Update: 2020-12-25 03:20 AM -0500


Burmese Grammars, 200 year Odyssey from 1814 to the present 

Based on Phonetics


A collection by U Kyaw Tun (UKT) (M.S., I.P.S.T., USA), Tun Institute of Learning (TIL) and staff of 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

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UKT 201203: Because my work is based on Phonetics, you'll see me poking fun at the English language following the trend set by George Bernard Shaw (1856-1950). Being Irish, he had a loving hatred for the English who had subjugated his native island Ireland in 16491653 by the forces of the English Parliament, led by Oliver Cromwell . Bernard Shaw  caricatured Henry Sweet who published A Handbook of Phonetics, in 1877, as a character in his play Pygmalion which was made into a musical - My Fair Lady. Most of the authors of the grammars mentioned below could not have any significant knowledge of Phonetics. Before we launch into the dreary subject of grammar - which I'd hated with a passion - let's watch clips from My Fair Lady in TIL HD-VIDEO and SD-VIDEO
Phonetics techniques in time of Henry Sweet
  - zIntroEngMyFairLady1964<> / Bkp<> (link chk 201117)
Movie trailer
  - zMyFairLady1964Trailer1<> / Bkp<> (link chk 201117)

Grammar of the Burman Language by F. Carey, 1814 
- CareyGramBurmanLang.htm 
Inset shows the last page of the book on Verbal roots. Entry - {hen} (vow-duration 2 eye-blink) which is common in old spellings and continuous speech of Mandalay dialect. The modern spelling is {hen:} (emphatic 2 blnk).

UKT 201224: While discussing the above book, my good old friend from MLC, U (Dr.) Tun Tint mentioned an old book: A Dictionary: English And Burmese  by Charles Lane , 1841, which I've duly downloaded and stored in TIL HD-PDF and SD-PDF libraries.
- CLane-EnglishBurmeseDict<> / Bkp<> (link chk 201224)

Bumese Spelling Book by C. Bennett, 1862 - BennettSpellBk.htm 

Grammar of the Burmese Language, by A. Judson, 1883
  - JudsonGram1.htm / JudsonGram2.htm / JudsonGram3.htm

Burmese Grammar and Grammatical Analysis 1899, by A. W. Lonsdale
  - BG1899-indx.htm 
  Lonsdale published another work in 1915 titled Simpler Burmese Grammar which is not available to me in a suitable PDF format.

Burmese Grammar, by James E. Bridges, 1915 - JEBridgesBurGramm.htm

Preparations for a TIL Burmese grammar in English- by UKT
UKT 201103: the file names in the following group are misleading: I'll have to rename them.
From Western sources - BEPS01-1.htm / BEPS01-2.htm / BEPS01-3.htm - update 2019Dec
From my own sources - BEPS02.htm - update 2019Dec 
TIL Grammar Glossary, my compilation from various sources - GramGloss-indx.htm
in alphabetical order.

MLC Burmese Grammar (in Bur-Myan) - 
 UKT 191006: I'm going through MLC grammar to help me with Lonsdale's. Available online from Wordpress.com. from
  - https://whiteboylearningburmese.files.wordpress.com/2013/03/bg-mlc-1-1.pdf 200929 ,
  See downloaded pdf files in TIL  PDF libraries:  HD-PDF-B and SD-PDF-B (link chk 191010)
1. bg-mlc-1-1.  2. bg-mlc-1-2.  3. bg-mlc-1-3.   4. bg-mlc-1-4.  5. bg-mlc-2-5.  6. bg-mlc-2-6.
1. bkp1. --- --- 2. bkp2. --- ---- 3. bkp3.---   ---- 4. bkp4. -- - --- 5. bkp5. --- ---- 6. bkp6.

Ink-on-paper book available in TIL Research Library in 3 volumes, 17 sections.
 01. {d~da} - p001;  02. {ak~hka.ra} - p001 ;   03. {wn~ga.} - p038 ;
 04. {a.ra. nhic-myo:} - p105;   05. {n pran:pra. n~k-ta.} - p106;
 06. {by: ak~hka.ra l:myo:} - p153 ;  
 07. {by:mya: tw:sp-pon} - p203
 08. {a.t mya:} - p205;  
 09. {ba.ma sa.ka: hsen-ra i.mht-hpw mya:} - p273
----- {HTaan} (POA or Point Of Articulation);
----- {ka.reN:} & {pa.yt} (MOA or Mode Of Articulation) - p284
----- Take note of another abbreviation, POS or Parts of Speech, which you'll meet in
----- Tagging of Bur-Myan language. See TIL HD-PDF & SD-PDF libraries, by
------ Phyu Hninn Myint, et. al. on POS tagging : Noun, Pronoun, Verb, Adjective, Adverb, Postpositional Marker, Particles and Interjection.
------ WinWin Thant, et. al.  on Function tagging 
 10. {a.n} (sound), {sa.ka: n} (human voice) - p349
 11. {sa.ka:lon:}; {poad}; {poad-su.} - p088, p368
 12. {poad} - p369
 13. {wa-sn~ga.} - p003, etc.
 14. {wa-sn~ga. hsen-ra i.mht-hpw mya:} - p298
 15. {wa-kya.} - p032, p090, p146, p195, p392
 16. {wa.kya. hsen-ra i.mht-hpw mya:} - p328
 17. {poad-hprt} {poad-rp}

UKT 200925: I'll have to extend the definition of Syllable into onset-vowel-coda as: Onset - {sa.t} ; Nuclear-vowel - {nyu-ka.li-a.ra.} - Coda - {hson:t}

UKT 191007: MLC Burmese Grammar definitions are mostly from vol.1 mod.1 bg-mlc-1-1. Page numbers are from consolidated ink-on-paper printed book. TIL scheme of one line corresponding to height 22 pix are adhered to.

I hate grammar, both Burmese and English, until I come across Grammar In Plain English (EGPE), by H. Diamond and P. Dutwin, 1977, when I realize that you can learn a language without going into formal grammar. Yet, I must learn formal Bur-Myan grammar before I can proceed with this topic.

See TIL version of Grammar In Plain English - EGPE-indx.htm - update 2019Oct 
UKT 191010: I haven't looked into this for a long time: major update in 2000 July and a minor update in 2015July. The reason is simply frustration trying to teach English to Myanmar students who are firm in their belief that in order to learn a language, formal grammar is a requirement.

With regard to Bur-Myan grammar, A. W. Lonsdale, in his Burmese Grammar and Grammatical Analysis , Rangoon 1899, wrote:
"The Burmese language is constructed on scientific principles, and there is no reason why its grammar should not be dealt with also from a scientific standpoint. But it may be safely said that Burmese grammar as a science has not received that attention it deserves.
"With regard to the grammatical treatises by native writers, ... not content with merely borrowing the grammatical nomenclature of the Pali language, ... assimilate the grammatical principles of the uninflected Burmese to those of the inflected Pali; so that they produced, not Burmese grammars, but modified Pali grammars in Burmese dress."

Bur-Myan Language: Speech and Script *- BurMyan-indx.htm - update 2016Sep
  includes the following:  
- The Grammaticalization of Nominalizers in Burmese, by Andrew Simpson,
  Prof. of Linguistics & East Asian Languages and Cultures, Univ. of Southern California.

Learn Myanmar, Asia Pearl Travels, (the free online Burmese lessons), by Naing Tin-Nyunt-Pu
  https://www.asiapearltravels.com/language/intro_burmese.php 191007
"Myanmar grammar has a number of suffixes and ending words called we1-but (postpositional markers) and pyit-si3 (particles). Those suffix and ending words are placed after a noun or a pronoun to show subject or object, and after a verb to show tense or mood. Sometimes, they can modify the adjective into verb."

MLC Bur-Myan definitions such as above are given in vol. 1, module 1: {naam}, {naam-sa:}, {kRi.ya}, {na-ma.wi.-a.na.}, {kRi.ya-wi.-a.na.},  {wi.Bt}, {m~bn-Da.}, {pic~s:},


Building up words from consonants and vowels

UKT 161005: Bur-Myan language has a very simple grammar. It can afford to be simple - without tense, gender, number and inflexion - because it uses a class of suffixes known as {wi.bt} and particles {pic~s:} to build up words. These suffixes are named "Nominalizers" by Andrew Simpson in his The Grammaticalization of Nominalizers in Burmese, 2008.

Nominals (linguistics)
- https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nominal_(linguistics) 191007
"In linguistics, the term nominal refers to a category used to group together nouns and adjectives based on shared properties. The motivation for nominal grouping is that in many languages nouns and adjectives share a number of morphological and syntactic properties.

The Grammaticalization of Nominalizers in Burmese, 2008
-- BurMyan-indx.htm > Normalizer.htm (link chk 170309)
Downloaded paper in TIL HD-PDF and SD-PDF libraries
- ASimpson-NormalizerBurmese<> / Bkp<> (link chk 200308)
"Burmese, a language which is particularly rich in nominalization structures and where a highly informative picture of the results of the grammaticalization of nominalizers can be found through a comparison of two different though closely-related forms of the language: Colloquial Burmese and Literary Burmese. A careful examination of synchronic patterns in Colloquial and Literary Burmese provides evidence of the source and complex structure of clausal nominalizers in the language, ..."

Burmese for Foreign Friends
   A teaching program by U Kyaw Tun and Daw Than Than, ver01, 1991, new ed. with sound files
- MLC Bur-Myan Orthography (MLC MO1986), ed. U (Dr.) Tun Tint, MLC, 1986,

  Precursor of MLC Myanmar English Dictionaries, 2006 - the standard edition used in my work
- Dictionary of Pali-derived Myanmar words (in Bur-Myan) - UTM-PDMD
   by U Tun Myint, Univ. of Rangoon Press, 1968, pp 627. My older ref. was UTM-PDD. 
- Thalun English-Myanmar Dictionary - Thalun-EMD2003-xxxx


Burmese verb-roots and noun-roots

UKT 201104: Roots
A curious aspect of the Bur-Myan language are the verbal roots.
See: Grammar of the Burmese Language, by A. Judson, 1883 - JudsonGram.htm
Judson gives in 1883:
49. Simple derivatives are mostly formed from verbal roots, by prefixing {a} [note the Romabama middle-dot representing schwa /ə/ ], as {aln:} light, from {ln:} to be light; but in composition the {a}, is commonly dropped; thus {asa} food, from {sa:} to eat, when combined with {a.} evening, becomes {a.sa} evening food, or supper.

Westerners started taking note of the Burmese roots early in the 19th century. The first time I noticed this is in Carey in 1814
See: Grammar of the Burman Language by F. Carey, 1814 - CareyGramBurmanLang.htm
In Appendix on p260, we find:
The Burman language is principally formed from certain roots, which the author [Carey] has endeavoured to collect together in this appendix. As these roots have never before been collected, some few may have been omitted, and others may be found repeated more than once, owing to their having been written differently by different authors; yet it is hoped, the attempt will not be condemned because it has not attained a higher degree of perfection.

Should a second edition be required, the Compound roots will be added. But being found to be more numerous than was at first imagined, they must be omitted in the present edition, in which the chief aim has been to give a completed list of the simple roots, which during four years close labour, have been collected as the author met with them in the course of his Burman reading.



UKT: Preparations for a modern BEPS grammar
  From Western sources - BEPS01-1.htm / BEPS01-2.htm / BEPS01-3.htm - update 2019Dec
  From my own sources - BEPS02.htm - update 2019Dec 


UKT notes
Doggie's Tale

Contents of this page

UKT: 121212, 160404, 191103
The instrument for comparison of BEPS languages is Romabama (Bur-Latin script). Please note Romabama transcriptions are based on Bur-Myan phonology and is not good for Mon-Myan. Burmese belongs to Tib-Bur (Tibeto-Burman) language group, whereas Mon is Aus-Asi (AustroAsiatic). Never forget that in our study we use the Abugida-Akshara system of recording speech in script, whereas in the West, they use the Alphabet-Letter system.

Do not be misled by the word "Grammar". Grammar is primarily concerned with the spoken word or speech. So we must always think in terms of phonetics and phonology -- not the way we make marks on paper to represent the spoken word. When we are just studying only one language say Burmese, we easily forget the importance of the spoken word.

Now, what is the difference between Phonetics and Phonology? Watch the following in TIL HD-VIDEO and SD-VIDEO libraries in Phonetics section, by Dr. Jrgen Handke, Marburg Univ., Germany :
- PHY101-PhoneticsPhonology<> / Bkp<> (link chk 191026)
And go to Phonetics which a relatively new study in the West - just about a couple of centuries, whereas it has been studied extensively in the East, particularly along the foot-hills of Himalayas extending into Myanmarpr for thousands of years:
- PHO101PhoneticsOverview<> / Bkp<> (link chk 191103) .

According to A. W. Lonsdale, the Bur-Myan akshara are distributed in the POA groups as follows. See p.007-008 sec.14 - ch02.htm (link chk: 190929).
Velar [approx. Gutteral {kN~HTa.}] :
    consonants: {ka.}, {ga.}, / {gna.}/{ng}; approximant: {ha.}; vowel: {a.}, {a}
Palatal {ta-lu.}:
    consonants: {sa.}, {za.}, / {a.}/{a.}; approximants: {ya.}, {I.}, {I}
  [UKT note: {I.} is pronounced as ; {I} as {i}]
Retroflex (Lingual or Cerebral): {Ta.}, {a.}, {Na.}, {ra.}, {La.}

UKT 121212, 160404, 161006: There are more interesting points to consider based on modern views and interpretations from Pal-Myan. Examples:

#1. Gutteral {kN~HTa.} 'throat' - UHS PMD0281.
IPA (International Phonetics Association) considers the POA of /k/ - for Eng-Lat - to be Velar, whereas some Eastern phoneticians take it to be further inwards - the Uvelar - like the Arabic /q/.

#2. I've reconsidered the problem of Nya-major / {a.}/{} & Nya-minor / {a.}/{} in r2c5 cell of the Akshara matrix in the light of killed consonants in the coda of the syllable CV.
   In Burmese, {a.} can be under virama {a.t} without breaking up, {}.
   In Pali it breaks up into {} & {a.}.
   In the light of the killed aksharas, I've placed Nya-minor / {a.}/{} in r2c5 cell as the sole occupier of the cell. And have moved Nya-major / {a.}/{} to the approximant row to the Palatal-approximant cell, moving out the / {a.}/{} to the Velar-approximant cell.

#3. In order to include Eng-Latin and Skt-Dev, I have to accept the Fricative hisser / {Sa.}/{S} and Fricative husher / {sha.}/{sh} as BEPS basic consonants.

#4. The only way to differentiate the Palatal plosive-stop and Dental fricative hisser & husher is to consider the Bur-Myan glyph, Romabama, and Skt-Dev together:

   Palatal plosive-stop : {sa.} च / {c} च्
   Dental fricative hisser: {Sa.} ष / {S} ष्
   Dental fricative husher: {sha.} श / {sh} श्
Caveat: Avoid using IAST and IPA transliterations when you are using Romabama transcription, remembering that Romabama is based on Bur-Myan phonology. As it is, Romabama transcription cannot be applied even to Mon-Myan. I expect it will also be inapplicable to Karen-Myan and Shan-Myanmar. However Romabama is applicable to Pali-Myan and to Skt-Dev to some extent.

Contents of this page

UKT notes

Doggie's Tale

Burmese-Myanmar speech has 5 nasals: English-Latin has only two, /n/ & /m/.
The paucity of nasals in English is just one of the obstacles of transcription from Burmese to English.

Mnemonic: The Doggie Tale
Little doggie cringe in fear -- ŋ (velar),
  Seeing Ella's flapping ears -- ɲ (palatal)
  And, the Shepard's hanging rear -- ɳ (retroflex).
Doggie so sad he can't get it out
  What's that Kasha क्ष when there's a Kha ख ?
  And when there's Jana ज्ञ what am I to do with Jha झ?
On top of all there're the husher Sha श /ʃ/, and hisser Ssa ष /s/,
  when I am stuck with Theta स /θ/ !" 
Little Doggie don't be sad,
  You are no worse than a Celtic Gnome
  Losing G in his name, he is just a Nome!

Note to digitizer: you can copy and paste the following:
Ā ā ă  Ē ē ĕ  Ī ī ĭ  Ō ō ŏ  Ū ū ŭ ː
Ḍ ḍ Ḥ ḥ Ḷ ḷ Ḹ ḹ Ṁ ṁ Ṃ ṃ
Ṅ ṅ Ṇ ṇ Ṛ ṛ Ṝ ṝ Ś ś Ṣ ṣ Ṭ ṭ ɕ ʂ
Instead of Skt-Dev ः {wic~sa.} use "colon" :
Angle Brackets: 〈 〉: these are different from key-board angle brackets < >
Avagraha ऽ use apostrophe
Root sign √ ; approx ≅
IAST Dev: भ आ इ ई उ ऊ
  ऋ ऌ ऍ ऎ ए ऐ ऑ ऒ ओ औ
  च ca छ cha  श ś [ɕ] /ʃ/ ; ष ṣ [ʂ] /s/; स s [s] /θ/ ; ऋ {iRi.} & ॠ {iRi},
  viram ् , rhotic ऋ ृ
Skt-Dev Row #3: ट ठ ड ढ ण ; conjunct ट ् ठ = ट्ठ
Skt-Dev special phonemes: Ksa क ् ष = क्ष
Undertie in Dev transcription: ‿ U203F
Using ZWNJ (ZeroWidthNonJoiner), e.g. , क्‌ष (code: क्&zwnj;ष)
  See Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zero-width_non-joiner 150630
IPA-, Pali- & Sanskrit nasals: ŋ ṅ ṅ ,  ɲ , ɳ ṇ ṇ, n n n , m m m
  Pali- & Skt {::ting}: aṁ , aṃ 
IPA symbols:
 ɑ ɒ ə ɛ ɪ ɯ ʌ ʊ ʃ ʧ ʤ θ ŋ ɲ ɳ ɴ ɔ ɹ ʔ /ʰ/ /ʳ/ /ː/
  <king> /kɪŋ/ (DJPD16-300) 
  <church> /ʧɜːʧ/ (DJPD16-097)
  <success> /sək'ses/ (DJPD16-515)
  <thin> /θɪn/ (DJPD16-535), <thorn> /θɔːn/ (DJPD16-535)
  circumflex-acute :
  ấ U+1EA5 , ế U+1EBF
  upsilon-vrachy  ῠ 
  small-u-breve  ῠ ŭ

Go back Dog-tale-note-b

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