Item description for An Introduction to Classical Tibetan by Stephen Hodge...
Classical Tibetan, with origins dating to the seventh century, is the language found in a huge corpus of surviving Tibetan, mostly Buddhist, texts; native Tibetans still employ this language, today, when writing on religious, medical or historical subjects.
This book aims to provide a rapid introduction to the main elements of Classical Tibetan, so that students may begin to access for themselves the vast amount of available material. While designed for guided study, the book will also be of use to those who tackle the language on their own. Steady study over approximately six months should result in an understanding of most grammatical features and allow the student to read the simpler prose texts.
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Stephen Hodge is an ordained Buddhist monk who followed up his language studies at London University with advanced theological study in Japan. He currently teaches Buddhism at the Buddhist Society in London and at Birbeck College, London University.
Reviews - What do customers think about An Introduction to Classical Tibetan?
A clear and concise manual of Classical Tibetan Feb 12, 2006
I'm still in the very early stages of studying Tibetan and am no expert on the subject, but, having looked at a number of grammars and tutorials covering Classical Tibetan, I feel that Stephen Hodge's _An Introduction to Classical Tibetan_ is definitely one of the best ones available in English, if not the best.
It is relatively short, consisting of fifteen lessons (about 100 pages), ten readings (50 pages), keys to exercises and readings (15 pages), and a Tibetan-English glossary covering all the exercises and readings (30 pages). The lessons generally cover two or three grammatical topics and usually include all the important things that the author is going to say about them, so you know where to look for information about a given topic. The presentations are clear and concise, and are illustrated with examples evidently derived from actual Classical Tibetan texts (though no citations are given). The exercises mostly consist of sentences or short passages in Tibetan to be translated into English with the aid of the lesson vocabulary and the glossary. The readings are taken from range of Buddhist texts, and offer a mix of narrative and expository forms. Both are accompanied by brief notes explaining and/or translating difficult phrases. As already noted, full translations of all the exercises and readings are given in a key at the end of the book.
The book begins with a description of the Tibetan writing system and a simplified guide to pronunciation (approximating to Standard Modern Tibetan as spoken in Lhasa). The book uses Tibetan characters throughout in the exercises and readings, but uses Latin transcription (Wylie) everywhere else, including in the grammatical discussion, examples, lesson vocabulary, notes to readings, and glossary. Some people may object to this, but I was OK with it, the more so as the Tibetan font used is small and a little murky in some of the more complex characters. I would add that, even though the items in the vocabularies and glossary are in Latin transcription, the order is the conventional Tibetan one (which is explained at the beginning of the glossary).
The grammatical discussion was simple and to the point and focused on the actual facts of the language as opposed to any kind of theory. I thought the treatment of particles was especially strong, and covered the forms of the particles where they varied (which is the case for maybe a dozen items) as well as their meanings and usage. The treatment of nouns, adjectives, numbers, and verbs was also good, as was that of basic syntax.
If there is one thing that I would have liked more attention to have been paid to, it is the formation of the four verb tense forms (present, past, future and imperative). The author says in his main section on the verb (Lesson VII, p. 39), "A full discussion of the patterns to be encountered is quite beyond the scope of this course, and would also be an impossible burden for the student to learn." He gives about twenty example verbs, which he classifies into 4-stem, 3-stem, 2-stem and 1-stem forms; and then later, at the end of the last lesson, he gives a single table of 250 verbs in Tibetan alphabetical order. The table is useful, but I think he could have offered, without getting into too much complexity, a more precise classification of the forms that better reflected the main patterns of prefixes (`-, b-, g-/d- or nothing) and suffixes (-s, -d or nothing), along with perhaps some basic rules about what root initials and finals allow the various prefixes and suffixes (for example, can't have b- before p-, ph,- b- or m-, can't have -s after -d, -n, -r or -l, and so on). A little more information on da-drag (traces of a no longer written -d suffix) would have also been welcome, thought this may truly be too advanced a matter for an introductory textbook.
As its title indicates, the book is concerned exclusively with Classical Tibetan, and does not discuss Modern Tibetan even in passing. But for anyone who has any interest in Classical Tibetan, be it for its own sake, for the light it sheds on Modern Tibetan, or simply as one of the world's great literary languages, this book offers a great overview as well as a nice, self-contained framework for self-study.
Note: As of the time of writing the book is in print and not hard to get. I ordered it new from a US seller of Tibetan interest books listed in this site's new and used network and got it in under a week.
Deep and simple Jun 14, 2004
Self-study on Wilson's useful and honourable manual acquainted me with the basics of the Tibetan language, but before I got hold of this magic booklet I never felt, as I do now, that a real grasp of classical Tibetan was within my reach. Though I have never met him, I am grateful to Stephen Hodge for writing this book.
blessedly slim, grammatically thorough & well-organized Feb 1, 2002
A blessedly slim, grammatically thorough & well-organized introductory text so elegant it can be used in classes or self-study. Beautifully printed, indexed, and designed. Introduction to Classical Tibetan by Stephen Hodge was assigned as a primary text at UC-Berkeley for beginning scriptural Tibetan. When first learning particles, I used to carry it with me everywhere. It's marvelously portable, and due to excellent indexing even a beginner can find specific grammatical items easily -- even when reading on the bus! When I advanced into higher classes, I kept Hodge in my backpack as a handy reference. It's still on my desktop today. If you are learning classical Tibetan independently, outside the university, this is a wonderful starter book.
The current best textbook for the study of classical Tibetan Apr 5, 1999
Hodge's book is by far the finest that I've seen for beginners of Literary Tibetan. The manner in which he has arranged the text is ingenious. It is a small book, but I think you learn more from it than from Joe Wilson's hefty "Translating Buddhism from Tibetan." Also, it's very hard to find, in the first year Tibetan class I took, we couldn't get a hold of the text, so we all had to use photocopies. For colloquial Tibetan, I recommend the "Fluent Tibetan" series, but they are really no substitute for a class.