Update: 2016-09-10 07:53 PM -0400


Pali Grammar


by Narada Thera (Lanka)

Edited, with additions from other sources, by U Kyaw Tun (UKT) (M.S., I.P.S.T., USA) and staff of Tun Institute of Learning (TIL) . Not for sale. No copyright. Free for everyone. Prepared for students and staff of TIL  Computing and Language Center, Yangon, MYANMAR :  http://www.tuninst.net , www.romabama.blogspot.com

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  Inherent vowel of individual akshara

UKT notes :


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{ak~hka.ra} अक्षर akṣara

UKT 160405:  Skt-Dev uses Pseudo Kha, a conjunct:

{ka.} + viram + {Sa.} -->  {k~Sa.}

in places where Pal-Myan would use Regular Kha {hka.}. Since the dental fricative-sibilant {Sa.} is unknown in Bur-Myan & Pal-Myan, this Skt-Dev conjunct is a source of confusion for Bur-Myan speakers. To them {k~Sa.} is unpronounceable, but when forced to do they have to add a schwa as /kə.sa./.

Don't confuse {k~Sa.} with {S~ka.} present in common English words such as <skin>. Bur-Myan speakers tend to pronounce with an added schwa as /Sə.ka./, as a disyllable. Avoid doing it and try to pronounce it as a monosyllable. For those of my students (particularly the Burmese monks) who could not do it, I ask them to start pronouncing {S~pa.} which is easy because POAs of /s/ (dental) and /p/ (labial) are close. Then they can proceed to {S~ta.}.

Dental /t/ is pronounced with the tip of tongue touching the root of the upper front teeth to give {ta.}. We can say that the tongue-tip is in the tip-up position.

To produce the Palatal Plosive-stop {sa.}/ {c}, most of us including myself when speaking Bur-Myan, have the tip of the tongue pressing or almost pressing the the root of lower front teeth and the middle of the tongue-body bunched up touching the roof of the mouth or the hard palate. We can say that the tongue-tip is tip-down position.

It is not easy for the Westerners and Skt-Dev speakers - the IE (Indo-European) speakers - to articulate the Palatal Plosive-stop {sa.}/ {c}. They ended up articulating the Palatal Affricates which to our ears is {kya.}. Unfortunately, the Westerns could not produce the tenuis-voiceless {kya.} but only the ordinary voiceless and ended up producing what we hear as our {hkya.} /ʧ/ as in English <church> .

Palatals and Retroflex consonants
UKT 160904: Palatals and Retroflex consonants are absent in English-Latin. But they are important for Bur-Myan speakers. Remember, we count the POAs from back-to-front, and the rows of Akshara matrix are arranged as, velar, palatal, retroflex, dental, and labial. However, the Westerners count from front-to-back: labial, dental (including alveolar), retroflex, palatal and velar.
"Palatal consonants are consonants articulated with the body of the tongue raised against the hard palate (the middle part of the roof of the mouth). Consonants with the tip of the tongue curled back against the palate are called retroflex." - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Palatal_consonant 160904

Dental fricative hisser {Sa.}/ {S} - the phoneme which we do'nt have - on the other hand, has to be pronounced with the tip of the tongue near the lower front teeth or the tip-down position. 

Pronouncing the dentals and palatals is not as easy as you think. The tongue positions are important. The following is a bit of of advice:
"Relax your mouth. Place the tip of your tongue close to the back of your teeth, without touching them. Gently blow air between your teeth, and make a hissing sound. The tip of the tongue does not touch the roof of the mouth or the back of the front teeth when pronouncing the letter /s/." - Advice by Google search engine.

Dental fricative non-hissing Bur-Myan thibilant: Least understood is the Bur-Myan {a.} / {} /θ/, as in {pai~a} 'viss - the unit of weight', has to be pronounced with the tip of tongue between the upper-teeth and the lower-teeth or tip-neutral position.

UKT 160904: Tha'gyi {~a.} is a horizontal-conjunct, {~a.} and is mute. We are more familiar with vertical-conjuncts which are known as Pt'sin {paaHT hsn.} "the stacked Pali'. The horizontal-conjunct even lacked a name because of which I have coined the word "Pt'tw" {paaHT tw:}. 

This phoneme is present in ordinary English words such as <thorn> & <thin> {n:}. To avoid using the digraph <th> which in Skt-Dev is {hta.} tha, I am using the Old-English "thorn-character" for {a.}.

Remember what you hear is your own judgement and is very subjective. What you hear will be quite different from what your mother hears. But what you see written down on paper is the same for you and your mother. What you hear is "phoneme", and what you see is "glyph".

The Pali Abugida-Akshara (Not Alphabet-Letter) consists of forty-one basic aksharas. That is what you'll see. They are glyphs.

Eight vowels (sara) : 8 glyphs
  - Bur-Myan: {a.ra.} : 12 glyphs
  - Mon-Myan: {Sa.ra.} : 12 glyphs
Pronunciation-wise, all three languages, Pali, Bama, and Mon, have to cope up with about 12 phonemes.

Thirty-three consonants (vyajana) : 33 glyphs
  - Bur-Myan: {by:} : 33 glyphs
  - Mon-Myan: {by} : 35 glyphs

The basic consonant-aksharas are placed in 5x5 matrix to bring out the phonetic nature of the consonants. Never try to disrupt this matrix, because without this arrangement, you cannot relate the languages of BEPS to each other. Caveat: the exception is English-Latin which is notoriously non-phonetic. As a personal note, I must add: my first attempt to go through Shin Narada's work has to be discontinued because my knowledge of Phonetics was still in its infancy. I realized finally that I have to spell the English words in IPA to solve this problem.

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The inherent vowel

The basic consonant-akshara has an inherent vowel /a/ because of which it can be pronounced, whereas its corresponding consonant-letter is mute. To make it pronounceable you have to couple the consonant-letter to a vowel.

Look for Inherent vowel in Indic scripts  Unicode Standard 4.0, 8 Aug 03 217
Chapter 9 , South Asian (Indic) Scripts 9
- indic-indx.htm > deva.htm
downloaded pdf files in TIL SD-Library - Unicode4ch09<> / bkp<> (link chk 160831)
On p217 you will read:

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 the left to right.

UKT 160902: It is not surprising to find many common features, as these scripts, including the Myanmar script, and SouthEast Asian scripts, are deemed to be have a common ancestor, the Asokan script. The Asokan script is now inappropriately dubbed the Brahmi script, because King Asoka on whose inscriptions are found the Asokan was a Buddhist and not a Hindu the religion of Brahmin Poannar {braah~ma.Na. poaN~Na:}. Asokan script is written from left to right. A variety of it is Karosti script which is written from right to left.

"The Kharoṣṭhī script is an ancient script used in ancient Gandhara [1] (primarily modern-day Afghanistan and Pakistan) to write the Gandhari Prakrit and Sanskrit." - Wikipedia:
- https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kharosthi 160902

They are all Abugida-Akshara 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 written by juxtaposing a vowel sign in the vicinity of the affected consonant. Absence of the inherent vowel, when occurs, is frequently marked with a special sign denoted by the Sanskrit word Virama विराम virāma  or in Bur-Myan as A'thut {a.t}.

{ka.} + {a.t} --> {k}
{sa.} + {a.t} --> {c}
{ta.} + {a.t} --> {t}
{Sa.} + {a.t} --> {S}

I was quite complacent with the above knowledge, until I study Mon-Myan: it has two types of inherent vowel. Then I found that Romabama is not applicable to Mon-Myan.

The basic consonant-akshara of the {ka.}-row (velar) of matrix:

Bur-Myan:  {ka.} /k/, {hka.} ?, {ga.} /g/, {Ga.} ?, {nga.}/ŋ/
Mon-Myan: {ka.} /k/, {hka.} ?, {g} /g/, {hk} ?, {ng} /ŋ/
Listen to Mon-Myan {ka.}-row (velar) - bk-cndl-Mon-row1<)) (link chk 160831)



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UKT note



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End of TIL file