Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies


The Golok Dialect and Written Tibetan past-tense verb forms1

R. K. Sprigg

Tibetan orthography looks phonetically challenging, to say the least; and one may well wonder whether such tongue-twisting combinations as the brj of brjes, the blt- of bltas, or the bst- of bstan ever did twist a Tibetan tongue, or whether the significance of these and other such orthographic forms might not have been morphophonemic in origin, with the letters r, l, and s in the syllable initial of forms such as these serving to associate these past-tense forms lexically with their corresponding present-tense forms; e.g. Viewed in relation to Tibetan orthography the past-tense forms of a class of verbs in the Golok dialect seem to support this hypothesis. Table 1, below, contains a number of examples of Golok verbs in their past-tense and present-tense forms to illustrate a type of phonological analysis suited to that view of the r syllable-initial unit in the Golok examples, and, indirectly, in the WT examples too (the symbols b and b will be accounted for in section (B) below).


1 Based on a paper read at the tenth International Conference on Sino-Tibetan Languages and linguistics, at Georgetown University, in October 1977.

For Written Tibetan (WT) orthography and glosses I have relied on Jäschke, 1881 (reprinted 1934; for list of references see p. 60).