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Bon [GD]

Bön [shamanism]; Bon, Pön. Pon. The native religion of Tibet, according to Tibetan Buddhists. It was first promulgated in Shangshung (zhang zhung), an ancient name of the province of Gugey in western Tibet, west of lake Manasarovar [RY]

Bön [IW]

tibetan religion, invokers, SA rdol bon, bsgyur bon, 'khyar bon, ancient religion of tibet, three historical stages ('dzol bon, 'khyar bon, bsgyur bon), SA theg pa dgu, rdol bon, 'jol bon, 'khyar bon, bsgyur bon [JV]


Bon is one of a small number of Tibetan words whose roman-letter, Wylie transcription is simpler than a useful pronunciation spelling. One will often see the spelling Bön (with the capital "B" as an indicator of a proper name) to suggest the Tibetan pronunciation of the word, relying on the ö to prompt the reader to use something approaching the German vowel sound indicated by that vowel-diacritical mark combination.

The sound indicated in Wylie transcription by b is its own challenge: that letter occurring at the beginning of a transcribed Tibetan syllable represents a voiced, bilabial, unaspirated plosive, a sound that does not exist (at least phonemically) in most European languages, with the result that native speakers of such languages, when they hear native Tibetan speakers produce the represented sound, will usually think they have heard the sound typically represented in their own language(s) by p (the unvoiced but aspirated bilabial plosive); thus -- the most common example -- they will tend to hear Tibetan bar do as if it were par do.

It should also be noted that in Tibetan, a terminal n or m regularly produces nasalization of the preceding vowel, especially in rapid speech, and is then not itself pronounced distinctly.