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Myanmar / Burmese

Language

There are two forms of Myanmar / Burmese language.

  • Myanmar Sagar (Oral / spoken)
  • Myanmar Sar (Written)

Alphabet

The Alphabet has 33 Eik Khaya (loosely rendered as letter or character).

Grouping

There are several groups (Wagga) of five letters.

Linguists and phonologists refer to the groups as

  • Gutturals (Ka group)
  • Palatels (Sa group)
  • Cerebrals (Ta-ta-lin-chaik group)
  • Dentals (Ta group)
  • Labials (Pa group)
  • The first group (known as “Ka” wag [or wagga]) consists of
    Ka (Ka gyi), Kha (Kha Gway), Ga (Ga Nge), Ga (Ga Gyi) and Nga.
    Note that the 3rd and 4th members have the same sound.

Basic Rules

  • There are some basic rules for “Pa Sint” (where one letter is placed on top of the other).
  • One rule says “Eik Khaya Tu, Wag Tu Sint”. It means the two letters forming a “Pa Sint” must be the same, or from the same group.
    So, it is a “No No” to have a Ka on top of Sa.
  • Another rule says, “Even for letters within a group, the ordering must be preserved”.
    So, Ka can be put on top of Kha, but not the other way.
    Also, Ga Nge can be put on top of Ga Gyi, but not the other way.

Byee and Thara

  • Ah is used as a Byee (Consonant) and sometimes as a Thara (Vowel).
  • A Burmese word can be formed with a Byee and one or more Thara.

Typewriter Keyboard

When the Burmese Keyboard was implemented for a typewriter (e.g. Olympia), the keys are labeled Red (keys that prevent the shifting of the carriage to type Thara) and Black (keys that signal the completion of the word and allows the carriage to advance).

Word Processing

The early Burmese word processing systems use

  • transliteration (e.g. on Apple Macintosh computers)
  • Thara before Byee (as in the typewriter)
  • Byee followed by Thara (which requires processing to delimit the words and to have a canonical ordering for representation).

Issues

  • The Myanmar Sar Ah Phwe published two major revisions for spelling. It forced publishers to use “Tit” instead of “Ta” (without exception) with a fine of ten pyas for each “violation”.
    Scholars pointed out the ancient pagoda had “Bo Ta Htaung” and not “Bo Tit Htaung” in its inscriptions, but the group who wanted to please Number One prevailed.
  • There was a rush to implement Burmese type faces and type fonts.
    The implementations did not have consensus and did not address compliance (e.g. with Unicode).
    They led to the incompatibility issues in the current computer systems, smart phones and devices.
  • Short Messaging Systems inadvertently degraded the spelling prowess.

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