What Makes the Burmese Language Special?

March 22, 2018

What Makes the Burmese Language Special?

What is Burmese?

Burmese is the official language of Myanmar and is spoken by 21 million Myanmars/Burmans.

Spoken Burmese

Burmese is a tonal language. Spoken Burmese has three primary tones and two non-primary tones. The three primary tones are high, low, and creaky. The two non-primary tones are stopped and reduced. The variety of tones make Burmese far more intricate and interesting to listen to than non-tonal languages like English or French.

Written Script

Burmese script is primarily round with very few straight lines. This is because early writers of Burmese used palm leaves as their primary writing material, and writing straight lines would tear the leaves. The Burmese word for this script is ca-lonh which means “round script.” The tones of Burmese are indicated in written script with diacritics and special letters or characters.

Transliterated Burmese

Burmese can be written with letters of the Latin alphabet. This is done using transliteration, which, according to dictionary.com, means “to change letters, words, etc. into corresponding characters of another alphabet or language.” The consonants, vowels, and numerals are assigned a Latin letter that best represents the original character.

Example: Burmese consonants transliterated to the Latin alphabet

က ka

ဘ bha

ဒ da

ဋ ṭa

င ṅa

လ la

ပ pa

ဏ ṇa

ဈ jha

ခ kha

မ ma

ဓ dha

ဌ ṭha

စ ca

ဝ va

ဖ pha

တ ta

ည ñña

ဂ ga

ယ ya

န na

ဍ ḍa

ဆ cha

သ sa

ဗ ba

ထ tha

ဉ ña

ဃ gha

ရ ra

ဟ ha

ဎ ḍha

ဇ ja

ဠ ḷa

အ ’a

Sources: britannica.com, omniglot.com, dictionary.com, loc.gov, wikipedia.org

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