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| bsnams nas mnyan yod kyi grong khyer chen por bsod snyoms kyi
| phyir zhugs so, ,de nas bcom ldan 'das mnyan yod kyi grong khyer
| chen por bsod snyoms kyi phyir gshegs nas bsod
| snyoms kyi zhal zas mjug tu gsol te zas kyi bya ba mdzad nas zas
| phyi ma'i bsod snyoms spangs pas, lhung bzed dang chos gos bzhag
| nas zhabs bsil te gdan bshams pa la
| skyil mo krung bcas nas sku drang por bsrang ste dran pa mngon
| du bzhag nas bzhugs so, ,de nas dge slong mang po bcom ldan 'das
| ga la ba der dong ste lhags nas bcom ldan 'das
| kyi zhabs la mgo bos phyag 'tsal te bcom ldan 'das la lan gsum
| bskor ba byas nas phyogs gcig tu 'khod do, ,yang de'i tse tse
| dang ldan pa rab 'byor 'khor de nyid du 'dus
That is a sample of Tibetan in Roman transcription, from the "Diamond
Cutter Sutra" (ca. 500 BC). The full text can be found at
http://worldtrans.org/CyberSangha/findex.html , file COMPLETE/KD0016F.ZIP
I could not find much material about the Tibetan language and its
spelling, not even in our Linguistics Dept. library. (That may give
you an idea of the general level of things down here...). Crystal's
"Encyclopedia of Language" has only a brief note; Comrie's "The
World's Major Languages" omits it altogether (hopefully it will be in
the coming sequel, "The World's Sargeant Languages" 8-).
Anyway, here is all I think I know:
Tibetan is genetically related to the Chinese "dialects", to
Burmese, and to a few other languages of East Asia. It is a
monosyllabic, tonal language; I presume that, like Chinese, is has
no articles, no word inflections (hence no clear-cut lexical
categories), and generally omits the verb "to be".
The Tibetan script is very ancient; it is derived from an old
Indian alphabet, and therefore is somewhat similar to Sanskrit's
Devanagari and modern Hindi scripts. The standard spelling too is
very old, so it is now quite inconsistent with the spoken
I believe that the sample above is not a phonetic transcription,
but only a transliteration of the native spelling into Roman
letters. That would explain the unpronounceable clusters like
"bsk" and "mdz": some of those letters are not sounds, but coded
indications of syllable tone. From indirect evidence, I guess that
many of the word-initial (and possibly word-final) r,b,m,g,s are
silent tone marks.
I would be grateful for any additional information on Tibetan and
its spelling system.
Meanwhile, let me argue the case for Voynichese = Tibetan.
Historically, that theory seem quite possible, since there have been
many European travelers to Tibet, before and after Marco Polo; and
presumably there were many Tibetan travelers to Europe as well.
Although Tibetan had a standard spelling, the reportedly great
distance between spelling and pronunciation could have motivated the
author to invent a new alphabet and spelling. (This motivation would
be much weaker for Arabic, for instance, whose standard spelling would
probably seem quite adequate to anyone who bothered to learn the
As I observed before, the word length distribution and word structure
of the VMS strongly suggest that the "words" are actually syllables,
and threfore that Voynichese is a syllabic language -- which fits
Tibetan as well as Chinese. The lack of discernible grammar and the
frequent word repetitions are at least consistent with that theory.
(Note the three "zas" on line 4, and the "tse tse" on line 11.)
Finally, while I won't be fool enough to propose a mapping from
Tibetan to Voynichese, I will say that the use of prefixed and
suffixed letters to indicate tone, which would seem `natural' to a
Tibetan, could conceivably produce the kind of "word" structure that
we see in the VMS.
All the best,