Knowledge of the Classical Tibetan Language is a fundamental requisite for the study of Buddhist and other Himalayan thought and practice through the ages, not only in the Tibetan Plateau area, but in the whole of south, Central and East Asia. Through its very technical and specialised medium, a wealth of knowledge, wisdom and practical techniques of remarkable profundity is transmitted, particularly in the field of the ‘science of the mind’, which can potentially be of great benefit for humans in the modern age.
The present geopolitical and economic situation highly endanger the continued transmission of knowledge of this basic irreplaceable cognitive instrument. In particular, it has become more and more difficult for Tibetans themselves to study this aspect of their culture, and in the western academic world, increasing lack of funding has caused many universities to shut down their Tibetan Language related programs, curricula and research projects, as they are considered marginal.
The STLT Online Classical Tibetan Project will be structured in three parts:
1 - Multimedia Classical Tibetan learning system
2 - Interactive exercise and training platform
3 - Multilingual dictionary of Classical Tibetan Quotations and text
The medium language will initially be English, but versions in Spanish, Russian, Chinese and Italian are planned.
This part is designed to be a multimedia (text, audio and video) Classical Tibetan course starting from the Tibetan writing system up to the complete explanation of its grammar. It is a tech savvy and interactive version of a traditional grammar book. It is designed to closely interact with part II.
This is the most innovative part. In this environment students can interact with the system to attempt various analytic approaches to a given sentence, typically, but not necessarily, taken from part I. The system will be open to analyse any input unicode Tibetan sentence, although not in the depth possible with sentences taken from part I. The peculiar monosyllable-based structure of the Classical Tibetan Language allows for a clear distinction between (a) semantic words and (b) syllables with an exclusively grammatical function. Semantic syllables (a), mostly polysemic in nature, can be tagged in the system in order to select the correct meaning for a given context. On the other hand, syllables with an exclusively grammatical function (b), the main focus of the system, also mostly posses a variety of functionalities. The system will allow the user to select the function he deems correct among a variety of others. His choice will have precise consequences on other parts of the sentence which depend on it. These will be indicated by colours and other devices and will imply that the other grammatical participants in the text will restrict the range of their possible functions on the base of previous choices. This analytical approach, based on an if/then structure, will be gradually reversible and the user will thus be able to identify interpretational mistakes and allowed alternative readings at any given time of his work. Part II will be interfaced with part III in order to enable users to cross check possible similar grammatical constructions, understand difficult and rare words and investigate complex syntactical structures.
The multilingual dictionary of Classical Tibetan Quotations and text excerpts will be a tool of great value for anyone interested in Classical Tibetan texts. The primary reason for that is to be found in the nature of Tibetan Literature. Due to its highly technical nature, the meaning of words in Classical Tibetan are extremely context related. Entire texts, passages, sentences or individual words can be interpreted very differently depending on the literary genre in which they are used and the approach and background of the reader. Currently available dictionaries (Tibetan-english and other languages) very rarely contextualise the definitions of words they provide. The multilingual dictionary of Classical Tibetan Quotations and text excerpts will be a very flexible tool based on an ever increasing database of text excerpts and quotations from easily identifiable sources (when possible, linked directly to their electronic online versions, such as those present on tbrc.org) displayed along with authoritative translation/s from selected authors or published books. The source of the translation/s will also be precisely indicated and linked to. The system will allow for translation/s in various languages, such as Spanish, Russian, Chinese, French, Italian etc., both directly from Tibetan as well as derived from the english translation. This part of the project is highly collaborative and will avail itself of a large number of collaborators around the world. Its use will be open and free of charge, but input and editing permissions will be moderated. A ‘comment section’ will allow for comments and discussions on individual quotes.