Update: 2013-12-21 08:39 PM +0630


Burmese for Foreign Friends
Version 01


by U Kyaw Tun (UKT) and Daw Than Than, Jan 1991
Edited by UKT, and digitization by UKT and the staff of TIL.
http://www.tuninst.net , http://www.softguide.net.mm , www.romabama.blogspot.com
Reconstruct from C60 tapes - 121106 

index.htm | Top

Contents of this page

01.04. The Burmese-Myanmar Script : BEPS consonants
01.05. Activation - the {wag} : for practice of nasals
Peter Ladefoged and the Burmese voiceless nasals
Pronunciation contrast

UKT 131221: This file has sound clips from original UKT-DTT tapes.

UKT notes
Abhiraza <)) <)) 
the king who founded the First Tagaung and the First Myanmar Kingdom
  - {mrn-ma a.sa. ta.kaung: ka.} :
  'formation of Mranmar was at Tagaung'
Burmese-Myanmar script
pitch-register language
Pinya-Era (13th Century) inscription in Buddh Gya


Contents of this page


Listen to Chapter 01 : linked
  to B4FF1-indx/SND-mp3 - mp3<))
  to B4FF1-indx/SND-wma - wma<))
Note: This is the digitized version of the original C60 audio tape. It would be cut at my research station in Yangon by Daw Khin Wutyi and her helpers, but for the time being please listen to the contents of the original C60-tape side A.

01.04 The Burmese-Myanmar Script
consonants of BEPS

The hyphenated term 'Burmese-Myanmar' (Bur-Myan) is not a mistake: Burmese is the spoken language or simply the 'language', and Myanmar is the written 'script' used to write Burmese, Karen, Mon, Pali, Sanskrit, Shan, etc. in the country of Myanmar aka Myanmarpre.

Notice how I list the names: in alphabetical order. As a linguist I have no preference of one over the other.

Continue reading in my notes on Burmese-Myanmar script

Contents of this page

01.05 Activation. The {wag} : The Triads

One main difference between phonetics  of the East and the West (IPA) is the way we look at the POA (Place of Articulation) of the consonants. [See my note on BEPS Pulmonic Consonants in Burmese-Myanmar script.] We count from the interior of the mouth towards the lips and IPA counts from the exterior, the lips, towards the velum in the interior and then down the voice channel to the voice-box.

  Glottal (voice box) --> Pharyngeal --> Velar (soft palate)
  --> Palatalal (hard palate) --> Alveolar (the ridge) --> Dental (the teeth)
  --> Bilabial (lips)

Western: IPA
   Bilabial (lips) --> Dental --> Alveolar (the ridge)
   --> Palatal (hard palate) --> Velar (soft palate)

Therefore when my wife and I came across the term "post-alveolar", meaning after the "alveolar" we could not make head or tail. In the C60 tapes I have followed the Eastern way with which we are familiar, but to train the Bur-Myan speakers to pronounce the English syllables it is better to use the Western way.

The Bur-Myan students learning to speak English at my research centre in Thantadalan, Sanchaung, are asked to practice on the pronunciation of {S~pa.} through {S~ta.} to {S~ka.}. They have to practice strictly in this order to train the tip of their tongues to get into practice. Only then are they able pronounce words like <screen>. Otherwise, the tendency is put in a schwa after the {S}. I have been using this method on many students with success. The reason is simple: {S} and {pa.} have their POA in close proximity, and the tongue tip could move  easily. Then they proceed to {S~ta.} where the POA are still close. Only then they can pronounce the {S~ka.} where the POAs are far apart.

But if you are a Westerner, or even a Hindi (language) speaker learning to speak Burmese, say {ga.} as guttural and as deep as you can. Feel your voice box, with the tip of your fingers on the Adam's apple. You can feel the vibration inside. It is the sound of {ga.}.

Try to say it as softly as you can until you can hardly feel the vibration. That is the sound of {ka.} -- the tenuis.

The English speakers from Britain, or England specifically, must learn to open their mouths (lips) wide. Look at the Canadian anchors on the TV. They open their mouths wide -- wider than those from England.

Don't say the English <k>: you will be pronouncing {hka.} which the Westerner will say is the aspiration sound. Forget your Western idea of 'aspiration' -- there is no such thing in Burmese. You cannot drop it as in 'Henry Higgins' and say
" 'enry 'iggins ". By the way, do you know who Henry Higgins the caricature represents? He is Henry Sweet (1845-1912) -- the renown phonetician.

"The Rain in Spain
Stays mainly in the plain"
Song in My Fair Lady as an exercise in Phonetics
-- http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Rain_in_Spain 121113
See my note on The Rain in Spain

The tenuis {ka.} is the most difficult sound to produce for English speakers. English <k> gives only the {hka.} and not the {ka.}. English speakers can come to the tenuis {ka.} only after a hissing sound as in <skeptical >.

For those who are familiar with phonetics, I have given the IPA transcription according to my own pronunciation. With the nasals, you'll hear creak, modal, or emphatic. If I don't specify take it to be modal.

Contents of this page

Note to the listener: The speakers whose voices are given below are ordinary folks who have no phonetic-training. If you are a trained Bur-Myan phonetician, you might notice that some of their recordings are not strictly of the norm. If so, what is the norm I will have to ask. Our foreign friend is going to meet ordinary folks who speak as they are used to -- not trained phoneticians. We don't speak in single words: we speak in phrases and sentences almost devoid of grammar. We understand each other from the context - not the sound of single words. The words are given below just to show how each sound, if produced singly would sound.



{pa.} /p/ <)) <))
{hpa.} /pʰ/ <)) <))
{ba.} /b/ <)) <))
{Ba.} /bʰ/ <)) <))
{ma.} /m/ : creak <)) <)) ; modal <)) <)) ; emphatic <)) <))


{ta.} /t/ <)) <))
{hta.} /tʰ/ <))  <))
{da.} /d/ <))  <))
{Da.} /dʰ/ <))  <))
(na.} /n/ : creak <)) <)) ; modal <)) <)) ; emphatic <)) <))
[Attn TIL editor: M sounds {nga.} {nga} {nga:} - check and report.
- UKT 121114]

retroflex: - almost the same as dental

{Ta.} /ʈ/ ; {HTa.} /ʈʰ/ ; {a.} /ɖ/ ; {a.} /ɖʰ/ ; {Na.} /ɳ/

If you are a Hin-Dev or a Skt-Dev forget, your pronunciation.
Bur-Myan and Pal-Myan palatals are different, and don't speculate which precede which. Nobody really knows!

{sa.} /c/ - same sound as coda {Sa.} /s/ <))  <))
{hsa.} /sʰ/ /cʰ/ <))  <))
{za.} /z/ <))  <))
{Za.} /zʰ/ <))  <))
Pal: {a.} /ɲ/ -- considered to be the same as Bur
Bur: creak {a.} <))  <)) : modal {a} <))  <)): emphatic: {a:} <))  <))

Note: Expect more troubles with palatal medials or conjuncts. There are similar or same sounding graphemes which I will introduce later.


{ka.} /k/ <))  <))
{hka.} /kʰ/ <))  <))
{ga.} /g/ <))  <))
{Ga.} /gʰ/ <))  <))
{nga.} /ŋ/ : creak <)) <)) ; modal <)) <)) ; emphatic <)) <))
If you can't get {nga.} pronunciation right, don't worry. I don't expect you would! Most IE speakers, including Hindi speakers do not get it right.

Tenuis stops

These sounds are absent in English unless preceded by /s/ as in
<spin>, <stingy>, & <skin>.

Always practice these sounds in the order <p, t, k>.
In comparing different languages, linguists use the sounds of <p,t,k> for comparison.
Never practice in the order -- the order that comes naturally to Burmese speakers -- <k,t,p>.
The rational behind my suggestion is closeness of /s/ and /p/. It is easy for your ear to train your nerves responsible to articulate your tongue. You use your tongue, the tip, the middle, and the root to articulate these sounds. Leave the training to your ear, and everything will come naturally.

{pa.} /p/ <))  <))
{ta.} /t/ <))  <))
{Ta.} /ʈ/  <))  <))
{sa.} /s/  <))  <))
{ka.} /k/ <))  <))

Nasals - partial stops

Remember the syllables are the basis for pronunciation -- not the letters of the alphabets. The syllables are of the form CV, and the rime V is of primary importance. It is checking the V. The check is complete in plosive-stops, but only partial in nasals. Because of this partial checking, the nasal-endings can be realized in three pitch-registers: the creak, the modal, and the emphatic. I have given the most suitable gloss, but there are other meanings as well.

{ma.} 'to lift up' <)) <))
{ma} 'to be healthy' /m/ <)) <))
{ma:} 'over powering stature' <)) <))

(na.} 'stupid' <)) <))
{na} /n/ 'hurt' <)) <))  [gloss given by Peter Ladefoged is 'pain'
{na:} 'ear' <)) <)) 

{Na.} /ɳ/ - same as above

Pal: {a.} /ɲ/ - sounds are similar or the same as Bur 
Bur: {a.} 'night' <))  <))
Bur: {a} 'to tell a lie' <))  <))  [gloss given by Peter Ladefoged is 'right']
Bur: {a:} 'to be in a sexual relationship' <))  <))

{nga.} <)) <))
{nga} /ŋ/ '1st person pronoun' <)) <))
{nga:} 'fish' <)) <))


Contents of this page

Peter Ladefoged and the Burmese voiceless nasals

From Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peter_Ladefoged

Nielsen Peter Ladefoged (1925 2006) was an English-American linguist and phonetician who traveled the world to document the distinct sounds of endangered languages and pioneered ways to collect and study data [1]. He was active at the universities of Edinburgh, Scotland and Ibadan, Nigeria 195361 [2]. At Edinburgh he studied phonetics with David Abercrombie, who himself had studied with Daniel Jones and was thus connected to Henry Sweet.[2]

At the time of his death, he was Professor of Phonetics Emeritus at University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), where he taught from 1962 to 1991. His book A Course in Phonetics is a common introductory text in phonetics, and The Sounds of the World's Languages (co-authored with Ian Maddieson) is widely regarded as a standard phonetics reference. Ladefoged also wrote several books on the phonetics of African languages.

More in the Wikipedia article. Now, I will continue:

-- UKT 121112

I do not know whether Peter Ladefoged had ever visited Burma, or that he had ever studied the Burmese phonology and our akshara system of writing. The following is how he had mistakenly confused the basic nasals and the modals.

The Bur-Myan nasals are all voiced. However, Peter Ladefoged (1925-2006) gives what he calls the Burmese voiceless nasals which are not basic nasals but nasals modified by the {ha.hto:}. The {ha.hto:}-sounds are modals and will be treated later in Chapter02. Inset shows them in:
(http://hctv.humnet.ucla.edu/departments/linguistics/.../burmese.html 120512 ). To hear the difference, I am giving them below. The first time my wife and I came upon this website was in 2001. We could not make head or tail of the sounds because sounds of different phonation has been compared until we got the clue from the gloss given:

{ma.} creak 'lift up'  <)) <))           {mha} modal  <)) <))
{na} modal 'pain'   <)) <))           {nha} modal  <)) <))
{a} modal 'right'  <)) <))          {ha} modal <)) <))
{nga:} emphatic 'fish'  <)) <))     {ngha:} emphatic <)) <))

What Peter Ladefoged should have done was to rely on Bur-Myan spellings, devised by Bur-Myan phoneticians hundred of years before he was born. That would have impressed upon him that what was comparing was not relevant. I hope the great linguist would forgave me for pointing this out! -- UKT121112

Contents of this page

Pronunciation contrast

If you are a native English speaker, you can hear the difference in pronunciation of :
/k/ and /kʰ/ in <skin> and <kin>
/s/ and /sʰ/ in <...> and <sin>
/t/ and /tʰ/ in <stone> and <tone>
/p/ and /pʰ/ in <spin> and <pin>

There is one sound very commonly met, and it is similar to that of {ba.}. It is that of {Ba.} which is pronounced almost the same in Burmese. However, it is said that it should be articulated a little further back in the mouth.

Remember these are the sounds of the characters when they are found at the beginning a word or syllable. They are the onset sounds. Their sounds at the end of the words or syllables, the coda sounds, are not necessarily the same as given above.

For phonetically inclined: It is said that there is no palatal <c> in English. However, I must insist that it is only true in the case of onset consonants in syllables of the type CV, where C is the onset consonant, V the peak vowel, and the coda consonant. It may not be true in the case of coda consonants such as <accident> /ˈk.sɪ.dənt/ (Transcription of <accident> is from Daniel Jones' English Pronouncing Dictionary, ed. 16, Cambridge University Press, 2003, p.088.)
In <accident>, the two <c> have different pronunciations, /k/ and /s/. I have suggested that /k/ could easily be /c/ -- the palatal <c>. If you can accept this suggestion, then the transliteration and transcription of {sa.} in syllable {thic~sa} is easily, and it makes the Pali <c> easy to understand. Please remember that since friction at word-endings and syllable codas is not present in Burmese, cannot be {thiS~sa}.

The reason why I am so intrigued with the sound of the first letter {ka.} is because my Burmese name is spelled with it. It was quite unnerving to hear my beautiful name (at least, I think it is) butchered again and again by the barbarous tongues of my American friends that finally [{p015end}] I had to let them call me by the closest name that they could: Joe.

I thank them from calling me 'Joe' because it brought down one of the highest barriers between us. The next letter that interests my is {hta.}. It is because my family name is spelled with it. The English <t> falls between the Burmese {ta.} and {hta.}, but more closely to {hta.}. The Burmese {ta.} is pronounced with the tip of the tongue touching the root of the upper teeth. If the tongue does not touch the teeth but the palate, then you get the sound of {hta.}. My Burmese name is spelled with {hta.} in Bur-Myan script, but with a <t> in the English-Latin script: Tun.

Next, we have six letters forming three "pairs". Lastly, we will come to the "singles".

Contents of this page

UKT notes

King Abhiraza in Glass-Palace Chronicles

-- by UKT120719, 121109

The saying - {mrn-ma a.sa. ta.kaung: ka.} : 'formation of Mranmar was at Tagaung' alludes the formation of Mranmarpr (as a kingdom or country). It did not mean the beginning of the {ba.ma} as a race. King Abhiraza <)) <)) must have gathered the existing peoples, all Tib-Myan speakers, into a political unit. Remember, it is NOT {myan-mar} which is wrong spelling. The English word MYANMAR should be changed! Akshara-wise MYANMAR is {myan-mar}.

Most Bur-Myan speakers, inside and outside Myanmar-country, must have heard about the Glass-Palace Chronicles, but few have read it. I was one of those during most of my adult life. Yet in my closing years for my study BEPS, a passage in it, is the basis of my theory of the origin of the Bur-Myan language. See insert below.

According to the Glass Palace Chronicles p153-154, in the days before the birth of the Gautama Buddha, there was a great war between the King of Panchala and the King of Koliya. The King of Pachala had two kingdoms under his command, Panchala (पञ्चाल pacāla) and Kosala, whist his adversary King of Koliya had the allied Sakkas of Koliya, Devadaha and Kapilavastu. The alliance lost the war and a group of Sakka under King Abhiraza of Kapilavastu (Pāli: Kapilavatthu) had fled India and sought refuge in northern Myanmarpre founding the city of Tagaung.

If so, Brahmi script must have arrived in Myanmarpre well before the spread of Buddhism. When did this war took place? Was it ever mentioned in Sanskrit sources? There were three major wars in India well before the birth of Gautama Buddha:
#1. The Battle of the Ten kings -- between c. 1700-1000 BC
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_the_Ten_Kings 120719
#2. Ramayana war -- c. 7200 BC
http://www.hindunet.org/hindu_history/ancient/ramayan/rama_vartak.html 120719
#3. Mahabharata war -- c. 5500 BC
http://www.hindunet.org/hindu_history/ancient/mahabharat/mahab_vartak.html 120719

In which of these three was King Abhiraza involved. We can count out the Ramayana war because it was a war between the Indo-Aryans of the north and the Dravidians of the south. We can also count out the Mahabharata war because almost all the belligerent kings were killed. So if Abhiraza did take part in any of these three wars, it must have been the Battle of the Ten Kings. If so the date he founded Tagaung would be at least 500 to 1000 years before the birth of the Buddha.

Since, Bur-Myan script and Brahmi scripts are similar, the Myanmar script might have been in existence well before the Pagan period of King Anawrahta. Unfortunately, it seems that the archeological evidence in Myanmarpre to support my suggestion is still lacking. -- UKT110508

Go back Abhiraza-note-b

Contents of this page

The Burmese-Myanmar script

-- UKT 121106

According to some sources, such as http://www.omniglot.com/writing/burmese.htm 081111, "The Burmese or Myanmar script developed from the Mon script, which was adapted from a southern Indian script during the 8th century. The earliest known inscriptions in the Burmese script date from the 11th century."

UKT: I need to check the date "the 11the century". I remember someone telling me that there are inscriptions earlier than that. -- UKT121109

Yet, curiously, the Myanmar script has a very close resemblance to the Asoka script (now dubbed Brahmi). Please note that the word Brahmi is misleading because of its association with the Hindu Poanna-Brahmin: whereas Asoka was Buddhist belonging to the ruling class. The Poannas served the ruling class as secretaries and scribes.

My foray into the often-ridiculed "pseudo-science" of the "Casting Runes" has suggested that the Myanmar script, based on the Perfect Circle, was an ancient script known to the ancient Myanmar monks, the Aris, who were probably related to the modern Tibetan Lamas.

It was probable that the Aris were descended from the Vedic priests who accompanied King Abhiraza {a.Bi.ra-za}, a Thakya {a.kya.}. Abhiraza was a {hkt~ti.ya.} ksatriya, who founded the ancient city of Tagaung {ta.kaung:} in northern Myanmarpre.

Then, in the lifetime of the Buddha, another group of Thakya {a.kya.} had to flee to Tagaung when they were massacred by Vidudabha {wi.Ta.du-pa.}: who ascended the throne of Kosala after deposing his own father King Pasenadi. Buddhist monks might have been in this group. Whatever the case may be, it was clear that there was regular intermingling of people of that region in northern India and northern Myanmarpre.

The Aris were uprooted during the reign of King Anawrahta of Pagan, but a few continued their practice as forest-dwelling monks who resurfaced only after the fall of the Pagan kingdom. See Pinya-Era (13th Century) inscription in Buddh Gya

Finally, there are my observations made on the Asoka characters themselves. Firstly, the square-ness of the shapes is probably due to the ease of chiseling the stone surface. However, if written on palm leaf, the characters would be more rounded. Secondly, note the regular shape of the cross depicting the akshara {ka.}. To show that it can go round right-handed or left-handed (to depict eternal motion), lines can be added which would result in the holy-symbol, the Swastika, of the Ancient Aryans, which the Nazis misused which has resulted in the Swastika being associated with Evil.

Now, compare Myanmar {ka.} to Asoka {ka.}, by taking out the curvatures of the Myanmar {ka.}. You get "a capital Y", not a cross! When you join the tips of the arms of Y you get an upside down triangle - the Female or {yau:ni.}-sign. (See online Wikipedia article: Star of David http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Star_of_David 081111 in connection with interlocking triangles.)

In both cases, Asoka and Myanmar, the glyphs designers used the basic idea of symmetry and by putting "wings" they hope to make the aksharas fly!

Please remember, I am a material scientist - a skeptical chemist like Robert Boyle, and I don't pay credence to any assumption even though it be made by me! What I have suggested here is simply one of the vague ideas which I will entertain during my study.

Myanmar - the phonetic script

My wife and I, while writing this Burmese for Foreign Friends had realized that, to be effective, we had to learn Phonetics and Linguistics. Accordingly, we started to learn these disciplines which were very foreign to us. We were both chemists, but now in Canada we had to learn new skills even though we were approaching 60. I was the leader but she supported me all the way. In the meantime, I had to learn the mechanics of stock trading to earn an income: we were "too old" to be employed. Eventually, I learned the technical method or what the fundamentalists called the "chartist". I devised a method of my own based on my knowledge of "cycles" in Astrology - the Thirty-year Cycle. (You don't have to believe in Astrology, but as long as others do in such pseudo-sciences, these methods are useful.) The method was a success and we eventually founded the Tun Investments Limited incorporated in Ontario, Canada.

In these lessons, which I am rewriting alone now that my dear wife is no more, I find it necessary to introduce terms from Phonetics and Linguistics such as "allophone", "phoneme", "grapheme", and " pitch-register", which I hope would be of help to you. However, if you are uncomfortable with them, just ignore them. But, just be aware of the bracket convention I am using (from which I have to deviate sometimes):

{...} Burmese-Myanmar in Romabama,
... Sanskrit-Devanagari in IAST
   (International Alphabet of Sanskrit transliteration) or some other transliterations
<...> regular English words, 
/.../ & [...] the International Phonetics Association (IPA) transcriptions,
   broad and narrow, respectively.


BEPS Pulmonic consonants

The first characters of the Myanmar akshara-matrix are {ka.} and {hka.}. Very few in Myanmar, including myself at one time, do not realized that the English <k> sounds like {hka.}. This sound is the most common and is found in words like <kin> [kʰɪŋ] and sounds like {hking}. The {ka.} sound is found only after <s> in words like <skin> or [skɪŋ].

English speakers do not hear the difference in sounds of [k] and [kʰ]. However, to us and to the people of South Asia (i.e. the Indian subcontinent), the sounds are very distinct and are assigned different graphemes, e.g. Devanagari क U0195 [k] and ख U0916 [kʰ].

The third letter is {ga.} which is like <g> in the English 'get' and is entirely different from the <g> in the French 'gens'. The second letter {hka.} is pronounced intermediately between the sounds of the first and the third letters. If you are to pronounce these three letters one after the other, you will find that the first is pronounced in the front part of the mouth and the third way back in the interior, i.e. in the order: {ka.} , {hka.} and {ga.}. Moreover, when you are articulating {ka.} and {hka.} your vocal cords do not vibrate at all or vibrate very little. However, when {ga.} is being articulated, the vocal cords are noticeably vibrating. Thus the phonation of {ka.} क , {hka.} ख and described as voiceless, and {ga.} ग as voiced. Thus, {ka.} क, {hka.} ख, & {ga.} ग forms a very well defined series.

Note to Hindi and other Indic speakers: Graphemes are just glyphs to represent phonemes. Graphemes are simply scratches on vegetable leaves, metal, stones, etc. On paper the scratch is a mark made with visible ink. Within a language group there is a convention (an axiomatic convention) to denote which glyph represents which sound. Thus, when I write a Devanagari-grapheme, क, you must know that it represent a Burmese sound and not a Hindi sound.

I have observed that the English-speaking North Americans can pronounce the second and the third letters, but never the first. Many could not even distinguish between the sounds of the first and second letters. They all pointed out that these are just variation of the same sound, or allophones. As a Burmese-native speaker, I have always considered these sounds to be quite distinct from one another, and that they seem to form a group which I have named a "triad".

If you look at the Myanmar akshara-matrix, you will see that it is divided into two main groups: the {wag} (classifiable by point of articulation and into voiceless, voiced, and nasals - [MED2006-478]), and the {a.wag} (non-classifiable) groups. The Sanskrit word corresponding to the first Pali-Myanmar is 'varg'. Of course, {a.wag} correspondingly means the 'non-varg'. The {wag}-group is further divided into the voiceless-voiced group and the nasals.

Since Myanmar is based on phonemic principles you should always consult the IPA (International Phonetic Alphabet) tables. Caveat: In comparing the Myanmar to IPA, I am relying on my own (I am a native-Burmese speaker speaking English as my second language since childhood) pronunciation which may not be exactly the same as that of another native-Burmese speaker.

Go back Bur-Myan-script-note-b

Contents of this page

pitch-register language

From: Wikipedia: Register (phonology) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Register 081110

In linguistics, a register language, aka a pitch-register language, is a language which combines tone and vowel phonation into a single phonological system. Burmese and the Chinese dialect Shanghainese are examples. Burmese is often considered a tonal language, but differences in relative pitch are correlated with vowel phonation, so that neither exists independently.

There are three such registers in Burmese, which have traditionally been considered three of the four 'tones'. (The fourth is not a tone at all, but a closed syllable, called " entering tone" in translations of Chinese phonetics). Jones (1986) views the differences as

resulting from the intersection of both pitch registers and voice registers [] Clearly Burmese is not tonal in the same sense as such other languages and therefore requires a different concept, namely that of pitch register. [1] pitch-regis-fn01

Burmese pitch-phonation registers [2] pitch-regis-fn02
(UKT: I have changed the order of rows to conform to TIL style. Column "Burmese-Myanmar {Romabama} is my addition)

Register Phonation Length Pitch Example Gloss Burmese-Myanmar
{Romabama}/ IPA
Creaky Creaky voice medium high [l̰ˀ] 'moon' {la.} [lă]
<)) <))
Low Modal voice long low [lː] 'come' {la} [la]
 <))  <))
High Breathy voice long high; falling when final [l̤ː] ~ [l̤ː] 'mule' {la:} [laː]
 <))  <))
Checked Final glottal stop short high [lăʔ] 'fresh' {lt} [lʌt]
 <))  <))
UKT: the "final glottal stop" given above is that of of syllables of canonical form CV, where is the akshara under "virama" or {a.tht}. Here is a consonant of the "plosive" type. can also be a "nasal" or an "approximant", and the resulting syllable is like a vowel and has three pitch-registers. There is one more type of syllable and is the {th:th:ting} type. It also has pitch-registers, usually two.

UKT: 081114, 121110
I do not agree with the phonetic transcriptions given under "Example" in the above Wikipedia table. However, I must admit that I do have any formal training in phonetics, but I stand on my ground as a native Burmese speaker with English as my second mother tongue. I am representing the three pitch-registers in Romabama with suprasegmentals, e.g.

{a.} /ă/  <))  <))
{a} /a/  <))  <))
{a:} /aː/  <))  <)) 

One of the main reasons I hold against Wikipedia transcription is, as a material scientist, I find it undesirable to fine-tune the sounds of a language with many "dialects" which makes it necessary to introduce new symbols. Moreover, most of the meagre work done on the Burmese language is by non-Burmese speakers who find it convenient to confine themselves to large cities like Rangoon (Yangon) and Mandalay. In these cities, the average pronunciation is undoubtedly under pressure of foreign languages such as English. Yet, as a scientist, I am ready to change my views in the light of convincing experimental data.

With reference to {lt} [lʌt], since it is part of a word, {lt hst} (See MOrtho243), the example can be confusing. I am saying this from personal experience when this very example had confused me before. I was then looking for the differences in "creak", "check", "breathy", etc., until I got to study The Phonetic Description of Voice quality, John Laver, Univ. of Edinburgh. Cambridge Univ. Press, First published 1980. ISBN 0 521 231 760. This particular book was out of print, but I got it through the interlibrary loan from a Canadian university, and digitized the whole book in HTML for my own future use. (For that particular part of my work I had to station myself in my home in Canada: I work in two places, my first home in Myanmar which is now my main research station and my present home in Canada. Now, I am trying to establish a third research base in Singapore - 081114.) The digitized version, with my additions and analysis, is in TIL library for use by my fellow researchers.

Khmer is sometimes considered to be a register language. It's also been called a "restructured register language" because both its pitch and phonation can be considered allophonic: If they are ignored, the phonemic distinctions they carry remain as a difference in diphthongs and vowel length.

Wikipedia references
pitch-regis-fn01 Robert Jones, 1986. Pitch register languages, pp 135-136, in John McCoy & Timothy Light eds., Contributions to Sino-Tibetan Studies pitch-regis-fn01b
pitch-regis-fn02 James Matisoff, 2001. Prosodic Diffusibility in South-East Asia, pp. 309-310. In Aleksandra Aikhenvald and Robert Dixon, Areal Diffusion and Genetic Inheritance, OUP. pitch-regis-fn02b

Go back pitch-regis-note-b | pitch-regis-note-b2

Contents of this page

Pinya-Era (13th century) inscription in Buddh Gya

Excerpt from: Translation of an Inscription in the Pali Character and Burmese Language, on a stone at Buddh Gya, in Behar (From Journal of the Asiatic Society of Bengal May, 1834), SOAS Bulletin of Burma Research, Vol. 1, No. 2, Autumn 2003, ISSN 1479-8484 . Revised: 27 March 2004 -- http://web.soas.ac.uk/burma/1.2%20PDF%20FILES/1.2%2003%20inscription-revised.pdf (UKT: last online access: 081111)

SOAS Bulletin of Burma Research Editorial note:
After the initial posting of this reprint, Dr. Tilman Frasch (Manchester Metropolitan University) sent the following useful and cautionary note on the 19th century translation below: "This is the first of several attempts to read and translate the text of an inscription Burmese monks left at Bodhgaya when visiting the site in 1296-98 AD. Burney had reached Bodhgaya in the company of a Burmese delegation to the Governor-General of India, and presumably he was helped by the Burmese in his translation. However, neither his nor any (but one) of the later translations is fully reliable, as usually the name Putasin is misread as Pyutasin (l. 11 of the Burmese version reprinted here). Putasin (or Buddhasena) is the name of the local ruler of Bodhgaya; it was mixed with with the epithet Pyu-ta-sin (or "Lord of 100.000 Pyu" [UKT: {pyu tic-thain:}) which the Rakhaing Minthami Egyin attributed to king Alaungsithu. The only reliable translation comes from G. H. Luce, Sources of Early Burma History, in Southeast Asian History and Historiography (Festschrift GEH Hall), eds. C.D. Cowan and O. W. Wolters, Ithaca 1976, p. 41-42."

UKT: Those of you who can read Burmese-Myanmar will be able to read most of the ancient inscription. I should add that my friend from MLC (Myanmar Language Commission) U Tun Tint has some doubts on the accuracy of the date "1296-98 AD", though he does not dispute the authenticity of the inscription itself. My view on the date (I am not an epigraphist, neither do I claim to be much knowledgeable in the Burmese language itself), is that the date was probably true. This inscription was one which has led me to suggest that the Myanmar script was an ancient script known to the ancient Myanmar Ari monks who were adapts in pseudo-sciences of Astrology, Alchemy and the Cult of the Magus.

Some of the Aris were Tantric "Buddhist" monks who used the "energy" released during sexual intercourse as a form of mental concentration {a.ma.hta.}. After which to recharge their bodies they drank a "medicinal concoction" known as {} - probably the Soma health drink of the Vedic priests. This Tantric practice gave Anawrahta an excuse to hunt them down and replaced them with the Theravada Buddhist Mon monks from the south. Here an interesting point emerges: how could the Mon monks speak to the Burmese population of Pagan. The two groups were speaking different languages: Mon-Myan and Bur-Myan.

However, he probably left some Aris (probably including his own father who had become an Ari monk) after re-ordination as Theravada Buddhist monks. In all probability, Anawratha, a shrewd "politician", did this to enhance his power, because the old Aris were the supporters of his foster brother King Sokat whom Anawratha killed in a dual and ascended the throne. It was evident that some Aris went into hiding and became forest dwelling monks who resurfaced only after the fall of Pagan. The Pinya inscription was probably the work of these forest-dwelling monks.

Go back Pinya-inscrip-note-b

Contents of this page

The Rain in Spain

From: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Rain_in_Spain 121113

"The Rain in Spain" is a song from the musical My Fair Lady, with music by Frederick Loewe and lyrics by Alan Jay Lerner. The song was published in 1956.

The song is a key turning point in the plotline of the musical. Professor Higgins and Colonel Pickering have been drilling Eliza Doolittle incessantly with speech exercises, trying to break her Cockney accent speech pattern. [UKT ] .

Colonel Pickering after serving the British Raj in India in the Indian Civil Service (ICS) had returned to Britain. The Colonel -- a caricature of English linguists in the Indian British Empire in which Burma was placed after the Annexation -- must have heard the sounds of Sanskrit ha and the Bur-Myan {ha.} which cannot be dropped as in Cockney. With this note of mine I pay my humble respects to the English phoneticians -- from Henry Sweet, through Daniel Jones to Peter Ladefoged and others -- whom I have never met. Still they are my teachers and I owe my knowledge of Western phonetics to them. -- UKT 121113

The key lyric in the song is "The rain in Spain stays mainly in the plain", which contains five words that a Cockney would pronounce with an [aɪ] more like "eye" than the RP (Received Pronunciation) diphthong [eɪ] . With the three of them nearly exhausted, Eliza finally "gets it", and recites the sentence with all long-a's. The trio breaks into song, repeating this key phrase as well as singing other exercises correctly, such as "In Hertford, Hereford and Hampshire, hurricanes hardly ever happen", and "How kind of you to let me come", in which Eliza had failed before by dropping the leading 'H'. According to The Disciple and His Devil, the biography of Gabriel Pascal by his wife Valerie, it was Gabriel Pascal who introduced the famous phonetic exercises "The rain in Spain stays mainly in the plain" and "In Hertford, Hereford, and Hampshire, hurricanes hardly ever happen" into Pygmalion in 1938, the first of which wound up leading to the song in My Fair Lady.[1]

Go back Rain-note-b

Contents of this page


UKT: Wikipedia does not list suprasegmental -- 080315. However, it does say something about it in Prosody (linguistics) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Suprasegmental 080318
Notice that Romabama uses IPA suprasegmentals for IPA transcriptions. To see the complete IPA table go to: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/International_Phonetic_Alphabet 080317

From Wikipedia

The prosodic domain

Prosodic features are suprasegmental in that they are not confined to any one segment; rather, they occur in a hierarchy of higher levels of an utterance. These prosodic units are the actual phonetic spurts or chunks of speech. They do not in general correspond to grammatical units such as phrases, and clauses, though they may, and both may reflect how the brain processes speech.
Prosodic units are characterized by several phonetic cues, such as a coherent pitch contour, and the gradual decline in pitch and lengthening of vowels over the duration of the unit, until the pitch and speed are reset to begin the next unit. Breathing, both inhalation and exhalation, only seems to occur at these boundaries where the prosody resets.

UKT: Only some suprasegmentals are of interest to Romabama, e.g. {a.} /ă/; {a} /a/; {a:} /aː/.

Go back supraseg-note-b

Contents of this page

End of TIL file