World Library  
Flag as Inappropriate
Email this Article

Wylie transliteration

Article Id: WHEBN0000558550
Reproduction Date:

Title: Wylie transliteration  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
Language: English
Subject: Kagyu, Semde, Sakya Trizin, Vima Nyingtik, Seventeen tantras
Collection: Languages of Tibet, Romanization of Tibetan, Tibetan Buddhist Texts
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia

Wylie transliteration

The Wylie transliteration scheme is a method for transliterating Tibetan script using only the letters available on a typical English language typewriter. It bears the name of Turrell V. Wylie, who described the scheme in an article, A Standard System of Tibetan Transcription, published in 1959.[1] It has subsequently become a standard transliteration scheme in Tibetan studies, especially in the United States.

Any Tibetan language romanization scheme is faced with a dilemma: should it seek to accurately reproduce the sounds of spoken Tibetan, or the spelling of written Tibetan? These differ widely as Tibetan orthography became fixed in the 11th century, while pronunciation continued to evolve, comparable to the English orthography and French orthography, which reflect Late Medieval pronunciation.

Previous transcription schemes sought to split the difference with the result that they achieved neither goal perfectly. Wylie transliteration was designed to precisely transcribe Tibetan script as written, which led to its acceptance in academic and historical studies. It is not intended to represent the pronunciation of Tibetan words.


  • Consonants 1
  • Vowels 2
  • Capitalization 3
  • Extensions 4
  • See also 5
  • External links 6
  • References 7


The Wylie scheme transliterates the Tibetan characters as follows:

ka [ká] kha [kʰá] ga [ɡà/kʰà] nga [ŋà]
ca [tɕá] cha [tɕʰá] ja [dʑà/tɕʰà] nya [ɲà]
ta [tá] tha [tʰá] da [dà/tʰà] na [nà]
pa [pá] pha [pʰá] ba [bà/pʰà] ma [mà]
tsa [tsá] tsha [tsʰá] dza [dzà/tsʰà] wa [wà]
zha [ʑà/ɕà] za [zà/sà] 'a [ɦà/ʔà] ya [jà]
ra [rà] la [là] sha [ɕá] sa [sá]
ha [há] a [ʔá]

In Tibetan script, consonant clusters within a syllable may be represented through the use of prefixed or suffixed letters or by letters superscripted or subscripted to the root letter (forming a "stack"). The Wylie system does not normally distinguish these as in practice no ambiguity is possible under the rules of Tibetan spelling. The exception is the sequence gy-, which may be written either with a prefix g or a subfix y. In the Wylie system, these are distinguished by inserting a period between a prefix g and initial y. E.g. གྱང "wall" is gyang, while གཡང་ "chasm" is g.yang.


The four vowel marks (here applied to the base letter ) are transliterated:

ཨི  i ཨུ  u ཨེ  e ཨོ  o

When a syllable has no explicit vowel marking, the letter a is used to represent the default vowel "a" (e.g. ཨ་ = a).


Many previous systems of Tibetan transliteration included internal capitalisation schemes—essentially, capitalising the root letter rather than the first letter of a word, when the first letter is a prefix consonant. Tibetan dictionaries are organized by root letter, and prefixes are often silent, so knowing the root letter gives a better idea of pronunciation. However, these schemes were often applied inconsistently, and usually only when the word would normally be capitalised according to the norms of Latin text (i.e. at the beginning of a sentence). On the grounds that internal capitalisation was overly cumbersome, of limited usefulness in determining pronunciation, and probably superfluous to a reader able to use a Tibetan dictionary, Wylie specified that if a word was to be capitalised, the first letter should be capital, in conformity with Western capitalisation practices. Thus a particular Tibetan Buddhist sect (Kagyu) is capitalised Bka' brgyud and not bKa' brgyud.


Wylie's original scheme is not capable of transliterating all Tibetan-script texts. In particular, it has no correspondences for most Tibetan punctuation symbols, and lacks the ability to represent non-Tibetan words written in Tibetan script (Sanskrit and phonetic Chinese are the most common cases). Accordingly, various scholars have adopted ad hoc and incomplete conventions as needed.

The Tibetan and Himalayan Library at the University of Virginia developed a standard, Extended Wylie Tibetan System or EWTS, that addresses these lacks systematically. It uses capital letters and Latin punctuation to represent the missing characters. Several software systems, including TISE, now use this standard to allow one to type unrestricted Tibetan script (including the full Unicode Tibetan character set) on a Latin keyboard.

Since the Wylie system is not intuitive for use by linguists unfamiliar with Tibetan, a new transliteration system based on the International Phonetic Alphabet has been proposed to replace Wylie in articles on Tibetan historical phonology.[2]

See also

External links

(Some of the following links require installation of Tibetan fonts to display properly)

  • Wylie, Turrell (1959). A Standard System of Tibetan Transcription. Harvard Journal of Asiatic Studies, p. 261-267
  • The Wylie Translation Table, at Nitartha International
  • A standard system of Tibetan transcriptionStaatsbibliothek Berlin –
  • THDL Extended Wylie Transliteration Scheme (A project of the Tibetan and Himalayan Digital Library to adapt and expand the Wylie system for computer use.)
  • Tibetan transliteration: convert between Wylie or EWTS and Unicode
  • Test Tibetan display (enter wylie)
  • Utility for converting Extended Wylie plain text to Unicode Tibetan


  1. ^
  2. ^
This article was sourced from Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License; additional terms may apply. World Heritage Encyclopedia content is assembled from numerous content providers, Open Access Publishing, and in compliance with The Fair Access to Science and Technology Research Act (FASTR), Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., Public Library of Science, The Encyclopedia of Life, Open Book Publishers (OBP), PubMed, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health (NIH), U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, and, which sources content from all federal, state, local, tribal, and territorial government publication portals (.gov, .mil, .edu). Funding for and content contributors is made possible from the U.S. Congress, E-Government Act of 2002.
Crowd sourced content that is contributed to World Heritage Encyclopedia is peer reviewed and edited by our editorial staff to ensure quality scholarly research articles.
By using this site, you agree to the Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. World Heritage Encyclopedia™ is a registered trademark of the World Public Library Association, a non-profit organization.

Copyright © World Library Foundation. All rights reserved. eBooks from World eBook Library are sponsored by the World Library Foundation,
a 501c(4) Member's Support Non-Profit Organization, and is NOT affiliated with any governmental agency or department.