Wylie transliteration

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Template:Contains Tibetan text

File:Turrell Wylie.png
Professor Turrell Wylie in 1979 at University of Washington, Department of Asian Languages and Literature

The Wylie transliteration scheme is a method for transliterating Tibetan script using only the letters available on a typical English language typewriter. It bears the name of Turrell V. Wylie, who described the scheme in an article, A Standard System of Tibetan Transcription, published in 1959.[1] It has subsequently become a standard transliteration scheme in Tibetan studies, especially in the United States.

Any Tibetan language romanization scheme is faced with a dilemma: should it seek to accurately reproduce the sounds of spoken Tibetan, or the spelling of written Tibetan? These differ widely as Tibetan orthography became fixed in the 11th century, while pronunciation continued to evolve, comparable to the English orthography and French orthography, which reflect Late Medieval pronunciation.

Previous transcription schemes sought to split the difference with the result that they achieved neither goal perfectly. Wylie transliteration was designed to precisely transcribe Tibetan script as written, which led to its acceptance in academic and historical studies. It is not intended to represent the pronunciation of Tibetan words.


Simple chart

File:Wylie transliteration.png
Wylie transliteration of Tibetan script.


Template:IPA notice The following chart shows the pronunciation of each consonant:

Template:Abbr Template:Abbr IPA T W IPA T W IPA T W IPA
ka Template:IPA kha Template:IPA ga Template:IPA nga Template:IPA
ca Template:IPA cha Template:IPA ja Template:IPA nya Template:IPA
ta Template:IPA tha Template:IPA da Template:IPA na Template:IPA
pa Template:IPA pha Template:IPA ba Template:IPA ma Template:IPA
tsa Template:IPA tsha Template:IPA dza Template:IPA wa Template:IPA
zha Template:IPA za Template:IPA 'a Template:IPA ya Template:IPA
ra Template:IPA la Template:IPA sha Template:IPA sa Template:IPA
ha Template:IPA a Template:IPA

In Tibetan script, consonant clusters within a syllable may be represented through the use of prefixed or suffixed letters or by letters superscripted or subscripted to the root letter (forming a "stack"). The Wylie system does not normally distinguish these as in practice no ambiguity is possible under the rules of Tibetan spelling. The exception is the sequence gy-, which may be written either with a prefix g or a subfix y. In the Wylie system, these are distinguished by inserting a period between a prefix g and initial y. E.g. གྱང "wall" is gyang, while གཡང་ "chasm" is g.yang.


The four vowel marks (here applied to the base letter ) are transliterated:

ཨི  i ཨུ  u ཨེ  e ཨོ  o

When a syllable has no explicit vowel marking, the letter a is used to represent the default vowel "a" (e.g. ཨ་ = a).


Many previous systems of Tibetan transliteration included internal capitalisation schemes—essentially, capitalising the root letter rather than the first letter of a word, when the first letter is a prefix consonant. Tibetan dictionaries are organized by root letter, and prefixes are often silent, so knowing the root letter gives a better idea of pronunciation. However, these schemes were often applied inconsistently, and usually only when the word would normally be capitalised according to the norms of Latin text (i.e. at the beginning of a sentence). On the grounds that internal capitalisation was overly cumbersome, of limited usefulness in determining pronunciation, and probably superfluous to a reader able to use a Tibetan dictionary, Wylie specified that if a word was to be capitalised, the first letter should be capital, in conformity with Western capitalisation practices. Thus a particular Tibetan Buddhist sect (Kagyu) is capitalised Bka' brgyud and not bKa' brgyud.


Wylie's original scheme is not capable of transliterating all Tibetan-script texts. In particular, it has no correspondences for most Tibetan punctuation symbols, and lacks the ability to represent non-Tibetan words written in Tibetan script (Sanskrit and phonetic Chinese are the most common cases). Accordingly, various scholars have adopted ad hoc and incomplete conventions as needed.

The Tibetan and Himalayan Library at the University of Virginia developed a standard, Extended Wylie Tibetan System or EWTS, that addresses these lacks systematically. It uses capital letters and Latin punctuation to represent the missing characters. Several software systems, including TISE, now use this standard to allow one to type unrestricted Tibetan script (including the full Unicode Tibetan character set) on a Latin keyboard.

Since the Wylie system is not intuitive for use by linguists unfamiliar with Tibetan, a new transliteration system based on the International Phonetic Alphabet has been proposed to replace Wylie in articles on Tibetan historical phonology.[2]

See also

External links

(Some of the following links require installation of Tibetan fonts to display properly)


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www.encyclopediaofbuddhism.org Wylie transliteration