Update: 2007-02-10 11:07 PM -0500



Burmese Written Language in Roman Script


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 .

Contents of this page

indx-rbm | Top | Contents of this page

Romabama vowels
Group {a. a a:}
With base consonants |
  {wag} r1-aksharas
  {wag} r2-aksharas
  {wag} r3-aksharas
  {wag} r4-aksharas
  {wag} r5-akksharas
With medials: next file
UKT notes
Pali-derived words

Contents of this page

Romabama vowels

Table of Pali-Myanmar vowels

First, I am giving the Pali-Myanmar vowels to remind ourselves the correspondence (not equivalence) of the cardinal vowels. Notice that, for the front vowels, I am giving the un-rounded, and for the back vowels, the rounded.:
  <a> -- {a.}
  <i> -- {i.}
  <u> -- {u.} and
  <ɒ> (U0252) -- {au.}
The two most contrastive vowels are <a>-{a.} pair and the <ɒ>-{au.}. Yet, it was with <ɒ>-{au.}, that I had difficulty because Pali-Latin has assigned <o> to represent this pair, until I came to the conclusion that in Romabama, I will have to represent  this pair with the digraph <au>. Here, it is always instructive to remind ourselves, how this digraph (not diphthong) is pronounced in English-Latin. See Pronouncing AU in DJPD16 p041 or English-Latin <AU> and <AW>. See also Pronouncing O in DJPD16 p373 or English-Latin <O>.

Table of Burmese-Myanmar vowels


In everyday Burmese-Myanmar, we are more concerned with vowel signs than with vowel letters. The vowel signs in the Table of Myanmar Vowels will be combined to the base aksharas (shown in table on the right), and also with medials formed from these base characters.

Romabama vowels are based on vowel lengths: short, normal, and long. The short vowel is indicated with the dot-below {auk-mris} and long vowel with "colon" {wus~sa.}.

We have already noted in killed {a.} and {a.} in the chapter on "Killed" akshara-consonants con05.htm, that the Burmese-Myanmar consonant r2c5 is really of two forms: {a.} and  {a.}. The former is known as the "big nya" and the latter "small nya". Generally, {a.} is the regular Burmese-Myanmar consonant, and  {a.} is Pali-Myanmar consonant. And of course, this will give us more vowels.


Contents of this page

Group {a. a a:}

The names for the vowel-signs are:
  (sign for inherent vowel not given),
  {weik-hkya.} or {mauk-hkya.}, or collectively called {r:hkya.}
  {weik-hkya. wus~sa.pauk} or {mauk-hkya. wus~sa.pauk}

For each vowel you will find two signs: {weik-hkya.} and {mauk-hkya.} . As a child I have been taught that these two vowel signs were known collectively as {r:hkya.}, and one is "short " and the other "long". The long sign {mauk-hkya.} , is to be used in combination with consonants constructed with one circle (e.g. {hka.}) and the "short" sign {weik-hkya.} for consonants constructed with two circles (e.g. {ka.}). However, this general rule has changed in my life time and at present, the rule that I had learned as a child is no longer valid.

In Romabama, {weik-hkya.} and {mauk-hkya.} will not be differentiated.

Contents of this page

With Base-aksharas

The vowel sign for this subgroup is written to the right of the consonant.

01. With the base-consonants

Contents of this page

{wag.} r1-aksharas

{ka. ka ka:} /|ka.| |ka| |ka:|/
{ka.} /|ka.|/- v. dance -- MEDict001
{ka} /|ka|/- v. shield -- MEDict008
{ka:} /|ka:|/- v. spread out (one's legs) -- MEDict009

{hka. hka hka:} /|kha.| |kha| |kha:|/
{hka.} /kha.|/ - v. wait upon -- MEDict051
{hka} /|kha|/ - v. shake, shake off -- MEDict054
{hka:} /|kha:|/ - n. waist -- MEDict055

{ga. ga ga:} /|ga.| |ga| --/
{ga.moan:} /|gamoun:|/
  - n. generic term for some herbs with aromatic tubers -- MEDict084
{ga-hta} /|ga hta|/- n. 1. Pali verse. 2. mantra; incantation. (Pali: {ga-hta}) -- MEDict084

{nga. nga nga:} and {ngaa.}
{nga.} /|nga.|/ - v. be of sufficient quantity to go around (as in {lauk.lauk.nga.nga.}) -- MEDict090
{nga} /|nga|/ - pron. I
   (generally used when speaking to one's equals or inferiors) -- MEDict091
{nga:} /|nga:|/ - n. fish -- MEDict091
{ngaa.} /|nga.|/ - pron. my -- MEDict091

UKT: In {ngaa.} (/|nga.|/ - pron. my -- MEDict091): the {auk-mris} sound is used to make the personal pronoun {nga} possessive. We see a similar case in {ning.} (/|nin|/ - pron. 1. your -- MEDict234) derived from {ning}.

Contents of this page

{wag.} r2-aksharas

{sa. sa sa:}
{sa.} /|sa.|/ - v. tease; taunt -- MEDict100
{sa} /|sa|/ - n. 1. writing (as in {p-sa}}; inscription (as in {kyauk-sa} -- MEDict105
{sa:} /|sa:|/ - v. eat; consume -- MEDict108

{hsa. hsa hsa:}
{hsa.ra} /|hsaja|/- n. teacher, especially a school teacher -- MEDict129
{hsa} /|hsa|/ - v. be hungry -- MEDict130
{hsa:} /|hsa:|/ - n. salt -- MEDict130. [See my note on the Word for 'salt'.]

{za. za za:}
{zana.poad} /|zanapou' (bou')|/ - n. hamlet; small village (Pali: {za.na.pa.da.}) -- MEDict148
{za} /|za|/ - n. lace; netting (Sanskrit: {za-la.}). -- MEDict149

{Za. Za Za:}
{Za-pa.na.} /|za pana.|/ - n. 1. cremation. 2. funeral (Pali: {Za-pa.na.}) -- MEDict154

{a. a a:}
{a-Na.} /|nja na.|/ - n. intellect; wisdom. (Pali: {a-Na.}) -- MEDict155

{a. a a:}
{a.} - n. night. Also {i.} -- MEDict156
{a} - n. right-hand side -- MEDict156
{a:} - v. 1. meet with (as in "--- danger". 2. become man and wife. -- MEDict156

UKT: {ngra. ngra ngra:} and {a. a a:} are pronounced almost the same. -- point to be checked on individual cases, e.g.
  {ngra-than-p:} - v. make a rallying cry" is pronounced as /{a-than-p:}/
Why the pronunciation is the same, cannot be understood unless you remember that the {ra.ris} sound is pronounced in Burmese (except in the Arakanese dialect) as {ya.ping.} sound. That would make /{ngya. ngya ngya:}/. If I were to take the common transcription of {a.} as <nya> is /<nya.> <nya> <nya:>/. We note that {ngya.} and <nya> are "almost" the same.

Contents of this page

{wag.} r3-aksharas

{Ta. Ta Ta:}
{a.za.Ta-ka-tha.} - n. the sky (Pali: {a.za.Ta.}+{aa-ka-tha.})
   -- {pa-Li. a.Bi.Dn-hkyoap} by {l-ti-paN~i.ta.} U Maung Gyi, (in Burmese-Myanmar), BE 1327, p023

{Hta. Hta Hta:}
{kaN~Hta.za.} - n. grammar glottals (Pali: )  -- MEDict018
   Notice how {Hta.} has been turned 90 degrees to write the conjunct form.
{Hta-na.} - 1. place. 2. department (Pali: {Hta-na.} -- MEDict160

{a. a a:}
{a.ring-kauk} - n. edible species of climbing fern, Lygodium scandens. -- MEDict160

{a. a a:}
no entry inMEDict

{Na. Na Na:}
{aa-Na} /|a na|/ - n. power; authority. (Pali: {aa-Na}) -- MEDict604
{poaN~Na:} - n. Brahmin. (Pali: {brah~ma.Na.}

Contents of this page

{wag} r4-aksharas

{ta. ta ta:}
{ta.} - n. abbreviated form of the numeral {tis} -- MEDict161
{ta-to} - n. short distance (as in racing) -- MEDict166
{ta:} - v. forbid; stop; bar; check; prevent; prohibit -- MEDict166 

{hta. hta hta:}
{hta.} - v. 1. get up; rise; stand (as in "--- from bed"). 2. rise (as in "mist ---, waves ---")
   -- MEDict193
{hta-wa.si} - adv. always; forever; permanently -- MEDict194
{hta:} - v. put, place (as in "--- the book on the table") -- MEDict194

{da. da da:}
{dar} /|daje|/ - n. deer -- MEDict208
{da} - pron. colloquial this -- MEDict208

{Da. Da Da:}
{Da.na.} - n. property; wealth (Pali: {Da.na.}) -- MEDict216
{Da-tu.b-da.} - n. chemistry (Pali: {Da-tu.b-da.}) -- MEDict217
{Da:} - n. knife; chopper; sword. -- MEDict217

{na. na na:}
{na.ky-kaung} - n. wasp. -- MEDict220
{na} - v. suffer pain; be hurt (as in "-- in an accident") -- MEDict222
{na:} - n. ear. -- MEDict223

Contents of this page

{wag} r5-aksharas

{pa. pa pa:}
{pa.ka.ti.} - n. original, natural, normal, or unaffected state.
   adj. original; natural; normal; unaffected (Pali: {pa.ka.ti.}) -- MEDict248
{pa-Li.} - n. Pali, the Prakrit language of the Buddhist scriptures. (Pali: {pa-Li.})
   -- MEDict255
{pa:} - n. adj. 1. thin; flimsy (as in "--- shirt"). 2. sharp; shrewd; astute. -- MEDict255

UKT: Pali-derived words. I have not chosen the Pali-derived {pa.a} (MLC transcript: /|pjin nja|/ MEDict 249 - notice /j/ which stands for {ya.ping.}) for <education> as an example. The reason is {pa.} seems to have a shade of {ya.ping.} sound as {pya.}. This becomes apparent when it is associated with killed r2c5 nasals {a.} and {a.}, e.g.:
{pi~sa.} /|pjin sa.|/ - adj. five. (Pali: {pi~sa.ma.} -- MEDict272
{ta.p.} /|dabji.| |dabe.|/ - n. pupil, disciple, follower, servant. -- MEDict162

{hpa. hpa hpa:}
{hpa.yaung:} - n. wax. -- MEDict296
{hpa} - n. 1. four-cornered basket with removable cover,
   woven with stripes from toddy-palm leaf stalk, bamboo, etc.
   2. vulgar - prostitute. -- MEDict297
{hpa:} - n. 1. frog. 2. wooden block used as shim. -- MEDict297

{ba. ba ba:}
{ba.ma} - n. 1. Bamar; Burmese; Burman. 2. same as {mran-ma}. -- MEDict311
{ba-dan} - n. Indian almond, Terminalia catappa . (Sanskrit: {wa-tam~ba.})
{ba:} - n. valve (English: <valve>) -- MEDict313

{Ba. Ba Ba:}
{Ba.} - n. father. Same as {ahpa.}, {ahp} -- MEDict319
{Ba-gya} - n. 1. mouth organ; harmonica. 2. concertina. (Hindi: {Ba-za}) -- MEDict320
{Ba:} - n. 1. gymnastics. 2. bar (serving drinks). (English: <bar>) -- MEDict321

{ma. ma ma:}
{ma.sing} - n. faeces; stool; excrement. -- MEDict331
{ma} - adj. 1. hard; firm; stiff. 2. healthy. -- MEDict337
{ma:ma:} - adv. toweringly. -- MEDict338

Contents of this page


{ya. ya ya:}
{ya.tra} - n. something done in keeping with an astrologer's advice to avert
  impending misfortune, or to realize what one wishes. (Sanskrit: {ya-tra}) -- MEDict382
{ya} - n. 1. farmland bearing crops other than rice. 2. hillside cultivation area.
  -- MEDict382
{ya:} - v. 1. itch. 2. figurative itch to do or say something; champ at the bit. -- MEDict382

{ra. ra ra:}
{ra.yu} - v. 1. take over; take possession of. -- MEDict389
{ra} - n. hundred. -- MEDict390
{ta.ra:} - v. be just; be equitable; be fair. n. fairness; equity; justice. -- MEDict164

{la. la la:}
{la.} - n. moon; month. -- MEDict423
{la} - v. 1. come. 2. be cited (in scriptures or authoritative works) -- MEDict425
{la:} - n. mule -- MEDict425

{wa. wa wa:}
{wa.} - n. elephant foot yam, Amorphophallus campanulata . -- MEDict471
{wa} - n. 1. cotton plant. 2. undressed cotton. -- MEDict472
{wa:} - n. 1. bamboo plant. 2. timing in Myanmar music. 3. clappers -- MEDict474

{tha. tha tha:}
{tha.ht:} - n. Same as {thu-ht:} - wealthy person.
   (Pali: {thT~Hti.} -- MEDict486, 498
{tha} -- adj. pleasant (of voice, tone, sound).
   v. 1. exceed; excel. 2. be peaceful, pleasant.3. shine -- MEDict492
{tha:} - n. 1. son (as in son and daughter). 2. child. -- MEDict493

{ha. ha ha:}
{ha.} - v. 1. open (as in "--- mouth"). 2. speak out (as in "speak openly").
   3. be ajar; be agape (as in "keeping a door ajar") -- MEDict528
{ha} - v. be wanting; feel empty; be deficient -- MEDict528
{ha:} - v. colloquial jeer. -- MEDict528

{La. La La:}
{thau:La.tha.} /|tho: la. tha.|/ - n. sixteen. (Pali: {thau:La.tha.}) -- MEDict501
{sa-kra-wa.La} /|se' kja waLa|/ - n. universe. -- UKT based on MEDict102

{a. a a:} or {a. aa aa:}
{a.} - v. be dumb -- MEDict534
{a.thu.ba.} - n. 1. loathsomeness. 2. corpse; dead person. 3. funeral (Pali: {a.thu.ba.})
   In the above {a.} is a checked tone. Notice the "period" after <a>.
   However, below it is a schwa. Romabama indicates this with a mid-dot (Alt0183)
{aka.} - n. dance -- MEDict536
{aa-Na} - n. power; authority. (Pali: {aa-Na}) -- MEDict604
{aa:} -- n. 1. strength; force; power (as in "steam power"). 2. resources (i.e. man, money, material).
   v. 1. be vacant (as in "to vacate a room"). 2. be free (as in "free from work")
   -- MEDict606


Contents of this page

UKT note

Pali-derived words

There are several observations to be made with regard to words derived from Pali. These raise in my mind the question of whether Pali was an artificial language developed by intellectually minded Indo-Aryans -- the Brahmins particularly in Taxila -- to systematize Magadhi the language of the Gottama Buddha and Asoka. Pali was referred to as a western dialect in contrast to Magadhi as an eastern dialect. See Chi Hisen-lin, Language Problem of Primitive Buddhism, Journal of the Burma Research Society (JBRS), XLIII, i, June 1960 (edited paper in TIL mini-library). A direct quotation from the paper:

"From linguistic characteristics we may also elucidate that the Pali language was not the language of Magadha. There have been various opinions concerning the problem of the region in which the Pali languages was prevalent. Westergaard fn12-01 and E. Kuhn fn12-02 considered that Pali was the local dialect of Ujjayini. From a research of this problem in the field of inscriptions, R. O. Franke came to the conclusion that Pali was the dialect of the regions in the central and western part of the Vindhya Ranges. fn12-03 Sten Konow was also of the opinion that the zone of the Vindhya Ranges was the home of the Pali language, fn12-04 because he discovered many similarities between the Pali and the Paisaci languages, and he fixed the home of Paisaci at Ujjayini. fn12-05 At first, H. Oldenberg advocated that Pali was the dialect of Kalinga, fn12-06 and E. Muller followed his opinion. fn12-07 But afterwards H. Oldenberg gave up his view and established a new theory, saying that Pali was the predecessor of the Magadhi language. fn12-08 Meanwhile E. Windisch fn12-09 and W. Geiger fn12-10 returned to the old theory, considering Pali as the dialect of Magadha. fn12-11

" 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."

(UKT: The hyperlinks to the footnotes will work only in the original paper.)

As it now stands, I am forming my own theory that Burmese has many words directly related to Magadhi, brought into Myanmar by the relatives of the Buddha fleeing from the wrath of Prince {wi.Ta.Tu-pa.} who seized the throne of Kosala from his father King {path~th-na-di} during the life-time of Gottama Buddha. See the Glass Palace Chronicles, vol.1 p157, which has been discredited by scholars in Burma during the British annexation.)

At the beginning of this note, I have stated that there are several observations to be made with regard to Pali-derived words.

Observation 1: {pa.} seems to have a shade of {ya.ping.} sound as {pya.}. This becomes apparent when it is associated with killed r2c5 nasals {a.} and {a.}, e.g.:
   {pi~sa.} /|pjin sa.|/ - adj. five. (Pali: {pi~sa.ma.} -- MEDict272
   {ta.p.} /|dabji.| |dabe.|/ - n. pupil, disciple, follower, servant. -- MEDict162

I have not chosen the Pali-derived {pa.a} (MLC transcript: /|pjin nja|/ MEDict 249 - notice /j/ which stands for {ya.ping.}) for <education> as an example. The reason is such Pali-derived words present us with problems in transliteration and transcription. The word {pa.a} is well-known in Burmese-Myanmar, and is present in every-day usage: a non-native Burmese speaker would have to learn to use it.

In such words, {a.kri:} behaves as if it were a horizontal conjunct of {a.l:}, and I had been writing as {pi~a}. That was before 061217. Since then, I have to change to {pa.a}. We have two more horizontal conjuncts in {T~Hta.} and {paith~tha.} (MLC transcript: /|pei' tha|/ MEDict 280).

Observation 2: The long-vowel sound {a} (written Romabama as {aa} or {}) in words such as {gi.mhaan} pronounced as /{gaim~mhan}/. My question is, is this word similar to ? If so, was derived from ? This, I will have to consult my peers. Continue reading on this subject in vow04.htm.

Go back pali-deriv-b

Contents of this page

Glass Palace Chronicles

vol.1. p.154.
In the said way, the {tha-ki-wing ming:} were scattered. One of them from {ka.pi.la.wut}, named {aBi.ra-za} collecting his troops fled from {miz~Zi.ma.d-tha.} and founded {tagaung:} also named {thing~Gath-tha. raT~Hta.} or {thing~Gath-tha. na.goar}. -- loose translation by UKT.
Go back to Glass-Palace-b

Contents of this page

Word for 'salt'
The word for 'salt' in various languages, from English to Latin, and its similarity to Burmese-Myanmar {hsa:} is intriguing. Since this chemical is a necessity in the human diet, can it mean that the peoples of old world of the northern hemisphere had a common linguistic origin, or, that there had been active interchange of ideas from the Atlantic to Pacific, back and forth, ever since the homo-sapiens had appeared on this earth? If so, how did the interchange of ideas take place? Remember, travel from one end of old world to the other end is almost impossible and electronic communication is not existent. Can it mean that there were other methods of communication unknown to the moderns?
Go back word-salt-b

Contents of this page

End of TIL file