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Amdo Tibetan phrasebook

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The Om mani padme hum mantra in Tibetan

Amdo Tibetan, a set of mutually intelligible Tibetan dialects, is the main language of Amdo, namely the Tibetan-speaking regions of Qinghai and Gansu. Nomads in the Sichuan prefectures of Ngawa and Garzê also speak Amdo, while the town folk, many of whom well conversant in Chinese, speak rGyalrong, Kham Tibetan and other highly internally-divergent languages. In the exile also, Amdo-born people abound. They usually speak Amdo in addition to Standard Tibetan, English, Hindi, Chinese and other languages.

Pronunciation guide[edit]

Spoken Amdo is quite close to Old Tibetan, the model of the written language common to all culturally Tibetan regions. For this reason, the written form is given in the Wylie transliteration, a letter-for-letter rendering of the Tibetan script to Latin.

Plain Vowels[edit]

Tibetan script Wylie English approximation Name
a ah
ཨི i uh guh-guh
ཨུ u uh zhap-chuh
ཨེ e eh/ey ndruhng-eh
ཨོ o aw nah-raw

Note that the vowels "i" and "u" have merged in the vague schwa sound "uh".

Final consonants and suffixes[edit]

In the Written Language, a syllable can end in any of the consonant in g, ng, d, n, b, m, r, l, s. Some of the consonants can be followed by an additional -s, making: -gs, -ngs, -bs, -ms.

-ng, -m, -n is exactly as in English. -r is a Scottish rolling r or an American -r (but not changing the vowel as in English!). -g and -b can be pronounced in two ways: hard (-ck, -pp) or soft (-kh/-gh, -v). A final -l and a final -d are pronounced alike, either as "t" or a clear "l". In some places however, "ul" and "il" are pronounced like "oo" and "ee" rather than "uht".

A final -s is lost, so "legs" is pronounced "lack", not "lacks". Most importantly, if the -s follows the vowel (as, es, ...), the vowel sound is changed into "ee". "dus" (time, when) is read "dee", not "duhs", for example.

"ing" and "ang" are pronounced alike, as "ang" or "uhng"; while "ung" is pronounced "oong".

The genitive suffix (like "'s" in English) "-'i", modifies the vowel sound into "ee", except for a Written "o", which turns into "oo".

Phrase list[edit]

Basics[edit]

Hello. 
bde mo (vdeh-maw) (literally "well")
How are you? 
khyod bde mo yin na (chaw vdeh-maw yuhn-NAH)
Fine, thank you. 
bde mo yin, bde mo yin (vdeh-maw yuhn, vdeh-maw yuhn) (You don't usually say the "thank you" bit)
What is your name? 
khyo'i mying nga chi zer (choo nyuhng-ngah chuh zehr)
My name is ______ . 
ngi mying nga ____ zer ra (nguh nyuhng-ngah _______ zeh-rah)
I can't speak Tibetan [well]. 
nga bod skad [yag po] ma shes. (ngah wot-shkat [yack-poh] ma-shee)

Numbers[edit]

gcig (khchuhck)
gnyis (ghnyee)
gsum (khsuhm)
bzhi (vzhuh)
lnga (rngah)
drug (druhck)
bdun (vduhn)
brgyad (vjat)
dgu (rguh)
10 
bcu (fchuh)

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