A Brief Outline of the Myanmar Language

Classification

The Myanmar language belongs to the Sino -Tibetan family of languages of  which  the Tibeto-Myanmar (Tibeto -Burman) subfamily forms a part.It is a tonal language , that is to say, the meaning of a syllable or word changes with the tone expressed. It has been classified by linguists as a monosyllabic  or isolating language with agglutinative features.

Speech  sounds

According to traditional tomes on grammar, the Myanmar language is said to have either ten, eleven or twelve vowels and either 33, 34 or 35 consonants.Later studies with modern phonetics have determined that  there are 51 vowel sounds, 39 consonant sounds and 3 tones.

Syllable structure

Syllables in the Myanmar language consist of either a vowel by itself  or a consonant  combined with a vowel.

Syllable change

Two types of change in the pronunciation of syllables, from  voiceless to voiced in the case  of some consonants and to a neutral vowel sound in the case of some vowels,  are encountered in the Myanmar language.Some of the changes in the pronunciation of syllables have the result of either changing the meaning of a word or its part of speech.

Script

The letters of the alphabet used in Myanmar script are said to have been derived from the Brahmi script which had flourished in the Indian subcontinent  between 5th Century B.C and 3rd Century A.D. Existing records of original Myanmar script  from votive tablets, terracotta plaques, stone inscriptions, painted glosses on murals, palm leaf inscriptions, bell inscriptions and inscriptions made on writing tablets made of  handmade paper, gold or copper foil, show that  earliest surviving records can  be dated as far back as 5th Century of the Myanmar Era (12th Century AD).

System of Writing

The system employs a letter to represent each syllable and consists of 34 symbols for consonants, 11 vowel symbols and various symbols to represent vowel sounds, tone marks, specialised symbols and punctuation marks.

Words

Words in the Myanmar language can be divided into simple words, compound words and complex words.Simple words consisting of free morphemes such as hmin  (ink) and o:  (pot, round receptacle etc) combine together to form an attributive compound, hmin o:  (ink pot) or  coordinative compounds such as yaun: we  (yaun: ‘to sell’  combined with we ‘to buy’ to mean “buying and selling”, ”trading”, “dealing in commerce” etc.), sein  le’ su’  (sein, “diamond” combined with le’,  “hand or finger” and su’  “put on”, “pull on” etc, taken together to mean “a diamond ring”)  or  complex compounds by the use of either prefixes ( a. noun forming particle + kaun:,  “good , well  etc” = a. kaun:  “sth  good, well meant act etc”), infixes ( tei’ hsei’  “quiet”  + ta , particle = tei’  ta  hsei’   “quietly”), suffixes ( hka lei:, “child” + nge   “small, young etc” = hka lei: nge,” baby, infant”) or  combinations of such affixes or replication ( myan, ” quick, fast etc” , replicated to form  myan  myan, “quickly”; a    particle + hta’ , “layer or again”+ hta’, “layer or again” = ahta’ hta’ , “in layers”  or “again and again, repeatedly” ).

Grammar , Parts of Speech and Sentence Level

Categorization of words into various parts of speech differ on whether the approach being made is  based on Pali grammar, English grammar or linguistic theory. Some have discerned as little as 2 while various authors have assigned 3, 4, 6, 7, 8 or 9 parts of speech. In 1980 the Myanmar Language Commission  adopted the stand that it is composed of nouns, pronouns, adjectives, verbs, adverbs, postpositional markers, particles, conjunctions  and interjections.

Two types of sentences, simple and complex are to be found.

Consonant Sounds

Labial

နှုတ်ခမ်း

Dental

သွား

Alveolar

သွားရင်း

Palatoalveolar

အာခေါင်သွားရင်း

Palatal

အာခေါင်မာ

Velar

အာခေါင်ပျော့

Glottal

အသံကြိုးပေါက်

Plosive

ရုန်းပွင့်သံ

p,ph,b

t,th,d

K,kh,g

Stop

အသံကြိုးပေါက်

?

Affricate

ရုန်းပွင့် ပွတ်တိုက်သံ

py,phy,by

tɕ, tɕh, dȥ

Nasal

နှာသံပါ

M, hm, my, hmy

N, hn

Ny, hny

Ng, hng

Lateral

လျှာပွင့်

L, hl, r

Fricative

ပွတ်တိုက်

ɵð

S, sh, z

ɕ

h, h

Vowel Glide

သရရွေ့

w

y


Consonant Characters

က

k

kh

g

g

ng

s

hs

z

z

ny

ny

t

ht

d

d

n

t

ht

d

d

n

p

hp

b

b

m

y

r

l

w

th

h

l

a

 Tones

1. Level Tone 2. Creaky Tone 3. Heavy Tone
လာ / la / ရှိ / ɕi. / လား / la: /
စေ / sei / တွေ့ / twei. / စေး / sei: /
ပူ / pu / မဲ့ / mε. / ပူး / pu: /

Vowel Signs

 - ာ (- ါ )

a

–ိ

i.

–ီ

i

–ု

u.

–ူ

u

​ေ -

ei

–ဲ

e:

​ေ- ာ (ေ- ါ)

aw:

​ ေ- ာ္ (ေ- ၚ)

aw

–ံ

an

–ုိ

o

 Vowel Sounds

Level

Creaky

Heavy

Stop

Nasal

Nasal

Nasal

အီ / အည်

i

အီ / အည့်

i.

အီး / အည်း

i:

အစ်

i’

အင် / အဉ်

in

အင့် / အဉ့်

in.

အင်း / အဉ်း

in:

အေ / ဧ

ei

အေ့

ei.

အေး / ဧ

ei:

အိတ် / အိပ်

ei’

အိန် / အိမ်

ein

အိန့် / အိမ့်

ein.

အိန်း / အိမ်း

ein:

အယ်

e

အယ့် / အဲ့

e.

အဲ

e:

အက်

e’

-

-

-

အာ

a

အာ့ / အ /

  1. / a

အား

a:

အတ် / အပ်

a’

အန် / အံ

an

အန့် / အံ့

an.

အန်း / အမ်း

an:

အော် / ဪ

aw

အော့

aw.

အော / ဩ

aw:

-

-

-

-

အို

o

အို့

o,

အိုး

o:

အုတ် / အုပ်

ou’

အုန် / အုံ

oun

အုန့် / အုံ့

oun.

အုန်း / အုံး

oun:

အူ / ဦ

u

အု / ဥ / အူ့

u.

အူး / ဦး

u:

အွတ် / အွပ်

u’

အွန် / အွံ

un

အွန့် / အွံ့

un.

အွန်း / အွမ်း

un:

-

-

အောက်

au’

အောင်

aun

အောင့်

aun.

အောင်း

aun:

-

-

-

အိုက်

ai’

အိုင်

ain

အိုင့်

ain.

အိုင်း

ain: