Ka gyi, hka gway…

‘abc’ by woowoowoo.

Yet another break I took from studying.

I snooped around Flickr’s collection of Creative Commons-licensed photos of Burma and I discovered a photo of the Burmese “alphabet” (it is technically an abugida because the letters are associated with vowels, in Burmese’s case, ‘a’). The alphabet chart is made for primary school students because it is missing all of the letters mostly used for transcribing Pali or Sanskrit derived words and they are awfully difficult to write (or maybe I am alone).

The Burmese alphabet is utterly confusing, but I digress. It’s not because of the flurry of semicircles, full circles, circles with loops and circles with curves, and concentric circles, but because many letters repeat in pronunciation. For example, 18 of the letters share 9 sounds (that there are two letters per sound for 18 of the letters). And perhaps the pronunciation difference between the two letters salone and hsalein (e.g., ‘so‘ as in ‘wet’ and ‘hso‘ as in ‘to sing’) have disappeared in the Rangoon dialect of Burmese, but I cannot differentiate the two. I have never heard in my life someone hissing (or should I say elongating) the ‘hs’ in hsaya. But I digress.

For the heck of it, I tested my ‘knowledge’ with an elementary chart.

Ka for ‘kalay’ (child)
Hka for ‘hka-yan thi’ (eggplant)
Ga for ‘galone hnget’ (garuda)
Nga for ‘nga-yote thi’ (chili)
Sa for ‘zaba’ (rice paddy)
Hsa for ‘hsaya ma’ (teacher)
Za for ‘za-lat pan’ (periwinkle?)
Nya for ‘nya’ (night)
Ta for ‘ta-yaw’ (fiddle?)
Hta for ‘htamin bwe’ (dinner)
Da for ‘daye’ (deer)
Da for ‘Danu’ (a Tibeto-Burman ethnic minority)
Na for ‘naga’ (dragon)
Pa for ‘Palaung’ (a Mon-Khmer ethnic minority)
Hpa for ‘hpa-ye thi’ (watermelon)
Ba for ‘Bama’ (Burmans)
Ba for ‘baba’ (grandpa)
Ma for ‘mama’ (sister)
Ya for ‘yamin’ (puppet of a young maiden)
Ya for ‘ya-hta’ (train)
La for ‘la’ (moon)
Wa for ‘wa lone’ (name of the letter ‘wa’)
Tha for ‘tha-hkwa thi’ (cucumber)
Ha for ‘ha’ (apparently a cough?)
A for ‘alan’ (flag)

I wasn’t sure of a few words–I should be ashamed, especially since I’ve grown up surrounded by the Burmese language.


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