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Grammar of the Tibetan Language [Hardcover]

Herbert Bruce Hannah
1.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Motilal Banarsidass,; New edition edition (Sep 1996)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 8120807863
  • ISBN-13: 978-8120807860
  • Product Dimensions: 21.6 x 14.7 x 3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 1.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 7,323,132 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description


In this volume the author has dealt with both literary and colloquial Tibetan mostly in use around Lhasa. The important and elusive subjects of pronounciation and spelling are given on principle more systematic and accurate tratement highlighting the subtle distinctions.

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1.0 out of 5 stars Out of date 17 July 2009
Only recent books give any useful description of the grammar of Tibetan. Don't be fooled into buying something that is 100 years old.
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Amazon.com: 2.0 out of 5 stars  1 review
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Probably has some value but there are better choices for learners 12 Feb 2006
By John Armstrong - Published on Amazon.com
Herbert Bruce Hannah's _A Grammar of the Tibetan Language: Literary and Colloquial_ was originally published in 1912 and has been reprinted a number of times in recent years. It describes two forms of the language side by side, the literary and the colloquial. The former is the modern literary language which is descended from and still very similar to Classical Tibetan, and is typified, for the author, by a particular Tibetan translation of the Christian New testament. The latter is the modern colloquial language as spoken around Lhasa.

The book consists of three main parts, the first on writing and pronunciation as well as some grammar ("Preliminaries"), the second on grammar ("Etymology") and the third on verb paradigms ("Appendix of Conjugations"). (There is also a part on syntax but it consists of only a single page.) The treatment of writing and pronunciation is rich in information but very hard to understand, and likely to confuse and frustrate a complete beginner. The treatment of grammar is much the same, and though it is generally less obscure, its constant switching between the literary and colloquial languages makes it difficult to get a clear picture of either one. The verb paradigms fill many pages but are concerned mostly with forms involving auxiliaries and are very repetitive.

The book is strictly a reference work and contains no lessons or reading passages. Examples of the literary language are generally drawn from the New Testament translation already alluded to, which may bother those who want to deal with the language in the context of Tibetan Buddhist culture. Words, phrases, and example sentences are always written in Tibetan characters. Words and phrases, though not examples, are often accompanied by transliterations into Latin letters using a system that is peculiar to the author and different in a number of respects from the system now generally used today (Wylie). The book contains no indices, either of Tibetan words or of grammatical matters.

All in all I would say that this book is likely to be of only very limited use to the average student of Tibetan. Those who already have a good basic knowledge of the language (either literary or colloquial or both) may find something of value in it, but beginners will almost certainly do better to opt for other, more suitable books, such as Stephen Hodge, _An Introduction to Classical Tibetan_, or perhaps Joe Wilson, _ Translating Buddhism from Tibetan_, for the Classical language, Melvyn C. Goldstein et al., _Essentials of Modern Literary Tibetan_, for the modern literary language, and Nicolas Tournadre, _Manual of Standard Tibetan_, for the modern colloquial language.
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