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Essentials of Modern Literary Tibetan: Reading Course and Reference Grammar Hardcover – Jan 1995

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 493 pages
  • Publisher: Munshiram Manoharlal Publishers (Jan. 1995)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 812150581X
  • ISBN-13: 978-8121505819
  • Product Dimensions: 21 x 14.2 x 2.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,902,218 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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About the Author

Melvyn C. Goldstein is Chairman of Anthropology at Case Western Reserve and Director of the Center for Research on Tibet. His books with California include A History of Modern Tibet 1913-1951 (1989) and English-Tibetan Dictionary of Modern Tibetan (1984). Gelek Rimpoche and Lobsang Phuntshog are Tibetan scholars. --This text refers to an alternate Hardcover edition.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Amadeus on 5 Jan. 2011
Format: Hardcover
Goldstein and Gelek Rinpoche's book remains in many respects THE introduction to written Tibetan, particularly if you are trying to learn the language on your own. While his phonetic methodology is cumbersome and has long been surpassed, it only represents a small and dispensible section of the book. In regard to the overwhelming bulk of the work however, it is genuinely excellent and rather uniquely compassionate on the learner. Taking the reader from the absolute basics of reading Tibetan script through to a remarkably high level of reading, it provides a multiplicity of carefully graded (and intrinsically interesting) examples, without bogging the reader down in the fine-tuned complexities of Tibetan grammar that can obscure a practical working knowledge. Many Tibetologists of my acquaintance have cut their linguistic teeth on this book, and as a self-help language book it has yet to be surpassed. If only it were in paperback, or even a tutor's version existed!
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 4 reviews
39 of 39 people found the following review helpful
Essentials of Modern Literary Tibetan 26 Mar. 2000
By Kaonohi Kai - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
This book is indispensable for anyone attempting to master literary Tibetan. Written by a well-known scholar, it exhibits the type of attention to detail that is frequently missing from grammar books. The systematic introduction of particles and its approach to analyzing clauses and sentences makes the task of breaking down complex Tibetan passages much easier.
Each chapter includes at least one reading passage presented in the Tibetan script along with a line by line transliteration and a free translation of the text. Each clause is then broken down step by step in a detailed section explaining the form and function of nearly every syllable or word. An extensive glossary and index to Tibetan particles is also included. An appendix includes sample readings from Communist sources. We did occasionally find an error in the Tibetan script but nothing that cannot be easily overcome by an attentive reader.
The Tibetan typeface used through the book is easy to read and fairly well designed.
With nearly 500 pages, this book is a must-have for any serious student of the Tibetan language.
9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
Great for DIY 28 Mar. 2010
By Kieran Fox - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
I used this book when I started learning Tibetan last year while living with the Tibetan refugees in Dharamsala, India. My (spoken Tibetan) teacher didn't agree entirely with Goldstein's suggested pronunciation rules and transliterations, but hey, that's no easy task no matter how you look at it - a fair number of sounds in Tibetan simply have no equivalent in English.

As other reviewers have noted, the gradations in difficulty are very well done. Things are explained thoroughly and in a logical order. Keep in mind though, this book (and language) is a serious challenge - not to be taken lightly. Goldstein throws a heck of a lot of information at you every time you turn the page, and when it comes to the reading passages he's not afraid to throw you in and see if you'll sink or swim! I think copying out, transliterating, translating and then trying to grasp the first lengthy reading passage (an old Tibetan folk story about encountering a goddess) took me about 3 hours of continuous work!

All in all, though, great. I still haven't finished the book (to do so would be a long project on solely your own motivation!) but considering how much I learned from getting through even a quarter of it, I suspect that if you slug through the whole thing you would have a pretty damn good grasp of literary Tibetan and be well on your way to reading the vast Tibetan literature. A rough glance at the vocabulary section suggested to me a total of 2000+ words are introduced throughout it all. If you actually acquired that much after going through the book and also grasped the grammar and so on that had been taught, I think you'd be sitting pretty!

Recommended especially if you are teaching yourself (as I mostly was).

[Addition in October 2010]: I finally finished this book a couple of months ago, as well as most of the other in-print textbooks of the Tibetan language, during a few intensive months doing little but studying the language. From my experience with the few Tibetan textbooks currently available on the market (I read through Preston, Tournadre, and Wilson), this one is far and above the best and most comprehensive. Goldstein's incredible thoroughness, painstaking attention to detail, and the very challenging nature of this book all come together to create an incredible experience. Unfortunately it is geared toward MODERN literary Tibetan and so it is not great if you want to learn Classical Tibetan, which is my aim, but you will learn an enormous amount from this book, perhaps more than from the other 4 listed above put together. Goldstein's philosophy is that reading actual, LONG passages is the best way to learn, and I would have to agree. It's also far more fun that memorizing vocabulary and grammatical rules! This is definitely the best textbook of Tibetan out there, in my opinion.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
Excellent help 3 Jan. 2009
By Maria Rodriguez - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
This book will definitely bring you to read Tibetan through some very well graded readings, which are very enjoyable too. The grammar is very clever, very concise. The supplied vocabulary is also invaluable. Definitely, a good buy if you are trying to learn Tibetan, especially if you are doing it on your own.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
An excellent grammar and reading course 17 Aug. 2010
By wch - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
First... it is difficult to learn Tibetan on your own but if you are going to try, this is one of the textbooks that you must have in your collection.

This is, first and foremost a reading course for modern literary Tibetan, the stuff of newspapers, stories and magazine, rather than spoken or classical Tibetan. Starting with simple sentences and working up to complex blocks of texts such as you might find in a newspaper or magazine article, the text provides a well-structured path for learning to read Tibetan. Goldstein gives much attention to the biggest problem facing the Western learner of Tibetan: developing the ability to take apart sentences without all of the clues, like spaces, that we are used to working with. Along the way he offers concise definitions and descriptions of the components of Tibetan grammar and but for a couple of regretful lapses, doesn't coin too much in the way of new terminology.

The two features of the book that I didn't find so helpful were Goldstein's introduction of "slots" to replace the accepted terminology of "prefix", "suffix", etc. to be an un-necessary complication. And while his phonetic pronunciation scheme is interesting, I found it more distracting than helpful. If you are wanting to learn spoken Tibetan there are better texts, such as "Manual of Standard Tibetan" and "Fluent Tibetan".

That said, this text is useful as a *reference* grammar for spoken and classical Tibetan. It is organized around the particles that define the structure of a Tibetan sentence, which makes it easy to study or review individual constructions. It also has a detailed table of contents, a must for a good grammar. It won't replace your other Tibetan language textbooks but you will find yourself looking to it for quick answers frequently, especially if you are studying translation.

Summary: For the serious Tibetan language student, this is a required text.
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