Update: 2018-10-01 08:40 PM -0400


Sonority of BEPS 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

Sonority scale
Nuclear-vowels and rhymes aka rimes
Perceptual sound variation of lateral to rhotic sounds
  as reflected in Vedic to Sanskrit languages, with Pali-Myanmar in between
  My view of Hinduism - the Axiomatic Atta relgion


Contents of this page


My aim is not be correct pronunciation in a speech: it is understandable pronunciation. Speech can be divided into Vowels, Approximants (Liquids, Sibilants, Thibilants, etc.), Nasals (Semi-nasals and True-nasals ) and Consonants (Stops and Affricates) .  English (Eng-Lat) on the surface is easy. It being an Alphabetic-Letter system, it seems easy. It needs only to focus Vowels and Consonants. For inter-language use for 2 languages, Eng-Lat is useful. But when faced with 3 or 4 languages as in BEPS, it is awfully confusing. It is only a phonetic-transcription that can set things right. Eng-Lat is notoriously non-phonetic. We use an Abugida-Akshara system as the phonetic system. To bring the ordinary Eng-Lat into BEPS, I have to use the Eng-IPA (where IPA stands for International Phonetic Alphabet).

BEPS is the acronym for BURMESE, ENGLISH, PALI, SANSKRIT  LANGUAGES or speeches {sa.ka:} in four scripts {sa}: Myanmar, IPA-Latin, Pali-Myan, and Devanagari.

The present day Burmese language, or more precisely the spoken Burmese language written in Myanmar akshara, the Bur-Myan, has to deal with four spoken languages belonging to two language groups - the Indo-European (IE) and Tibeto-Burman (Tib-Bur). Since, Bamah and Mon use the same script, the basic Myanmar akshara, I've to look occasionally into Mon-Myan, which has a different phonology from Bamah..

UKT 180827: Proposed names in Bur-Myan:
BEPS - {ba.n~pa-ak}
Indo-European - { n-do U.rau-pa.}
Tibeto-Burman - {ti.bek-to ba.ma} vs. {ti.bet ba.ma}
Note: English-Lat has well defined adjectival usage, whereas Burmese-Myan has none. {ti.bek-to ba.ma} is in Eng-Lat grammatical usage. {ti.bet} is the adjective shown by inflection. In Bur-Myan we depend on the word-order to show the adjective. The main word comes first, and so the second word {ba.ma} is the adjective. I've run into this problem personally when I was choosing a name for a business. The Myanmar government agency overlooking the correct usage of that time would not accept the name I'd propose which finally led me cancel my project. Go online and read:
https://www.asiapearltravels.com/language/lesson9_script.php 181001

Thus, deeper down, we have to deal with six spoken languages belonging to three language groups - the additional being Mon-Myan belonging to Austro-Asiatic (Aus-Asi) language group.

I did not realize that Sanskrit speech written in Devanagari script has two main dialects - the northern kind based on the present day Hindi speech of IE, and the southern kind based on Tamil and Telugu speeches of Dravidian language group.

See Wikipedia on:
1. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dravidian_languages 180824
2. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Austroasiatic_languages 180824
Austro-Asiatic (Aus-Asi) {au-a-si}, formerly Mon-Khmer {mwun hka.ma}

To guide me through the mire I found myself in, I have to keep in mind the sonority scale, and the division into vowels and consonants, and, nasals and approximants in between.

Bur-Myan has a full set of 5 coda-nasals 
{ng}, {}, {N}, {n}, {m}, because of which I have to treat the nasals as group, different from the plosive-stops.

Contents of this page

Sonority Scale

Sonority is important in checking (or stopping) the sound of the peak or nuclear vowel of the syllable {sa.ka:n-su.}

-- UKT 120520, 120903, 150924

In the Abugida-Akshara system of writing, the syllable   {sa.ka:n-su.} is the principal unit. The syllable has the canonical form CV where is a 'killed' consonant -- a consonantal akshara whose inherent vowel has been 'killed' by a virama (which I usually shorten to 'viram') in Sanskrit and {a.t} in Burmese.

 A syllable may or may not have the onset C, or the coda , but it must always have the peak or the nuclear vowel V. In cases where the syllable is either V or just a V, the rime is important. For argument sake we may say V is a syllable with coda=1 and V to be a syllable with coda=0. Thus it is important to see how effective the is in checking the sound of V.

UKT 180921: You'll have to check your knowledge of Linguistics terms from time to time:
Liquids: In phonetics, liquids or liquid consonants are a class of consonants consisting of lateral consonants like 'l' {la.} together with rhotics like 'r' {ra.}
- https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Liquid_consonant 180921
Fricatives are consonants produced by forcing air through a narrow channel made by placing two articulators close together.
- https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fricative_consonant 180921

Upholding the Bur-Myan grammar rule that states: conjuncts {paaHT hsn.} and {paaTH tw:} break up under a Virama {a.t}, I have to invent new glyphs for BEPS. I've subdivided the fricatives in BEPS into 3 groups:
Thibilant {a.}/ {}
Sibilants {sha.}/ {sh}, {Sa.}/ {S}
Palatal Affricates {Ca.}/ {C}, {cha.}/ {ch} - row
I've to include Palatal Affricates to bring Eng-Lat into BEPS. By this way I can transcribe the English word <church> as {chuuch}.

The Bur-Myan Palatal Plosive-stops are not strictly Fricatives, even though they have some friction. Their codas have only one register.
Palatal Plosive-Stops  {sa.}/ {c} - row

We see in the Sonority hierarchy, the most effective are the plosive-stop consonants, exemplified by {pa.}/ {p}.

The nasals -- an example being {ma.}/ {m} -- are not very effective and they fall in between the consonants (obstruents) and vowels (sonorants). In Bur-Myan nasals show their closeness to vowels in having 3 registers: {m.}, {m}, {m:}.

Of the nasals, the velar {gna.} /ŋ/, is the very important in Bur-Myan. Unfortunately, neither the English speakers nor the Sanskrit speakers could pronounce it properly. They usually substitute its sound with that of {na.} /n/. I am beginning to believe that नः '1st personal pronoun possessive' in the last line of Gayatri Mantra of the Hindus is the "substitute" for {gnaa.}.

धियो॒ यो नः॑ प्रचो॒दया॑त्॥ ।
  dhyo y naḥ pracodyāt
UKT 150924: aks-to-aks: नः --> {na:.}
Listen to Gayatri Mantra, paying attention to नः॑ {na:.} ,
- bk-cndl-gayatri<)) (link chk 160222)

English has only two nasals <m> /m/ & <n> /n/ in both onset and coda positions, and in my work on BEPS I am concentrating on these two rather than on {gna.} /ŋ/ which is present in the codas of the English syllable as in <king> /kɪŋ/ but not in the onset.

Contents of this page

Nuclear-vowels & rhymes aka rimes

UKT 180915: In Eng-Lat which uses the Alphabet-Letter speech-to-script transliteration system, Nuclear-vowel V of the Syllable, CVC, is all that matters. It it not so in Bur-Myan which uses the Abugida-Akshara transliteration system, the Inherent-vowel of the consonantal-akshara such as {ta.}, as well as the Nuclear-vowel of the Syllable, CV, where is the killed-consonant are important.

For a comparison of Alphabet-Letter system and Abugida-Akshara system, see Unicode Consortium in TIL HD-PDF and SD-PDF libraries:

Chapter 7: European Alphabetic Scripts - UnicodeCh07<)) / Bkp<)) (link chk 180918)
"Modern European alphabetic scripts are derived from or influenced by the Greek script. The Greek script itself is an adaptation of the Phoenician alphabet. A Greek innovation was writing the letters from left to right, which is the writing direction for all the scripts derived from or inspired by Greek. The European alphabetic scripts described in this chapter are: Latin Greek Cyrillic Armenian Georgian"

Chapter 9: South-Asian Scripts I - UnicodeCh09<)) / Bkp<)) (link chk 180918)
"The following South Asian scripts are described in this chapter: The scripts of South Asia share so many common features that a side-by-side comparison of a few will often reveal structural similarities even in the modern letterforms. With minor historical exceptions, they are written from left to right. They are all abugidas in which most symbols stand for a consonant plus an inherent vowel (usually the sound /a/). Word-initial vowels in many of these scripts have distinct symbols, and word-internal vowels are usually written by juxtaposing a vowel sign in the vicinity of the affected consonant. Absence of the inherent vowel, when that occurs, is frequently marked with a special sign. In the Unicode Standard, this sign is denoted by the Sanskrit word virāma."

UKT 180918: What Unicode has missed is the fact that Myanmar script is closely related to Devanagari than to Thai. The virāma or "viram" is a vowel-killer and is called {a.t} in Bur-Myan.
See more on this subject in BEPS vowels - Vowel.htm (link chk 180918)

Bur-Myan is perhaps the most poetic language among the BEPS languges. And most of the native speakers are used to rhyme at the end of sentences which we call {na.b} and {ka-rn}.

Caveat UKT 170411: I am still not satisfied with {AU} and {ou}, when we take note of IAST: ओ o औ au. I may have to change the spelling after more study of Skt-Dev and Mon-Myan.


UKT 170831, 171210: In the 3-dimensional diagrams above, my position on Vedic & Skt front vowels are based on Charles Wikner - https://sanskritdocuments.org/learning_tutorial_wikner/wikner-rm.pdf
which has been downloaded to TIL PDF libraries.
- CWikner-PractSktIntro<> / Bkp<> (link chk 171230)

An important example of change from Vedic to Skt is found in the name of the son of Prince Siddhartha, who later became the Gautama Buddha:
{la-Gu.la.} to {ra-hu.la.} mentioned in
- BHS-vol01-indx.htm > i02original.htm (link chk 171230)

UKT 170610: Whenever, you look up for Burmese vowels, you'll come across the word "diphthong" which we don't have:

monophthongs: a , ɛ , e , i, (ə) , u , o , ɔ ; and
diphthongs: ai , ei, ou , au
- https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Burmese_language 170610
"Diphthongs" are really digraphs which we usually pronounced as monophthongs

I remember my father warning me - I was still a child then - about diphthongs when he was teaching me English. Then on my first trip in the 1950s to the US, my fellow Burmese government-sponsored State Scholars and I, found about the diphthongs in many hilarious situations. Most of us were pronouncing - "wine" for "oil". None at the gas-station could understand us when we asked the attendant to "check the wine, please". Later most of us learned to say "check the engine wine, please" and point at the engine. Only then, were we understood!

In my study of speech across BEPS languages, I've come to find out that syllables (pronounceable) are more important than consonants and vowels which are its parts.

A syllable of Eng-Lat has the canonical structure CVC and is essentially the same as that of Bur-Myanmar CV. The consonant C at the beginning of the syllable is known as the onset-consonant, V is the nuclear or peak vowel, and C (or - the killed consonant) at the end of the syllable known as the coda-consonant. Bur-Myan is easy to pronounce because we allow only one killed-consonant in the coda. However Eng-Lat allows more than one. Because of such differences, a native-Burmese speaker learning English as his L2 can never hope to pronounce English words properly.

Now, with BEPS, I could not afford to aim at the "correct" pronunciation. I have to be satisfied with what comes to me, e.g. in Skt-Dev, I came across the word गुणोत्कर्ष with 2 transcriptions:
- [ guna‿utkarsha ] by Macdonell,
- guṇtkarsha by http://translate.enacademic.com/gunoHHkarsha/sa/en/ 170531
It suggests that [-a‿u-] --> [ -- ] , where to our ears sounds like au .

Contents of this page

Perceptual sound variation of lateral to rhotic sounds as reflected in Vedic to Sanskrit languages, with Pali-Myanmar in between

UKT 131019, 140725, 160807, 161007, 180922:

Strictly speaking approximants are neither vowels nor consonants though they have been described as semi-vowels which is the same as semi-consonants: {ya.}, {ra.}, {la.}, {wa.}, {ha.}

My interest is their effect on the preceding vowel. Remember, as such they are the codas. e.g.: {y}, {r}, {l}, {w}, {h}

UKT 160807: In BHS we find, Rāhula {ra-hu.la.} has an equivalent, Lāghula {la-Gu.la.}. It is an evidence for pronunciations of Lateral (L-like) /l/ plane changing into those of Rhotic (R-like) /l/ plane.
See: F. Edgerton, Buddhist Hybrid Sanskrit Grammar and Dictionary,
- BHS-indx.htm (link chk 161007)
available in TIL HD-PDF and SD-PDF libraries
- FEdgerton-BHSGrammDict<> / Bkp<> (link chk 180922)
(p003): 1.22. Take Lghula = Rhula; I for r does indeed agree with Mgadhi, but gh for h is not normal to any Prakrit; it seems to be a hyper-Sanskritism.

UKT 181001: I opine that /l/ changing over to /r/ is because of Sanskrit (IE) speakers with their chief male-god Vishnu taking over the northern part of the subcontinent of India from Tib-Myan speakers who worship various Mother-goddess. The southern part was being becoming under Telugu-Tamil (Aus-Asi ?) speakers with their chief male-god Siva. The beliefs in Vishnu and Siva together are known by Hinduism.

Now becoming familiar with various Hindu-myths, my understanding of Hinduism is as given below. However, I may have to change my views because of further study.

My view of Hinduism - the Axiomatic Atta religion

During the time of the Mother-goddesses, the chief male god was Indra, the king of the Sky above with Agni his chief messenger between Sky and Land. Just as the Land-dwellers have their kings, so must the Sky populated with Sky-dwellers. And they must have a king, and that is Indra. Just as the Land-dwellers have their Mother-goddess, the Sky above must have a Mother-goddess whose representative on Earth is Vāc portrayed as Sarasvati.

Now what about the space below Earth? Wherever you dig, Water comes out. So there must be a watery-area below just as the airy-area above. The watery-area below must be sweet water which you can drink. The sweet-water can become contaminated with various salts. The salt waters can also be found around the Land as Sea.

Just as the Land-dwelling kings are given to drinking and womanizing, so must be Indra the Sky-king, and the Vāsuki the Under-land king.

Do not confuse these with {ya.pn.}, {ra.ric}, {la.hsw:}, {wa.hsw:}, and {ha.hto:}. As an illustration:

{ka.} + viram + {ya.} -->  {kya.}
{ka.} + {ya.} + viram --> {k}

The codas {y}, {r}, {l}, {w}, {h}, do not seem to change the pronunciation of the vowel, from {a.} to {i.}, but to effect its nature as to its rhoticity, laterality, and roundness.

{ma} --> {maar}
{bo} --> {bol}
{pa.o.} --> {pa.ow.}

However if your tongue is thick and is not versatile, you pronounce each pair the same. It has been suggested that {maar} can be pronounced as {maan} - which is not acceptable in BEPS because it involves an unnecessary change from rhotic to nasal.

The case of {r} is more complicated than the rest because it rise to repha sounds, {ar} (in {a.t}-form), and  {ar~} (in {kn:si:}-form).

The highly rhotic vowels ऋ & ॠ are treated elsewhere . There is a perceptual difference between rhotic and lateral vowels ऌ & ॡ, and in classical Sanskrit of Panini, the lateral vowels have disappeared. However, we can expect to find them in Pal-Myan.

Contents of this page

End of TIL file