Tibetan is spoken by approximately eight million people, who live across a wide area of Central Asia, including the Tibetan Plateau and the northern Indian subcontinent in Baltistan, India, Ladakh, Nepal, Sikkim, Bhutan, and Western China. The classical Tibetan literary language has served since the eighth century as a major cultural, intellectual, and religious medium for societies across Asia—from the modern European state of Kalmykia at the western extreme to the Chinese capital of Peking at the eastern—and boasts an extensive and fascinating literature encompassing historical, medical, religious, and belletristic works.
While there are at least twenty-five distinct dialects of the modern spoken language, studies at Chicago focus upon the central Tibetan dialect (what is sometimes called “Standard Tibetan”) and the classical literary language. The course of study at the beginning levels lays particular emphasis upon modern colloquial and literary Tibetan, developing good pronunciation and oral communication skills. Upper level courses focus increasingly upon the classical language, developing proficiency in reading literature from a variety of literary genres and eras.
In addition to the language classes, course offerings on various aspects of Tibetan civilization are offered through the Department and the Divinity School. Funding for the study of Tibetan is available through a number of sources; please consult one of the faculty for options.
Students with background in Tibetan prior to enrolling at Chicago who wish to be placed in higher sections of language study should consult with Karma Ngodup and/or, as appropriate, Professors Wedemeyer or Kapstein.