Project B11:
Semantic roles, case relations, and cross-clausal reference in Tibetan

SFB 441 main page
SFB subprojects
  B11 Publications
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  B11 Annotation
  B11 Corpora


  B11 Statistical evaluation



Head Deutsch

Prof. Dr. Klaus Butzenberger
Seminar für Indologie und Vergleichende Religionswissenschaft
Universität Tübingen
Gartenstr. 19
72074 Tübingen
Prof. Dr. Marga Reis (temporary)
Deutsches Seminar
Universität Tübingen
Wilhelmstraße 50
72074 Tübingen

Tel.: +49/7071/29-76741
Fax: +49/7071/29-5321
E-Mail: mer AT

Project team

Dorothee Börner (2006-2008)
Nathan W. Hill (2005-2006)
Fabian Kliebhan (2007-2008)
Kristin Meier (2002-2004)
Frank Müller-Witte (2006-2008)
Nicola Westermann (2005)
Bettina Zeisler (2002-2008)
E-mail: zeis AT

Rebecca Norman (SECMOL, Students' Educational and Cultural Movement of Ladakh, Leh-Ladakh 194101, Indien)
Namgyal Nyima (Zentralasiatisches Seminar, Universität Bonn)
Thupten Kunga Chasab (Uniwersytet Warszawski)
For all persons involved in the field work in Ladakh, see our special page people in the field.


The central concern of the project is the formulation of rules for the identification of antecedents of empty arguments in Tibetan. To this end, it will be necessary to deal with the particular verb semantics, i.e. the argument and event structure and the classification of the verbs according to their type of actor ([±control]), as well as with problems concerning ergativity and details of the Tibetan verb morphology. It is reckoned that the syntactic, pragmatic, and semantic rules for the identification of empty arguments can be weighed according to optimality criteria. Thus, the project aims at drawing up sets of rules for cross-clausal reference in Old Tibetan (mid 8th - end of 10th century), Classical Tibetan (11th - 19th century), and contemporary West Tibetan, spoken in Ladakh (India) and Baltistan (Pakistan). The categories of semantic roles and the semantic-syntactic case relations will no longer be derived from mere intuition, but on the base of the valency dictionary of Ladakhi verbs compiled in the first phase. Conversely, we expect that the study of reference relations will allow to delimit the semantic, pragmatic, and syntactic categories more precisely.

The approach to the project is primarily empirical and descriptive, secondarily general comparative and theoretical. The project is based on the analysis of extended text corpora of written and oral narrative literature of different periods, on the analysis of data obtained through consultation and elicitation, as well as on the indigenous grammatical literature. Due to the various types of data (corpora, grammaticality judgements, elicitation, descriptive historical and recent data, as well as the normative data of Tibetan grammarians) and the combination of different methodological approaches (philology, linguistics, historical linguistics, and indigenous Tibetan grammar) the project contributes to the dominant line of research of the SFB 441: the investigation in the relationship between data and theory with respect to different types of data and their evaluation.
Further details can be found in our project proposal of the 2nd phase (.pdf-file, in German).


definition of elements



OTC 1.1


numbers & more



Field work

Participants (narrators and consultants)

a few particular results:
  • Kenhat, a dialect group from Upper Ladakh

Layout: Christoph Singer. Responsible for the content and contact: B. Zeisler. Last modified: 08.04.2009