Update: 2008-03-14 08:46 PM -0500

TIL

Romabama

Burmese Written Language in Roman Script

con03

U Kyaw Tun, M.S. (I.P.S.T., U.S.A.), Deep River, Ontario, Canada. Not for sale. No copyright. Free for everyone. Prepared for students of TIL Computing and Language Center, Yangon, MYANMAR .

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indx-rbm | Top | Contents of this page

Romabama consonants
Triads
Pairs
Same sounding pairs
Problem pairs
Singles
UKT notes

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Romabama consonants

Burmese-Myanmar consonants, particularly in script form, have always been important in the lives of peoples of Myanmar, because of the strong influence Burmese Astrology, which plays a very important role from the time of his birth to day he dies. Dr. Htin Aung wrote in his Folk Elements in Burmese Buddhism (Printed and published by the Religious Affairs Dept., Rangoon, BURMA. 1981. The book is also available online  http://web.ukonline.co.uk/buddhism/ ) wrote on p.019-020: "A Chinese chronicle of the ninth century, the Man-Shu, mentioned the presence in Burma of 'many fortune tellers and astrologers'. The cult was, of course, Hindu in origin, but whether it was superimposed on an existing native cult is a matter for consideration." Dr. Htin Aung also wrote: "The letters of the Burmese alphabet were divided up between the eight planets thus:

ka kha, ga, gha, nga} -- Monday
sa, hsa, za, zha, nya -- Tuesday
ta, hta, da, dha, na -- Saturday
pa, hpa, ba, bha, ma -- Thursday
la, wa -- Wednesday (Wednesday before noon)
ya, ra -- Rahu's day (Wednesday afternoon) -- See my notes on Wednesday-planet
tha, ha -- Friday
a -- Sunday

[UKT: After reading my notes on Wednesday-planet, you will get an idea of why {la.}, {wa.}, {ya.} and {ra.} corresponding to English-Latin <l, w, y, r> (the approximants) are assigned to Wednesday.]

And on this division a person's name was chosen. Thus, the first name of a Saturday-born would begin with one of the following letters:

ta, hta, da, dha, na

as, for example, 'Tin', 'Htin', 'Nan'. This custom of naming a person after his birthday planet has now fallen into disuse, except in old-fashioned families".

Thus, you can see that Dr. Htin Aung was born on a Saturday, and I (U Kyaw Tun) on a Monday. We can make several observations based on Dr. Htin Aung's work:
The r2 consonants, {sa.}, {hsa.}, and {za.} are grouped together with {a.}, and assigned to Tuesday-planet. If the r2 had been occupied by {kya.}, {hkya.}, and {gya.} (assigned to Monday-planet), it would bring in a very serious contradiction in Burmese-astrology (which probably would cause havoc in a person's life -- something no one would even think of). This point should be considered by Pali-Latin scholars.
{ya.} and {ra.} (assigned to Rahu) always have the same or similar pronunciation.
{la.} and {wa.} (assigned to Wednesday-planet)
{tha.} and {ha.} (assigned to Friday-planet). This suggests that r6c5 {tha.} always has the pronunciation /θ, / and not /s/.

A consonant-akshara character has the inherent vowel (usually /a/). And because of it, the consonant-akshara can be pronounced. Thus {ka.} can be pronounced, whereas <k>, a letter of the English-Latin alphabet, is mute unless you supply it with a vowel such as /a/. Only then, can it be pronounced as /ka/.

akshara-consonants are grouped into "classifiables"   {wag} and non-classifiables" {a.wag}. By classifiables, we mean those that can be classified as "voiceless", "vl-aspirate", "voiced", and "vd-retroflex". By "non-classifiables" {a.wag}, we mean those that cannot be neatly classified. The non-classifiables contain the semi-vowels and similar consonants except the vowel {a.} /a/. In Sanskrit-Devanagari the position of {a.} is occupied by ํ  - {neig~ga.hait}. 

{} Alt0241is represented in English-Latin as <ny>.

Consonants in yellow-coloured cells are mainly used for writing Pali-Myanmar, however since Pali words have been incorporated into Burmese, you are bound to run into some of these characters in ordinary Burmese-Myanmar.

c4 consonants in yellow-coloured cells have "retroflex" sounds, which to the Burmese-Myanmar speakers are the "same" as c3 sounds. And if you are to take only the c1s, c2s and c3s from the {wag} groups, you will get what I have formerly termed the "triads". If you are to pronounce the triads one by one you will notice that the POA moves from the front of the mouth to the back.

In Burmese-Myanmar, r2c2 is given as {a.} ( {a.kri:}) which has an alternative as {a.} ( {a.l:}). However, in Pali-Myanmar {a.l:}, {a.} is the proper character, and {a.kri:} {a.} is treated as the horizontal ligature of two {a.}.

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

{a.} is misrepresented in Burmese-Myanmar typewritten text as vowel-letter {U.}, which has a shorter "foot".

{Hta.} is the regular form of r3c2. It can be pronounced. However, {THta.} is the horizontal conjunct of {Ta.} and {Hta.}. It is mute.

{Ta.} + {Hta.} --> {THta.} (mute).
It is found in the Pali-Myanmar word {AoaT~Hta. Htaan}. It is a linguistic term meaning the "sound produced at the POA lips" or bilabial sounds.

Because, we are running out of ASCII characters to represent the /da/ sounds (there are four), I have to use small and capital letters of Latin Eth: {a.} and {a.}. However, since both {tha.} and <th> have the sounds /θ/ as in <thin> and // as in <that>, the use of {a.} is objectionable.

For formation of conjuncts, {a.} is written in a prone (horizontal) position at a level lower than the base character. e.g. {Na.} (mute).

{ka.} + viram + {Na.} --> {kaN~a} (~ is inserted to help in pronunciation)

For formation of conjuncts,  {na.} undergoes a change in shape to which we might refer to as "legless" {na.}.

It is to be noted that labio-dentals are absent in both Burmese-Myanmar and Pali-Myanmar. However, because of the necessity of transliteration between Burmese-Myanmar and English-Latin, we would have to invent characters to represent them. (Such inventions are common in Indian scripts.). We proposed that <f> be represented as {hpha.} and <v> as {bha.}. Please note that these two are medials. And, ordinarily, the inherent vowel of a medial cannot be killed. However, we would have to make an exception in this case. <v> is represented at the present as {bwi} in Myanmar.

Note: U Tun Tint, retired editor of MLC sees nothing objectionable to the transliteration of <f> to {hpha.} and <v> to {bha.}, since such medials are not present in traditional Burmese-Myanmar.

During the formation of conjuncts or medials, {ya.} undergoes a change in shape to .

During the formation of conjuncts or medials {ra.} undergoes a change in shape to , and .

Back in the 1990s, when I finally give up my attempts to transcribe the Burmese spoken language into English-Latin script (my first attempt was in the late 1940s  when I was still in my early teens using my father's English typewriter) and came up with the idea of transliteration, the first thing that I noticed was that the Romabama consonants can be classified into groups:
triads - blue cells - POA moving from front of the mouth to back,
pairs - green cells - similar sounds
singles

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Triads -- Plosives

Keeping the array as it is, but omitting the Pali letters and the letters in the last column and rows 6 and 7 brings out a prominent sub array - the triads.

Burmese-Myanmar
POA Front Back
  Hindi-Devanagari
POA Front Back
  c1 c2 c3
r1
{ka.}

{hka.}

{ga.}
r2
{sa.}

{hsa.}

{za.}
r4
{ta.}

{hta.}

{da.}
r5
{pa.}

{hpa.}

{ba.}

POA
Back

Front

  c1 c2 c3
r1
[Ka]

[Kha]

[Ga]
r2
[Ca]

[Cha]

[Ja]
r4
[Ta]

[Tha]

[Da]
r5
[Pa]

[Pha]

[Ba]

In comparing the Burmese-Myanmar to Hindi-Devanagari, we are comparing the orthographic correspondence -- not the pronunciations. For all rows, except r2, the pronunciations are also comparable.

In r2, the pronunciation correspondence is between Burmese-Myanmar {kya.}, {hkya.}, {gya.}, and Hindi-Devanagari च [Ca], छ [Cha], ग [Ja].

The orthographic correspondence between Burmese-Myanmar (or Pali-Myanmar) and Hindi-Devanagari has helped me to identify many plant species. See my other field of study: Myanmar Medicinal Plant Database.

The most contrastive sound among the triads is between {pa.} and {ga.}. If we are to take the vowels into consideration, the most contrastive is between {pi.} and {gau:}.

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Pairs -- Nasals and Approximants

There are two vertical of pairs (nasals) and a horizontal pair (approximants).

The nasal pair missing in English-Latin is r1c5-r2c5 {nga.-a.}.  Though this pair is present in Devanagari, Burmese-Myanmar r1c5 {nga.} is not correctly pronounced by most Hindi-Devanagari speakers (those I came to associate with in Canada). With all native-English speakers (those that I came across in Australia, Canada, and the US), {nga.-a.} pair is the most difficult to pronounce.

The first member of {nga.-a.} pair, is the velar-nasal /ŋ/. In English-Latin syllables, /ŋ/ is never present in the onset, but only in the coda, e.g. <sing> /sɪŋ/. However, {nga.} is found in many Burmese-Myanmar onsets. It is also found in the codas as killed consonants (represented as in syllables of CV form, where C is the consonant, V the vowel and the "killed" consonant). Usually the <g> in <ng> corresponding to the Burmese-Myanmar {nga.} is not pronounced. However, you can never tell whether the <ng> in an English-Latin word is /ŋ/ or not just from the spelling, e.g.:

<singer> /'sɪŋ.əʳ/ (US) /-ɚ/ (<g> is not pronounced, similar to {sing:nga:}
<finger> /'fɪŋ.gəʳ/ (US) /-gɚ/ (<g> is pronounced, similar to {sing:ga:})

The second member of this pair r2c5 is found in Spanish (capital letter ). It is an alveolar-nasal. The Spanish insist that it is a consonant in its own right and not n or N with a diacritic. See Palatal Nasal in TIL library, Wiki section, Nasalization.htm

The nasals are probably the most varied of all world phonemes. The following is from: http://www.everything2.com/index.pl?node=nasal

Most languages have two nasals, m n. It is very rare for a language to lack either or both of these, though some Salish languages of North-Western America do. In Yoruba the consonant n occurs only before i, as an allophone of l; though Yoruba also has nasal vowels, which are written with a following letter N.

Less common than the near-universal bilabial m and dental or alveolar n are nasals at other places of articulation. The palatal nasal is written in Spanish, gn in French and Italian, nh in Portuguese, and ny in Hungarian and Catalan. Similar NY-like sounds occur in Polish and Japanese.

The velar nasal is the NG sound of <sing>. In almost all dialects of English this word ends in a nasal, with no consonant G after it, but historically it came from a cluster N + G, with the G lost somewhere in the Middle Ages. The NG is a single consonant sound: <sing> matches sin, sill, sick, not sink, sinned, silt. It also occurs before K and the K-like C, as in sink, uncle. Sometimes it occurs before an audible G, as in <finger>, which has NGG as opposed to the simple NG of singer. German has a similar kind of distribution, and a similar phonetic history of this sound.

The NG sound also occurs in Italian, Spanish, Greek, Japanese, and Hungarian, but not independently: it only occurs before the K and G sounds, as in cinque, cinco. This assimilation is obligatory: San Carlo and San Carlos are pronounced with sang, not san.

I have represented the Romabama velar-nasal r1c5 as {nga.} Formerly I had represented it as {ga.}. However, since this nasal is represented by most writers as ng, you are at liberty to make your choice. The choice between {g} and {ng} becomes moot when this Burmese-Myanmar consonant is used as a "killed" consonant. There is the possibility that <g> might be lost in the hands of careless people and the {g} became {}. However, this would be of no problem in many cases, and even became desirable in some:

The wrong spelling for "sour" (taste) is {hkying}
{hkying} -->loosing <g> --> {hkyin}.
   Since {n} is the killed {na.} , the pronunciation becomes {hkyan}.
{hkyig} --> loosing <g> --> {hkyi}
  {hkyi} is the right spelling for "sour" (taste).

It is important to remember that Burmese-Myanmar syllables end in vowels, and even if there appears to be consonant it is a killed consonant (shown underlined in the following examples) with no sound of its own.

  {ka. nga.thut} in:
   {king} -- (v. to roast)

{sa. nga.thut} in:
   {sing} -- (n. rack or shelf}

{hsa.nga.thut} in:
   {hsing} -- (n. elephant)

{ka. na.thut} in:
   {kan} -- (v. to kick, n. pond)

{ka. tis.hkyaung:nging na.thut} in:
   {koan} -- (n. commercial goods)

{ka. ma.thut wut~sa.pauk} in:
   {kam:} --  {n. water-edge}

Generically,   {ka. nga.thut} {king} (v. to roast), should be spelled {kang}. However because of the peculiarity of the English vowel system, the word has been spelled {king} (with a silent g) to differentiate it from {ka. na.thut} {kan} (v. to kick, n. pond).

It is to be noted that {ka. na.thut} {kan} (v. to kick, n. pond) has a homonym word {kn} (n. "fortune" as in "good fortune").

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Same sounding pairs

Some of the Pali-Myanmar characters are rarely used in everyday Burmese-Myanmar. However, some are routinely used, e.g.:

{ahkan: kaN~a.} , a compound of two words for preciseness:
{ahkan:} -- (Burmese-Myanmar) n. 1. compartment; room; apartment. 2. chapter (of a book); scene of part in a drama or film. 3. role. 4. segment of a monk's robe which is patched together from several pieces pieces as prescribed. -- MEDict545
{kaN~a.}  -- (Pali-Myanmar) n. section -- MEDict018

Some scholars in Myanmar opine that Myanmars have lost their ability to pronounce "Pali" correctly, and Myanmar monks learning Pali have to take note of that when they are reciting Pali texts. (Verbal communication with Rev. U Kawwida of Toronto Myanmar Buddhist monastery.). To those scholars, the "Pali" spoken in Sri Lanka and in modern India (under heavy influence of Sanskrit) are more authentic, whereas, Pali-Myanmar pronunciations are less so. They fail to recognise that Pali (the western dialect) and  Magadi (the eastern dialect) were dialects of a local language spoken by ordinary people -- not the Brahmin-scholars who were perfecting Sanskrit. They fail to recognise that Buddha and Asoka were not Brahmins, and Buddha would be speaking in local lingo and not like a Brahmin. I must insist that the local lingo was a Tibeto-Burman language, one of which is Burmese-Myanmar.

See the Language problem of primitive Buddhism by Chi Hisen-lin, Journal of the Burma Research Society (JBRS), XLIII, i, June 1960 (in TIL library).
   The language problem appeared even during the life-time of Buddha, who responded:
 -- Cullavagga, V. 33. 1
The Pali-Latin transcription of the above word of the Buddha is:
 " anujānāmi bhikkhave sakāya niruttiyā buddhavacanam pariyāpunitum "
Continue reading on this subject in Magadi, Myanmar, Pali, Sanskrit in my notes.

In the following matrix, akshara-characters with the same sound are shown in coloured cells -- side by side or one above the other. (Please note that c4 consonants are retroflex, and many -- I am one of them -- cannot pronounce them properly. That is the opinion held by Sanskrit-biased peers of mine.)

The first thing a Myanmar male about to enter the Theravada-Buddhist order -- all Myanmar Buddhist males have to become full-fledged monks at least for a few days -- is told is to pronounce {Ga.} correctly. I am speaking from personal experience:

pronounce " {thn-Gau:}" with zest and force something like foot-stamping.

In Devanagari names for c4s, there is an "h" to emphasize the difference from c3s. And, Rev. U Kawwida pointed out that "h"-sound is present in {Ga.}. However the two members of each pair is pronounced exactly the same by ordinary Myanmars. Soon after leaving the religious order, we lapse into our old habit and:

pronounce {thn-Gau:} as {thn-gau:}.

The {ya.}- {ra.} pair is noteworthy. Though they different sounds, Myanmars in the central region (Irrawaddy and Salween river-basins) have lost their ability (or are too lazy) to "roll" the r and pronounce it as y. Thus, though Yangon (English spelling based on pronunciation) is spelled {ran-koan} (with an r) it is pronounced as if the first consonant is y. However, Myanmars of the Arakan (Yakhine) coast in western Myanmar do pronounce the {ra.} correctly.

UKT:
   According to Dr. Htin Aung's (see above in Romabama consonants), {ya.} and {ra.} has been noted as Rahu's day (Wednesday afternoon). Since in Burmese astrology, pronunciation seems to be more important than spelling, it is probable that {ra.} has always been pronounced as {ya.}, or {ya.} with an "r" colouring. This means that Myanmars have not lost their ability to "roll" the r  , but have never roll it .

UKT:
   Let me cite Chi Hisen-lin (refer to my notes Magadhi, Myanmar, Pali and Sanskrit). He wrote: "... most of the scholars advocated that the Pali language was a Western dialect, ... But on the other hand, the Magadha language was an eastern dialect, ... There is a vast difference between the two languages and they should by no means be confused with each other." Burma being close to Magadha, Burmese should be closer to Magadhi than to Pali. Since, the Buddha had spoken the local lingo of Magadha, it is highly probable that Burmese-Myanmar pronunciation is closer to that of the Buddha, and Asoka.

In formulating Romabama, I have followed the written script rather than the pronunciation. I was accused of being partial to a single group of Burmese-Myanmar speakers, but after coming across the story of "shibboleth", I have to follow the script rather than the pronunciation. 

Romabama is based on written Burmese-Myanmar script and NOT on pronunciation.

Please note that the Myanmar Buddhist monks are required to pronounce the r distinctly when reciting religious texts.

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Problem pairs

/f, v/

Labio-dental fricatives <f - v> /f - v/ (Table of English consonants) present in English-Latin are absent in Burmese-Myanmar. The POA of this pair is between that of <p - b> /p - b/ and <th> /θ - /.

<p> in <pat> /pt/ -- comparable to {pak}
<b> in <bat> /bt> -- comparable to {bak}

<f> in <fat> /ft/
<v> in <vat> /vt/

<th> in <thin> /θɪn/ -- comparable to {thin:}
 - /θ/ is similar to that of {tha.} in {matha} meaning "funeral"
<th> in <that> /t/
 - // is similar to that of {tha.} in pronunciation {natha} of word {nn.tha} meaning "sandal wood".

It might be appropriate to emphasize here that the consonants listed in the Table of English Consonants are in phonetic characters. Three pairs of characters not present in the regular English alphabet: /θ /, /ʃ ʒ/, /ʧ ʤ/ are listed in it.

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/θ, /

You have already seen that in the English words < thin> and <that> the <th> has different sounds. Phonetically, the <th> is represented as  /θ/ in <thin>, and as // in <that>. We have already seen a similar  situation in Burmese-Myanmar r6c5 {tha.}. I will illustrate this with a personal story. One of my parents' friends was a lady with a beautiful Burmese-Myanmar name. Because she was born on a very pleasant day, she was given the name Miss Pleasant. A pleasant day in Burmese-Myanmar is {tha-ya-thau n.}. Because she was born on a pleasant day, she was named "Ma Tha". ("Ma"  is the equivalent of Miss or Ms, and "Tha" stands for {tha-ya}. I was still a child learning to read and write Burmese-Myanmar and when a letter came from "Ma Tha", I read the sender's name as /mə.θa/ which means "funeral " or "dead person". I should have read /'ma.a/ . (Note: /.../ stands for IPA transcription and {...} stands for Romabama transliterations. in IPA is different from that of Romabama.)

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/ʃ, ʒ/

The English phoneme /ʃ/ is found in the English word <ship>, and ʒ in <measure> .
   In Burmese-Myanmar, /ʃ/ is represented as a conjoined consonant {ra.kauk ha.hto:}  {rha.}. It is derived from two consonants {ra.} and   {ha.}. /ʃ/ can also be represented by another conjoined character {thhya.}.
   There is no equivalent for /ʒ/ in Burmese-Myanmar.

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/ʧ, ʤ/

These two phonemes are unnecessarily confusing to Myanmars. The English phoneme /ʧ/ is found in the English-Latin <chin>.  The sound of Burmese-Myanmar medial {hkya.} is approximately equivalent to /ʧ/. This is because English <k> is not exactly like the Burmese-Myanmar {ka.} but closer to {hka.} in pronunciation. However, by tradition {ka.} is always represented by <k>. If only this tradition had been followed in the case of /ʧ/, it would have been represented by {kya.}.
     The English phoneme /ʤ/ is found in the English word <gin>. The Burmese-Myanmar equivalent is the medial {gya.}.

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Singles

The "non-classifiables" {a.wag} consonants are found in rows 6 and 7. They, with the probable exception of {ya.} and {ra.}, are best described individually. They are what I have termed the "singles". (refer to Table of English Consonants.):

approximants:
{ya.} /j/,  {ra.} /r/ (sometimes described as /ɹ/), {la.} /l/, {wa.} /w/ (sometimes described as /v/) 

interdental-fricative: {tha.}/{a.} has two sounds: vl. /θ/ and vd. //. Though {a.} has been described as a sibilant because its exact position is occupied by a sibilant in Hindi-Devanagari and Pali-Devanagari. However, both Burmese-Myanmar and Pali-Myanmar {a.} has no hissing sounds. It  is exactly like the modern English-Latin digraph <th> as in <thin> /θɪn/ and <that> /t/. In old English <th> was represented as <>, the character being known as <thorn>.

approximant: {ha.} /h/. In IPA it is described as a fricative.

inherent vowel: {a.} /a/, // or /ə/ -- present as part of a consonant.

It is instructive to see how these consonants (or their corresponding consonants in Sinhala-Pali) are described by Ven. Narada Thera in An Elementary Pali Course, Buddha Dhamma Association, Inc. (Sri Lanka)  http://www.buddhanet.net/. Below is a pix captured from the original pdf text.

Here are my comments (with my deep respect to the learned monk, from whose work I have learnt just a "grain of sand" of Pali. My regret: I am unfortunate not to have the opportunity to learn "at his feet"):

Ven. Narada Thera's
description
Sinhala-Pali Pali-Myanmar
as Romabama
UKT's Comments
(abbrev.: Bur = Burmese; Engl = English; Myan = Myanmar
* Palatal [y] {ya.}  
*Cerebral [r] {ra.}  
*Dental [l] {la.} {la.} is not dental, it is alveolar
*Dental and Labial [v] {wa.} Bur-Myan has no [v]. Proposed extending Myanmar akshara by adding {bha.} to approximate <v> and [v].
Dental [s]
(sibilant)
{a.}
(thibilant)
Pali-Latin [s] (hissing sound) corresponds to Bur-Myan {a.}, (no hissing sound), and is the same as Engl-Latin <th> (no hissing sound) in <thin> /θɪn/ and <that> /t/.
Aspirate [h]
(aspirate)
{ha.}
(approximant)
Unlike the English-Latin <h>, which is sometimes silent, Bur-Myan {ha.} and Pali-Myan {ha.} are never silent.
Cerebral [ ḷ ] {La.} Compare spelling of (Pali-Latin) Pāḷi and (Pali-Myan) {pa-Li.}.
Niggahita [ṃ] {n} Vow-sign {::ting}. It does not have any colouring of <n> or <m>, and representing it with [ṅ] , [ṃ] , or {n} is misleading.
Semi-vowels indicated by *    

Of rows 6 and 7 Burmese-Myanmar akshara-characters, only 4 (three of which are semi-vowels) are allowed to form medial conjuncts which are pronounceable. These are: are   {ya.} /j/,  {ra.} /r/ or /ɹ/, {wa.} /w/ , {ha.} /h/. These can be conjoined to a consonant from both the {wag}-group and {a.wag} group, e.g.:

{wag}-group
  {ka.} /k/ + {ya.} -->  {kya.} /kja/ (pronounceable)

{a.wag}-group
  {ya.} + {ya.} --> {yya.} (pronounceable)

Orthographically, other conjuncts may be formed, but they are mute.

Phonetically the English /l/ (U006C) has two kinds of sounds in English: clear L and dark L. We take note that /l/ is an alveolar lateral approximant. That is, when /l/ is pronounced, the tongue tip is touching the alveolar ridge (just behind the upper teeth) and the air escapes past the sides of the tongue. Clear L is found (in English words) normally only before vowels, e.g. <pill> (phonemic /pɪl/). [ {la.thut}]. Dark L sound is typically found when /l/ occurs before a consonant or before a pause, e.g.: <help> phonemic /help/ [ {la.thut} + {pa. thut}]. A similar distinction is not found in the Burmese-Myanmar {la.}.

In several accents of English, particularly those close to London, the dark L has given way to a [w] sound, so that <help> and <hill> might be transcribed /hewp/ and /hɪw/; this process is known as 'L vocalization'. See DJPD16 information panel on dark L.

UKT:
According to Dr. Htin Aung (see above in Romabama consonants), {la.} and {wa.} has been assigned to Wednesday (before noon). Why? Is there a process similar to 'L vocalization' ?

It will come as a surprise to most Myanmar to know that the {wa.} sound is not present in some languages such as Hindi-Devanagari.

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UKT notes

Burmese-Myanmar aksharas and Burmese astrology

The letters of the Burmese alphabet were divided up between the eight planets thus:

ka kha, ga, gha, nga} -- Monday
sa, hsa, za, zha, nya -- Tuesday
ta, hta, da, dha, na -- Saturday
pa, hpa, ba, bha, ma -- Thursday
la, wa -- Wednesday (Wednesday before noon)
ya, ra -- Rahu's day (Wednesday afternoon)
tha, ha -- Friday
a -- Sunday

and on this division a person's name was chosen. Thus, the first name of a Saturday-born would begin with one of the following letters:

ta, hta, da, dha, na

as, for example, 'Tin', 'Htin', 'Nan'. This custom of naming a person after his birthday planet has now fallen into disuse, except in old-fashioned families.

Go back bur-astr-b

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Dark-L and Light-L
   "Some phoneticians speak of the dark and light variants of /l/. What they call light /l/ might also be termed pre-vocalic /l/; while dark /l/ is post-vocalic. In cases of intervocalic /l/, the liquid will tend to group either with the preceding syllable, in which case it is dark, or with the following syllable, in which case it is light. But there are many cases where the distinction is not so clear, and we get elements of both, leading to the nice diamond or O shape between F2 and F3 which is an easy marker for /l/."
   The following is from Structure of Spoken Language, The Approximants, http://cslu.cse.ogi.edu/tutordemos/SpectrogramReading/
Follow the link to The Approximants in TIL archives.
Go back Dark-L-b

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The God of the Wednesday-planet
-- by UKT (the illustration is from Facets of Life at Shwedagon Pagoda in Colorful Myanmar by Daw Khin Myo Chit):

There are only 7 days in a week. And therefore only 7 gods are needed to rule the days. But in Burmese astrology, we need to indicate the 8 directions of the compass, ruled by the same gods. Therefore, one day would have to be ruled by two gods. That day is Wednesday. Wednesday before noon is ruled by the god of the Wednesday-planet, and Wednesday after noon is ruled by the god Rahu.

Now Wednesday-god is mild mannered, and when certain periods of your life fall under his rule, you would be lucky. However, Rahu is an angry god, and when in other periods of life, you fall under his influence, you would be unlucky. It is noteworthy that both gods ride elephants. Wednesday's elephant has tusks, and it can be used for good causes -- like moving heavy logs. However, Rahu's elephant is the tusk-less one. It is stronger than the one with tusk, but it is the angry one and is not useful. I sometimes wonder if the two gods are really one. In the morning he is good, but past noon he became sour.

If you would like to curry favor with the gods you would have to offer them with flowers and fruits. Of course, these items have their Burmese-Myanmar names beginning with a particular consonant. If you would like to offer things to the Wednesday-god, choose items with names beginning with {la.} and {wa.}. If it is Rahu, the offertories must have names beginning with {ya.} and {ra.}.

Now, lets see what the Greeks and Romans thought about the god of the planet Mercury. He is Hermes to the Greek and Mercury to the Romans. He is male but a hermaphrodite :

Hermes n. Greek Mythology 1. The god of commerce, invention, cunning, and theft, who also served as messenger, scribe, and herald for the other gods. -- AHTD

Mercury n. 1. Roman Mythology A god that served as messenger to the other gods and was himself the god of commerce, travel, and thievery. 2. The smallest of the planets and the one nearest the sun, having a sidereal period of revolution about the sun of 88.0 days at a mean distance of 58.3 million kilometers (36.2 million miles) and a mean radius of approximately 2,414 kilometers (1,500 miles). [Middle English Mercurie from Old French from Latin Mercurius] -- AHTD

mercury n. 1. Symbol Hg A silvery-white poisonous metallic element, liquid at room temperature and used in thermometers, barometers, vapor lamps, and batteries and in the preparation of chemical pesticides. Atomic number 80; atomic weight 200.59; melting point - 38.87C; boiling point 356.58 C; specific gravity 13.546 (at 20 C); valence 1, 2. Also Called quicksilver . See note at element . 2. Temperature: The mercury had fallen rapidly by morning. 3. Any of several weedy plants of the genera Mercurialis or Acalypha. [Middle English mercurie from Medieval Latin mercurius from Latin Mercurius Mercury] -- AHTD

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homonym
n. 1. One of two or more words that have the same sound and often the same spelling but differ in meaning. -- AHTD
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Magadhi, Myanmar, Pali, and Sanskrit

See the Language problem of primitive Buddhism by Chi Hisen-lin, Journal of the Burma Research Society (JBRS), XLIII, i, June 1960 (in TIL library).

The language problem appeared even during the life-time of Buddha, who responded:
meaning: "I permit you, O Monks, to learn the word of the Buddha in his own language." -- Buddha.

The episode is mentioned in Viniya Pitika, Cullavagga, V. 33. 1. Buddha's words were in response to a request by two monks who were born into a Brahmin family: "Bhante, now the Bhikkhus with different family names and personal names, of different social ranks and families, have come to join the Order. With their own vernaculars they have marred the Buddha's words. Please permit us to express the Buddha's words in Sanskrit."

Buddha: "Bhikkhus, you are not allowed to express the Buddha's words in Sanskrit. Those who act contrarily will be considered as having committed the offence of Dukkata {doak~ka.Ta.}." 

Chi Hisen-lin wrote: "Although the above-mentioned views vary from one another, there is a comparatively concordant point, that is, most of the scholars advocated that the Pali language was a Western dialect, and such was truly the fact. The declensions of the Pali words are similar to those of the language used in the Girnar Inscriptions of the Asokan Pillars, such as the locative case ending in-amhi and -e, the accusative case in -ne, etc. But on the other hand, the Magadha language was an eastern dialect, in which r had become as l, and s as ś, while the nominative case of words ending in -a, ended in -e, etc. There is a vast difference between the two languages and they should by no means be confused with each other."

Burma (i.e. Upper Burma) being close to Magadha, I am of holding the view that Burmese-Myanmar pronunciations are more likely to be closer to the pronunciations used by Lord Buddha himself.

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shibboleth
n. 1. A word or pronunciation that distinguishes people of one group or class from those of another. 2. a. A word or phrase identified with a particular group or cause; a catchword. b. A commonplace saying or idea. 3. A custom or practice that betrays one as an outsider. [Ultimately from Hebrew ibbōlet  torrent of water, from the use of this word to distinguish one tribe from another, who pronounced it sibbōleth (Judges 12:4-6)] -- AHTD
   UKT: In the Bible story, thousands of people lost their lives in a single day because of their inability to pronounce a single word "correctly". After coming across that story, I hold firmly that spoken language divides people, whereas the written script unites. I have but one wish in formulating Romabama as an old man: may the peoples of Myanmar remain united forever, and I firmly hold that the Myanmar script is the instrument to bring that about.
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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). -- AHTD.
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