Update: 2016-09-10 07:55 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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UKT 160909: In the study of speech across BEPS languages, you will find that syllables (pronounceable) are more important than consonants and vowels which are its parts. A syllable of Eng-Lat has the canonical structure CVC and is essentially the same as that of Bur-Myanmar CV. The consonant C at the beginning of the syllable is known as the onset-consonant, V is the nucleus or peak vowel, and C (or - the killed consonant) at the end of the syllable known as the coda-consonant. The nucleus-vowel is the most important part of the syllable. The nucleus taken together with the coda is known as the rime . There can be many consonants in the onset and also in the coda: C1C2(VC3C4). However, in Bur-Myan there can be only one consonant (killed) in the coda. In recent years there have been attempts to introduce more than one killed consonant in the coda for foreign loan-words.
See: English phonetics and proceed to English consonants and vowels
- Eng-phon-indx.htm > con-vow.htm (link chk 160909)
See also: English Phonetics and Phonology, Glossary (A Little Encyclopedia of Phonetics), by Peter Roach, 2009, in TIL SD-library
- PRoach-Glossary<> / bkp<> (link chk 160909)

UKT160909: My hypothesis on gender of nouns - I will be studying Pali with this hypothesis in mind.

Why has there to be sexist terms for nouns in a language? Can't we go by the sound of the syllable? Pali is a unique language in which all syllables end in vowels. When a disyllabic word is required, two syllables are conjoined either as vertical conjunct or horizontal conjunct.

In Pali, there are no syllables ending with a killed consonant   under a virama. Pali syllables can be classified by their vowel ends. The canonical structure of the syllable is always CV, and not CV as in Sanskrit-Devanagari. I will describe the syllable that end in vowel /a/ - {a. - a}-pair as an a-ender (masculine - male), that ending in /i/ - {i. - i}-pair as i-ender (feminine - female). Note: /a/ & /i/, the front vowels are the most contrastive pair in a language. However there bound to be exceptions.

I realized that I will have to build up my Pali vocabulary before I attempt to study Pali grammar. The source of my choice is a dictionary such as The Student's Pali-English Dictionary by Maung Tin (U Pe Maung Tin), 1920.
- UPMT-PaliDict<> / bkp<> (link chk 160910)

The vowel o as described in Pali-Latin is a back mid vowel. Though in the 3-dimensional vowel given below, the back vowels /u/ /o/ /ɔ/ and /ɑ/ are spread out below, they are quite close. In fact the vowels /o/ /ɔ/ and /ɑ/, are so close that they can be mistaken for one another.

Formants can be used to differentiate the vowels such as {o} and {au:}. These two vowels are of interest to my friend U Tun Tint and me, because MLC transcribes the Bur-Myan {au:} /[o]/ and {o} as /[ou]/.
See How sound is produced and heard in Human voice, Phonetics and Phonology
- HV-indx.htm > snd-hear.htm (link chk 160909)

When I told him that in Romabama, the transliteration for is {o}, he said "that's how a man on the street {lm:pau-ka. lu} would do it." And he is right! It is usual for male Burmese friends of the same age to address each other using the prefix {ko} (such as how I address him -- {ko htwan: tn.}). If I were to write to him in English, I would address him as Ko Tun Tint. The explanation for how this confusion had come about is on the way the English vowels /o/ and /ɑ/ are generally pronounced. The first three formants for /o/ and /ɑ/ are quite similar, and when we pronounce {au:} or {AU:}, foreigners might heard it as /o/. But to us, they sound as /ɑ/, and hence the Romabama transcription is {au:}.

Though the syllable is the basic unit of the Abugida-Akshara system to which Bur-Myan, Mon-Myan, Pal-Myan, and Pal-Lanka, nobody seems to be paying much importance to it. We do not even have a dedicated term for it. I have no choice but to define it as {sa.ka:n-su.}.

Now that we have come across the vowel (sonant) and the consonant (co-sonant) which is mute by itself unless it is coupled to a vowel or sonant, we will use them to build up syllables from which we can proceed to words.


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