A Note on Transliterations

A Note on Transliterations

At the time of writing, we have started to incorporate transliterations into many of our translations. This way, not only will the reader be able to comprehend the meaning of the song in English, but will also be able to follow along with the Tibetan through phonetic English renderings. Our hope is that this will allow those who cannot read Tibetan to be able to appreciate the music on a whole other level and, of course, sing along if one so chooses.

This being the case, some clarification is in order. Please be aware that many instances of an "h" being accompanied with another letter indicates that the syllable is aspirated (spoken with the breath); it will not be pronounced like the "th" in the words "the" or "thing" in English, for example. Thus, "tha" and "kha" indicate that these sounds are aspirated, but the first will retain the basic 'T' sound with the addition of it being aspirated. Exceptions to this rule are "cha" and "sha" which are pronounced as they would be in English (although some will be aspirated, but this is difficult to convey in English transliterations).

As many may already be aware, Tibetan language is rich with diversity, particularly with regard to dialects and pronunciation. Therefore, Tibetans from Ütsang, Kham, and Amdo may pronounce the exact same word in distinctly different ways. Therefore, there is no single way to properly and definitively transliterate Tibetan into English. As we here at "Call of the White Crane" are mainly familiar with the Central Tibetan dialect, and also for the sake of mere simplicity and uniformity, we will in general be transliterating into the Ütsang/Lhasa dialect. This may seem problematic--especially since most of Tibetan singers happen to be from Kham or Amdo--however, it should be noted that even though it is transliterated into the Central Tibetan dialect, in general it will still largely resonate with most of what is being sung, with very few instances of undesired audible dissonance between the transliteration and what is being sung.

That being said, we can offer some useful guidelines for those of you who would like to be aware of possible instances of such differences in dialect. One example is the "kya" sound, which exists in the dialects of Central Tibet, but not in Kham or Amdo where it would generally be pronounced as "cha". Thus, for example, the word for 'you', i.e. "khye", would be pronounced as "che" in either Kham or Amdo. Also, there are both low toned syllables for both sound sa and sha--which remain the same pronunciation wise in Central Tibet, but the lower tones will sound more like 'za' and 'zha' in Kham and Amdo. Thus, the verb "to make" is pronounced "so wa" in Central Tibet, but will be pronounced "zo wa" in Kham or Amdo; likewise, the word "other" will be pronounced as "shen" in Central Tibet but as "zhen" in Kham or Amdo. Even some words that are pronounced with a "cha" sound in Central Tibet, will be pronounced as "ja" in Kham and Amdo, and perhaps even more like "sha". The verb "to arise/occur" is a good example of this: in Central Tibet it will be pronounced as "chung wa" yet in Kham or Amdo it is more likely to be prounounced as "jung wa". It is important to remember, however, that the language from Amdo is the most radically different from the other two provinces of Tibet; so much so that it is virtually unintelligible to anyone other than those actually from Amdo. Thus, singers with a heavier Amdo accent may prove much more incompatible with our transliteration style. However, we hope that if our readers are more aware of such differences that they can then reconcile any dissonances for themselves along with a careful listening to the singer's pronunciation.

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