Myanmar Language and Literature

Myanmar Language and Literature

Myanma is the name that the Burmese give to themselves, their country, and their language. Myanma or Burmese is a tonal language that belongs to the Sino-Tibetan (or Indo-Chinese) family. The best Burmese is spoken in Upper Burma. Due to its sweetness and smoothness it is often called the Italian of the Far East. And spoken by 11,680,981 people.

There is reason to believe that its original homeland was the Sino-Tibetan highlands of Central Asia and that it spread south along the Irawadv valley to the Burmese plain where it is now almost universally spoken. In confirmation of this opinion, it can be observed that the Marus, a wild tribe of mountaineers living in the far north of Burma, speak a language that closely resembles Burmese.

Like Chinese and Tibetan, Burmese is a monosyllabic language; but with the passage of time some syllables have lost their meaning and have amalgamated with others: new words, some of which more than a syllable, have been borrowed from other languages: moreover, with the spread of Buddhism from India, when Pāli became the religious language of Burma, many words, some of which are not monosyllables, penetrated into Burmese. However, it is easy to see that originally the language consisted of nouns, verbs, monosyllabic particles.

Aijabeto. – The alphabet, which derives from the ancient nagari through that used for the pāli (v.), That is the language in which the Buddhist texts of the southern canon are written, consists of thirteen vowels and thirty-two consonants. Since it was taken from a foreign language, it does not correspond to the Burmese phonetic system: therefore many letters, in terms of sound, are duplicates; some are used only to write words of Pali origin; others are silent.

With the exception of three or four letters, Burmese writing consists of circles and segments of circles which have acquired this form from the custom of writing with a pointed stylus on palm leaves, before paper was used. Burmese is written from left to right, with lines that seem uninterrupted because there are no spaces between the words and there are only a few paiks or full stops. There are no capital letters.

Phonetics. – The consonants are divided into guttural, palatal, cerebral, dental and labial; also four liquid, one sibilant, one aspirated and one semivocal. Each group comprises five letters: the first is the simple voiced, the second the corresponding aspirate, the third the deaf or hard sound of the first, the fourth the aspirate of the latter (but this aspiration is now lost) and the fifth it is a nasal. Consonants have names that describe them, such as ka gyi, the great ka. Some of the names are singular, such as ” ta with the belly”, ” ba with the hump”, ” da aquatic “. Vowels do not have names that distinguish them, but their peculiarity is that when they are combined in writing with consonants they are represented by symbols. Each consonant is inherent in the vowel a, and so k, b, m, are ka, ba, but, except when the letter is “killed” by the sign athat (“that which kills”), in which case the suit pronunciation, and sound to disappear. beginners are often put to the test and discouraged by the difficulty of reading: but the possible combinations are very few. Of the consonant sounds, only four can be used as endings; the vowels a, i, u can only be followed by final t or r ; e is followed only by t and or only by k and n. The alphabet does not include neither is nor v.

Accents. – There are three accents or intonations, although some authors do not admit it. They are called the natural accent or base abrupt or interrupted, and heavy or grave, although speaking of a flat, staccato and emphatic sound perhaps constitutes a more understandable terminology. Words written in the same way change in meaning with the change of intonation. So taung, pronounced with the basic intonation means mount, with interrupted tone (when the voice stops suddenly as if the speaker, while pronouncing the word, had accidentally bumped against something hard) means “to be rigid”, and pronounced with a heavy tone (in which the sound is prolonged, deep and strong) means “ask, ask”. The elevation of the voice that Westerners use to ask a question does not make sense to a Burmese. We can change the phrase “It’s raining” into a question using a certain intonation, but in Burmese, whatever the intonation, the phrase will always have an affirmative sense. To change the sentence into a query, it must be followed by one of the interrogative particles, the, ni. These particles cannot be exchanged with each other and their proper use must be studied. Fortunately, in Burmese, unlike Chinese, the tones are always indicated by means of points or diacritics. A period after a word indicates that it must be pronounced in the interrupted tone, and a colon, which must be pronounced in the low tone. The word without points is the one with the natural tone or base tone. All isolated consonants are pronounced as if they were followed by a period, that is, with the tone interrupted. Knowledge of these intonations is of capital importance and cannot be neglected if one wishes to speak intelligibly; nor can points be omitted in writing. As in most languages, phonetic variations, resulting from the position of a word in the sentence, they are common speaking and reading. Like this,written sa is often pronounced za. It is a general tendency to change k into g, p into b, s into z, t into d. Thus, speaking and reading, the pa “come, please” becomes the ba ; lu kyi, “fat man” becomes lu gyi.

Word order. – Regarding the order of the words in the sentence, the verb or predicate is always placed at the end, prepositions follow nouns and are therefore post-positions, adjectives generally follow the nouns they qualify, adverbs precede verbs. The subject is usually placed before the object, but not always.

Particles. – Burmese is not an inflectional language, that is, in it words do not change their shape as a man: men, go: gone, and all parts of speech are formed by prefixes and affixes (particles) some of which have lost their meaning; while the radical words do not change. The radical words are the bricks and the particles are the mortar with which the periods are built. The following example will explain: lu is the radical word meaning “man”, lu do is “men”, since do is the plural suffix for humans; thwa is “go”, thwa: pyi: -byi “gone”. So lu do thwa: pyi: byi means “the men are gone”.

Parts of the speech. – It is not possible here to go into details; we will point out only a few salient points, as regards the formation of the various parts of the speech.

There are no defined articles. “Man” is “one man”. The plural is formed by the affixes to or do and mya. It is sometimes expressed by the repetition of the name. There are no artificial or grammatical genres like in Italian and French; genders in Burmese are the naturals: masculine and feminine for what is respectively male and female.

The present tense and past tense of verbs are not distinguished by any special exponents. The suffix pyi expresses the verbal aspect: its characteristic use is in showing that the action designated by the verb has been begun. It in no way expresses that the action was performed. Thus: sa: pyi “(he) has initiated the action of eating (sa)”; sa: pyi: byi “finished eating”.

Auxiliary verbs, of which there is a long series, are widely used. They mean “to be easy”, “to be difficult”, “to desire”, “to begin”, “to try”, “to be able”, “to dare”, and are placed after the main verb. Thus lok “to do”, lok tat “to know how to do”, lok aaing “to be able to do”, lok knows “to begin to do”, lok wun “to dare to do”. Intransitive verbs are transformed into transitive with the aspiration of the initial consonant, like this: n “to be awake”, hno “to wake up”. There is no passive form; the idea of ​​the passive is rendered with the use of an active verb implying the subject; so “this book was printed last year” is rendered like this (I, we, they) “printed this book last year” or using the verb khan “endure, suffer, suffer”; so “I was beaten” would become “I suffered a beating”.

The cases of the nouns are formed by the affixes, thi, ka, i, ko, tho, a. Some of them have obviously been taken from prepositions, as the following example shows; others have lost their meaning: ahpe gatha go yaik thi: ahpe (“father”), ga (affix of the nominative, subject), tha: (“son”), go (accusative, object), yaik (verb “to beat”), thi (affix of the time). Since ga and go they are prepositions that mean “from” and “to (towards)”, the idea that a Burmese derives from the phrase referred to above is ” from father to son beats”, that is “the father beats the son”.

The use of pairing synonymous verbs, or almost, is common, and the purpose is to complete and determine their meaning. Just one example will suffice: the verb “to choose” is yu: kauk, which is composed of yue: “to choose” and kauk “to pick up, or to peck like a hen while eating”. Therefore the first of these verbs would be sufficient.

Another peculiarity of Bimiano is the use, with numbers, of affixes expressing the number or gender. These affixes express the form, nature, use or other attribute of the name by which they are used; thus, to some extent, they help identify the meaning of the name. So when a Burmese combines a number with a name. does not use the simple numeral, as when we say “an egg”, but combines it a group name, posted numeral, and “an egg” says “one egg round thing”, u ta lon:. Indeed lon: it is the affix for all round things (eggs, fruit, balls). “A chariot” is hlè ta si, that is, “chariot a thing on which one is transported”; yes it’s the

The number of prepositions is very small. There are no prepositions such as “up”, “below”, “above”, and their absence is made up for by the use of compound nouns that denote place and space, and are used with prepositions. Thus “under a tree” is literally in Burmese “in space, under a tree” where the concept of “space-under” is given by the so-called secondary name auk ; “above a tree” is “at the top of a tree”, where the concept of “top” is rendered by the word apaw.

There are few personal pronouns and nouns are used instead. This is done out of politeness and out of fear of offending, since the personal pronouns clearly highlight the various social degrees. A conversation between high people is therefore done in the third person. So instead of saying “you” a Bimiano uses the title that refers to the profession of the person to whom he is addressing, p. eg: “master”, “officer”, “judge”, “merchant” “doctor” as we say “your excellence. If a title is missing, the word denoting kinship is used, such as” grandfather “,” grandmother “,” uncle “,” aunt “,” brother “,” sister “, or a word that has reference to some religious meritorious work, that it was made or is believed to have been made by the person to whom it is addressed, as “builder of a pagoda”, or “builder of a monastery”. For “I” the most common surrogate is “your slave” or, in the case of a monk, “your disciple”.

Word formation. – Like German, Burmese has the ability to form compound nouns by joining two names. Burmese words are formed in several ways with prefixed or affixed particles, with the joining of two nouns or two verbs, or a verb and a noun, or a noun and an adjective. Examples are: lok “to do”, alok “to work”, lok chin “way of working” mi: -ein “lamp” composed of mi: “fire” and ein “house”; from: -ein “scabbard), consisting of from:” sword “, and ein ” house “; lan: pyapya “to show”

Foreign words. – The details of the linguistic processes are generally obscure, but in Burma, especially for English words, it is possible to see how they came into use and observe the changes that have taken place. So there is thamman for summons (“citation”), wayan for warrant (“guarantee” or “policy”), bilit for bailiff (“birro”), paleik for police (“police”), mota ka for motorcar ( “automobile”), myunicipè for municipal (“municipal”),for whiskey, byandi for brandy (“brandy”), kawhpi for coffee (“coffee), chawkaleik for chocolate (” chocolate “).

The spoken language. – In spoken Burmese many words are shortened and the phonetic variations are carried to the extreme, especially for affixes. Thus the temporal affix thi becomes tha, tea or , the demonstrative affix thi becomes di, the conjunctions hnin and hlyin become ne and yin, the interrogative pronoun abè becomes and be ha becomes ba.

Since “yes” and “no” are considered too short to be polite expressions, they are rarely used, and if you answer, you have to repeat the verb used in the question. So to the question “you are leaving” the answer would be “I’m leaving”; to “are you okay?”, “I’m okay”; to “will you come to have lunch?”, “I will come to have lunch”.

Literature. – Burmese has two genres of literature: Pāli, which is the dead language of Buddhist scriptures, and Burmese. We take care of the second. The Maha Jazawin (Royal Chronicle) is an official history of all prosperous events; thus the annexations to England of the various parts of Burma are strictly excluded or barely mentioned. The Jataka, very numerous, are the stories of the lives of the Buddha-Gautama in his various existences. The best known of these works are the Wethandaya Jataka Wuttu and the Maha Zanekka Jataka Wuttu, which contain some of the finest pieces in the Burmese language. There are also several books of verse.

Many European-style novels have been written recently, but none of them can be said to have any relevant value. As the use of the press spreads, newspapers are also published in major cities.

The Burmese love theatrical performances which are mostly derived from the Jataka. At first, and still today in the interior of Burma, the shows were held in the open countryside and were free to all, and the actors were paid by some generous or wealthy patron; now, in the main cities, they are kept in buildings and the public has to buy the entrance ticket. In comedies royalty always appears and although they are of a religious subject, clowns and acrobats are allowed a freedom of language that would not be tolerated in Europe.

Myanmar Language