Since the establishment of the Tibetan language’s written form in the seventh century, there have been arguments and debate for reform and innovation. In recent times, one proposal that has generated a considerable amount of discussion has focused on the use of punctuation and spacing in Tibetan. It has been argued that it is difficult to recognize words in a system where punctuation is used only between syllables and sentences or phrases, and this is prohibitive to learning. The spacing out of words as such would make the act of reading Tibetan for many among the younger generations more accessible and attractive. Other ideas for reform include the use of new punctuation to indicate words, and to shorten long and grammatically complicated sentences. At the same time many have argued that the existing Tibetan writing system is uniquely suited to Tibetan grammar, and that proposed reforms may be more detrimental than beneficial. These ideas have been hotly debated in the Tibetan community and in the blogosphere of late. Three speakers representing different viewpoints will join us for what is sure to be a lively roundtable discussion.
Tenzin Dickyi was born in northern India. She received her BA in English literature at Harvard University, where she also served as features editor of the Harvard South Asian Journal. She currently works at the Office of Tibet in New York City. Tenzin Dickyi is the author of several essays and poems, including the much-discussed work "Breathing Space: How Word Separation Can Save the Tibetan Language."
Lama Pema Wangdak is the director of the Palden Sakya Centers and the Vikramasila Foundation. With an Acharya degree from the Central Institute of Higher Tibetan Studies in Benares, India, Lama Pema Wangdak has been teaching Tibetan Buddhism and Tibetan language in the New York City area and beyond for over twenty-five years. Through his foundation, he has opened schools for Tibetan communities in Nepal and India. Lama Pema la is also the creator of a system of Tibetan braille. In 2009 he was the recipient of the Ellis Island Medal of Honor, awarded to outstanding American citizens.
Rikjong Dhondup Tashi was educated in Tibetan Children’s Village school in India before going abroad to pursue a degree in economics, first at Norway United World College, and currently at Methodist University in South Carolina. He is a managing editor of the Tibetan language blog, Khabdha.
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