=
YR= is a morpheme that combines with a verb to form a noun that means way(s) to V.
For example: 9-YR=, way(s) to eat, 2!R=-YR= way(s) to use, :VA-YR= way(s) to write, etc.
The resulting noun (V + YR=) goes frequently with main such verbs as ;R. to have, >J? to
know, l2 to teach and aR2 to learn. Examples:
(1) $R/-o:R- :.A-:- $R/-YR=-$*A?-;R.-$A, This piece of clothing has two ways to wear it.
(2) =-.R/-/-2!R=-YR=-3A-$&A$-/R-3%-%-9A$-;R.-$A,
The Ladon particle has many different usages (ways to use it).
(3) VR-:.A-:-:O2-YR=-$&A$-3-$+R$?-3J.,
This dance has only way to do it. (Lit. to dance it.)
In this lesson, Wuchung tells Tom %?-HR-:-$R/-o:R-:-v-YR=-l2-/, If I teach you the way
to look at costumes... Note that the verb v marks the direct object with =-.R/, even when
it combines with YR= to form a noun v-YR= the way/method to look at. Compare the
grammar note on to teach some one how to V in 16.3.7.

❖ 18.4 Cultural Notes

✽ 18.4.1 Horseracing Festivals (g-o$?-.?-(J/)
Of all traditional Tibetan festivals, horseracing must rank among the most popular.
Usually held in the summer when the grassland is at its greenest, the horseracing festival
gives an almost carnival feel to the host town which is otherwise quiet and peaceful. Each

town has its own traditional date for the festival, usually in the lunar calendar. Some
places have changed to the Gregorian calendar to accommodate an increasing an example
of such. Maqu, Litang, Naqu, Gyantse, etc., all have their own celebrations that rival the

The Horseracing Field, Machen, Golok

Jockeys Are Typically Preteen, Maqu, Gannan Horse Trainer, Maqu

grandeur and excitement of Yulshul horseracing.
Tibetans take tremendous pride in their horses and horsemanship. The winner of a
horserace is considered hero of the town and the horse becomes famous and much more
valuable. There are occasional monetary awards for the winning horse, which can
be several times the annual income of an average household, but one races for pride,
not for a prize. Horseracing comes in two varieties: The competition of speed and the
competition of grace and style. It usually takes three to five days to come to the final race.
After weeks or even months of rigorous training and meticulous care, horses appear tense
and spirited on the big day. Do remember it is a taboo to touch a race horse on that day.

Sandbag Holding, Yulshul Cham Dance, Yulshul

A religious dance called cham is also performed. For the religious Tibetans, it
offers a chance for them to recognize their own protector deity so at their death they
will be able to follow the right deity to the next life. Horseracing is also a sporting event.
Archery, weight-lifting (called Sandbag Holding in Tibetan), running, and horseback
performance are common events. Popular to the public is the folk dancing competition
represented by teams from all neighboring townships, counties, and prefectures. For
photographers, the main attraction tends to be the "fashion show" where one witnesses
jaw-dropping displays of wealth by Tibetans wearing traditional costumes with colorful

Dancing Contest, Yulshul Dancers Waiting for the Results

Nomad Women in Full Dress Attending Horseracing Festival, Maqu, Gannan

and extremely expensive jewelry.
The real fun is, not surprisingly, people watching. For a non-Tibetan spectator, the
well-dressed men and women in the audience are nothing short of a stunning visual feast
which often ends with one's deep sigh for not having had the foresight to bring enough
rolls of film. For Tibetans, the horseracing festival is an official opportunity for young
people to make friends with others. Singing contests of impromptu love songs held in
the evening can go on for hours, from dusk to dawn, adding a romantic atmosphere to
the occasion.

❖ 18.5 Key Sentence Patterns

■ 18.5.1 Verb (past) + eJ? After + clause
(1) .$/-$/%-/ .L<-$/%-2+%-eJ?-HR-$%-%-:IR-o-;A/,
After winter/summer vacation starts, where will you go?
(2) 3A-.$A-YA%-3R-KA<-<-;:-:-;R%-eJ?-A-3-8J-$A-.$:-$R-$A, 
  After her younger sister came back home, the mother was very happy.
(3) :S-0<-]%?-eJ?-#A-(:R-2R.-$A-9-#%-/%-%-2.-,=,  
  After taking pictures, they went to a Tibetan restaurant.
(4) %?-2R.-{.-2a2-eJ?, %-2R.-$A-\-.L%?-%-*/-o:R-.$:-2+%-,=,  
  After I studied Tibetan, I like to listen to Tibetan music.
(5) SR?-)-:,%?-eJ?-%-#-nJ-1R<-2-$%-:,%-o:R-.$:-:-, 
  After finishing (eating) lunch, I like to drink a cup of coffee.
(6) :(3-lJ.-eJ?-#A-(:R-g-o$?-o-<J.,  
  After the cham dance is finished, they will race the horses.

■ 18.5.23 (Neg.) + Verb (past) + }R/-/ Before + clause

(1) %-;=->=-=-3-?R%-}R/-/-#3?-{.-aR2-o-;A/,  
  Before I go to Yulshul, I’ll study Kham dialect.
(2) #A-.$J-0J-&A/-/-3-?R%-}R/-/-$R/-o:R-$?<-2-9A$-*R-o-<J.,
Before he goes to Beijing, he will buy a new robe.
(3) %?-1R=-3-:-#-0<-3-2+%-}R/-/, HR?-%-:-3A-.$A-#-0<-A%-P%?-!J<-.$R-o-<J.,  
  Before I call Drolma, you need to give me her telephone number.
(4) *A?-!R%-28A-$A-=R-:-%-35S-}R/-/-3-;R%-}R/-/, %-A-<A-/?-+-l=-$R-/R-$A-aR2-3-9A$-;A/, 
  Before I came to Qinghai in 2004, I was an art student in the US.

(5) HR-HR:-A-#-5K-<A%-o=-=-2v-$A-3-?R%-}R/-/, <2-;A/-/-HR?-)-(-4B$-*R?-/-Z-$A, 
  Before you go to see Uncle Tserang Gyal, it's better for you to buy some tea.
(6) %?-2R.-{.-3-2a2-}R/-/, A-3.R:A-#-{.-<-.2?-$4%-$A-#-{.-3A-:S-/R-3A->J?,  
Before I studied Tibetan, I didn't know that the Amdo dialect is different from the
Lhasa dialect.
■ 18.5.3 Verb (past) + / + (:-,<-$A) Z-$A,
(1) HR-2R.-$A-PR$?-0R-<-3*3-$A-?R%-/-:-,<-$A-Z-$A,
It’s better if you go have fun with Tibetan friends.
(2) g-o$?-.?-(J/-$A-{2?-2-?R%-/-:-,<-$A-Z-$A,         
  It’s better if you go during a horseracing festival.
(3) 3A-.$J-:-{J-o/-9A$-*R?-/-:-,<-$A-Z-$A, 
  It’s better to buy her a necklace.
(4) z-3R-$A-*J?-{<-<-%?-3A-.$J-:-(A-9A$-*R?-/-Z-$A, 
  For Lhamo's birthday, what is the best that I could buy her?
(5) HR?-3A-.$J-:-{J-o/-9A$-*R?-/-Z-$A,  3A-.$J-.J-:-.$:-/R-#R-,$-;A/,  
  It is best for you to buy a necklace for her. She will surely like it.
(6) .L<-#-:.A-:-:-(:R-?-(-$%-%-?R%-/-:-,<-$A-*A.-$A,
Where is the best place for us to go this summer?
■ 18.5.4 Experience Marker MR%  
(1) HR-;=->=-=-?R%-AJ-MR%-,
Have you been to Yulshul?
(2) HR?-:R-)-:,%?-AJ-MR%-,   
  Have you ever drunk milk tea?
(3) %-A-3J-<A-!-?R%-3-MR%-,   
  I have never been to America.
(4) %?-}R/-(.-3A-.$A-MA%-$R-3-MR%-,
I have never heard her name before.
(5) %?-}R/-(.-.A-2!R=-MR%-%-,  
  I have used it before.
(6) %?-3A-.$J-<A$-MR%-%-,  
  I have seen her.
(7) %?-/$-(-$A-g-o$-.?-(J/-/-MA%-(J/-0R-;R.-/R-$R-MR%-%-,  
  I have heard that Naqu's horseracing festival is very famous.
■ 18.5.5 Difference Between A and B

(1) ;=->=-<-HR:-;:-$A-8A%-#J-$*A-$-3A-:S-?-(A-9A$-;R.-$A,  
  Is there any difference between Yulshul and your hometown?
(2) %-<-%A-%/-$*A-$-3A-:S-?-3%-%-9A$-;R.,
There are many differences between my brother and me.
(3) #A-(R?-2>.-/R-$A-{.-(-<-A3-{.-$*A-$-:S-/A-3-<J.,
Their spoken language is different from Amdo dialect.
(4) \R$-[.-$?<-0-:.A-<-fA%-0-:.A-$*A-$-:S-/A-3-<J.,  
  The new computer is different from the old one.
(5) #3?-<-A-3.R-$*A-$A-$R/-o:R-3A-:S-?-3%-/A-<J.,  
  The costumes from Kham and Amdo are very different.
■ 18.5.6 Adverbial Construction: VP + /R + Adj
(1) 3A-.$J?-]%?-/R-AJ-Z-$A, 
  Does she sing well?
(2) ,:R-3:-$A?-2R.-{.-2>.-/R-?R-nJ-:-2v?-/-.$-$A, 
  Tom speaks Tibetan better than Sophie.
(3) g-/$-0R-$/-o$?-/R-g-<-<-.J-:-2v?-/-3IR$?-$A, 
  That black horse over there runs faster than this white one.
(4) .$J-c/-.0:-3R-35S-$A?-2>.-/R-.=-$A, 
  Teacher Huamo Tso speaks more slowly.
(5) %?-2v?-/-^-2?-.LA/-{.-2>.-/R-8J-$A-.$-$A, 
  I think that Dawa speaks English very well.

■ 18.5.7 Direct Quote 9J<-$A and 9J?-;R.-$A (Review)

(1) .0J-(:A-,R$-/- #A-(R?-#3?-{.-2>.-/A-<J.-9J?-;R.-$A, 
  The book says that they speak Kham dialect.
(2) %A-A-1?-2R.-$A-HA-8J-$A-24/-<2?-9J<-$A, 
  My father says Tibetan dogs are the best.
(3) 3A-.$A-.$J-c/-$A?-.LA/-;A$-aR2-o:R-4B-$J-9A$-<-3A-.!:-$A-9J<-$A,
Her teacher says that it’s not difficult to learn English at all.
(4) 5$?-0<-,R$-/-.-=R:C-g-o$?-/-/A%-%-2v?-/-o-(J-<2?-9J<-$A, 
  The newspaper says this year’s horseracing is better than last year’s.
■ 18.5.8 2+$? and $R/ to Wear

(1) #A-(R?-3$R-2+$?-;R.-/R-<-=?-$R/-;R.-/R-5%-3-8J-$A-;$-$A, 
  What they wear on the head and what they wear on the body are both beautiful.
(2) 3A-.$J?-2+$?-;R.-/R-.J:A-MA%-%-28R-=%-9J<-$A, 
  What she wears on her belt is called "sholung" in Tibetan.
(3) 3A-.$J?-L-<:A-{J-o/-9A$-2+$?-;R.-$A, 
  She wears a coral necklace.
(4) 3A-.$J?-$R/-;R.-/R-.$/-H-3-<J.,
What she wears is not winter robe.
(5) %A-%/-7-E-$R/-o:R-.$:,  
  My brother likes to wear fox fur hats.

■ 18.5.9 As Soon As

(1) HR?-&A$-2v?-/A-<-#A-.$J-$%-$A-;A/-/R->J?-o-<J.,
As soon as you see a person you know where he is from.
(2) HR?-&A$-*/-/A-<-#A-.$J?-2>.-/R-2R.-{.-;A/-3A/->J?-/A-<J.,  
  As soon as you hear him talk you'll know whether he is Tibetan or not.
(3) 3A-.$A-PR$?-0R-5S-,R/-/A-<-#A-(:R-HA.-=J-3A-.$A-#%-0-$?<-2-:-v-$A-2.-,=,
As soon as her friends arrived, she took them to see her new house.
(4) .L<-$/%-2+%-/A-<-%-1-3-$*A-$-:-2v-$A-:IR-o-;A/,
As soon as summer vacation starts, I will go to see my parents.
(5) ,:R-3:-;=->=-=-,R/-/A-<-0<-3%-%-9A$-o2-,=, 
  As soon as Tom arrived at Yulshul, he took lots of pictures.
(6) HR-$*A-$-0J-&A/-/-,R/-/A-<-%-:->R.,
As soon as you two arrive in Beijing, let me know.

❖ 18.6 Exercises
18.6.1 Listening Comprehension DISC-2

Answer the following question in English

(1) Where did Tom go during the summer vacation?
(2) Can Tom communicate with the local people he visited? Why?
(3) What is the dialect Tom learned? Is it the same as the Kham dialect?
(4) What dialect should Tom learn if he wants to go travel in Tibet?
18.6.2 Fill in the Blanks
/R, %-, <, /A, /, $A?, =, 
(1) .$/-$/%-2+%-eJ?-:-(:R-%A-1-;=-___?R%-___(A-3R-<J., 

(2) .0J-(:A-,R$___;=->=-____#3?-{.-2>.-____<J.-9J?-;R.-$A, 
(3) 3$R-2+$?-;R.___<-=?-:-IR/-;R.___5%-3-A-3.R-___3A-:S,  
(4) %?-&A$-2v?___<-3A-.$J-<A$-,=, 3A-.$J?-\-=J/-$A-;R.-$A, 
(5) #A-.$J?-$R/-;R.-___.J:A-MA%-___7-E-9J<-$A, 
18.6.3 Translation
(1) A: Is the necklace that you are wearing (made of) silver or gold?
B: It’s made of gold and turquoise.
(2) A: Have you heard about horseracing in Yulshul?
B: No, I haven’t. Where is Yulshul?
A: It’s in the south of Qinghai. The horseracing in Yulshul is very famous.
(3) A: My elder sister married a rich Kham man last year.
B: Have you met her husband?
A: No, I haven’t. When they got married, I was studying in Beijing.
(4) A: In your opinion, when is the best time to go to Sichuan?
B: This book says it’s better to go to Sichuan in autumn.
A: Okay, let’s go there in September.
(5) A: Is there any difference between Kham costumes and U-Tsang costumes?
B: Yes, they are very different.
A: Can you distinguish who is from Kham and who is from U-Tsang as soon as
see them?
B: Yes, of course I can.
18.6.4 Answer the Questions: Answer the following questions according to the
(1) HR-/$-(-:-(A-9A$-$-?R%-/A-;A/,
(to see its horseracing festival)
(2) HR-35S-}R/-/-3-;R%-}R/-/-(A-9A$-=?-$A-;R.,
(learn Amdo dialect; before..)
(3) HR:-;:-:-/3-?R%-/-Z-o-<J.,
(it’s the best time to…; summer)
(4) 2R.-<-A-3J-<A-#-/?-:-,<-$A-MA%-(J-/R-.?-(J/-$%-<J.,
(in my opinion; Christmas or the Shotun Festival)
18.6.5 Reading Comprehension

+R%-,    A-<R,  3:J-<J:J, ,:R-3:-$A?-HR?-2R.-{.-2a2?-MR%-9A$-9J<-$A, .A-AJ-2.J/,
3:J-<J:J, 2.J/, %?-/-/A%-9A-=A%-/?-2R.-{.-2a2?-MR%-%-, 
+R%-,    HR?-2R.-;A$-(A-9A$-$-2a2?-/A-;A/,
3:J-<J:J,  %-9A-OR/-/-;R.-.?-2R.-$A-PR$?-0R-9A$-;R., %?-3A-.$A-IR/-$R?-<A$-/A-<-2R.-0-
3%-%-9A$-%R->J?-/-:.R.-?R%-, %?-,R$-3<-#A-(:R-$A-{.-(-2a2-/-:.R.-$A, 
+R%-,    3A-.$J?-(A-9A$-$R/-;R.-$A,
3:J-<J:J,  3A-.$J?-5-<-$A-.$/-H-9A$-<-7-E-9A$-$R/-;R.-$A, .-<%-L-<:A-{J-o/-.3<-
+R%-,    HR-:-3A-.$A-:S-0<-AJ-;R.,
3:J-<J:J, =R?-;R.,   :.A-:-vR?-<, HR?-2v?-/-3A-.$A-$R/-o:RAJ-;$-$A,
+R%-,    A-A, 8J-$A-;$-$A, 2R.-;A$-aR2-o:R-AJ-.!:-$A, 
3:J-<J:J,  .!:-$A,
+R%-,    %-^-2-$8$-3R-:-2R.-=-:IR-o-;A/,  3-?R%-}R/-/-%?-2R.-{.-9A$-aR2-/-:.R.-$A, 
3:J-<J:J,  =R?-(R$
Answer the following questions in English
(1) When and where did Mary learn the Tibetan language?
(2) Why does Mary want to learn Tibetan?
(3) What did Mary’s friend wear?
(4) How difficult does Mary think it is to learn Tibetan?
(5) Why does John want to learn Tibetan too?

On the Road for More Than Nine Hours
11.liJ.l'°\~r~~rl~·~~·~~·~·ai?:.·~·~°\ 1

..- Key Grammar Points in Lesson Nineteen:

I. Temporal vs. Durational Phrases

2. Easy I Difficult to: VP + f + "i'l]Q./g/t::1~ ~

3. Means of Transportation with the Verb t::l~l
4. Causative Verb r:::ii;r:i to Make or to Let
5. To Tell: ~~ vs. Cl41
6. Conjecture: °i'£!t:.

•:• 19.1 Dialogue ~§c.1 j

e~·ij~ ~·U.J ·<1.rr:i~~·r:::i:1r:.·r:.·1 r:.·~·«·r:::i~·r:i·U.J r:.·c!\ ~1

'Y" "' -- -- "' _. "

~·ui1 5i'~'5i'~ °i~rec!\·~·fu°i1

e~·ij~ ~·~r:.·~·~·ij·e.1·e°i·~~1 t~·fu°i·°i·ti~·~·~11~·,.·ait::t::1~J.l~'~'Uli3i"~1 air:.~-~~·~·
~·~·~·t~·11Q.·~1 ~·°'~·1·1l'1°1J.l"ll'jr:.·~·,·~a.-~~·i~·t::1ffi1·~·~·il·~~·r:::i7r:.·~·iiJr:.·
~~1 I\JJ.l'°i'ait:.~·~~·J.lr:.·~·~·ai'r:.·f'~"]Q.'~ ~~·i1·1~'1lll'lll'UJr:.·~·ui3i1
~·ui1 ~'J.1'1'1]Q.'I\J~'ijt:.~·r:::i7r:.·all'j 1·£!r:.~·Q.~'c!\~·~·;r~«-~~lll't~1
e~·ij~ lJ.J·~·«·Q.~r:i·t~1 r:.·ti~·r:::i·r:::i~·«·a·/iir;.·1::::~·i::i~J.1·~·ar11
~·ui1 ~·Cl.Ji Q.~·ij·J.l~ll'1~·ij·all'1·uj·~·~·t·~~1 ~-J.l·ll'1ill'1·111~~·illl'1·111·~~·s1 ~~·r:::i·~·
~-i::i::i:1r:.· ~11 ~·i::ia·°' r:.·~·~J.]·.;r:.·J.lr:.·r:.·a111·~ ~·to\·ij·uj·t·~11
e~·ij~ ~·4·~·115'· ~1 r:.~·t°i·all'1·°i~·ij1·~·tc!\·ij·«·i::i~·i::i~J.J·~·ai'11 Iii c!\'c!\·~·r:.·J.J·ijr:.·c!\lr
ill'1 ~r:i~·~·ar:i·ll'1·a·/iir;.·c!\ ~·%1l'1·t~·uj·ar~ 1
~·'1l, ~~~ll'j~·ij·Q.~·,.·ai'r:.·o\·il·ill'j·~~1 ~·1~'Q.~·«·41l'j·ii~·~1

,- ........ ' ('.._ ...,
~.,.,·~--~ (tl'~~·.~·~~~·cri'i·cri'i°''i::J'UJ,,'°i'£!r:._'l
L~·~1 ,~."~·ajr;;·~·~cri~·~·~·~·~1·~·~~,
,- ,,~ ('., ~ ,("<.

i;!,"·~·~ ~::i~·::i~·~~.r~a;,-~ 11·u.i·~·~·~1~·,1J~·~·u.i°'·°' I

t:'\J·~, ,iq·,1J~·u.i~·°'·~·~~1 ,~·~··~·9~·°'·u.i11
....., C\. ' ....,_

Bride Walking Backwards When Leaving the House. Guinan, Qinghai

Tum: Grandmother, Happy New Year! I came to see you.

Gnmnv: Good. good. When did you arrive?

Tom: I arrived just this afternoon. Originally, I wanted to come on the 29th, but it was
difficult to buy bus tickets. So I bought the 8:00 am ticket on New Year's Eve.
Granny: How long did it take you by bus?
Tom: We were on the road for more than 9 hours. The road was full of vehicles; it
was difficult to go (through).
Granny: You must be tired. (Lit.You really endured hardship.) How many days will you
stay here this time?
Tom: I'll stay only for five days. I need to go to Xining on the fourth.
Granny: Oh, no. Why are you leaving so soon? Stay for one or two (more) days, won't
you? The fifth is a good day. Quite a few families in the village will hold
Tom: What a pity! I have never seen a traditional Tibetan wedding, but I must (it is
not OK if I didn't') go. I made an appointment to meet with a friend in Xining.
Granny: Can't your friend come here? Tell him to come here.
Tom: He may have other plans.
Granny Make/let him come. He will have a good time.
Tom: Is it convenient? Then I added trouble to you, I suppose.
Granny: No problem. Where is he now?
Tom: Rigth now he might be in Lanzhou, might be in Xi'an.
Granny: Oh, that far! lfhe is in Lanzhou, he can come by taking the train. lfhe is in
Xi'an, it'd better for him to come by plane.
Tom: I should call him right now.
Granny: My eldest grandson has a cell phone. You can call your friend now.
Tom: Thank you. He will be happy when (if) he hears the news.

•!• 19.2 Vocabulary

19.2.1 Vocabulary from the Dialogue
I. iij'·~~l;.'z:J!!t::~·I phrase (greeting) Happy New Year

2. ~·~1 adv. just now, newly

3. adv. originally
i.r:.·[Q~·~ I
4. %,' ..... -
conJ. but, yet, however

5. n. ticket
~-~~1 [~-~~] therefore, so

n. New Year's Eve
7. 111~;i~1:::1
n. morning (a.m.)
8. ,·~, [!!!]
Lhaji particle (see 13.3.5)
9. ~·, [~41]
n. road
I0. a!.Jll
11. •}!11J adj. more than(+ quantity)
n. difficulty, hardship
12. ,"la.·111~,
13. 5r::.~1 V. to taste, to experience (e g h d .
· · ar ship)
adv. this time
14. ~·er::.~1
adv. this(+ adj.), to this extent
15. a.~·i!'1 [a.~·~]
16. ;ii~~i, adj. (attr.) fast, soon

17. ~~·~~~·!!~ n. one or two, a couple of

... "

18. ~~1 V. to stay (imperative of~~-)

I 9. S1 [":::.J sent. part. (soft) imperative mood

20. ~.1;·z::::i311:::1 n. good, auspicious day

21. ~·r:i1 n. village

22. ~~r~·1 n. family, household

23. ~a;·i!'1 n. feast

24. ~·~·~-~-~, interj. what a pity!

25. fai·;i·a;~1 adv. from before (been a while)

f!~-,~·a11 to make an appointment to meet

26. [f!111·,·941J V.

27. [ii.i:·~~1 V.
to tell ( imperative of i.2;. )
28. a.,p·zzi~, n. plan

29. lll'V~I adv. used with conjunction~ if

30. zzi•·c:i1 adj. other

31 .,111, V. to make, to let (imperative of~~)

32. 1'Q.,.i::::J~1 n. c