Update: 2016-09-10 07:31 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

index.htm | Top

Contents of this page

Consonants : onset consonant & coda consonant
Consonants (Pulmonic)
English consonants
Pali-Latin consonants
Pali-Myanmar consonants
  Groups of Aksharas {ka.} / {sa.} / {hkya.} / {Ta.} / {ta.} / {pa.}
Approximants : (bilabial- , postalveolar- , palatal-)

UKT notes :


Contents of this page


Thirty-three letters of the consonants are divided into two main divisions: the {wag}-consonants or {wag ak~hka.ra} 'definable' 5x5 = 25, and the awag}-consonants or {a.wag ak~hka.ra} 'not definable' 8.

By {wag} 'definable' is meant that the first 5 rows which can be defined by the POA of the consonants: velar, palatal, retroflex, dental, and bi-labial. Pali-Lanka, and its derivative the International Pali has the labio-dental which Ashin Narada has termed "Dental and Labial". See table of ALPHABET given above.

However, there are no labio-dentals, {fa.} and {va.} in Bur-Myan. It is said that there were no labio-dentals in Vedic. It is only in Panini's Classical Sanskrit that we find them.

No wonder, Pali-Lanka and its derivative the International Pali, and Pali-Myan are very different in pronunciation where phonemes are involved. However, in script form they are the same or almost the same. That is:

  Speech divides, Script unites.

UKT 160829: It is my hope that through Asokan script (and its derivatives such as Pali-Myan & Pali-Lanka), and Pali (which has been invented to serve Theravada Buddhism), that we would be able to bring some sort of understanding between peoples who write in Abugida-Akshara system. But we cannot expect that from those who use the Alphabet-Letter system. However, International Pali, because of its use of English-Latin cannot be expected to bring such understanding. We will still be divided as the builders of the Tower of Babel were.
See Wikipedia: -  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tower_of_Babel 160829
and, Tower of Babel in Genesis 11 (New International Version)
- https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Genesis+11 160829
" 5 But the Lord came down to see the city and the tower the people were building.
" 6 The Lord said, "If as one people speaking the same language they have begun to do this, then nothing they plan to do will be impossible for them.
" 7 Come, let us go down and confuse their language so they will not understand each other. "

The {awag}-consonants 'indefinable eight' are known as approximants. The first four, {ya.}, {ra.}, {la.}, {wa.} are semi-consonants, but are usually called semivowels.

In Pal-Myan {a.} is a non-hissing Dental fricative. In Skt-Dev, there are 3 fricatives: {sha.} श , {Sa.} ष , {sa.} स for a single {a.} of Pal-Myan. The first two are the husher {sha.} श, and the hisser {Sa.} ष. The Skt-Dev स is equivalent to our own Bur-Myan {a.}. See Antimoon forum in which I joined in Problem pronouncing TH 
- http://www.antimoon.com/forum/t9795.htm 160906
I have written (and rewritten 160906): "First let me rewrite the digraph <th> as 'thorn' character, which was present in Old English ... . Its symbol is <>. It is an ASCII character ... whereas the Greek letter 'theta' is not. Secondly, it's strange that you have the problem confusing <> with <f>. The usual problem is the confusion between <> and <s> as is present in mis-pronunciation of the Bur-Myan <> as <s> by the Indian and Western transcribers. All the three characters, <f> <> and <s> are produced with friction (but without your vocal cords vibrating) and are known as fricatives. If you look at the Places of Articulation (POA) of the three characters, you will find that they are very close: <f> is labio-dental, <> is dental, and <s> is alveolar. They are all articulated very near the lips. <f> is articulated with lower lip touching the upper teeth with the tongue in neutral position. <> is articulated with the tongue-tip lightly held between the upper and lower teeth. Both are articulated without any hissing sounds and are known as thibilants to be differentiated from <s> which is pronounced with a hissing sound. Because of the hissing sound, <s> "hisser" ... represented by digraph <sh> "husher", are known as sibilants. Thirdly, since your confusion is between <f> and <>, it is more understandable than the confusion between <> and <s>. Just concentrate on how you articulate the sounds. For <f> the lower lip is very much involved, but for <> the lips are quite apart and do not take part in producing the sound. Fourthly, your name Matthew. You will see the consonant cluster made up of two characters in the middle part of your name. (Remember, I have replaced the second <t> and the following <h> with <>. So the consonant cluster is made up of two characters only. The clusters are found in Myanmar and Indic languages and are called ligatures aka conjuncts. In Myanmar script this particular ligature is written as a vertical conjunct, with the <t> over <>. In Romabama, ...  for the study of phonology of Bur-Myan (Burmese is the spoken language, whereas Myanmar is the script), it is written as <t~>. So your name is a disyllabic word, and I will pronounce it in careful speech as: /mt.u:/. ... DJPD16-334 gives /'mθ.juː/. It is quite rare to find the <> in world languages. It is certainly not present in Germanic languages and many Indic languages. I am of the opinion that <> in English is the left over of pre-Viking Brittanic languages (I am on very thin ice over this opinion.). ..."

Note how Romabama differentiates {sa.}/ {c} from {Sa.}/ {S}.
The husher {sha.} श is derived from the hisser {Sa.} ष. They are both dental fricatives. However, the regular Bur-Myan {sa.} is palatal plosive stop.

Which is more important in the study of languages: spoken form (speech) or written form (script)? It seems that in the West the spoken form is more important than the written form. In Myanmar, we have a saying that "what we write is correct and how we say is just sound". / . With this motto in mind I will make a comparison between Bur-Myan (Abugida-Akshara) system of writing and the Eng-Latin (Alphabet-Letter) system.

I hope by placing emphasis on the script, we will escape the curse inflicted on the builders of the Tower of Babel. It is what Emperor Asoka has done. It is my hope that including Pali language, we can bring some sort of understanding between peoples of many nations, including those in Myanmarpr: Bama, Karen, Mon, Shan, etc. You can get an idea of how many from: Pali in Various Scripts. See downloaded file in TIL SD-Library
  - Pali-vari-script<> / bkp <> (link chk 160906)

Read A Short History of the World by H.G. Wells (1866-1946), in Chapter xxix, King Asoka
"he was so disgusted by the cruelty and horror of war that he renounced it. He would have no more of it. He adopted the peaceful doctrines of Buddhism and declared that henceforth his conquests should be the conquests of religion."
- http://www.bartleby.com/86/29.html 160901

Yet, it is the cruelty of history of mankind that we read about King Dutthagamani aka Dutugamunu, who reigned Sri Lanka from 161 BC to 137 BC, that in times of certain defeat, one has no choice but resort to force to defend his kingdom and his Theravada Buddhist religion. He was responsible for overthrowing Elara (Shaivite Hindu), the Tamil prince from the Chola Kingdom, and slaying many Tamils in battle.
See Wikipedia to check my note: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dutugamunu 160901 .

You should also read how the Shaivite Hindus, wiped out Buddhism in India and Nepal. "However, this was the period when Hindus, especially Shaivites, took aggressive action against Buddhism. At least two kings, the Hephthalite king Miharakula in the early 6th century and the Bengal king Sasanka in the early 7th century reportedly have persecuted Buddhism. " - https://www.zum.de/whkmla/sp/1112/sbk/sbk2.html 160901

UKT personal note 160901: I was advised by one of Tamil (Hindu) friends in Deep River, On., Canada, not to mention in praise the name Dutthagamani to a Hindu from Sri Lanka. Dutthagamani is viewed by the Hindu Tamils as a villain.


Contents of this page

Consonants (Pulmonic)

- IPA (International Phonetic Association)

IPA (revised to 1993, corrected 1996). See table given by IPA and Pulmonic consonants .
Note: the characters in the following table are phonetic characters, and are represented in text within / /, e.g. /p/.

UKT: An interesting observation at this point is the way IPA look at the order of POA -- exactly the opposite way Bur-Myan looks. Bur-Myan starts from the glottis and moves out towards the lips ( {ka.} to {pa.}), whereas, IPA starts from the lips and moves in towards the glottis (/p/ to /k/). I am using the POA order in comparing Bur-Myan consonants to the English-Latin consonants which is fundamentally important in formulating Romabama.

See Occlusive consonants in my Phonetics for Myanmar 
- UNIL-indx.htm > and proceed to section 03.01. Occlusives (link chk 160901)
UKT 160901 : My Phonetics for Myanmar is a very old folder - probably 20 years or so - when I first started learning Phonetics with Daw Than Than (1930-2004) at my side. Some parts are still in TIL old format, and the whole folder needs thorough cleaning.

The occlusives require a complete closure of the speech canal, not just a restriction. This distinguishes them from the continuants.

   continuant n. Linguistics . A consonant, such as s, z, m, or l, that can be prolonged as long as the breath lasts without a change in quality. -- AHTD
   occlusive adj. . Occluding or tending to occlude. n. Linguistics . An oral or a nasal stop. -- AHTD
   plosive Linguistics adj. . Of, relating to, or being a speech sound produced by complete closure of the oral passage and subsequent release accompanied by a burst of air, as in the sound (p) in pit or (d) in dog. n. . A plosive speech sound. Also Called stop . [From explosive ] -- AHTD

The occlusives may be divided into:
13 characters for oral plosives or oral stops - /p b/, /t d/,  /ʈ ɖ/,  /c ɟ/,  /k g/, /q ɢ/  /ʔ/
7 characters for nasals - / m/, /ɱ/, / n/, / ɳ/, / ɲ/, / ŋ/, /ɴ/

The above are 3 nasals not present in English-Latin, but are present in Bur-Myan.

In Pali-Bama-Myanmar, the consonants of {wag}- aksharas are Palatal "plosives" or "occlusives" of IPA. However, in  Pali-Lanka, though Palatal, they are affricates. 

Note IPA has placed /s/ and /z/ in the same row as /θ/ and // as "fricatives". However, the Bur-Myan {sa.} is a Palatal plosive-stop, showing that what Bur-Myan needs is a Dental fricative. My solution is to introduce a new glyph and corresponding phoneme into Bur-Myan. However, to be compatible to what the people in Myanmarpr are doing I have to use the same glyph for the Dental fricative, only differentiating them in killed forms and in Romabama.

{sa.}/ {c} from {Sa.}/ {S}.
The husher {sha.} श is derived from the hisser {Sa.} ष. They are both dental fricatives. However, the regular Bur-Myan {sa.} is palatal plosive stop.


Contents of this page

English consonants

- DJPD16

Refer to DJPD16 (Daniel Jones English Pronouncing Dictionary, 16th ed.)

UKT 160903: Remember the common day-to-day English belongs to Alphabet-Letter system. Try to pronounce an English word as it is spelled, and you are in trouble. English is notoriously non-phonetic.

English is very accommodating language, and with the global expansion of the British Empire in the 17th to 20 centuries, the Christian missionaries and British colonial administrators had to cope with the native pronunciations place-names and personal-names. Many native terms such as "avatar", "bangle", "bungalow", "cheetah", "cot", "guru", "juggernaut", "jungle", "loot", "pajamas", "shampoo", "thug", "varanda", "yoga" (from: http://www.dailywritingtips.com/15-english-words-of-indian-origin/ 160904.
"Juggernaut" is the perhaps the most famous. It was used by Charles Dickens in his The Life and Adventures of Martin Chuzzlewit published in 1844,: See Wikipedia:
- https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Juggernaut 160904

Without the help of Phonetics which is still being developed, these able men and women, transcribed the native spoken words to common day-to-day English. And whenever necessary, they dropped many native phonemes. Flushed with military victory, they ignored even the highly developed Asian Phonetics of India which preceded theirs IPA by hundred of years if not by thousands.

Of the BEPS languages, English is the only non-phonetic language, and for comparison to others, I have to use IPA (International Phonetic Alphabet). Yet, for communicating with other peoples throughout the world I have to use the common day-to-day English.

The characters in the table IPA phonetic characters, and are represented in text within //, e.g. /b/.

To complete the comparison of Bur-Myan & Pali-Myan to English-Latin, I have added /ɲ/ (in blue) to stand for {a.}.

UKT 160903: Before I realized that Bur-Myan {a.} is not a nasal, I would have equated it to IPA /ɲ/.  Bur-Myan {a.} though Palatal, is an approximant, because of which I have to move IPA /j/ to the velar position, and insert {a.} in its place. {a.} can be placed under virama without being broken up because it is not a conjunct. In Pal-Myan, {a.} is a horizontal conjunct:

Pal-Myan: {} --> {} + {a.}

Bur-Myan allows only 4 conjuncts which are monosyllabic medials : with {ya.} forming {ya.pn.}; {ra.} forming {ra.ric} ; {wa.} forming {wa.hsw:} and {ha.} forming {ha.hto:}. Leaving the {ha.hto:} aside, we notice that these correspond to the English approximants, /j/ (standing for English "y"), /r/, and /w/.

Contents of this page

Pali-Latin consonants

-- based on Ven. Narada Thera

Shin Narada mentions only in just a few lines about the origin of Pali.

He mentions that the Buddha preached in Suddha Māgadhi, the pure form of the provincial dialect, from which Pāḷi "The Text" was developed. He mentions that there 8 vowels (glyphs) and 33 consonants (glyphs). His table of consonants is given here on the right.

Niggahita implies a true nasal without any colouring of {ma.}, {na.}, and other nasal consonants: {Na.}, {a.}, {ng}.
niggahīta {naig-ga.hi-ta.} -- PTS 354
Symbols: - {th:th:tn} 'dot above'

UKT 160905: Niggahita is employed whenever the transcribing language does not have the required nasal.

Similar to Ashin Narada, the authors of other works, such as Practical Grammar of the Pali Language (in English), by Charles Duroiselle, 1906, 3rd ed 1915. Latest ed in 1997 by U Dhamminda, Buddha Dharma Edu. Asc. Inc.
- online www.buddhanet.net .
- downloaded 182pdf-pp file in TIL SD-Library
- Duroiselle-PaliGramm<> / bkp<>  (link chk 160905)
does not mention much about the Pali language. Mr. James Gray' grammar (photocopy) mentioned by Duroiselle is in TIL library. I intend to copy it in pdf.

However in A Simplified Grammar of the Pali Language, by E. Mller, 1884: downloaded pdf file in TIL SD-Library
- EMuller-PaliGramm<> / bkp<> (link chk 160903),
you can read in his Preface (p.roman03) Dr. Muller on the origin of Pali referring to Oldenberg (1863-1934): "Pali to be the original language of Klinga country (Vinayapiṭaka, Introduction, p. liv). He [Oldenberg] compares the language of the large inscription at Khandagiri (Cunningham, Corpus Inscriptionum, i. 98), and finds only very little difference between this and the Pli. ...". See Cunningham, Corpus Inscriptionum: 
see the downloaded pdf - Cunningham-Asoka-inscripԻ (link chk 160804)

UKT 160903: My only concern is that when A Simplified Grammar of the Pali Language, by E. Mller, 1884, was published, Oldenberg must have been very young in age  (1884-1863 = 21 yr), to form such a sweeping opinion.

My second point is on the failure of the early Indologists to differentiate Old Magadhi speech written in Asokan script, Magadhi-Asokan, from the Pali speech written in the script of Lanka, Pali-Lanka.

Pali language written in Myanmar script, Pali-Myan, and Pali speech in all the countries written in local scripts are all based on the ancient Asokan script (inappropriately dubbed Brahmi). These scripts are phonetic, because Asokan script is a phonemic script and are all Abugida-Akshara scripts, and not Alphabet-Letter scripts. They are presented in a matrix of rows and columns to bring out their phonetic nature.

Thus, Pali-Myan script is made up of 7 rows and 5 columns. The first row or ka-group is made up of consonants with sounds close to /k/, /g/ and /ŋ/. This row is known as the "Gutturals", a phonetic term, frowned on by Western linguists. Ka-group is followed by "Palatals", "Cerebrals", "Dentals", and "Labials". The rest are presented as a mixed group.

Note that the characters (glyphs) in the matrix are Aksharas which can be pronounced because of the presence of an inherent vowel. Thus {ta.} is pronounceable, whereas <t> in the table of 33 consonants given by Shin Narada is mute. We will exemplify the relation of Letter of Alphabet-Letter system, and Akshara of Abugida-Akshara by comparing Georgian to Bur-Myan:

თ (U10D7) + ა (U10D0) = {ta.}
თ (U10D7) + ი (U10D8) = {ti.}

Georgian t თ (U10D7) is a Letter, and cannot be pronounced. It needs a vowel such as a ა (U10D0) or ი (U10D8) to become pronounceable similar to Bur-Myan {ta.} .

"There is no difference between the pronunciations of "ṅ" and "ṃ". The former, "ṅ", never stands at the end, but is always followed by a consonant of its group." - Narada 012

Contents of this page

Pali-Myanmar consonants

- by UKT

Table based on Yangon Univ. of Distant Education. First year, 2003. Traditionally, the groupings are named in Pali, or after the first akshara of the group.


Contents of this page


Based on the POA (Point of Articulation), the first row is traditionally named Gutteral. It is now described as Velar. In Pal-Myan & Bur-Myan, it is {kN~HTa.} and {l-hkyaung:} 'throat' respectively.

The POA of r1c2 akshara {hka.} is between that of {ka.} and {ga.}. To me, {hka.} is a consonant in its own right, not just an aspirate of {ka.}.

The Bur-Myan akshara of r1c4 {Ga.} sounds exactly like {ga.}, though U Kawwida of Toronto Myanmar-Buddhist monastery insisted (in 2004) that there is an h sound involved. It is not an aspirate. Caveat: In Mon-Myan, belonging to AusAsi (AustroAsiatic) language group, {ga.}, {Ga.}, {nga.} are pronounced differently as {g.}, {G.}, {ng.}.
Listen to r1 Velar sounds - bk-cndl-Mon-row1<)) (link chk 160905)
There is no h sound in {G.}, and I hear it similar to Bur-Myan {hk}.

When we look at the shape of r1c5 in Skt-Dev, it looks as if it had been borrowed from another akshara - the r3c3. Similarly, I have a similar feeling with Mon-Myan r1c5.

Skt-Dev: ड + dot added --> ङ

Mon-Myan: {Ta.} --> {ng}   

The pronunciation of velar nasal r1c5 is /ŋ/: it is present in English syllables and is written as a digraph ng .
See English pronouncing dictionary DJPD16
- DJPD16-indx.htm > let-l-m-n.htm under NG
Or see below in my notes on Pronouncing the digraph NG . The English digraphs such as hk , ng and th commonly used for transliteration of aksharas are very misleading in BEPS. I have been trying to get replacements for them. However, I have to leave the column 2 as it is: Bur-Myan {hka.}, {hsa.}, {HTa.}, {hta.}, {hpa.}. For others I have found replacements except in the case of r1c5 {nga.}. For coda {ng}, I use another trick - changing the nuclear vowel of the syllable. See below: 

<sing>  /sɪŋ/ -- the nearest in Bur-Myan is {hsn:} NOT {hsn:g}. See DJPD16 490
<ringing>  /ˈrɪŋ.ɪŋ/

Phoneme /ŋ/ is only present in the coda and not in the onset of the English syllables. See DJPD16 for explanations of the terms "coda" and "onset". The phoneme /ŋ/ in the onset is only found in Bur-Myan, and in Nwari spoken by the extant relatives of Gautama Buddha in Nepal. See: English to Nepal Bhasa Dictionary by Sabin Bhuju सबिन भुजु , 2005 in TIL SD-Library
- SBhuju-NewarDict<> / bkp<> (link chk 160905)
Being both Tib-Bur languages Bur-Myan and Newa-Dev have words beginning with {nga.} ङ,
e.g. for <fish> न्या ; ङा


Contents of this page

{sa.}-group : the Palatal Plosive-stops

By virtue of position this group corresponds to the Palatals leaning towards Alveolar. This is the most confusing group, because it is similar to the Fricatives - those with friction sounds. In Fricatives, we find a similar sound which in Romabama has the same shape as {sa.} च . In view of a smooth transcription between Burmese and English, Romabama has to write {Sa.} ष. Romabama differentiates the two from their sounds when they occur in the coda:

Palatal plosive-stop च ca : -- {sa.} / {c}
Dental fricative hisser ष ṣa:  {Sa.} / {S}

The Western phonetic term "palatal" can be applied only to one English phoneme /j/ which is the English letter y. The E-Pali letter j is not the phoneme /j/. See pronouncing the "letter J" and "letter Y" in DJPD16.

However, I contend in two discussions in 2008 on Antimoon forum that there is Palatal c is present in English. It is present in disyllabic words:  <soccer> /'sɒk.əʳ/ (US) /'sɑː.kɚ/ (DJPD16-495) 160906
- http://www.antimoon.com/forum/t9649.htm 160906
and, <accident> /ˈk.sɪ.dənt/ & <flaccid>  /ˈflk.sɪd/ (DJPD16-088) 
- http://www.antimoon.com/forum/t9999.htm 160906
I have observed that: . <cc> always occur in the middle of word. the first <c>, is the coda of the first syllable and given as velar /k/ which can be really palatal /c/: velar and palatal are very close and can get mixed up. The second <c> is the onset of the second syllable and is given as /s/.

The English consonant letter c has four pronunciations: /s, k, ʃ/ and /ʧ/. See pronouncing the "letter C". The IPA phoneme /ʧ/ is represented by some American authors as /č/.

Before the vowel letters [ i ], [e] or [y] (when functioning as vowel letter), c is pronounced as /s/, e.g.: <specific> /spəˈsɪf.ɪk/; <cell> /sel/; <cycle>/ˈsaɪ.kļ/.
<cell> is close to {hs:l} .
In suffixes -cial, -cious, -ciate, -cient and their derivatives, c is realised as /ʃ/ , e.g.: <social> /ˈsəʊ.ʃ əl (US) ˈsoʊ-/; <vicious>/ˈvɪʃ.əs/.
<social> is close to {hso-rh:l}
-- Bur-Myan orthography has adopted <socialist> as {hso-rh-lic}. Myan-ortho p080.
In most other situations, c is pronounced as /k/ , e.g.: <cat>/kt/; <critic> /ˈkrɪt.ɪk (US) ˈkrɪt̬-/
<cat> is close to --> {kak}
c can be silent. There are two occasions when this can occur: the combination ct in some words, and in British place names such as Leicester, e.g.: <Leicester> /ˈles.təʳ (US) -tɚ/; <indict> /ɪnˈdaɪt/
An exceptional pronunciation for c is /ʧ/ in some words borrowed from Italian, e.g.: <cello>/ˈʧel.əʊ (US) -oʊ/; <Cinquecento> /ˌʧɪŋ.kweɪˈʧen.təʊ (US) -oʊ/.
<cello> is close to {hk-lo}
A final exception: <Caesar> /ˈsɪː.zəʳ (US) -zɚ/
<Caesar> is close to {hsi-za}

In English words the letter c is Palatal Affricate, and never has the Burmese-Myanmar Palatal plosive-stop {sa.} sound.

c is not present in English phonetics. See English consonants - DJPD16. However c is present in some other languages. See IPA table of Consonants (Pulmonic) - IPA .

If you are a Bur-Myan speaker you will notice that:
{pa.}-{ba.} pair is produced in the very front part of the mouth ("bilabial" refers to both lips or labia).
{ta.}-{da.} pair is produced just behind the upper front teeth with the tip of tongue touching the alveolar ridge (the bony part with alveoli or teeth sockets).
{ka.}-{ga.} pair is produced in the interior in the area of the soft palate or velum. Since the tongue-tip cannot reach this area, it is produced by the body of the tongue.

The left member of each pair is voiceless and the right member is voiced (i.e. with vibration of vocal cords.). However, in Pali of Mon-Myan r1c3, r1c4, and r1c5 are all voiceless. The pronunciation of Mon-Myan Pali words can be heard in Mon-Myan Language: Speech and Script
- MonMyan-indx.htm > spk-all-indx.htm (link chk 160907)

You might feel that the POA of voiceless member is in fore of the POA of the voiced member. Notice that palatal sound is produced in the palate (hard palate) region, velar sound in the soft palate region, and uvular sound in the uvular region.

Test for voicing: Voicing simply means vibration of vocal cords. Place your finger lightly on the area of Adam's apple. You can feel the vocal cords vibrating while you are saying the word aloud. Even if you are a woman, you can do this test. Remember that some consonant sounds seem voiceless to some observers but voiced to others.

/c/ (U0063) is voiceless palatal plosive (or stop) and it is produced with the tongue tip directed down towards the lower teeth, while the tongue body makes contact with the hard palate.
/ɟ/ (U025F) is voiced palatal plosive (or stop) and is the same as /c/, but with vibration of the vocal cords. The corresponding palatal nasal /ɲ/ (U0272) is usually voiced as well. (UNIL)
See Consonants (Pulmonic) - IPA

Bur-Myan speakers should remember /c/ would be very close to {ka.} /k/. Similarly, /q/ is also very near. The holy book of Muslims, the Koran is now spelled with a q instead of k -- Qu'ran.

The matrix-position occupied by Pali-Latin (or English Pali)  c is occupied by Bur-Myan {sa.}/ {c} resulting in different pronunciations: Example:
canda (meaning: Moon) = {san~da}
If we were to go along pronunciation of c (as ch in <rich>), the problem becomes worse, because the ch pronunciation in Bur-Myan is given by the medial {hkya.} or conjoined consonant which is monosyllabic

{hka.} + viram + {ya.} > {hkya.}

The matrix-position occupied by ch is occupied by Bur-Myan {hsa.} resulting in different pronunciations: Example:
chanda (meaning: intention) = {hsn~da.}

The fifth consonant (r2c5) is a "nasal" {a.}/ {}. Traditionally, the akshara-matrixes of Bur-Myan and Pali-Myan are given as different and separate. In Bur-Myan r2c5 is occupied by Nya'gyi {a.} / {}, and in Pali-Myan by Nya'l {a.}/ {}. However, after I have moved {a.} / {} to the Palatal approximant position as a neighbour of {ya.} / {y}, there is no need to differentiate Bur-Myan from Pali-Myan. The nasal {a.}/ {} is the sole occupier of cell r2c5. When {a.} / {} is used in Pali-Myan, it is a horizontal-conjunct:

In Pali-Myan, Nya'gyi under virama breaks up into two Nya'le

{} --> {} + {a.}

For example the Pali-derived Bur-Myan word for "education" is a word of this type. It is written as {pa.a} but pronounced as {p~a}.


Contents of this page

{hkya.}-group : the Palatal Affricates

Though there is no {hkya.}-group in Burmese Pali-Myan (B-Pali) and Bur-Myan. It is present in Pali-Latin (E-Pali). Though not explicitly written it is affricate in Mon Pali-Myan (M-Pali).


Contents of this page


By virtue of position this group corresponds to the Cerebrals . The modern term is Retroflex .

The Burmese pronunciation of this group is the same as that of the dental - the {ta.}-group. The fifth consonant (r3c5) {Na.} is a "nasal". The {Ta.}-group is interesting on three accounts:

1. The perfect circle, which in esoteric term is the unblemished circle is in this group in the Asokan:

2. The Akshara of r3c4 {Da.} is of the same shape as the mark or hair on Buddha's forehead. This point represents the Third Eye of Shiva. The Google Search defines:
   . Hinduism - the locus of occult power and wisdom in the forehead of a deity, especially the god Shiva. The eye of insight located in the forehead, which can be activated through the practice of yoga.
   . informal term for Pineal Eye .
See Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Third_eye 160908

3. The Mon-Myan pronunciations of this group is different from the pronunciations in other groups.
  Retroflex - bk-cndl-Mon-row3<)) 
  Dental - bk-cndl-Mon-row4<))

At this point these are the three observations I have made on this group. I hope to get more insight by the study of Skt-Dev (A Practical Sanskrit Dictionary by A A Macdonell - MC-indx.htm (link chki 160908)) in comparison with Pal-Myan (Pali Myanmar Dictionary by U Hoke Sein).

Contents of this page


By virtue of position this group corresponds to the Dentals of E-Pali.

The dentals "t" and "d" are pronounced with the tip of the tongue placed against the front upper teeth.

Unknown to me in 2007 is the fact the Bur-Myan {ta.} is present Georgian language as a Letter of its Alphabet. Being a Letter, it is mute. To make it pronounceable, or "come to life", a vowel must be coupled with it. If we choose the vowel letter "An" ა (U10D0) (the inverse of the {a.t}-sign), the two თა can be pronounced like {ta.}. If the vowel letter "In" ი (U10D8) is chosen, the two თი is pronounced like our {ti.}.

თ (U10D7) + ა (U10D0) = {ta.}
თ (U10D7) + ი (U10D8) = {ti.}

The fifth consonant r4c5 {na.} is a "nasal". The shape of {na.}, especially that of its short form {na.} reminds me of a coiled Naga {na.ga:} 'Dragon'. They are devout followers of Gautama Buddha. See:
Cult of Naga in  Folk Elements in Buddhism
-- flk-ele-indx.htm > ch07-cult-naga.htm (link chk 160908)


Contents of this page


By virtue of position this group corresponds to the Labials of E-Pali.

{ma.} is the nasal of this group. It is interesting that {ma.} is the negative prefix in a language in Nepal.
See Wikipedia: - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Prefix 160908
"In the Sunwar language of Eastern Nepal, the prefix ma- म is used to create negative verbs. It is the only verbal prefix in the language.
   Bad child! (scolding)
     ma.rimʃo al
     NEG.nice child [6]
Cited by Wikipedia from: Borchers, D. (2008). A Grammar of Sunwar: Descriptive Grammar, Paradigms, Texts and Glossary. Brill Academic Publishers. p. 169


Contents of this page

Nasals and Aspirates

-- UKT

The discussion in these paragraphs involve the characters in rows 1 to 5. In Myanmar and Indic scripts the characters are arranged in a way to bring out the nasalities and aspirations of the consonants. Thus column 5 characters (rows 1 to 5) are nasals.

The column 2 and column 4 characters (rows 1 to 5) are described as "aspirates". In E-Pali and Indic scripts an h is added following an English letter. For example in E-Pali, r4c2 is th and r4c4 is dh. In Romabama form of M-Pali, the position after the first letter(s) is reserved for {ya.pin.}, {ra.ris}, {wa.hsw:} and {ha.hto:}. Thus, the (r4c2) in Romabama is ht {hta.}. Instead of writing (r4c4) with an h, Romabama uses another symbol D {Da.}.

Bur-Myan speakers would notice that when you pronounce in sequence, the tongue is touching the alveolar ridge for and then the position of contact moves towards the interior of the mouth -- to the alveolar and then velar regions. Thus, I hesitate to call as the aspirate form of , and the aspirate form of . and are distinct consonants.

In the series . However, there are some who maintain that {Ga.} should be pronounced with an h in M-Pali. -- personal communication with U Kawwida of Toronto Burmese-Buddhist monastery.

Contents of this page

Mixed group

The following terms used for the members of this group (individually and collectively) are to be checked:
approximant (bilabial- , postalveolar- , palatal-)

According to Dr. Ko Lay, {ya.} and {wa.} are the only semivowels, and {a.} which has both /θ/ (as in English <thin>) // (as in English <that>) is a dental fricative, but represented by sa in Sri Lanka and Thailand. (e-mail communication dated 2004Mar23).

The position occupied by Bur-Myan {wa.} is occupied by v {va.} in E-Pali.
The position occupied by Bur-Myan {a.} is occupied by s in E-Pali.
Though this results in different pronunciations, the meanings remain the same. Example:
   {wa sa} = vācā (meaning: word, voice)
   {a.ra.} = sara (meaning: sound, voice, intonation, accent)

Myanmar {ha.} is best described as a glottal fricative. For the pronunciation of English h see letter h.

The E-Pāḷi word Niggahita shows that a character with vertical ligature is involved. Examples of words with vertical ligature from PTS:
niggahīta (meaning: restrained, checked, rebuked, reproved) = {naig~ga.hi-ta.}
nicca (meaning: permanent) = {naic~sa.}
magga (meaning: road) = {mag~ga.}

There is no difference between the pronunciation of "ṅ" and "ṃ". The former never stands at the end, but is always followed by a consonant of its group.

Contents of this page


DJPD16 p30. A phonetic term of comparatively recent origin, used to denote a consonant which makes very little obstruction to the airflow.

Examples for English
Traditionally approximants have been divided into two groups. Sounds in the first group are known as 'semivowels' such the /w/ and /j/, which are very similar to 'close vowels' such as [u] and [i] but are produced as a rapid glide. e.g.:

<wet> /wet/
<yet> /jet/

Liquids are sounds which have an identifiable constriction of the airflow but not one that is sufficiently obstructive to produce fricative noise, compression or the diversion of the airflow through another part of the vocal tract as in nasals. This category includes laterals such as /l/ and non-fricative /r/ (phonetically [ɹ] in the British English and [ɻ] in US English), e.g.:

<lead> /liːd/
<read> /riːd/

Approximants therefore are never fricative and never contain interruptions to the airflow.


Contents of this page

UKT note


DJPD16 p144. A sound in which there is contact between the tongue and the front teeth.

Examples for English
In English, the dentals usually referred to are the FRICATIVES /θ/ and //, of which /θ/is voiceless and //is voiced. In a careful production of these sounds, the tongue tip may be protruded between the upper and lower teeth; the sounds are sometimes referred to as 'interdental' for this this reason, e.g.:

<thigh> /θaɪ/ ------------------- <thy> /aɪ/
<ether> /ˈiː.θər/(US)/-θɚ/ --- <either> /ˈaɪ.əʳ/(US)/-iːɚ/
<breath> /breθ/ ---------------- <breathe> /briː/

Go back dental-note-b

Contents of this page


DJPD16 p216. A type of consonant made by forcing air through a narrow gap so that a hissing noise is generated. This may be accompanied by VOICING, in which case the sound is a voiced fricative, such as [z], or it may be voiceless, such as [s].

Examples for English
British and US English have nine fricative phonemes:/f θ s ʃ h/ (voiceless) and /v z ʒ/(voiced).

All except /h/ are permitted to occur in all positions in English, but/ʒ/ as in <measure> /ˈmeʒə/is of rather low frequency compared to the other eight sounds. /h/may not end a syllable.

The quality and intensity of fricative sounds varies greatly, but all are acoustically composed of energy at relatively high frequency -- an indication of this is that much of the fricative sound is too high to be transmitted over a phone (which usually cuts out the highest and lowest frequencies in order to reduce the cost), giving rise to confusion that often arise over sets of words like English <fin>, <thin>, <sin> and <shin>. In order for the sound quality to be produced accurately, the size and direction of the jet of air has to be very precisely controlled.

A distinction is sometimes made between 'sibilant' or 'strident' fricatives (such as [s] and [ ʃ ]) which are strong and clearly a udible and others which are weak and less audible (such as [θ]and [f]).
Go back fricative-note-b

Contents of this page

Pronouncing digraph NG

UKT 160907: The English word "letter" has many meanings. I have used it in Alphabet-Letter system of writing to differentiate the hyphenated term from another - the Abugida-Akshara system. Letter and Akshara are not the same. To get away from all these drawbacks, I am using here the term "digraph" instead of "letters".

DJPD16 p365. The main realisation for the consonant digraph [ng] is /ŋ/, e.g.:

<sing>  /sɪŋ/
<ringing>  /ˈrɪŋ.ɪŋ/

Other pronunciations are possible, one being /ŋg/, e.g.:

<finger>  /ˈfɪŋ.gəʳ (US) -gɚ/

In addition

In many words spelt [nge], or where [ng] is followed by [i] or [y], the pronunciation is /nʤ/, e.g.:

<change>  /ʧeɪnʤ/
<engine>  /ˈen.ʤɪn/

Go back digraph-NG-note-b

Contents of this page

Pronouncing single letter H

DJPD16 p240. There are two main pronunciations for the consonant letter h: /h/ and silent.

<head>  /hed/

h has a silent realisation at the end of a word, e.g.

<oh> ---- /əʊ/ (US) /oʊ/ 
<loofah> /ˈluːfə/

There is a group of words in which it is also silent initially: <heir>, <honour> and <hour>, and their derivatives, and <herb> for American English.

UKT 160908: the following table is my addition -- you are advised to check with the original.

<heir> ---- /eəʳ/ (US) /er/
<herb> --- /hɜːb/ (US) /ɝːb/ /hɝːb/ - 2 pronunciation in US
<honour> /ˈɒn.əʳ/ (US) /ˈɑː.nɚ/
<hour> -- /aʊəʳ/ (US) /aʊr , aʊɚ/

Compare the pronunciations of <heir> and <our> with
<air> /eəʳ/(us) /er/-- same pronunciation as <heir> (i.e., homophone)
<our> /aʊəʳ , ɑːʳ/(us) /aʊr , aʊɚ , ɑːr/-- same pronunciation as <hour> (i.e., homophone)

Whether [h] is "silent" or not depends on the native-English speakers themselves. From my personal experience, I was taught in Myanmarpr (at a time when it was part of the British Empire) to pronounce [h] in <herb>. But I was corrected in the US not to pronounce the [h]. After some time I went to Australia, and I was again asked to pronounce the [h]. I am citing this personal experience to show my fellow Myanmars not to pay too much attention to the idiosyncrasies of the English language.

After deciding how to pronounce a word with [h] as word-initial, then and then only can you decide what indefinite article to use before it. Normally, we pronounce [h] in <history>, however, I had come across a book titled "An History of ..."

Following an initial [r], [h] is silent, e.g.:

<rhythm>  /ˈrɪ.əm/

In weak forms, [h] is often not pronounced, e.g.

<him> -- /ɪm/
<have>  /əv/

Go back Pronouncing single letter H note-b

Contents of this page


n. Linguistics 1. A sound that has the quality of one of the high vowels, as ( ) or ( ), and that functions as a consonant before vowels, as the initial sounds of yell and well .Also Called glide . -- AHTD
Go back Mixed-gr-b

Contents of this page


sibilant Linguistics adj. 1. Of, characterized by, or producing a hissing sound like that of (s) or (sh): the sibilant consonants; a sibilant bird call. n. 1. A sibilant speech sound, such as English (s), (sh), (z), or (zh). [Latin sībilɑ̄ns sībilant- ,present participle of sībilāreto hiss] -- AHTD
Go back Mixed-gr-b

Contents of this page


DJPD16 p548. A speech sound produced by the rapid vibration of one the vocal organs.

The parts of the body that are used in speaking (the 'vocal apparatus') include some 'wobbly bits' that can be made to vibrate. When this type of vibration is made as a speech sound, it is called a trill. The possibilities include a BILABIAL trill, where the lips vibrate (used as a mild insult, this is sometimes called "blowing a raspberry", or, in the US, a 'Bronx Cheer'), a tongue-tip trill which is produced in many languages for a sound represented alphabetically as <r>, and a uvular trill, which is a rather dramatic way pronouncing a "uvular r" as found in French, German and many European languages, most commonly used in acting and singing.

In British English, the trill most likely to occur is the ALVEOLAR trill, which is (perhaps confusingly) represented by the symbol [r] , and is an allophone of the English phoneme /r/. However, it most frequently occurs in restricted contexts, such as singing.
Go back Mixed-gr-b


Contents of this page

End of TIL file