Last March I pulled together some notes about the Tibetan script overall, and detailed notes about Unicode characters used in Tibetan.
I am writing these pages as I explore the Tibetan script as used for the Tibetan language. They may be updated from time to time and should not be considered authoritative. Basically I am mostly simplifying, combining, streamlining and arranging the text from the sources listed at the bottom of the page.
The first half of the script notes page describes how Unicode characters are used to write Tibetan. The second half looks at text layout in Tibetan (eg. line-breaking, justification, emphasis, punctuation, etc.)
The character notes page lists all the characters in the Unicode Tibetan block, and provides specific usage notes for many of them per their use for writing the Tibetan language.
Tibetan is an abugida, ie. consonants carry an inherent vowel sound that is overridden using vowel signs. Text runs from left to right.
There are various different Tibetan scripts, of two basic types: དབུ་ཙན་ dbu-can, pronounced /uchen/ (with a head), and དབུ་མེད་ dbu-med, pronounced /ume/ (headless). This page concentrates on the former. Pronunciations are based on the central, Lhasa dialect.
The pronunciation of Tibetan words is typically much simpler than the orthography, which involves patterns of consonants. These reduce ambiguity and can affect pronunciation and tone. In the notes I try to explain how that works, in an approachable way (though it’s still a little complicated, at first).
Traditional Tibetan text was written on pechas (དཔེ་ཆ་ dpe-cha), loose-leaf sheets. Some of the characters used and formatting approaches are different in books and pechas.
For similar notes on other scripts, see my docs list.