Wikipedia:Naming conventions (Tibetan)

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The purpose of this page is to offer some guidance to Wikipedia articles when titling articles or referring to persons, places, and things whose names are originally from Tibetic languages or written in the Tibetan alphabet. These include names in Old Tibetan or in any of the languages and dialects descended from it: Standard Tibetan (including the language of Ü-Tsang), Khams, Amdo, Dzongkha, Sikkimese, Ladakhi, Balti, and Burig.

Under Wikipedia's article naming policy, article names should be based primarily on reliable sources and supported by consensus. Article names should be determined on the basis of recognizability, naturalness, precision, conciseness, and consistency. Alternative names are best suited as redirects and as content within the appropriately named article. Instances of alternative names and spellings, when required, should be piped to appropriately named articles.

General guideline[edit]

Use the conventional spelling most familiar to English-language readers. To the extent it can be established, this is the primary romanisation. A primary romanisation is normally the most common conventional spelling of whichever instance of the name is most widely known. This guideline favors primary romanisations that are transcription-based romanisations, as opposed to transliterations. Because accepted systematic transliterations of any Tibetan language may be unrecognizable by English speakers, such transliterations are discouraged. Although many varying romanisations of a single term or often exist, a primary romanisation should be determinable on the strength and number of available English language reliable sources.

Generally speaking, any person or place which is mentioned in Wikipedia and in particular any that is the subject of a Wikipedia article should have been mentioned in at least one other reputable source. An editor can always simply use the spelling that is used in that source. If the only sources available that mention a particular name are in Chinese or Japanese, it may be necessary to use transliterations from those languages, but spellings used in English-language writings, when possible, are preferred. If the only sources available use the Wylie spelling, it should be used until a suitable phonetic spelling is identified.

Avoid transliterations[edit]

In general, using conventional spellings requires avoiding the Wylie transliteration or other precise transliterations of the actual Tibetan spelling, especially as article names. Tibetan spelling includes many letters which have become silent or otherwise have a dramatically different sound in the most widespread modern spoken forms.

For example, the personal name of the current Dalai Lama is spelled བསྟན་འཛིན་རྒྱ་མཚོ་ (bstan-’dzin rgya-mtsho) but the b, the s, the , the r, and, for some speakers, the m have become silent. Conventional English spellings most often exclude these silent letters and make other modifications reflective of a modern pronunciation. There may be some exceptions in which the Wylie spelling is the conventional; perhaps Stog Palace is an example, although that is a location in Ladakh and may reflect local pronunciation, which is not at all at odds with these naming conventions.

Wylie spellings should be included in Wikipedia, especially when they disambiguate phonetic spellings; they are encyclopedic information, but not preferable article titles. Like internal links, they should be used when necessary, generally when a Tibetan name is first used, and should not burden prose more than the information is worth.

Use consistent spellings[edit]

Unless there is a particularly compelling reason to do otherwise, instances of the same name or term in different articles should use the same spelling. This will normally be the primary romanisation (e.g. kabney). Within direct quotations, historical references, and other reasonable uses of varied orthography and naming, links should simply be piped. For instance, this means Shigatse (not Xigazê) and Chamdo, Chamdo County, and Chamdo Prefecture (not Qamdo County and Qamdo Prefecture). There may be some cases where it is difficult to determine whether two subjects are named after each other or simply happen to have similar names; these will have to be decided on a case-by-case basis.

This guideline also encourages orthography consistent with the primary romanisation within the same article, notwithstanding instances of a common term within an alternatively named article. For example, even if Xigazê were independently notable such to merit an article name, references to modern Shigatse should still be named as such.

Minor variations[edit]

If there are several common spellings of a term with only minor variations between them, such minor variations do not indicate a lack of primary romanisation. One of the variants should be used as the primary romanisation. For instance, bka’-brgyud can be spelled Kagyu, Kargyu, Kagyud, Kagyü, Kargyü, or Kagyüd – the first spelling is the primary romanisation, however its variants may be mentioned when appropriate.

Tibetan personal names may show equal variation but are treated differently (see below).

No requirement to use a particular dialect[edit]

There is no requirement that a conventional spelling reflect the pronunciation of any particular Tibetan dialect. They may be based on pronunciations from Lhasa, Tsang, Amdo, Kham, etc. They may include letters implying a somewhat archaic pronunciation, as in Chöd or Chagdud, where the final "d" is written although, per Tournadre and Sangda Dorje, it has been reduced to [ʔ] in Standard Tibetan. In practice, some conventional spellings need not bear any strict relationship to anyone's pronunciation.

Personal names[edit]

Many Tibetan personal names show wide but minor variation in their romanisations. For example ’phrin-las can be found written as Trinley, Thinley, or Trinlay; these spellings are also close enough that they can be considered variants of a single name. Personal names should be spelled according to the preference of the subject, and otherwise as supported by the weight of reliable sources.

Personal names in official media[edit]

For PRC political officials and appointees, the spelling of an individual's name in official media can be considered an example of that person's preferences for spelling his or her own name.

For example, the name of former TAR governor byams-pa phun-tshogs is often spelled Qiangba Puncog in state media, even though this spelling apparently combines his Tibetan name, Qamba Püncog, with his Chinese name, Xiàngbā Píngcuò. Another example, with a more straightforwardly Tibetan name, is Gyaincain Norbu.

Personal name components[edit]

Many Tibetan personal names use a fairly small set of traditional names in various combinations. Most Tibetans do not use family names. Therefore, even if it is not possible to determine the conventional spelling for a particular person's name, one might still be able to determine a conventional spelling for each of the components of his or her name.

For example, in making reference to an obscure historical person named ’phrin-las ngag-dbang, an author might be unable to determine any conventional English spelling for this name in reference to him specifically. However, for the many individuals named ’phrin-las, this name is most commonly written "Trinley" or "Thinley," and for the many individuals named ngag-dbang, this name is most commonly written "Ngawang." Thus, either "Trinley Ngawang" or "Thinley Ngawang" could be an appropriate primary romanisation for this name. If any reliable source providing a primary romanisation is available, the name should conform to that spelling.

Place names[edit]

Place names with qualifiers such as "county" or "town"[edit]

In general, if the subject of the article is a particular settlement (city, town, or village), then the title should not include an additional descriptor; otherwise, the descriptor should be included.

It may sometimes be unclear whether to use a qualifier such as County or Town after a place name. It's worth noting that Chinese municipalities are styled according to aggregate population, and may not correspond to readers' notions of a geographic area. For instance, many shì (county-level or prefecture-level cities) are in fact vast areas consisting primarily of rural land; this is less common in Tibetan areas than in the rest of China. Some xiàn (counties) are rural areas or contain a mixture of rural land and small towns, but others are primarily urban. Most zhèn (towns) are, as the translation implies, minor settlements within a county, but Tanggulashan Town is a zhèn that is in fact a large expanse of land sparsely populated by Tibetan nomads.

None of the Tibetan Autonomous Prefectures or the Tibetan Autonomous Counties are individual settlements, so those titles should always include the full description: for example, Kardze Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture or Golog Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture. In cases where a government unit is named after a significant traditional region which existed beforehand, it would probably be ideal to have separate articles about the region and the government unit: for example, Ngari, Puhrang, Lhoka, Derge, Golog. However, in most cases, these separate articles have not yet been created.

Place names in Tibetan and Chinese[edit]

Articles about places in the Tibetan areas of the People's Republic of China may have titles in Tibetan or in Chinese, depending on which name is more common in English. In cases where it is unclear which to use, benefit of the doubt should be given to the name preferred by the local population. For instance, Nicolas Tournadre writes that the Chinese names for both Shannan Prefecture and Kangding are used more commonly by Tibetans than are the equivalent Tibetan terms.

Place names in Tibetan Pinyin[edit]

With regard to the names of places in Tibet, for many more obscure locations, our main sources will usually be government publications or UN maps, which tend to use Tibetan Pinyin spellings. Therefore, in many cases, those will be the spellings used for those place names.

See also[edit]