Full Text

Tibetan writing

Subject Linguistics

Place China » Tibet

DOI: 10.1111/b.9780631214816.1999.x


The literary history of Tibetan goes back to the eighth century ce . Tradition credits Thon-mi Sambhoṭa, a noble Tibetan scholar and minister of King Srong-btsan-sgam-po, with devising the Tibetan writing system on the model of a north Indian script. Although there is no documentary evidence to support this attribution, it is clear that the Tibetan system is patterned on the B rāhmī writing , the Gupta variety probably being its immediate forebear ( Figure 6 ). The oldest epigraphic monument is the stone pillar of Zhol, Lhasa, which has been dated 764 ce . Figure 6 Tibetan talisman, the ‘horse of good fortune’ The adaptation to Tibetan of the Gupta alphabet made significant changes necessary because, unlike the languages for which Brāhmī and its offshoots evolved, Tibetan is not an Indo-European language. The structural principle underlying the Tibetan script is that of I ndian writing systems . The unit of representation is the syllable, but the unit of analysis is the segment. The alphabet consists of 30 letters ( table 13 ). In its basic form each letter represents a C plus an inherent V a. As with the Indian scripts, the inherent V is neutralized by attaching diacritic V satellites to the C letter. However, in contrast to the Indic systems, Tibetan has only one independent V letter, for a. By extending the principle of diacritical V indication, this letter is also used ... log in or subscribe to read full text

Log In

You are not currently logged-in to Blackwell Reference Online

If your institution has a subscription, you can log in here:


     Forgotten your password?

Find out how to subscribe.

Your library does not have access to this title. Please contact your librarian to arrange access.

[ access key 0 : accessibility information including access key list ] [ access key 1 : home page ] [ access key 2 : skip navigation ] [ access key 6 : help ] [ access key 9 : contact us ] [ access key 0 : accessibility statement ]

Blackwell Publishing Home Page

Blackwell Reference Online ® is a Blackwell Publishing Inc. registered trademark
Technology partner: Semantico Ltd.

Blackwell Publishing and its licensors hold the copyright in all material held in Blackwell Reference Online. No material may be resold or published elsewhere without Blackwell Publishing's written consent, save as authorised by a licence with Blackwell Publishing or to the extent required by the applicable law.

Back to Top