January 29, 2012

ལོ་ན། ན་སོ། ན་ཚོད།

lo na, na so, na tshod: 

Dan Martin informs me that as reported by one Tibetan source and according to his Lonely Planet Mongolian Phrasebook, na so could be from the Mongolian nas meaning ‘age.’ I have no way to confirm or contradict it. All I can do is gather some Tibetan words containing na, which has the meaning of ‘age.’ 

1. lo na “age”
2. na so “age,” e.g. na so rgas pa’i rta (Bod rgya)
3. na tshod “age”
4. na gzhon (contraction of na tshod or lo na gzhon pa) “youth”
5. nar son “one who has come of age”
6. na ning “year before last”
7. na mnyam “of the same age”
8. na chung ma “a young girl” (suggested by Pavel)

If na has indeed been borrowed from from the Mongolian, then it must have occurred from pretty early on because at least na tshod can be found also in translated literature.


  1. I can add na chung ma 'young girl', attested in mdzangs blun, for example.
    Mongolian word for 'age' is definitely nas(un), and it having been borrowed into Tibetan does not sound very much likely for me(

  2. Thanks. As you can see, I added na chung ma. So the borrowing theory is still debatable. As for my bdag po’i sgra entry, I did not mean to publish it and so I deleted it. However, I wonder if ming mtha’ is not a recent neologism.

  3. Yes, ming mtha' may be a neologism, because I have come across it in Skal bzang 'Gyur med's grammar.
    Anyhow, it was a good post, that could give rise to some discussion, it's a pity you decided to remove it.

  4. I shall put it back at a later stage.
    Best, D.

  5. Dear P & D, Interesting. In the entire 5th volume of the Zhi-byed Collection that B. Aziz published long ago in India in 5 volumes is a commentary by the long-lived Zhi-byed-pa named Rten-ne, who lived at least 2 decades into the 13th century. (That may be significant for us, since it would then be possible he was writing after the Mongol advent. The manuscript itself dates to the 1240's and no later.) It has a definite usage on p. 69:

    na so glang bas rgan la bsam pa be'u bas chung ba rnams kyi spyod 'dros mthong tsam na.

    There's another clear example of usage of the na-so in the Mkhas-pa Lde'u history (1st edition, p. 51), in the story about trying to find a satisfactory wife for Siddhartha:

    de nas rgyal po'i thugs la nga'i bu na so gzhon pas da dung nyams rtsal ma rdzogs snyam nas...

    Roughly: 'Then the king thought, My son is of a tender age, so it is true that at the moment his experience and skill haven't reached perfection.'

    I just checked, and the Buddha biographies Lde'u was using don't make use of the word na-so here or anywhere.

    Anyway, I don't think we're quite ready to accept or reject the idea it is a Mongolian loan.

  6. Dear Dan, in your glossary included in the Translation Tool, the "na so" entry is glossed "dgung lo ste sog skad yin", but I do not understand the source of this gloss. Where does it come from?

  7. Sorry, Pavel, but it looks like the source abbreviation got dropped. Those words are straight from my version of the Chodag dictionary, at p. 388. Wasn't the Chodag dictionary written by a Buriat, anyway? That would make it more likely to identify things as being Mongolian...

    Here is everything I know about my edition of the Chodag:

    Chödag — This is an old 'handwritten' (not woodblock printed) European book formatted version of the dictionary by Sog-po Dge-bshes Chos-grags, with no publishing information. (There is no title page, and the title on the outer cover is illegible).

    I looked into it a bit, and I believe the edition I use is this one:

    Geshe Chhosdag (Dge-bshes Chos-grags), Brda dag ming tshig gsal ba — Tibetan Dictionary, Gnas-chung Sprul-sku (Delhi 1967).

  8. It is interesting the electroniv edition of Chosgrags' dictionary gives a slightly fiffering record:

    dgung lo ste sog skad yin snyam/ na tshod/

    adding 'snyam'.

  9. I don't have any electronic edition. Maybe I should try to make myself more up-to-date. It certainly does dampen the idea of it necessarily being Mongolian. But I wonder if this sense of 'reservation' was added in by an editor at one step or another. I double-checked, and the snyam is definitely not there in my printed version.