Update: 2019-01-30 06:41 PM -0500


Approximant Aksharas


by U Kyaw Tun (UKT) (M.S., I.P.S.T., USA), Daw Khin Wutyi, Daw Thuzar Myint, Daw Zinthiri Han and staff of Tun Institute of Learning (TIL). Not for sale. No copyright. Free for everyone. Prepared for students and staff of TIL  Research Station, Yangon, MYANMAR 
 - http://www.tuninst.net , www.romabama.blogspot.com

index.htm | Top

Contents of this page

  English speakers and the Laterals



Contents of this page


UKT 180919
By Approximants, I mean rows r6 and r7 of the Myanmar akshara matrix. They are all consonants: even the English y /j/ which is generally known as the Semivowel aka Semi-consonant, is considered to be a basic consonant of BEPS. The IPA classifies the BEPS approximants made up of Fricatives including Lateral Fricatives, and Approximants including Lateral Approximants. I opine that IPA should re-classify the whole group simply as Fricatives and Laterals. Sad to say the Westerners who develop the IPA have little understanding of the Laterals which are very important to Myanmar consonants. For example, English speakers could not understand the Welsh Laterals ending up spelling them with double-L's. See Wikipedia - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lateral_consonant 180919

Contents of this page

English speakers and the Laterals

The language of Angles and Saxons collectively known as Anglo-Saxons was not originally a native of the British Isles. It was the language of the pirates from the North or Norseman who came to plunder the rich country from the ancient Bretons - the original natives carried the booty to their climatically rather bleak countries. They finally decided to settle mainly on the fertile Thames basin, and drove the Bretons out into the mountainous area called Wales, and called the militarily defeated peoples Welsh 'foreigners'. They were successful robbing the Bretons of everything, except their Laterals.

See: A Grammar of Modern Breton by Ian Press, 1947
- https://books.google.com.mm/books?id=SQYPenZO6SUC&pg=PA34&lpg=PA34&dq=Bretons+and+laterals&source=bl&ots=Reqpl2X_UO&sig=e-P4ies8Sbr-D6OsnpOUfW00mKM&hl=en&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwi-tevImcjdAhWJiLwKHRINCXkQ6AEwAXoECAkQAQ#v=onepage&q=Bretons%20and%20laterals&f=false 180919

On p34: Phonology: The laterals and vibrants 
"We see that /ll/, /l/ function as /nn/, /n/ (to the extent too that their definite/indefinite article forms are al/ul. After an unstressed vowel there is some blurring of the difference. The blurring is more or less total in the case of /rr/, /r/; fortis /rr/ is minimally fortis. The situation with nasals, laterals and vibrants(s) is created by the absence of any significant correlation of voice. See Falc'hun in 1951, pp.51, 61)"


The English approximant-consonant w is always pronounced by Bur-Myan speakers as {wa.} /w/. However, because the two speeches, English and Burmese belong to different linguistic-groups - IE and Tib-Bur - I am never sure whether it is correct or not.

Lately, I have come across a research article English /w,j/ : frictionless Approximants or Vowels out of place? by Leigh Lisker (19182006) , Haskins Laboratories, Univ. of Pennsylvania, in Producing Speech - contemporary issues by F. Bell-Berti and L. J. Raphael, 1995. See downloaded pdf papers in TIL HD-PDF & SD-PDF libraries:
LLisker-EnglishWJSounds<> / Bkp<> (link chk 190117)
"English /w/ & /j/ : approximants or vowels ?"

I've to add further, what about Burmese {wa.} & {ya.}? Now with my conclusion that Nya-major {a.} is a Palatal, I've to class all  {wa.}/ {w}, {a.}/ {}, {ya.}/ {} as approximants, and they can all be under Virama {a.t}.

The missing Bur-Myan "nasal" Nya-major aka Nya'gyi {a.}/ {} is a special case. It is definitely a basic consonant on the strength of its stability under Virama {a.t}. Moreover, since its killed derivative has all the three tones, {.}, {}, {:} it also has the properties of a vowel. I've to class it also as a semi-nasal .

First of all lets recap what we know (as of 170319) of the BEPS (Burmese-English-Pali-Sanskrit) consonants:

BEPS consonants are of several kinds which can be differentiated based on:
their POA (Point of Articulation)
their influence (as coda) on the preceding vowel in a syllable.
their ability to become hanging consonants which modify the pronunciation of the first consonant, e.g.:

{ka.} + viram + {ya.} --> {kya.}
{ka.} + viram + {wa.} --> {kwa.}
The resulting phoneme is called a medial (monosyllabic) or conjunct (disyllabic).

The POAs have been studied for thousands of years in India, and for about a few centuries in the West. I am sure the coda-influence had also been studied especially by Panini and others when they codified the Prakrits into Sanskrit. There had been many grammars in that period, but only that of Panini has been accepted to this day.

One grammarian who was not well recorded was a Buddhist monk known to Bur-Myan speakers as Shin Kicsi {shin kic~s:} aka {rhin kic~s}. He is the author of the Pali grammar used by monks, nuns, and laypersons in Myanmarpr.
See A Pali grammar on the basis of Kaccayano {kic~s:} [alternate title: Kaccayana Vyakarana]
  - by Rev. F. Mason, Taungoo (then in British Burma), 1868 
The following downloaded versions are in TIL HD-PDF and SD-PDF libraries:
#1  - FMason-KicsiPalGramm<> / Bkp<> (link chk 171227)
#2  - FMason-KicsiPalGramm-German<> / Bkp<> (link chk 170319)
#3  -  FMasonMazard-PalGramm<> / Bkp<> (link chk 171227) 
TIL research library also has a Bur-Myan & Pali-Myan version in ink-on-paper format in which the learned monk, praised by the Gautama Buddha himself, states as given in insets:

On Pali Grammar, Rev. Mason states in 1872.
  - FMason-PaliLangBurView<> / Bkp<> (link chk 171227)
"THERE are two schools of Pali. One takes for its basis the Pali derived from the oldest Burmese manuscripts, and the other the language as it now exists in books and manuscripts in Ceylon, condemning everything as irregular which differs from Singalese standards".

UKT 140326: Note the {a.} in the name of the Buddhist Grammarian. It must not be broken up into two {a.}. What the Indologists have done is totally wrong! - showing that they do not realized that {{a.}/ {} is present Bur-Myan language, and the Bur-Myan name should have a precedence over Lanka name. Based on how we have spelled his name, I claimed that Shin Kicsi {shn kic~s:} was a Bur-Myan speaker (probably of ancient Tagaung) who had travelled to India over land-routes had met the Buddha himself. 

IPA gives the English y as a palatal approximant and transcribed it as /j/ . It is not true for Bur-Myan {ya.}/ {}. In the case Nya-major {a.}/ {} it is unknown in all other languages except Bur-Myan. Therefore, I have to readjust the IPA to suit BEPS:

palatal approximant, {a.}/ {}
velar approximant, {ya.}/ {} 

Skt-Dev speakers, and to some extent Eng-Lat speakers, got mixed up in the Palatal plosive-stops the row#2 aksharas: they pronounce them as Affricates. Because of these mis-pronunciations, I have to be very careful in using IPA and IAST in Romabama.

Bur-Myan speakers pronounce r1c2 {sa.}/ {c} as Palat-stop.
Eng-Lat & Skt-Dev speakers pronounce it as Affricate, i.e. with a hissing sound. They also have Dental-hissing sibilant {Sa.}/ {S}.
Skt-Dev speakers deny the existence of /θ/ , even though they knew of its existence in common English word like <thin> /θɪn/ & <thorn> /θɔːn/ .

To handle BEPS languages as a group, Romabama has to formulate the following Non-rhotic to Rhotic series using {ka.} as the "dummy" consonant:

(non-rhotic): {kya.} , {kra.} , {kRa.} , repha {kar~}* , {kRRa.} (rhotic)
* Repha: see Repha in Romabama: introduction
- RBM-intro-indx.htm > Romabama-rule4-9.htm (link chk 170319)
under Romabama Rule 06

The formation of medials is important as it gives us insight into the "full pronunciation" of a consonant. Thus we know that, for example, the velar plosive-stop {ka} /k/, has a deep-H flavour because it cannot be made into a {ha.hto:}, whereas the velar semi-nasal {gna.}/ {ng} /ŋ/ can become {ngha.}.

It should be noted that the colonial British-Burma European administrators had recognized that {gna.} {nga.} has a /g/ flavour (even though it is designated as nasal /ŋ/), and had spelled the name of a village in Hanthawaddy District as {gnak au sm: rwa} where the Catholic orphanage for Anglo-Indian boys, De La Salle, was situated from 1919, through the WWII, and for some years after Independence. The village of {gnak au sm:} being in the Public Health area under my father's control, the Catholic Brothers of the school became our family's friends. I remember Brother John and one or two companions coming more than once to our house in Kungyangon to have dinner. My mother, who was a school teacher (English and Geography) was one of the few in the town who could speak fluent English. She used to give them a proper English dinner. Brother John and his Catholic brothers, being French, stayed at the school throughout the War years, unmolested by the Japanese. See also: http://sauvita.wordpress.com/ 140325

This immediately bring back to my mind two English words with the digraphic coda made up of the same <g> & <n> pair but spelled differently, thereby producing different pronunciations:

<sign> /saɪn/ (DJPD16-488)
<sing> /sɪŋ/ (DJPD16-490)

I had given much thought to this problem when I was deciding how to transcribe r1c5 either as {gna.} or {nga.}. In the end I decided to coin the term semi-nasals for /ŋ/ (r1c5) & /ɲ/ (r2c5) in contrast to true-nasals /n/ (r4c5) & /m/ (r5c5). The retroflex /ɳ/ (r3c5) is anybody's guess.

Medial-formation in Mon-Myan is different: I still need to learn the Mon language and the formation of {ya.pn.}.

UKT: 180420: I wasn't aware of the great differences between S'gaw Karen aka Burmah-Karen, and Po Karen aka Talaing-Karen* . The Po-Myan has 36 consonants, and is almost the same as Mon which has 35. S'gaw-Myan, on the other hand has only 25 because the missionary (Rev. Jonathan Wade)  who invented it, thought that the Myanmar consonants of row #3 was not relevant - little did he knew the retroflex sounds. Others of his kind also had thought the same.

The Karen alphabet was created by American missionary Jonathan Wade in the 1830s, based on the Sgau Karen language; Wade was assisted by a Karen named Paulah. ... The consonants and most of the vowels are adopted from the Myanmar Akshara Burmese alphabet; however the Karen pronunciation of the akshara letters is slightly different from that of the Burmese akshara alphabet. Since Karen has more tones than Burmese, additional tonal markers were added.
-- https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/S%27gaw_Karen_alphabet 180420
Listen to S'gaw-Myan in Burma section : SgawKarenAksKid1<>

* The word "Talaing" has been painted very negatively by politicians some of who do not even know how to speak the still extant Martaban dialect of Mon-language. My great grandmother Daw MMa was a Peguan-Mon whose dialect is now totally extinct. No matter I much I would like to learn her dialect, none of my Mon relatives of the ancient Dalla city that had stretched for Twent to Kungyangon do not even know the Mon-akshara. When I asked them to listen to what the still extant Mon-akshara, they were surprised to hear how different the sounds were from Bur-Myan.
Listen to the Mon-Myan consonants
  Mon-Myan Akshara song: BkCdn-Mon-Aks<))
Listen to Pwo-Myan lessons in Mon section: 
  Akshara lesson 1 : PwoAks1<>
  Akshara lesson 2 : PwoAks2<>
  Lesson 1-2: PwoLesson1-2<>






Contents of this page

End of TIL file