Myanmar Consonants

Myanmar Consonants

27.        In the Myanmar thinbongyi  ( primer ) there are 33 consonants.

            က, ခ, ဂ, ဃ, င   5 letters in the က group

            စ, ဆ, ဇ, စ်, ည   5 letters in the  စ group

            ဋ, ဌ, ဍ, ဎ, ဏ    5 letters in the  ဋ group

            တ, ထ, ဒ, ဓ, န   5 letters in the တ group

            ပ, ဖ, ဗ, ဘ, မ     5 letters in the  ပ group

               ယ, ရ, လ, ၀

              သ, ဟ, ဠ, အ    8 letters in the non-group

            There are  25 grouped letters and 8 letters not grouped.

28.        In the traditional writing of Pali, A with a  superscripted dot (အံ) is added to က…ဠ to make 33               consonants in the alphabet က … ဠ, အံ. Only the superscript dot is taken to be the consonant. The A is added only to enable pronunciation.

            (Note: Some scholars add a  heavy  tone marker (:) to make altogether 34 consonants. Some make 35 consonants by က…ဠ, အံ, အံ့, အံး  or  က…ဠ, အံ့, အံ, အံး . This is adding  subscript dot ( -႔ ) and heavy tone marker ( း) to ( – ံ) as consonants.)

29.        Counting 33 consonants ending in အ gives preference to Myanmar orthography, while 33 consonants ending in အံ gives preference to phonology.

30.        Scholars who wish to end in  အံ say အ is a vowel and should not be listed as a consonant; only အံ should be included. However, it is found that  အ  has served both as a vowel and a consonant from the Bagan period.

( a )      Just as the 32 consonants from က to ဠ can be extended by conjoining vowel symbols, so also A can be extended  by conjoining those vowel symbols.

( b )      Just as other consonants can be written combined with ဝဆြဲ subscript, so also A can be combined with ဝဆြဲ ( e.g. အြတ္).

( c )      Just as consonants can be written with superscript devowelizer, so also အ  was written with devowelizer symbol in the Bagan period ( e.g. ေဖိအ္, ep ေပႅါအ္, တေပအ္ )

31.        On  this evidence  it is clear that when Myanmar people of old expressed Myanmar language sounds  by means of letters, they invented and used  အ as a consonant. Thus when displaying the extension of consonants in the thinbongyi,  အ which assumes all the functions of a consonant is displayed at the end of all the other consonants. Thus, while keeping untouched the 33 consonants beginning with က and ending with အံ which are correct in their own manner in the Pali Texts, the 33 consonants beginning with က and ending with အ which meet Myanmar needs are accepted consistently in the thinbongyi.

32.        In Myanmar writing, in addition to the 33 consonants of para 27, small  ဉ  used in Pali literature is also employed. In Pali literature,  the  စ  group contains only  စ, ဆ, ဇ, ဈ, and ဉ  in  the small form. Big ည  in Pali is small  ဉ  conjuncted. In Myanmar writing from the Bagan period, the s group စ, ဆ, ဇ, ဈ, ည  has been formed with big  ည . In the lithic  inscriptions of  Bagan, Pinya and early Inwa  periods, small ဉ  has rarely been used even in inscribing Pali verses. Only  big  ည is  used. Thus, big  ည  has been regularly used in early Myanmar literature ( e.g. ပညၥဝဂၢီ, ဗ်ညၥန, ညာဏ္ ). Small  ဉ came to be used only in about 800 M.E ( 1438 A.D. ). Even then, in the writing of royal literature during the Konbaung  period, small  ဉ was not used because it “lacked a head”. Only  big  ည was used. When ဉ္ was to be used, it was differentiated from  ည္  by means of  a superscripted dot  ံည္ . Thus in writing out the 33 consonants, big ည has been used consistently from the Bagan period. If  small  ဉ  is  to be included in the စ group, then there would be six letters in this group as စ, ဆ, ဇ, ဈ, ဉ , ည  which would not be consistent with the collection of 5 letters in each group. Thus, since big  ည  has been placed in that group,  ဉ  is not counted as a consonant.

33.        In some Myanmar lithic inscriptions of  the Bagan period, two Sanskrit consonants are found. These are ၐ and ၑ.

Myanmar consonant combination symbols

34.        There are four basic consonant combination symbols in Myanmar writing -် , ျ- , -ြ, -ွ. These symbols may be combined with appropriate consonants out of the 33 such as  က်, ျပ, စြ, လွ . These symbols may also be combined with each other in twos or threes as in  လွ်, ၾကြ, ျမႊ.

35.        The five combinations of two symbols are:

            -်  +  -ြ   =  ကၽြ

            ျ- +  -ြ    =  ျ- ြ

            -် +  -ွ    =  -ွ်

            ျ- +  -ွ    =  ျ-ႇ

             -ြ +  -ွ   =  -ႊ

36.        The two combinations of three symbols are:

            -် + -ြ +  -ွ =  -ၽႊ               ( Note: though no word with this combination has been found, the                                                                                    possibility is displayed in thinbongyi )

            ျ- +  -ြ +  -ွ = ျ-ၽႊ

            Thus, there are altogether 11 consonant combination symbols.

37.        These symbols have been used since Myanmar writing began in the Bagan period. Additionally, from the Bagan period to the Inwa period, the subscripted လ (လဆြဲ) was also extant. လဆြဲ combines with consonants in the က and ပ groups. ( e. g. ကႅ, ခႅပ္ , ပႅဳ, ဖႅစ္)After 800 M.E(1438 A.D) လဆဲြ which combined with က group consonants was substituted by ယပင့္ and လဆဲြ which combined with ပ group consonants was substituted by ရရစ္ ( e.g. လႅ > က်, ပႅဳ > ျပဳ ). This change was effected probably  due to pronunciation change.

38.        With the addition of the လဆဲြthere were five more double combinations than at the present time. The following double combination symbols were used from the Bagan to the Inwa period.

            – ် + ျ-  =  ျ -်      (e.g. ၾတ်ာ, ၾဆ်ာ )

            – ်+   ¬ႅ = ¬ႅ်       ( e.g.  ခႅ်င္, ကႅ်ပ္ )

            ¬ႅ  +  ¬ြ =  ¬ႅ ြ     ( e.g.  ကႅ ြတ္, ခႅ​ ြတ္ )

            ¬ႅ + ¬ွ =  ¬ွ  ႅ                  (e.g. မွ  ႅ )

            Thus, till about 800 M.E (1438 A.D. ) in the Inwa period, sixteen consonant combination symbols were employed. When the sound of  လ  went out of existence in about 800 M. E, the eleven symbols became constant.

Myanmar devowelizing consonants.

39.        There are ten consonants used for devowelizing.



က္, င္


စ္,  ဉ္  , ည္


တ္, န္


ပ္, မ္



40.        ဝဏၰေဗာဓနသတ္အင္း  shows eight devowelizing consonants  က္, င္, စ္, ည္, တ္, န္, ပ္, မ္ . ေဝါဟာရတၳပကာသနီ shows ten with  ယ္, ဝ္ added to the above eight. Myanmar thinbongyi shows the same ten.

41.        In the history of devowelizers, ဝ္  became extinct in the 19th century.   ဉ္ was used in about the 15th century (M.E 800). Later, it was rejected as being “headless”, therefore inauspicious. However, its use became established by the end of the 19th century.

42.        According to this history, setting aside ဝ္ which became unused and adding ဉ္ which came to be               employed, ten devowelizing consonants may be counted.

43.        In the early stages of Myanmar writing there were up to 12 devowelizers က္, င္, စ္, ည္, တ္, န္, ပ္, မ္, ယ္, ဝ္, ဟ္, အ္.

44.        At that time  ဟ္ was used in place of the present heavy tone marker ( -း ). ( e.g. ႆဟ္ = သား, ဖ်က္ဆိတ္= ဖ်က္ဆီး).  ဟ္ disappeared at  the beginning of  the 13th century. This marker ( -း ) came to be used extensively in 16th century.

45.        အ္  was found from the beginning of Myanmar writing till the 16th century. Letters such as ေပ, ဧ  with long sounds and no devowelizer were made abrupt by devowelizing with အ္  written as  ေပအ္, ဧအ္  and read with a creaky tone as  ေပ့, ေအ့  . Long vowel sounds with devowelizers such as နွင္, အမ္, နိယ္  were made abrupt by  ႏွင္အ္, အမ္အင္, နိယယ္အ္  but instead of writing the two devowelizers in sequence, they were written stacked as in  ႏွင္ , အမ္, နိယ္ .  They were read as  ႏွင့္, အံ့., ေန႔ . Thus, there existed အ္  and reduced အ္  as _A\.  This  အ္  disappeared about the 16th century ( 900 M.E ). -A\ which was seen in form as a subscript successively metamorphosed into subscript dot (  -​့ ).

Pali and Sanskrit derived devowelizers

46.        Myanmar has borrowed words from Pali and Sanskrit since the advent of contact with those languages. Some words have been borrowed in toto ( e. g. ဒါန, သီလ, အနစၥ, ဒုကၡ, အနတၱ ).  Some words have been adapted to suit Myanmar tongue and ear ( e.g. စိတၱ > စိတ္, ဓာတု > ဓာတ္, စရိတ > စရိုက္,  မျႏၱ > မႏၱန္). In adapting Pali and Sanskrit words various means were employed. The final consonant was dropped. (e.g မဂၢ > မဂ္ by dropping final  ဂ ). The vowel of the final syllable was dropped. (e.g ဓာတု > ဓာတ္  by dropping vowel  ဥ  of  တု  ). Thus there came to be Pali and Sanskrit derived words like  မဂ္, ဓာတ္  with final devowelizers. Thus Pali and Sanskrit devowelizers came into the Myanmar language to augument the ten Myanmar devowelizers. Myanmar used these Pali and Sanskrit derived devowelizers from the 11th century of the Bagan period. The adaptation of Pali and Sanskrit words by devowelizing in the Myanmar manner is found in the literature to be the devowelizing method of  သဒၵါႏုသာရီ.  Shin Okkanthamala in his ဝဏၰေဗာဓနသတ္အင္း  calls it “devowelizing  according to Magadha”. Collected lists of words derived from Pali and Sanskrit by devowelizing may be found in သဒၵါႏုသာရီသတ္ပုံက်မ္း  (1215 M.E ) by  မုံကင္းဆရာေတာ္ရွင္ဝိသုဒၶ and ပါဌာႏုသာရီသတ္ပုံက်မ္း ( 1221 M.E ) by  ေတာင္ငူၿမိဳ႕စာေရးႀကီးဦးႀကီး.

47.        Twenty-seven Pali and Sanskrit derived devowelizers are found.  ဝဏၰေဗာဓနသတ္အင္း shows 22 while လယ္တီဆရာေတာ္ shows 25 in သင္ပုန္းႀကီးသံခိပ္. Of  the 27,  ဝဏၰေဗာဓန excludes  ခ , ဉ , ဌ, ထ, ဓ, ဘ  but includes  ဍ. The သင္ပုန္းႀကီးသံခိပ္  excludes  စ, ဌ, ပ  but  includes  ဃ. The devowelizers, word examples and original Pali and Sanskrit words are shown below.


Devowelizer example original Pali / Sanskrit 
- က္ စက္, ဝိပါတ္, ကရဝိတ္,

သုတ္, ဧက္, စ႐ိုက္စကၠ, ဝိပါက, ကရဝိက,

သုကၠ, ဧက, စရိတ- ခ္မုခ္မုခ- ဂ္ဝဂ္, ယုဂ္ဝဂၢ, ယုဂ- င္မဟာဝင္, လိင္, နိသီဒိုင္,

မ႑ိဳင္မဟာဝံသ,လိဂၤ, နိသီဒန,

မ႑လ- စ္နစ္, နိစ္, ဝုစ္နစၥ, နိစ, ဝစန- ဇ္ဧကရာဇ္, ပရပိုဇ္ဧကရာဇာ, ပရိဗၺာဇက- ဥ္သံေယာဇဥ္, ယာဥ္,

ေသဥ္, သုန္း, ဝိညာဥ္သံေယာဇန, ယာန,

ေသယ, သုည, ဝိညာဏ- ည္ဥဒည္, နည္း, ဗ်ည္းဥဒယ, နယ , ဗ်ဥၥန- ဋ္ဝဋ္, ဂိဇၥ်ကုဋ္, မကိုဋ္ဝဋၬ, ဂိဇၥ်ကူဋ, မကုဋ- ဌ္ဥကၠဌ္ 1 , ပါဌ္ဥကၠ႒, ပါဌ- ဏ္ဒဏ္, ဉာဏ္, ပကိဏ္,

ဂုဏ္, လိုဏ္ဒ႑, ဉာဏ, ပကိဏၰက,

ဂုဏ, ေလဏ- တ္နတ္, နိပါတ္, စိတ္, မုတ္,

ေခတ္နာထ, နိပါတ, စိတၱ, မုတၱ,

ေခတၱ- ထ္ဣရိယာပုတ္ 2ဣရိယာပထ- ဒ္လဒ္, ပါဒ္, ပုဒ္, ပိုဒ္လဒၶ, ပါဒ, ပဒ, ပဒ- ဓ္ပဋိသိဓ္, ဝဇီရာဝုဓ္ပဋိေသဓ, ဝဇီရာဝုဓ- န္ကန္, မာန္, မိန္,

မဟာဝုန္, ဖန္, သိန္ကႏ်ာ (သ), မာန, မီန,

မဟာဝန, ဖလိက, သိရီ- ပ္ကပ္, ကလာပ္, သံခိပ္,

႐ုပ္ကပၸ, ကလာပ, သေခၤပ,

႐ူပ- ဗ္ျဒဗ္3ျဒဝ် (သ)- ဘ္လာဘ္လာဘ- မ္နာမ္, သိမ္နာမ, သီမာ- ယ္အသူရကာယ္အသုရကာယ- ရ္မာရ္, ေထရ္, ပဟိုရ္မာရ, ေထရ, ပဟာရ- လ္ဗိုလ္ဗလ- ဝ္သိဥၥိဳဝ္း4, မဂၣဇိုင္း 4သဥၥီဝ, မဃေဒဝ- သ္ေဇာတိရသ္, ဉာသ္, ဥပုသ္ေဇာတိရသ, ဉာသ, ဥေပါသထ- ဟ္သိဟ္, သၿဂႍဳဟ္သီဟ, သျဂၤဟ (သ)- ဠ္ျပဳဗၺာသာဠ္, သီဟိုဠ္ပူဝၤါပါဎာ (သ), သီဟဠ

Note: 1. when  words like  ဥကၠ႒, အ႒  which end with  ဋ္+႒  are adopted to Myanmar, the last consonant ႒  should be dropped while ဋ္ remains. However, ဋ္ is dropped and the words are traditionally written with  ဌ္  to make ဥကၠဌ္, အဌ္ . 2. The word derived from Pali ဣရိယာပထ used to be written ဣရိယာပုထ္  but now is written  in the Myanmar style with တ္. 3. ျဒပ္ derived from Sanskrit ျဒဝ် was written ျဒဗ္  with ဗ္ but is now written in Myanmar style with ပ္ 4. သိဥၥိဳဝ္း, မဂၣဇိုဝ္း  derived from Pali သဥၥဝ, မဃေဒဝ  were written သိဥၥိဳဝ္း, မဂၣဇိုဝ္း  with ဝ္ . But when w\ was no longer  employed as a Myanmar devowelizer it was also abandoned in Pali derived words. )

48.        Previously, ဃ္ too was counted in addition to the 27 devowelizers as a Pali derived devowelizer. မိုး was written in lithic and ink inscriptions as မိုင္. But about the 19th century when the notion took  hold that မိုး was derived from ေမဃ it was  written မိုဃ္း . But from mid- 20th century,  on the evidence of  lithic  and ink inscriptions it was dropped.