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Classical Tibetan

Classical Tibetan





Verbs table

gloss layer prs pst fut imp
(1) conceal lexeme ‘chab bcabs bcab chobs
(1) conceal prefix N b b zero
(1) conceal stem C C C C C
(1) conceal stem V a a a o
(1) conceal suffix zero s zero s
(2) fling down lexeme rdeb brdabs brdab rdobs
(2) fling down prefix N b b zero
(2) fling down stem C C C C C
(2) fling down stem V e a a o
(2) fling down suffix e s zero s
(3) think lexeme sem bsams bsam soms
(3) think prefix zero b b zero
(3) think stem C C C C C
(3) think stem V e a a o
(3) think suffix d s zero s
(4) put in order lexeme gshom bshams bsham shoms
(4) put in order prefix g/d b b zero
(4) put in order stem C C C C C
(4) put in order stem V o a a o
(4) put in order suffix zero s zero s
(5) send lexeme gtong btang gtang thongs
(5) send prefix g/d b g/d zero
(5) send stem C C C C C
(5) send stem V o a a o
(5) send suffix zero zero zero s
(6) cast lexeme ‘debs btab gdab thobs
(6) cast prefix N b g/d zero
(6) cast stem C voiced voiceless voiceless voiced
(6) cast stem V e a a o
(6) cast suffix d zero zero s
(7) kill lexeme ‘gum bkums dgum khums
(7) kill prefix N b g/d zero
(7) kill stem C #voiced #voiceless #voiceless #voiced
(7) kill stem V V V V V
(7) kill suffix zero s zero s
(8) blow lexeme bud phus dbu phus
(8) blow prefix N b g/d zero
(8) blow stem C #voiced #voiceless #voiceless #voiced
(8) blow stem V V V V V
(8) blow suffix d s zero s
(8) pull lexeme ‘dren drangs drang drongs
(8) pull prefix N b g/d zero
(8) pull stem C # C C C
(8) pull stem V e a a o
(8) pull suffix d s zero s

Classical Tibetan notes

  • The analysis of verbs here is based on Coblin (1976) and Jacques (2012), who follows Coblin on many points. Coblin proposes eight inflection classes; these are abstract/diachronic rather than being surface-true. Given the difficulty in interpreting the not always consistent sources, we maintain his system here rather than attempt to reintrpret the corpus.

  • The prefix traditionally transcribed as '- is generally assumed to have involved prenasalization. Following Jacques (2012) we represent it as N in the underlying representation. The distinction between aspirated and unaspirate consonants is not phonemic (Jacques 2012: 217, fn 10), so below we represent both with the unaspirated grapheme.

  • The mapping from the underlying (or diachronically prior) forms to the surface forms presupposes quite a few rules (Coblin 61f). Following Jacques (2012) we treat the stem vowel alternations as overtly represented (rather than phonologically induced by the affixes), but we adopt Coblin's rules governing the realization of the affixes, which are sensitive to stem-initial and stem-final segments:

    prefixes stem-initial segments
    c, j, t, d, ts, dz, V k, g p, b n(y) elsewhere
    N- N- N- N-- Ø Ø
    b- b- b- Ø m- b-
    g-/d- g- d- d- g- g-
    g/d does not appear to occur before V-initial stems

    suffixes stem-final segments
    n, r, l ng /ŋ/ d elsewhere
    -d Ø stem-final -ng → -n Ø -d
    -s Ø -s Ø -s
    except where stem-initial C is a velar

    As a consequence of these rules, the class membership (in Coblin's terms) of the bulk of the lexicon is at least partly ambiguous. There are also numerous lexeme-specific aberrations.

  • Each class is associated with a distinct potential vowel alternation, the characteristics of which are impractical to represent in the database. Briefly, the present tense vowel is diagnostic, given class membership. If any other vowel is found in the present besides the one shown in the database, the stem vowel remains fixed throughout the paradigm.

  • There is also a minor phonologically predictable stem vowel alternation not shown here: if a stem ending in -ung is followed by -d (realized as the stem-final consonant alternation /ng/ → /n/; see above), the vowel is fronted to /i/.


Coblin, Weldon South, 1976. Notes on Tibetan verbal morphology. T'oung Pao 52. 45--70.

Jacques, Guillaume. 2012. An internal reconstruction of Tibetan stem alternations. Transactions of the Philological Society 110.2. 212--224.