Padma Karpo Translation Committee
Tibetan Grammar References and Texts
Titles in Print
Standard Reference Works
Standard Tibetan Grammar: Volume I, The Thirty Verses of Minister Thumi by Tony Duff
Standard Tibetan Grammar: Volume II, The Application of Gender Signs by Tony Duff
The Sources: Tibetan Grammar Texts
The Great Living Tree Grammars for Beginners
Situ’s Words by Ngulchu Dharmabhadra
Essence of Situ’s Elegant Thorough Explanation by Khenpo Ngedon Jamyang
Application of Gender Signs Clarified; advanced Tibetan grammars by Ngulchu Dharmabhadra and Yangchen Drubpay Dorje
Other Grammar Publications
A number of publications which show how to apply Tibetan grammar to the translation of Tibetan texts are available on our free texts pages.
Full Descriptions of Titles in Print
TitleStandard Tibetan Grammar Volume I, The Thirty Verses of Minister Thumi
AuthorTony Duff
Details834 pages, 6" X 9" (larger book size), US$120, available in e-book (PDF) format
ISBNpaper book 978-9937-572-35-4, e-book 978-9937-572-14-9
TextsSeven Tibetan texts included (see listing below)

book cover This is Lotsawa Tony’s magnum opus.  He started writing it in the late 1990’s and has been letting it mature since.  He has been in no hurry to publish it because he intends it to be the standard reference for Tibetan grammar for the foreseeable future.  The complete work is envisaged as a series of volumes.  For the other volumes, see below.

Although there are a number of books available on Tibetan grammar, all of them come from a Western approach and not one of them shows the actual meaning of Tibetan grammar as understood by Tibetans.  This book corrects that completely.  It offers commentary and background written by a Westerner who has studied Tibetan grammar in Tibetan classes in a purely Tibetan milieu and couples that with authentic translations of several of the most important Tibetan grammar texts.

The first volume begins with extensive historical background, far more than seen in any other Western publication, and includes selections from various Tibetan history texts not to mention the fruits of the author’s own, considerable research during the many years that he has lived in Nepal.

The book continues with a major exposition of the lineages of grammar and the main texts used for the study of Tibetan grammar.  Again, none of this information has been seen to date in Western publications.

The book continues with a history of the three language revisions.  This completes the prefatory sub-volumes.

The real material of the book starts with Thumi’s first grammar treatise, The Root of Grammar in Thirty Verses.  This is the first authoritative translation of the text into English.  The treatise is followed by hundreds of pages of explanation that show every single nuance and detail of the text, all written by the author.  This explanation includes a wealth of detail that shows how Tibetan grammar works in its own right and also shows how it can or cannot be related to English grammar.  This section of the book is a treasure trove of information for any translator, covering many points of Tibetan grammar and its relationship with translation into English which are essential for any translator to know.

Included within the author’s extensive explanation is a very long chapter on pronunciation.  This is one subject that is still not being taught properly even in major programs around the world.  The reason is simply that very few Westerners have understood all the details involved in Tibetan pronunciation.  The author not only includes those details but uses extensive quotations from the Tibetan sources to show how it does work.  The first translation ever of a Tibetan text on pronunciation is included in the book.

Also included is an investigation of the hottest debate in Tibetan grammar, the debate over how many vowels there are in the language.  The author presents the opinions of many great Tibetan scholars of the past including Thumi Sambhota, Sakya Pandita, Situ Panchen, and others.  The complete section on this issue taken from Situ’s very famous Great Commentary on grammar has been translated and included.  This is not only interesting in its own right but provides a glimpse of this famous grammar text.

There are chapters that explain where the nouns, verbs, adverbs, and adjectives of English grammar can and cannot be found in Tibetan grammar.  There are chapters which explain punctuation and how it works and where one could find English punctuation or not within Tibetan punctuation.  A long list of the many punctuation marks in the Tibetan language with explanations is also included.

The book contains translations of the following texts:
The Root of Grammar, The Thirty Verses by Thumi Sambhota
“The Great Living Tree”, The Essence of Thonmi’s Fine Explanation The Thirty by Yangchen Drubpay Dorje
“The Fine Explanation Great Living Tree”, The Clarifier of the Meaning of The Essence of “The Thirty” by Yangchen Drubpay Dorje
“Supreme Expert Situ’s Words”, A Thorough Explanation of the Grammar Shastras of the Language of the Snowy Land, The Thirty and Application of Gender Signs by Ngulchu Dharmabhadra (PART I about the Thirty Verses only)
The Essence of the Elegant “Thorough Explanation”, The Literal Aspect of the Snowy Land’s Grammar Shastras, The Thirty and Application of Gender Signs by Khenpo Ngedon Jamyang (PART I about the Thirty Verses only)
“A Beautiful String of Pearls to Adorn the Necks of the Wise”, A Thorough Explanation of the Specific Texts The Thirty and Application of Gender Signs of the Shas­tras that Authentically Set Forth the Signs of the Snowy Land by Situ Chokyi Jungney (Section on vowel definitions only)
A New Bud of the Story Of How The Production Places, Producers, And Efforts of Tibetan Letters Are Identified by Yangchen Drubpay Dorje (a text on the Tibetan system of pronunciation)
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TitleStandard Tibetan Grammar Volume II, The Application of Gender Signs
AuthorTony Duff
Details250 pages, 6" X 9" (large book size), US$85, available in e-book (PDF) format
ISBNpaper book 978-9937-572-36-1, e-book 978-9937-572-37-8
TextsFour Tibetan texts included (see listing below)

book cover This is the second volume of Tony’s magnum opus.  He started writing it in the late 1990’s and has been letting it mature since.  He has been in no hurry to publish it because he intends it to be the standard reference for Tibetan grammar for the foreseeable future.

This second book is the second in a series of volumes.  For the other volume, see above.

Although there are a number of books available on Tibetan grammar, all of them come from a Western approach and not one of them shows the actual meaning of Tibetan grammar as understood by Tibetans.  This book corrects that completely.  It offers commentary and background written by a Westerner who has studied Tibetan grammar in Tibetan classes in a purely Tibetan milieu and couples that with authentic translations of several of the most important Tibetan grammar texts.

The second volume focusses on Thumi Sambhota’s second, extant treatise which defines Tibetan grammar.  This treatise concerns the specific issue of what is called "letter gender".  The text defines letter gender then shows its various effects.  The text is extremely difficult to understand, so difficult that many well-educated Tibetans do not study it.  To make the material of the treatise more accessible, the book starts with an overview of the whole treatise which goes into sufficient detail that the general points of the treatise can be understood fairly easily.  The book then continues with in-depth commentaries on the various effects of letter gender, going through the points that are found in the treatise itself.  There are several main effects such as pronunciation, verb theory, and phrase linker theory.  The book gives detailed and extensive explanations of verb theory.  The book especially gives a complete explanation of the Tibetan system of transitive verbs and intransitive verbs.  For the first time, the special self-and-other feature of transitive verb theory is explained fully yet exactly according to the Tibetan system.  All of these explanations are given so clearly so that anyone will be able to understand these various difficult points as they are called, of the treatise.  This is the first time that a complete and clear explanation of this treatise and its difficult points has appeared in English.

The book contains translations of the following texts:
Grammar, “The Application of Gender Signs” by Thumi Sambhota
“A Mirror Which Reveals the Difficult Points”, A Short Statement of the Essential Meaning of The Application of Gender Signs by Yangchen Drubpay Dorje
“A Golden Key of Knowledge”, Commentary to A Mirror that Reveals the Difficult Points of ‘The Application of Gender Signs’ by Yangchen Drupbpay Dorje
“Supreme Expert Situ’s Words”, A Thorough Explanation of the Grammar Shastras of the Language of the Snowy Land, The Thirty and Application of Gender Signs by Ngulchu Dharmabhadra (PART II about the Application of Gender Signs only)
The Essence of the Elegant “Thorough Explanation”, The Literal Aspect of the Snowy Land’s Grammar Shastras, The Thirty and Application of Gender Signs by Khenpo Ngedon Jamyang (PART II about the Application of Gender Signs only)
Download Tibetan texts in TibetD format: not yet available.
   

TitleThe Great Living Tree Grammars
Sub-titleBeginner’s Tibetan Grammar Texts by Yangchen Drubpay Dorje and Tony Duff
AuthorTony Duff
Details102 pages, 5.5" X 8.5", US$20, available in e-book (PDF) format
ISBNpaper book 978-9937-572-32-3, e-book 978-9937-572-31-6
TextsTibetan texts in Tibetan script included (see listing below)

book cover This book contains a pair of Tibetan grammar texts that are always used together.  Together, they are the beginner’s level grammar that has been used for teaching Tibetan grammar to Tibetans both inside and outside of Tibet for over 150 years.  The first text is a very short text that was written for ease of memorization.  The second text gives some explanation of the first so that it can be more clearly understood.  The pair of texts only cover Thumi Sambhota’s first grammar text, The Thirty Verses; they do not cover the other text called Application of Gender Signs.

To make these texts clearer, the author has written a third text in the series.  The third text adds to the series very venerable Tibetan texts of the series, providing guidance on the meaning of the first two texts written in easy-to-understand English that makes the two Tibetan texts much easier to follow.

This book is an ideal way for beginners to discover what is in a Tibetan grammar text and to see how Tibetans learn their own grammar.  For those wanting something more advanced there are other books on grammar available below.  A really thorough explanation of everything contained in any of these books can be found in the Standard Tibetan Grammar Volume I, The Thirty Verses of Minister Thumi mentioned above.  The two Tibetan texts in this book are included in that book, so if you prefer to purchase the Standard Tibetan grammar volume I, you will not need to purchase this book.  We have published this separately for those who would like to have a simple Tibetan grammar text at an inexpensive price without long explanations.

The book contains translations of the following texts:
“The Great Living Tree”, The Essence of Thonmi’s Fine Explanation The Thir­ty
“The Fine Explanation Great Living Tree”, The Clarifier of the Meaning of The Essence of “The Thirty”
 
An additional text written for the series by Tony Duff is included:
“The Guidance Great Living Tree”, A Guide to Yangchen Drubpay Dorje’s Great Living Tree Texts
Download Tibetan texts in TibetD format: not yet available.
   

TitleSitu’s Words
Sub-titleA Medium to Advanced Level Tibetan Grammar Following the System of Situ’s Great Commentary by Ngulchu Dharmabhadra
AuthorTony Duff
Details174 pages, 5.5" X 8.5", US$30, available in e-book (PDF) format
ISBNpaper book 978-9937-572-34-7, e-book 978-9937-572-33-0
TextsTibetan texts in Tibetan script included (see listing below)

book cover Situ Chokyi Jungnay wrote a large commentary to Tibetan grammar that became a standard amongst learned Tibetans.  However, it is very complicated and not easy to understand.  Ngulchu Dharmabhadra was a master grammarian who followed Situ Chokyi Jungnay’s approach to grammar and who saw that a text with the meaning of Situ’s great grammar commentary but without all the difficult argument was needed.  Therefore, he wrote the text here and called it "Situ’s Words".  It is an excellent text for those who want something more than a beginner’s text but who do not need all the complexities that come in large tomes on Tibetan grammar.  After Ngulchu Dharmabhadra had completed this work, he told his nephew cum student that there was a need for a beginner’s level Tibetan grammar text that ordinary Tibetans could easily learn from, and told him to write the text.  The result was the "Great Living Tree" pair of texts mentioned just above.

This text has good explanations and there are extensive footnotes by the translator.  However, if you want an even more thorough explanation of the subjects in the text, you should purchase the Standard Tibetan Grammars mentioned above.  You would need to purchase both of them to get this complete text because the first volume of the Standard Tibetan Grammars contains only the first half of Situ’s words (the part that explains Thumi’s Thirty Verses) and the second volume of the Standard Tibetan Grammars contains only the second half of Situ’s words (the part that explains Thumi’s Application of Gender Signs).

This text is included in those two Standard Grammars so, if you are going to purchase both of them, there is no need to purchase this text.  We have published this separately for those who would like to have a complete, medium-level Tibetan grammar text without the expense of both of the above volumes with all of the extra material they provide.

The book contains a translation of the following text:
“Supreme Expert Situ’s Words”, A Thorough Explanation of the Grammar Shastras of the Language of the Snowy Land, The Thirty and Application of Gender Signs by Ngulchu Dharmabhadra
Download Tibetan text in TibetD format: not yet available.
   

TitleEssence of the Elegant Thorough Explanation
Sub-titleA Medium Level to Advanced Level Grammar Summarizing Situ’s Great Commentary by Khenpo Ngedon Jamyang
AuthorTony Duff
Details202 pages, 5.5" X 8.5", US$30, available in e-book (PDF) format
ISBNpaper book 978-9937-572-30-9, e-book 978-9937-572-29-3
TextsTibetan texts in Tibetan script included (see listing below)

book coverSitu Chokyi Jungnay wrote a large commentary to Tibetan grammar that became a standard amongst learned Tibetans.  However, it is very complicated and not easy to understand.  Ngulchu Dharmabhadra wrote a commentary that followed Situ’s Great Commentary but without all the extra argument.  His book, Situ’s Words, became a standard reference within Tibetan grammar.  Some time later, one of the Khenpos at Karmapa’s seat in Tibet, Khenpo Ngedon Jamyang, decided to write a similar text.  His text has a little more detail in it than Situ’s Words, which is why we translated it.  However, it was not as popular as Situ’s Words. Like Situ’s Words, this is an excellent text for those who want something more than a beginner’s text but who do not need all the complexities that come in large tomes on Tibetan grammar.  We would recommend purchasing Situ’s Words first and then purchasing this after, if you wanted a little more.

This text has good explanations and there are extensive footnotes by the translator.  However, if you want an even more thorough explanation of the subjects in the text, you should purchase the Standard Tibetan Grammars mentioned above.  You would need to purchase both of them to get this complete text because the first volume of the Standard Tibetan Grammars contains only the first half of Situ’s words (the part that explains Thumi’s Thirty Verses) and the second volume of the Standard Tibetan Grammars contains only the second half of Situ’s words (the part that explains Thumi’s Application of Gender Signs).

This text is included in those two Standard Grammars so, if you are going to purchase both of them, there is no need to purchase this text.  We have published this separately for those who would like to have a complete, medium-level Tibetan grammar text without the expense of both of the above volumes with all of the extra material they provide.

The book contains a translation of the following text:
The Essence of the Elegant “Thorough Explanation”, The Literal Aspect of the Snowy Land’s Grammar Shastras, The Thirty and Application of Gender Signs by Khenpo Ngedon Jamyang
Download Tibetan text in TibetD format: not yet available.
   

TitleApplication of Gender Signs Clarified
Sub-titleAdvanced Tibetan Grammars by Ngulchu Dharmabhadra and Yangchen Drubpay Dorje
AuthorTony Duff
Details142 pages, 5.5" X 8.5", US$30, available in e-book (PDF) format
ISBNpaper book 978-9937-572-28-6, e-book 978-9937-572-27-9
TextsTibetan texts in Tibetan script included (see listing below)

book cover
A set of two texts by Yangchen Druppay Dorje which exclusively deal with Thumi Sambhota’s sixth treatise called The Application of Gender Signs.  The first text is a summary meant to be suitable for memorization and the second text is a word by word explanation of the summary which treats the various topics of Thumi’s treatise in depth.  The two texts are the most popular texts in use these days for studying this material.

Ample notes have been added to clarify the many difficult points of the texts.  In addition, the Tibetan texts in Tibetan script have been included for those who would like to study grammar in depth.

Both of these texts are included in the Standard Grammar Volume II displayed above so, if you are going to purchase that, there is no need to purchase this book.  We have published the Tibetan texts separately in this book for those who would like to have a complete, advanced-level Tibetan grammar text without the expense of the Standard Grammars and all of the extra material they provide.

The book contains translations of the following texts:
“A Mirror Which Reveals the Difficult Points”, A Short Statement of the Essential Meaning of The Application of Gender Signs by Yangchen Drubpay Dorje
“A Golden Key of Knowledge”, Commentary to A Mirror that Reveals the Difficult Points of ‘The Application of Gender Signs&lsquo by Yangchen Drupbpay Dorje
Download Tibetan texts in TibetD format: not yet available.