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On this page, I document the steps I took to develop a Tibetan transcription keyboard. There git repository for this project. More information about the Tibetan language, translations and texts and the tools I have developed in the class can be found on the LING073 Tibetan Language page.

Transcription Characters

Over the course of this project, I learned about the International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA), which is a system of phonetic characters based on the Latin alphabet.[1] I laid out some of these symbols on the keyboard so that users can type in Tibetan text based on how it sounds. The file for this transcription keyboard is in the Github repository I created for this project. I found the data for this keyboard on the Tibetan language Wikipedia page. The following tables reflect the consonants and vowels needed to transcribe Standard Tibetan.[2]

Standard Tibetan Consonants IPA.png Standard Tibetan Vowels IPA.png

My Process

You will notice that some of the characters in the above tables already exist on standard Latin alphabet keyboards. Therefore I did not change the position of these keys. Furthermore, there are keys that look similar to Latin script letters; I tried to place each of these keys as close to Latin script letters that they are most similar to on a standard English language keyboard. To do so, I used the AltGr key to assign nonstandard letters to keys in the Latin script that they most resemble. The non-standard letters from the IPA used for this keyboard are shown below [3]:

Symbol Decimal Hex Value
ɲ 626 0272 vd palatal nasal
ŋ 331 014B vd velar nasal
ʈ 648 0288 vl retroflex plosive
ʂ 642 0282 vl retroflex fricative
ʔ 660 0294 glottal plosive
ɕ 597 0255 vl alveolopalatal fricative
ɹ 633 0279 vd (post)alveolar approximant
n̥ d̥ 805 0325 voiceless
ø 248 00F8 front close-mid rounded
ɛ 603 025B open-mid front unrounded

Other Keyboards

The Tibetan Wylie transliteration keyboard is the most common keyboard layout for rendering written Standard Tibetan in Latin characters. The Tibetan pinyin keyboard layout is also popular, and is the official keyboard layout used by the People's Republic of China.[2] The Wylie keyboard for Mac OS[4] and Windows[5] and the Tibetan pinyin keyboard layout[6] are shown below.

Wylie.png Tibetan Keyboard.png Dzongkha Keyboard layout Main.png

The Wylie layout has been available on Linux since 2007, while the pinyin keyboard was introduced several years earlier in 2000. The Wylie keyboard transliterates the Tibetan characters in the following way:

Wylie transliteration.png

Consonant clusters in a single syllable can be represented by prefixed, suffixed, superscripted or subscripted letters. These combinations form a "stack." One of the downsides of Wylie transliteration is that it does not allow users to represent non-Tibetan words in Tibetan script. Due to this issue, some linguists have attempted to improve upon the standard Wylie keyboard. In particular, the 2012 paper by Guillaume Jacques entitled A New Transcription System for Old and Classical Tibetan.[7]


  1. International Phonetic Alphabet. "Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia". Retrieved February 2, 2018>
  2. 2.0 2.1 Standard Tibetan. "Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia". Retrieved February 2, 2018>
  3. The International Phonetic Alphabet in Unicode. University College London (UCL). Retrieved February 2, 2018>
  4. Tibetan Input Method for Mac OS-X. Digital Tibetan. Retrieved February 3, 2018>
  5. Tibetan alphabet. "Wikipedia Modernized". Retrieved February 3, 2018>
  6. Tibetan alphabet. "Wikipedia Modernized". Retrieved February 3, 2018>
  7. A new transcription system for Old and Classical Tibetan. Academia.edu. Retrieved February 3, 2018>