THE BURMESE LANGUAGE
First, the Burmese language is a part of the Lolo Burmese branch of the Sino Tibetan group, and the official language of Myanmar. While the country counts about 80% native speakers, the remaining refers to minorities.
The Mon were the first historical people in South Myanmar around the 5th century BC. At that time, the people used there Grantha to write a form of Pali. From Pali derive Sanskrit and other South East Asian dialects such as Khmer. That is important to know that Pali allowed Buddhism to spread in India, Sri Lanka and Myanmar.
Until the 11th century, people used the Mon script. Then, Old Burmese and its own script came and lasted until the 16th century. After that came Middle Burmese until the 18th century. Since then has been the Modern Burmese. Also, note that word order, grammar, and lexicon have remained quite well stable into Modern Burmese.
The oldest Burmese inscription as such dates back to the 12th century. It is a pillar of the Mya Zedi Stupa in Bagan and contains ancient dialects of the region. The latter is a kind of Rosetta stone as each side of it has the same text carved in Pali, Mon, Burmese and Pyu.
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As with other Indian scripts, Sinhalese or Oriyaa, the fragility of the writing medium used at that time could explain the round shape of its letters. Indeed, the angular shapes of Brāhmi, the ancestor of all Indian scripts, would have torn the tree leaves.
We write Burmese from left to right, but usually with no space between words. Also, there are two punctuation marks, one bar or two bars that we can compare to commas and dots.
It is a rather complex script. First, a letter used alone corresponds to the syllable. Then, signs linked to a letter indicate one of the other two tones as well as the vowels. There are 20 for open syllables and 32 for closed syllables. Also, we use some signs to shorten syllables. Finally, we can link the 33 consonants together by means of spellings called ligatures.
As with Thai, there is no article, gender or tense. However, some markers tell about the roles and modes in a sentence.
The tone plays a lead role. Indeed, the tone can be the only feature to know two words. For example, sa' means to begin, sa means letter and 'sa, to eat.
First, we form open syllables with a consonant followed by an oral vowel. Second, we form closed syllables with a consonant followed by a nasal vowel or a vowel with a glottal stop. Third, sandhi refers to the link between syllables. The latter modifies the way how to pronunce the second syllable.
The personal pronoun is used only if necessary. The personal pronoun does not change its form with the function. In addition, we often replace it by kinship terms as a sign of respect: uncle, teacher, etc.