The science of lexicography with its focus on etymology reaches back to ancient times; the history of Tibetan dictionaries is almost as old as the written language itself. About 1,200 years ago, the wish to translate the Buddhist scriptures in Sanskrit initiated the compilation of the first bilingual dictionary. lt provides Tibetan synonyms for Sanskrit terms and is written in Tibetan script. lt was compiled and used by monks who worked as scholars and translators. Throughout the following centuries, Tibetan dictionaries have been compiled, and, as will be shown, this happened for various reasons. As the Tibetan language is not yet fully explored, new dictionaries for Tibetan are still being worked on. One of these is under preparation in Munich; it will be the focus of the main part of this article. As the paper addresses a wider audience and not specifically scholars of Tibetan studies, l will situate Tibetan lexicography within a broader context, commencing with a brief introduction into the Tibetan script and language followed by a survey on the development of Tibetan lexicography and dictionaries. Then, the paper introduces the Wörterbuch der tibetischen Schriftsprache, an ongoing long-term project at the Bavarian Academy for Sciences and Humanities in Munich.
An attempt to create a written Mongolian language based on the Cyrillic script is linked to the missionary activities of Archbishop Nil (1799-1874) among the Buryat Mongols. On his initiative, several Christian liturgical books were translated into Mongolian and printed in St. Petersburg. However, Nil and his assistants did not take into account the discrepancy between written and spoken Mongolian language and transcribed every letter of the Mongolian written language with corresponding Cyrillic letters and thus did no in any way make the texts closer to the spoken language.