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Test - The Sino-Tibetan Language Research Methodology Workshop - English

We partnered with Nankai University (NKU) in Tianjin, China, to offer the Sino-Tibetan Language Research Methodology Workshop. The workshop is a two-week series of courses that train 35-45 students each year from Tibetic and other minority nationalities and languages in linguistics and language description, language and cultural documentation, and approaches to multilingualism.

The linguistic picture of Tibetan areas in China is complicated. In addition to the large Tibetan languages of China – Ü-Tsang, Amdo, and Kham – there are at least 50 smaller Tibetic languages and 38 minority (non-Tibetic) languages, whose speakers often identify as Tibetan. With perhaps the exception of the largest three, all urgently need measures for maintenance and learning.

Responding to the need for training, the Sino-Tibetan Language and Linguistics Summer Institute as a collaboration between Tibetan students, community language practitioners, NKU, the Ancient Tibetan Texts Research Center of Qinghai Province, Shanghai Normal University (SHNU) Tibetology Research Center, and the Smithsonian Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage (CFCH). The Institute consists of two parts: the workshop and the Tibetan Language and Linguistics Forum. For three days in the middle of the workshop, the forum brings together Chinese academics for presentations of research and rigorous discussion. Both workshop and forum are hosted at Nankai University. NKU is a top-tier research university with international collaborations and a long tradition of research in ethnic minority languages, including graduating the first Tibetan PhD in linguistics. In June 2016, CFCH and NKU signed a Memorandum of Understanding, two months before the first workshop. There had never been an academic institute devoted exclusively to Tibetan linguistic training in China, and the 2016 forum was the first major academic gathering held in Tibetan.

The Workshop has the following objectives:

  • Provide coursework in descriptive linguistics for minority nationality students, primarily those from Tibetan languages and cultures
  • Provide hands-on training in documentation of their own languages and cultural practices, including introductions to linguistic software
  • Increase awareness of language shift, and approaches to maintenance and multilingualism
  • Introduce students to Chinese and international researchers and instructors during the forum and workshop, making connections and giving encouragement to further their education and practice

Workshop Materials

The Workshop provides two weeks of intense training through 10-12 courses. There are three categories: core courses (1:45 hours for 3-4 days), documentation and technology workshops (1:45, 1-2 days), and field methods, using a small Tibetic or Tibeto-Burman language (every day). The evenings are equally full with guest lectures, study hall, and Salons, where students share their own research or community language projects.

The courses are taught by professors at NKU, SHNU, and Beijing University, internationally recognized guest professors from Europe and the US, and curators from CFCH. Introduction to Linguistics and the technical workshops are taught by graduate students to give them experience teaching in semi-formal settings.


All potential participants must apply through a short application process run through NKU.

Here are some of the criteria used:

  • Enthusiasm for applying what they learn to their own languages and communities
  • Background in linguistics via language teaching, traditional text-based historical linguistics, or linguistics coursework
  • High proficiency in Chinese. Because of the diversity of languages represented, Chinese is the common classroom language
  • Ability to speak their Tibetic or minority languages is NOT essential, due to lack of intergenerational transmission of highly endangered languages and from urbanization

Once accepted, tuition is free and includes the cost of travel to Tianjin and room and board on campus during the workshop. Interested students within the People's Republic of China should contact Professor Yeshes Vodgsal Atshogs. Interested students outside of the People's Republic of China can contact Dr. Mary Linn.


During and after the workshop, students connect to each other and instructors through a group chat. These groups provide continuing support and allow our partners to funnel news and opportunities their way.

We also use the chat groups to conduct follow-up surveys 6 months later. By this time, students understand better what information they found the most useful and what they need more of. We ask how they have used the information (e.g. teaching products, data collection, furthering their education). We gauge broader dissemination by asking if they have shared the information with others, and if so, how (e.g. local workshop, teaching, discussions, group chats). To this end, the workshop is successful, as students each year report documentation projects in their own communities, sharing information, encouraging language use, and acceptances into graduate programs.

  • 01. Introduction to the International Phonetic Alphabet

    This is a course taught by Prof. Yeshes Vodsal Atshogs (Nankai University) on the basics of the International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA). As this course was created for native speakers of Tibetan, the course uses the Tibetan abugida as the entry point for introducing the consonants and vowels of the International Phonetic Alphabet.

    There are two sets of lectures for this class. The first is an in-person class taught at Nankai University in 2016. The second is an online class taught in 2020.

    Introduction to the International Phonetic Alphabet Videos - Nankai University 2016

    Introduction to the International Phonetic Alphabet Videos - Online 2020

  • 16. Introduction Fieldworks Language Explorer - 'FLEx'

    This set of lectures was recorded at Nankai University in 2017. The focus of these lectures is on the software ‘Fieldworks Language Explorer’, or ‘FLEx’, for linguistics. This software is developed and maintained by the Summer Institute of Linguistics and is widely used by linguists conducting linguistic fieldwork and analysis.

    The lectures include different peoples sharing their experiences using the FLEx software. Mr. Wang Dehe gives an overview of how he used FLEx to build a lexical database for his mother tongue, Ersu. Guanxuan introduces the functionalities of FLEx and how it can be used for automated glossing of interlinear texts. Guanxuan also shares how to link both pictures and audio files to the lexical database entries. Tshe.dbang shares her experience using FLEx to gloss and translate texts in her mother tongue, Situ Rgyalrong.

    Introduction Fieldworks Language Explorer - 'FLEx' Videos

  • 17. FLEx-ELAN-FLEx Workflow

    This more advanced set of lectures by Nathaniel Sims (University of California Santa Barbara) for the 2020 workshop details how to use FLEx and ELAN together to annotate linguistic corpora. This set is split into three lectures. The first introduces the functionalities of ELAN. The second introduces the FLEx software. The third focuses on how to use these two programs together in a cohesive workflow.

    FLEx-ELAN-FLEx Workflow Videos

  • 18. Experimental Phonetics

    This is a set of lectures by Professor Shi Xiujuan (Tianjin Normal University) that was recorded at Nankai University in the summer of 2017. These lectures include different types of instrumental phonetic measurements such as Formant values, duration, intensity, pitch, as well as spectral tilt.

    Experimental Phonetics Videos

  • 19. Topics in Sociocultural Linguistics

    This is a stand-alone lecture by Dr. Bsodnam Lhundrub (Southwestern University of Finance and Economics), which was recorded at Nankai University during the summer of 2017. The topic of the lecture is sociolinguistics. Dr. Bsodnam Lhundrup discusses issues of language and identity, as well as the importance of the way native speakers of minority languages perceive their own language in relation to other languages. He speaks about his own experience as a native speaker of Stau, and encourages discussion amongst the attendees about issues of linguistic identity.

    Topics in Sociocultural Linguistics Videos

  • 20. Characteristics of Tibetan Nasal Consonants

    This is a stand-alone lecture by Professor Wang Shuangcheng (Shanghai Normal University). The main content of the lecture is on the pronunciation of certain voiced and voiceless nasal consonants in different varieties of Tibetan. Professor Wang incorporates instrumental phonetic evidence including airflow and other measures of nasality. He also specifically lists some vocabulary of Tibetan regions, makes some comparisons, and elaborates on the characteristics of these sounds in diachrony.

    Characteristics of Tibetan Nasal Consonants

  • 21. Topics on the Khroskyabs language of Sichuan

    This is a stand-alone lecture by Dr. Lai Yunfan (post-doc researcher, Max Planck Institute) on characteristics of the Khroskyabs (< Rgyalrongic) language of Sichuan. The primary focus of the lecture is on person marking in the verbal system. It also discusses the direct-inverse system in the verbal morphology.

    Topics on the Khroskyabs language of Sichuan Video

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