Skip to main content
Open Access Publications from the University of California

Old Tibetan verb morphology and semantics: An attempt at a reconstruction


The paper presents the first complete reconstruction of the Old Tibetan (OT) verb morphology and semantics. Old Tibetan had a productive verb inflection with meaningful inflectional affixes b-, g-, ɣ-, d-, -d, and -s. The distribution of the prefixes was asymmetric and closely related to transitivity of a verb. Verbs of highest transitivity formed four distinct stems, whereas intransitive verbs inflected for one or two stems only. Grammatical voice is the only category that can explain the disproportion in the markings of transitive and intransitive verbs. Because the basic opposition was that between active and passive voice, intransitive verbs could only form active forms, whereas both active and passive forms were available for the majority of transitive verbs. In addition, both groups of verbs inflected for aspect, distinguishing between perfective and imperfective aspect. The OT inflectional system seems to have been a local innovation, only marginally related to verb morphology of other Tibeto-Burman languages.

Main Content
For improved accessibility of PDF content, download the file to your device.
Current View