November 17, 2017


I have suspended my speculations in my Philologia Tibetica for a while mainly owing to a sea of activities. I see the wisdom of śrāvaka mendicant expected to be of “few objectives and of few activities” (don nyung ba bya ba nyung ba). They were “of few objectives and of few activities” but were obviously more efficient and more successful in their aspirations. This must have been the wisdom of the Buddha. My actual point is not this. I am being distracted. My colleague, Dr. Heimbel, is confronted with a problem while pursuing his current research. That is, one of his sources allude to the expression rmig pa skam po. If we are dishonest and wish to smuggle in our “non-translation” as “translation,” we would say that of course it means “dry hoof/hooves” and would not dwell on it any more. But contextually, it would not make any sense to leave it at “dry hoof/hooves.” Perhaps “a dry-hoof animal” is an animal whose hooves are not split, like those of a horse.” There must be a Sanskrit word behind it because it is found in the Vinaya. If we look for khura in MW, we find that one of the meanings is “a sort of perfume (dried shellfish shaped like a hoof).” ”Perfume” is out of question but I wonder if it means here “dried shellfish shaped like a hoof.” The hooves of horses may be considered “dry” as they are not split (and thus can even be nailed for mounting horse-shoes) as opposed to the hooves of cows. But possibly here rmig pa skam po may have simply been a metaphorical word for “dried shellfish.” This is a pure speculation. Sanskritists might be able come to our rescue. Any insight on this would be appreciated by me as well as by Dr. Heimbel.

October 23, 2017

Factitive Verbs in Tibetan?

Prof. Wezler notes (Wezler 1994: 178, n. 13) that there is such as a thing as “factitive Bahuvrīhi (a term introduced by J. Schindler for Vedic compunds like vipravīra = vīrān viprān kṛṇvant).” The word factitive is said to be from modern Latin factitivus, formed irregularly from Latin factitare, frequentative of facere ‘do, make.’ My interest here is if we have factitive verbs in Tibetan. But let us see know factitive is understood. One dictionary states “(of a verb) having a sense of causing a result and taking a complement as well as an object, as in he appointed me captain.” Another explains factitive as “designating or of a verb that expresses the idea of making, calling, or thinking something to be of a certain character, using a noun, pronoun, or adjective as a complement to its direct object (e.g. make the dress short, elect him mayor).” But would factitive not be the same as or similar to causative? A grammarian online explains “factitive verbs and causative verbs” (in English) as follows:

Factitive verbs are verbs that make or render one thing into something else. Such verbs take two objects, one a direct object and the other a predicate object—someone makes something something else, e.g. “Let’s paint the barn red” or “Studying grammar makes me ill.” Factitive verbs include verbs of making, rendering, calling, naming, nominating, etc. Example: “They call me Ishmael.” Notice that these verbs may also be passive: “He was elected president.” Note that a verb of motion can be used with a cognate object to form a factitive, as in “to fly an airplane” = “to make an airplane fly”, “to walk the dog” = “to make the dog walk.”

Causative verbs have been explained as follows: “Verbs such as “have,” “make,” “get,” “help,” “let,” “allow,” “force,” “cause,” etc. can be used with the complementary infinitive to show that the subject has caused someone to do something, as in: “I had him take out the garbage;” “I made him take it out;” “I got him to take it out;” “I let him take it out;” etc.

In sum, it seems that a factive verb “makes X into a Y (i.e. a noun)” whereas a causative verb “makes X to do Y (infinitive verb)” or “causes X to happen.”

An example of causative verb in Tibetan would be ’jug (as in ’gror ’jug “make/allow/permit/compel [someone] to go” and byed du ’jug “make/allow/permit/compel [someone] to do”). Note that both ’gro and byed are autonomous verbs. With a heteronomous verb (e.g. na ba),  it would be nar ’jug “to make [someone] sick” or “to cause someone to become sick.”

Perhaps there are many examples of factitive verbs in Tibetan. Some examples that come to my mind are: dmangs bu rgyal khrir ’khod (“to place a commoner boy to the royal throne”) or rgyal por mnga’ gsol (“to enthrone [someone] as the king”). Perhaps also verbs such as ’bebs in lta ba gtan la ’bebs (lit. “to bring down the view to the hilt” = “to establish the view”) is factitive.

But is “factitive Bahuvrīhi” in Tibetan possible? I do not know. Compounds in Tibetan are any way not always identifiable or distinct as such although short compounds such as lha byin/sbyin (devadatta)—contrasted with lhas byin/sbyin—are.

May 16, 2017

Towards a Typology of Abbreviations in Tibetan Literary Culture

One can observe various types of abbreviation or contraction in Tibetan literary culture. Abbreviations or contractions can be of titles of works, names of persons, poly-syllabic words, and so on. Some of them are terse, apt, and convenient; some idiosyncratic and bizarre. Most of these are intuitive and thus require no separate list of abbreviations or contractions. Here I put down some random thoughts relevant to the topic. (§1) The most common type of abbreviation is perhaps of long titles of works such of the rDzogs pa chen po’i sngon ’gro’i khrid yig kun tu bzang po’i bla ma dgyes pa’i zhal lung. This could be abbreviated simply as Zhal lung, if there is no risk of being mistaken with other titles such as the gSang bdag zhal lung. If there is a risk, then better abbreviate the title as Kun bzang bla ma’i zhal lung. It is long but still much shorter than the actual title. Such abbreviated titles are usually not given by the authors and are thus simply popular titles or scholarly jargon. For Tibetan scholars, such titles are intuitive. For Tibetan titles, one should read the article on Tibetan titles by Orna Almogi. (§2) The next type of abbreviation or contraction is what I call “orthographic/graphic abbreviation,” that is, what is known as b/skung yig. These can be justifiably called “orthographic/graphic abbreviation” insofar as no phonemes have been abbreviated or contracted but only graphemes. For example, bkra shis is abbreviated as bkris, but one is always expected to pronounce bkra shis. Orthographic/graphic abbreviations are actually said to be impermissible in important documents, which would include the bKa’ ’gyur and bsTan ’gyur, but the fact that the bsTan ’gyur gser bris ma—the Golden dGa’-ldan edition of  the bsTan ’gyur—abounds in b/skung yig suggests that economization of resources such as gold and paper played a role. Indeed orthographic/graphic abbreviation would save much space, time, and resource. (§2) A sub-type of orthographic/graphic abbreviation would be a kind of contraction where numerical figures are used (in combination with alphabetic letters) as parts of words or phrases. A common example would be 4in for bzhin or gyur 1 for gyur cig. We see here the preference of sound over sense. I suspect that such conventions were implemented by not all too educated scribes. Nonetheless, the graphic abbreviation is not counterintuitive and any sensible reader would tolerate it with a certain sense of amusement. (§3) Usually Tibetan literary culture does not use abbreviations using letters (e.g. something similar to USA). But certainly syllables are used. For examples, rgyab or srib (verso) is abbreviated as ba, and mdun or nyin (recto) as na. This is probably because Tibetan is a syllabic language. In other words, it is not possible to abbreviate by using, for instance, pure Tibetan consonants. Interestingly, in the cases of rgyab/srib and mdun/nyin, it is not ming gzhi (core syllables) that have been abbreviated but the postscripts (rjes ’jug), which have made into syllables by adding the vowel a. (§4) One should also compare Tibetan syllabic truncations of titles such as Byang sa for Byang chub sems dpa’i sa with syllabic truncations of Sanskrit titles such as BoBhū for Bodhisattvabhūmi. (§4) Abbreviations in Tibetan are made not only by selecting or omitting certain syllables but also by blending certain letters and thereby forming new syllables. For examples, pha rol tu phyin pa is not abbreviated as pha phyin but rather as phar phyin; shes rab kyi pha rol tu phyin pa not as shes phyin but rather as sher phyin; nye bar sbas pa not as nye sbas but rather as nyer sbas; rdo rje dbang phyug not as rdo dbang but rather as rdor dbang; shes rab kyi dbang not as shes dbang but rather as sher dbang, and so on. (§5) Another way to abbreviate a group of items having a certain fixed number is to form a cluster of items such as rTsa bzhi ’jug gsum for rTsa ba shes rab, bZhi brgya pa, and dBu ma ’jug pa and sKa-cog-zhang-gsum for sKa-ba dPal-brtsegs, Cog-ro Klu’i-rgyal-mtshan, and Zhang Ye-shes-sde. This is one of my favorites. The economy of words and convenience of such a convention seem obvious. (§6) There maybe many more ways of abbreviating Tibetan titles, names, and expressions.

May 12, 2017


Probably some of the readers might have read in some Tibetan sources that “Ru” has been used as a kind of a title, say, in place of “Ācārya.” See, for examples, the Klong chen chos ’byung (Lhasa: Bod-yig-dpe-rnying-dpe-skrun-khang, 2013 [reprint of the first edition 1991], p. 318): Ru ’Jam-dpal-bshes-gnyen, Ru Padma, and so on. Note that “Ru” is also used with Tibetan authors, for example, Ru bKa’[= sKa]-brtsegs. When I first encountered such a usage, I was totally clueless. (a) Recently, however, Ms. Mengyan Li, one of my doctoral students who is writing her dissertation on the history of rDo-rje-phur-pa cycle of Tantric teachings in Tibet, suggested that “Ru” seems to be an abbreviation of “Guru.” This possibility did not occur to me and I think one should give Ms. Li the due credit for coming up with this idea. (b) Could “Ru” have been an abbreviation of Ru-dpon? It is true that a ru dpon or ru sna is military term and can mean something like “the head/leader of a regiment” and hence a kind of a military general. But possibly ru dpon may reflect a Tibetan equivalent of ācārya or a phase of the Tibetan attempt to make sense of the Sanskrit word ācārya, which then later came to be rendered into Tibetan as slob dpon. Can it be that, at least initially, Tibetans understood both ru dpon and slob dpon as some kind of a “guide,” “instructor,” or “trainer”? Incidentally a rectangular ruler used by traditional Bhutanese architects is called a slob dpon. A search in the OTDO reveals ru dpon but not slob dpon. Possibly also the term slob dpon was created (somewhat later) by Tibetans to render ācārya, and slob dpon seems to literally mean “an instructing or training leader/master.” (c) Dan Martin, however, has asked if there is any reason (see below), why “Ru” could not have been an abbreviation of “Rudra.” Initially, I have claimed that contextually this seems very unlikely and that it is very unlikely that Ācārya Mañjuśrīmitra would be titled “Rudra.” But now I am reconsidering this possibility. Mr. Nicola Barjeta, a student of mine, points out that according to MW (s.v. rudra), rudra is also a “name of various teachers and authors (also with ācāryakavibhaṭṭaśarmansūri …).” It is, however, not quite clear to me what MW actually means here. It would be interesting for me only if rudra is interchangeable with ācārya, which does not seem to be what MW means. The PW has just “Nomen proprium verschiedener Männer.” The fact that “Rudra” can occur as a Nomen proprium seems to be of no relevance to the present question.

For fun, consider the following compounds:  sde dpon, dmag dpon, khri dpon, mda’ dpon, khyim dpon, bza’ dpon, khrims dpon, skyor dponrdzong dpongsol dpongzim/gzims dpon, mchod dpongar dpon’go dpon, tsho dponmnyan dpongrong dponded dponlding dponsgar dponsger/sgos dponsgo dponbrgya dponbcu dponchibs dpon’cham dponja dponjag dponjus dponrje dponmgo dpongter dpondrag dpondrang dponnor dponyul dpontshong dponpar dponlas dponspyi dponphogs dponrtsis dponphru dponbrang dponzong dponmdzo dponmdzod dponzhal dponzhi dpongsol dpongzhas dponbzo dpong.yos dponlag dponshe dponsho dponso dpon, and so on. The list would be, by no means, complete.