Update: 2008-11-02 07:59 AM +0800


Burmese Grammar 1899

Formation of words (syllables):
Coda consonants


by U Kyaw Tun (UKT), Tun Institute of Learning, http://www.tuninst.net
From Burmese Grammar and Grammatical Analysis by A. W. Lonsdale, Education Department, Burma, British Burma Press, Rangoon, 1899. Copied by UKT and staff of TIL . Start: 2008 Aug.

  indx-RBM4M |Top

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Formation of words (syllables)
Changing the peak vowel -- ch04-1.htm
Medials -- ch04-2.htm
Coda consonants -- ch04-3.htm
  First Table - Syllables with basic aksharas as onsets with non-conjunct endings (mostly pure Burmese words)
  [UKT: Syllables with medial-aksharas as onsets with non-conjunct endings are not included - 081030)
Syllables with conjunct consonants -- ch04-4.htm
(Romabama vowels in rimes)
Pali derived syllables with coda consonants -- ch04-5.htm
Conjuncts including Kinsi {kn~si:} -- ch04-6.htm

UKT: On the right are shown the Om symbols in Myanmar and Devanagari. Leaving aside their religious significance, we can say that this vowel has been pronounced across linguistic lines in various variations by a large part of the World's population. In both symbols, we see a diacritic placed well above the other marks. In Burmese-Myanmar, it is called a {th:th:ting} which literally means "something small placed above". In Sanskrit-Devanagari it is Anunaasika (anunāsika). In Sanskrit-Devanagari, the diacritic ँ U0901 is called Chandrabindu (meaning "moon-dot").

Author's footnotes

UKT notes  -- note the author's Pali transcriptions: is used in place of ā , e.g., Pli for Pāli .
I am showing Lonsdale's transcriptions within Alt0171-Al0187: ..., e.g. (without slanting the character within)
Chandrabindu checked and free vowel glottal stop phonotactics triphthong

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Chapter IV contd.
Formation of words (syllables):
Coda consonants

32. Final Consonants. There are many words [UKT: syllables] in the Burmese Language, terminating in a consonant which does not receive its full articulation, that is, it does not end with the {a.} sound. Not only is this inherent vowel {a.} rendered quiescent, but the consonant itself generally suffers a change, modifying at the same time, the vowel immediately preceding; thus {kak} is composed of UKT

{ka.} k + {a.} a + {ka.} k  [-- Lonsdale's presentation]

UKT: The above is Lonsdale method of presentation of the formation of the word {kak}, which is different from that of TIL. TIL presentation clearly shows the vowel-killer or viram, which follows the method used by The Unicode Standard, Version 4.0, Unicode Consortium, http://www.unicode.org/versions/Unicode4.0.0/ch09.pdf 081029
   From his transcription of k, we can see that Lonsdale has taken {ka.} to be the same as English-Latin <k> which does not have an inherent vowel and which cannot be pronounced, i.e. <k> is mute. To make it pronounceable, a vowel such as <a> has to be added: then it becomes <ka> with the pronunciation IPA /ka/. Therefore, we can see that what he has given above is:

{k} k + {a.} a + {k} k -->  {kak}  [-- what I have made out of Lonsdale's presentation]

which, though properly equivalent to kak is pronounced ket. [UKT: t inserted by Lonsdale is silent and is known as the " glottal stop" and is represented by MLC with a /'/ and by IPA with /ʔ/ ] to indicate that it is  The last {ka.} in the vowel is a final consonant, and is marked by the sign called {a.tht} athat 'that which kills'. [UKT: The glyph or logo representing {a.tht} is known as {tn-hkwan} from its shape which resembles a flag.] This sign, besides indicating that the inherent sound of {a.} is killed or destroyed, the distinguishes the consonant on which it is placed from the initial consonant which, as we have seen, also drops its {a.} sound. See para 25 . The consonants with the athat sign superadded are called {tht ak~hka.ra} that-ekkhr, 'killed letters'.

The consonants which occur as finals in words of pure Burmese origin, are . [UKT: the first four pairs of the {wag}-group and the lone last consonant is of the {a.wag}-group.] These may sometimes occur in words of Pli origin, in which case they are pronounced as in Burmese words.

UKT: Only one consonant can be in the coda of a syllable and to show that it is a coda consonant, it is shown under the {tn-hkwan} sign, e.g.
   {ta.} +   -->  {t}  (mute, because its vowel has been killed)
   {ka.} + {t} --> {kat} 
   [Alternatively, you can say: {k} + {ak} --> {kat} ]
   {kat} is pronounced as IPA /kʌt/, which shows that the preceding vowel /a/ has been modified by the coda-consonant.
   However, since /ʌ/ is a non-ASCII character it cannot be used by Romabama which therefore has to use the "nearest" ASCII character {} to reflect this change: {kt}.

UKT: Refer to the Tables of IPA and English Consonants in ch02.htm . Burmese-Myanmar {sa.} and English <s> behave very similarly. Both are sibilant fricatives as syllable onsets. However, as syllable codas, they are not sibilant fricatives on all occasions.
   My observation is that though English is not supposed to have a Palatal <c> with IPA /c/, yet in words like <success>, the first <c> (the coda of the syllable <suc> is purported to have the IPA pronunciation /k/. See DJPD16. This has led me to suggest that it could very well be /c/. Similarly, Burmese-Myanmar {sa.} has the pronunciation /s/ as the onset, and /c/ as the coda. Therefore, I am spelling {thic~sa} and {sic}.
   However, in International Pali, this character is supposed to have the pronunciation of /c/ both as the onset and the coda.

UKT: Remember, only one consonant is allowed in the coda: only the basic akshara and no medial. Let's see what would happen if we try to use a medial, say {kra.}, in the coda:
  {kra.} +   --> {kr}
  {ta.} + {kr} --> {takr} : resulting in a "syllable" with two consonants in the coda which is not allowed by Burmese phonotactics .
However, a modern Myanmar person should be trained to articulate outside his traditional phonotactics to overcome the restriction of "only one coda consonant" to pronounce foreign "loan" words.

34. The consonants are also used as finals, but only in words derived from Pli [UKT: in modern times from English or any other modern languages as well]; for instance, the word {aaN} is the Pli {a-Na.} merely Burmanized by making the last letter {Na.} final, so that the word is pronounced nyan instead of ny-na.

UKT: Lonsdale wrote his book over a century ago, and he was more concerned with pure Burmese words and Pli-derived words (or in his usage "Burmanized"). And therefore, in his First table (and Second table) which follows in the next para, he has obviously confined himself to what he considered to be pure Burmese words. However, I feel that it would be more profitable for us to differentiate his two tables as: First Table for words ending in non-conjuncts, and Second table for words ending in conjuncts. You will be able to pick out the original Lonsdale's entries by the presence of his transcriptions given in .... Those that do not his transcriptions are my additions.

35. The changes and the modifications which the final consonants with their preceding vowels undergo, are called Permutations. [UKT: why not rime?] These permutations are exhibited in the following tables: - [{p021end}]

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First Table

First Table: Showing the Permutations of Final Consonants and Vowels as they occur in pure Burmese vowels.
(UKT: In both First Table and Second Table , Lonsdale has not given the {hka.tht} and similar {a.tht} of the c2 aksharas. See Lonsdale's First Table. Therefore, I have included them in the table below. There is one problem when killed c2 aksharas are described in Romabama because of their names given as digraphs, and therefore, I have to give them in upper case letters, such as {K} instead of {hk})

Final consonant Combined with
(UKT: You can also use {a.}-syllables I have given instead of the vowel-letters. Examples from MOrtho page numbers given.)
  {a.} {I.} / {i.} {U.} / (u.} {AU:} / {au} {}
{ka.tht} {ak} et MEDict619 --- {oak} --- 262 {thoak-thw:} {auk} ouk 287 {eik} aik 287 (Remark: Lonsdale01}
{hka.tht}     {oaK} --- 194
{nga.tht} {ing} in 287 {aing} --- 242{laing} --- {aung} oung 288 {eing} aing 288 (Remark: Lonsdale01}
{sa.tht} {ic} it 288 {ic-ko} --- --- --- ---
{a.tht} {} i in 071{s} --- --- --- ---
{ta.tht} {t} at 288 {ait} eik (Remark: Lonsdale02) 289 {oat} k 289 --- ---
{na.tht} {an} an 289 {ain} ein (Remark: Lonsdale03) 010 {kain:} {oan} n 011
--- ---
{pa.tht} {p} at 290 {aip} eik (Remark: Lonsdale02) 290 {oap} k 290 --- ---
{ma.tht} {am} an 244 {lam:} {aim} ein (Remark: Lonsdale03) 291 {oam} n --- ---
{ya.tht} {} ai (Remark: Lonsdale04) 245 {l} --- --- --- {o} --- 013 {ko}
Lonsdale01 : as heard in <aisle>, or in <like>, <line>
Lonsdale02 : pronounced as <ake> as heard in <lake>
Lonsdale03 : as heard in <skein>
Lonsdale04 : as in <air> pronounced without a falling inflexion of the voice.

UKT: Lonsdale's method of coupling a vowel to the {a.tht}, such as {i.} to {ta.tht} to produce {ait} eik is misleading, because {i.} is a free vowel (IPA /i/), but in {ait} the vowel is a checked vowel (IPA /ɪ/). See my note on checked and free vowels.

UKT: Chapter IV has to be subdivided into smaller files to make the display faster. Para 36 is on the next file: ch04-4.htm .

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Author's footnotes


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UKT notes


From Wikipedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chandrabindu 081020

Chandrabindu (meaning "moon-dot" in Sanskrit, alternatively spelled candrabindu, chandravindu, candravindu, or chndrobindu) is a diacritic sign having the form of a dot inside the lower half of a circle. It is used in the Devanagari (ँ), Bengali ( ঁ ), Gujarati (ઁ), Oriya ( ◌ଁ ) and Telugu (ఁ) scripts.

UKT: The word chandrabindu is Sanskrit: its equivalent in Pali-Myanmar would be {san~da.bain~du.} (sp-chk required)

It usually means that the previous vowel is nasalized. It is represented in Unicode as U+0901 in Devanagari, U+0981 in Bengali, U+0A81 in Gujarati, U+0B01 in Oriya, and U+0C01 in Telugu. There is also a general-purpose combining diacritical mark COMBINING CANDRABINDU code point U+0310 (◌̐), but this is intended for use with Latin letters in transliteration of Indic languages.

In Hindi, it is replaced in writing by anusvara when it is written above a consonant which carries a vowel symbol which extends above the top line.

UKT: The vowel Om in Sanskrit is pronounced somewhat differently from Burmese. In Sanskrit, the sound of /m/ is present which requires that the lips ended up closed. However, in Burmese the lips remain open.

In Classical Sanskrit it only seems to occur over a lla conjunct consonant, to show that it is pronounced as a nasalized double l, which occurs where -nl- have become assimilated in sandhi.

In Vedic Sanskrit it is used instead of anusvara to represent the sound called anunaasika when the next word starts with a vowel. It usually occurs where in earlier times a word ended in -ans.

Another symbol, identical to the chandrabindu, called the fermata, is an element of musical notation.

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checked and free vowels

From: Wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Free_vowel 081019

In phonetics and phonology, checked vowels are those that usually must be followed by a consonant in a stressed syllable, while free vowels are those that may stand in a stressed open syllable with no following consonant.

Usage of the terms
The terms checked vowel and free vowel originated in English phonetics and phonology. They are seldom used for the description of other languages, even though a distinction between vowels that usually have to be followed by a consonant and those that do not have to is common in most Germanic languages.

The terms checked vowel and free vowel correspond closely to the terms lax vowel and tense vowel respectively, but many linguists prefer to use the terms checked and free as there is no clearcut phonetic definition of vowel tenseness, and since by most attempted definitions of tenseness /ɔ/ and /ɑ/ are considered lax, even though they behave in American English as free vowels.

Checked vowels is also used to refer to a kind of very short glottalized vowels found in some Zapotecan languages that contrast with laryngealized vowels. the term checked vowel is also used to refer to a short vowel followed by a glottal stop in Mixe, where there is a distinction between two kinds of glottalized syllable nuclei: checked ones, with the glottal stop after a short vowel, and nuclei with rearticulated vowels (a long vowel with a glottal stop in the middle).

Checked and free vowels in English
In General American, the checked vowels are: /ɪ/ as in bit  /ɛ/ as in bet  // as in bat  /ʊ/ as in put  /ʌ/ as in putt

The free vowels are: /i/ as in bee  /e/ (also transcribed /eɪ/) as in bay  /u/ as in boo  /o/ (also transcribed /oʊ/) as in toe, no
/ɔ/ as in paw (doesn't occur in varieties with the low back merger). /ɑ/ as in bra  /ɝ/ as in burr  /aɪ/ as in buy
/aʊ/ as in cow, now  /ɔɪ/ as in boy

From the above we can safely say that in Burmese-Myanmar, a syllable ending in a "killed" akshara or {a.tht}, has a checked vowel as its peak. As an example, let us take the English vowel <i> which will be used in Romabama. This English vowel <i> is represented as a checked vowel in <bit> as IPA /ɪ/. However, this sound appears as a free vowel in <bee>, and is represented as /i/. Refer to the diagram given by Kevin Russell, Univ. of Manitoba, which I am reproducing on the right. You will see that the vowel <i> had moved towards the centre when it became a checked vowel. Similarly, in Burmese syllables {mi} and {mic}, the vowel sound is changed even though I am still using the letter <i>. Depending on how you pronounce the syllable, the vowel can be anything from /i/,/ɪ/ or even /ə/ (Schwa) when the syllable is not stressed as in disyllabic words: {mi} --> {mic} --> {mt~ta} . Because of this, my aim is to come up with a transliteration first and then proceed to transcription later. To attempt transcription especially by non-Burmese speakers would surely make the Burmese orthography "extremely difficult" as is observed by Lonsdale. (I am waiting for input from my Myanmar peers.)

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glottal stop

From: Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Glottal_stop 081016

Pronunciation, and representation in phonetics/linguistics
The glottal stop, or more fully, the voiceless glottal plosive, is a type of consonantal sound which is used in many spoken languages. The symbol in the International Phonetic Alphabet that represents this sound is ʔ. The glottal stop is the sound made when the vocal cords (vocal folds) are (1) drawn together by muscular action to interrupt the flow of air being expelled from the lungs and then (2) released as pressure builds up below them; for example, the break separating the syllables of the interjection uh-oh. Strictly, the perception that it is a consonantal sound is produced by the release; the closure phase is necessarily silent because during it there is no airflow and the vocal cords are immobilized. It is called the glottal stop because the technical term for the gap between the vocal cords, which is closed up in the production of this sound, is the glottis. The term "glottal stop" is one of rather few technical terms of linguistics which have become well known outside the specialism.

Phonology and symbolization of the glottal stop in selected languages
While this segment is not a phoneme in English, it is present phonetically in nearly all dialects of English as an allophone of /t/. Most British English speakers will use it for the first "t" in fortnight, where a consonant follows immediately; speakers of Cockney and many other dialects will also use it for the "t" between vowels in city. It is variably present at word boundaries where a vowel follows at the beginning of the next word, as with the final "t" of "sort" in sort of.

Another common usage of the glottal stop as an allophone to 't' more commonly found in North America is in the environment in which the 't' is immediately followed by a non-syllabic 'n' sound, as in mutant or important.

In many languages which do not allow a sequence of spoken vowel sounds, such as Persian, the glottal stop may be used to break up such a sequence. There are intricate interactions between falling tone and the glottal stop in the histories of such languages as Danish (cf. std), Chinese and Thai.

In the traditional Romanization of many languages, such as Arabic, the glottal stop is transcribed with an apostrophe, <> [UKT: MLC usage in its transcription: see Myanmar English Dictionary], and this is the source of the IPA letter <ʔ>. In many Polynesian languages which use the Latin alphabet, however, the glottal stop is written with a reversed apostrophe, <> (called okina in Hawaiian), which, confusingly, is also used to transcribe the Arabic ayin and is the source of the IPA character for the voiced pharyngeal fricative < ʕ>. In Malay, it is represented by the letter <k>, and in Vro by <q>. Representing the glottal stop is one of the functions of the Hebrew letter aleph.

In the graphic representation of most Philippine languages, the glottal stop has no consistent symbolization. In most cases, however, a word that begins with a vowel-letter (e.g. Tagalog aso 'dog') is always pronounced with an unrepresented glottal stop before that vowel (as also in Modern German and Hausa). Some orthographies employ a hyphen, instead of the reverse apostrophe, if the glottal stop occurs in the middle of the word (e.g. Tagalog pag-ibig 'love'). When it occurs in the end of a Tagalog word, the last vowel is written with a circumflex accent (if the accent is on the last syllable) or a grave accent (if the accent occurs at the penultimate syllable).

Phonetic and phonological features
Features of the glottal stop:

Its airstream mechanism is pulmonic egressive, which means it is articulated by pushing air out of the lungs and through the vocal tract, rather than being initiated from the glottis or from a velic closure.
Its place of articulation is glottal which means it is articulated at and by the vocal cords (vocal folds).
Its manner of articulation is plosive or stop, which means it is produced by completely obstructing the airflow in the vocal tract.
Its phonation type is voiceless, which means it is produced without vibration of the vocal cords; necessarily so, because the vocal cords are held tightly together, preventing vibration.
It is an oral consonant, which means the air released when the closure is relaxed is allowed to escape through the mouth rather than the nasal cavity.
Because it is pronounced in the larynx, situated in the windpipe, i.e. it has no component involved in the description of movements of the organs of the mouth, for example the tongue, so the central/lateral dichotomy does not apply, and nor do the tongue-front features such as coronal and distributed.

Occurrence: [UKT: Only two have been taken from the original list]

Burmese: [mjiʔ mj] <rivers> -- {mric mya:}

English (Cockney): [kʰɛ̝ʔ] <cat> (Allophone of /t/. See glottalization and English phonology)
English (GA [UKT: General American]): [kʰʔt] <cat> -- UKT: in Burmese-Myanmar as a "loan word"
English (RP [UKT: Brit-Eng.] or GA): [b̥ɐʔn̩] <button>

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From Wikipedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Phonotactics 071230
UKT: See also sonority hierarchy in ch05.htm .

Phonotactics (in Greek phone = voice and tactic = course) is a branch of phonology that deals with restrictions in a language on the permissible combinations of phonemes. Phonotactics defines permissible syllable structure, consonant clusters, and vowel sequences by means of phonotactical constraints.

Phonotactic constraints are language specific. For example, in Japanese, consonant clusters like /st/ are not allowed, although they are in English. Similarly, the sounds /kn/ and /ɡn/ [obviously the {nga.} [ŋ] sound] are not permitted at the beginning of a word in Modern English but are in German and Dutch.

UKT: In English both /sw/ and /st/ are allowed, whereas in Burmese, though /sw/ is allowed /st/ is not.
This shows that English /t/ is more sonorous than Burmese /t/. Whatever the case may be, in transliterating English to Burmese, we have to accept the "killed" {sa.}, {s}  in the onset, e.g. <stat> {s~tat} or {stat}.
I am waiting for comments from my peers.

Syllables have the following internal segmental structure:

Onset (optional)
Rime (obligatory, comprises Nucleus and Coda):
- Nucleus (obligatory)
- Coda (optional)

Both onset and coda may be empty, forming a vowel-only syllable, or alternatively, the nucleus can be occupied by a syllabic consonant.

English Phonotactics: The English syllable (and word) twelfths /twɛlfθs/ is divided into the onset /tw/, the nucleus /ɛ/, and the coda /lfθs/, and it can thus be described as CCVCCCC (C = consonant, V = vowel). On this basis it is possible to form rules for which representations of phoneme classes may fill the cluster. For instance, English allows at most three consonants in an onset, but among native words under standard accents, phonemes in a three-consonantal onset are limited to the following scheme:

/s/ + pulmonic + approximant:
/s/ + /m/ + /j/
/s/ + /t/ + /j ɹ/
/s/ + /p/ + /j ɹ l/
/s/ + /k/ + /j ɹ l w/

This constraint can be observed in the pronunciation of the word blue: originally, the vowel of blue was identical to the vowel of cue, approximately [iw]. In most dialects of English, [iw] shifted to [juː]. Theoretically, this would produce ** [bljuː]. The cluster [blj], however, infringes the constraint for three-consonantal onsets in English. Therefore, the pronunciation has been reduced to [bluː] by elision of the [j].

Other languages don't share the same constraint: compare Spanish pliegue [ˈpljeɣe] or French pluie [plɥi].

Sonority hierarchy: In general, the rules of phonotactics operate around the sonority hierarchy, stipulating that the nucleus has maximal sonority and that sonority decreases as you move away from the nucleus. The voiceless alveolar fricative [s] is lower on the sonority hierarchy than the alveolar lateral approximant [l], so the combination /sl/ is permitted in onsets and /ls/ is permitted in codas, but /ls/ is not allowed in onsets and /sl/ is not allowed in codas. Hence slips /slɪps/ and pulse /pʌls/ are possible English words while *lsips and *pusl are not. There are of course exceptions to this rule, but in general it holds for the phonotactics of most languages.

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From Wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Triphthong 081020

In phonetics, a triphthong (from Greek τρίφθογγος, "triphthongos", literally "with three sounds," or "with three tones") is a monosyllabic vowel combination involving a quick but smooth movement of the articulator from one vowel quality to another that passes over a third. While "pure" vowels, or monophthongs, are said to have one target articulator position, diphthongs have two, and triphthongs three.

Examples: Stress on the first element
English in British Received Pronunciation (these can be also analyzed as disyllabic sequences of a diphthong and a monophthong):
[aʊ̯ə] as in hour  [aɪ̯ə] as in fire  [eɪ̯ə] as in player  [ɔɪ̯ə] as in loyal, royal  [əʊ̯ə] as in lowerquote>

UKT: Using the rule that "What can be written in Burmese-Myanmar can be pronounced in Burmese", it is illustrative to try to represent the English word <hour> . The best I can arrive is: {a-wa}. What most Myanmars can articulate are two monophthongs, and no matter how fast they are made to pronounce the two monophthongs, the sounds remain monophongs without "the smooth movement" which is the main requirement of the diphthong and triphthongs. Therefore, I maintain that they are no diphthongs or triphthongs in Burmese.

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