MLC Transcription System
The Myanmar Language Commission Transcription System (1980), also known as the MLC Transcription System (MLCTS), is a transliteration system for rendering Burmese in the Latin alphabet. It is loosely based on the common system for romanization of Pali, has some similarities to the ALA-LC romanization and was devised by the Myanmar Language Commission. The system is used in many linguistic publications regarding Burmese, and is used in MLC publications as the primary form of romanization of Burmese.
The transcription system is based on the orthography of formal Burmese and is not suited for colloquial Burmese, which has substantial differences in phonology from formal Burmese. Differences are mentioned throughout the article.
- Coalesced letters transcribe stacked consonants.
- Consonantal transcriptions (for initials) are similar to those of Pali.
- Finals are transcribed as consonants (-k, -c, -t, -p) rather than glottal stops
- Nasalized finals are transcribed as consonants (-m, -ny, -n, -ng) rather than as a single -n final.
- The anunasika (ံ) and -m final (မ်) are not differentiated.
- The colon (:) and the period (.) transcribe two tones: heavy and creaky respectively.
- Special transcriptions are used for abbreviated syllables used in literary Burmese.
Initials and finals
The following initials are listed in the traditional ordering of the Burmese script, with the transcriptions of the initials listed before their IPA equivalents:
r ([j] or [r])
s ([θ] or [ð])
a ([ə] or [a])
1Sometimes used as a final, but preceding diacritics determine its pronunciation.
The Burmese alphabet is arranged in groups of five, and within each group, consonants can stack one another. The consonant above the stacked consonant is the final of the previous vowel. Most words of Sino-Tibetan origin are spelt without stacking, but polysyllabic words of Indo-European origin (such as Pali, Sanskrit, and English) are often spelt with stacking. Possible combinations are as follows:
|ka.||က္က, က္ခ, ဂ္ဂ, ဂ္ဃ, င်္ဂ||kk, khk, gg, ggh, and ng g respectively||ang ga. lip (အင်္ဂလိပ်)1, meaning "English"|
|ca.||စ္စ, စ္ဆ, ဇ္ဇ, ဇ္ဈ, ဉ္စ, ဉ္ဇ,||cc, chc, jj, jjh, nyc, nyj||wijja (ဝိဇ္ဇာ), meaning "knowledge"|
|ta.||ဋ္ဋ, ဋ္ဌ, ဍ္ဍ, ဍ္ဎ, ဏ္ဍ||tt, tht, dd, ddh, nd||kanta. (ကဏ္ဍ), meaning "section"|
|ta.||တ္တ, ထ္ထ, ဒ္ဒ, န္တ, န္ထ, န္ဒ, န္ဓ, န္န||tt, htht, dd, nt, nht, nd, ndh, nn||manta. le: (မန္တလေး), Mandalay, a city in Myanmar|
|pa.||ပ္ပ, ဗ္ဗ, ဗ္ဘ, မ္ပ, မ္ဗ, မ္ဘ, မ္မ,||pp, bb, bbh, mp, mb, mbh, mm||kambha (ကမ္ဘာ), meaning "world"|
|ya.||ဿ, လ္လ||ss, ll||pissa (ပိဿာ), meaning viss, a traditional Burmese unit of weight measurement|
1ang ga. lip is uncommonly spelt ang ga. lit (အင်္ဂလိတ်).
All consonantal finals are pronounced as glottal stops ([ʔ]), except for nasal finals. All possible combinations are as follows, and correspond to the colors of the initials above:
|Consonant||Transcription (with IPA)|
|k||-ak (-က် [eʔ]), -wak (ွက် [weʔ]), -auk (ောက် [auʔ]), -uik (ိုက် [aiʔ])|
|c||-ac (-စ် [iʔ])|
|t||-at (-တ် [aʔ]), -wat (ွတ် [waʔ] or [uɴ]), -ut (ုတ် [ouʔ]), it (ိတ် [eiʔ])|
|p||-p (-ပ် [aʔ] or [ɛʔ]), -wap (ွပ် [waʔ] or [uɴ]), -up (ုပ်), ip (ိပ် [eiʔ])|
Nasalised finals are transcribed differently. Transcriptions of the following diacritical combinations in Burmese for nasalised finals are as follows:
|Consonant||Transcription (with IPA)|
|ng||-ang(-င် [iɴ]), -wang (ွင် [wiɴ]), -aung (ောင် [auɴ]), -uing (ိုင် [aiɴ])|
|ny||-any (-ည် [e] or [ei]), -any (-ဉ် iɴ])|
|n||-an (-န် [aɴ]), -wan (ွန် [waɴ] or [uɴ]), -un (ုန် [ouɴ]), -in (-န် eiɴ])|
|m||-am (-မ် [aɴ]), -wam (ွမ် [waɴ] or [uɴ]), -um (ုမ် [ouɴ]), -im (-မ် [eiɴ])|
|-am (ံ [aɴ]), -um (ုံ [ouɴ]) (equivalent to -am, but spelt with an anunaasika)|
Monophthongs are transcribed as follows:
|ာ||ား||-||-a||-a:||-a.||[à]||[á]||[a̰]||Can be combined with medial -w-.|
|ော်||ော||ော့||-au||-au:||-au.||[ɔ̀]||[ɔ́]||[ɔ̰]||As a full vowel in the high tone, it is written ဩ and transcribed au:. As a full vowel in the creaky tone, it is written ဪ and is transcribed au.|
|ူ||ူး||ု||-u||-u:||-u.||[ù]||[ú]||[ṵ]||As a full vowel in the creaky tone, it is written ဥ and is transcribed u.. As a vowel in low tone, it is written ဦ and transcribed u.|
|ီ||ီး||-||-i||-i:||i.||[ì]||[í]||[ḭ]||As a full vowel in the creaky tone, it is written ဣ and is transcribed i.. As a full vowel in the high tone, it is written ဤ and transcribed i:.|
|ေ||ေး||ေ့||-e||-e:||-e.||[è]||[é]||[ḛ]||As a full vowel in the high tone, it is written ဧ and is transcribed ei:. It can be combined with medial -w-.|
|Tone name||Burmese|| Transcribed
|Oral vowels1||IPA||Nasal vowels2||IPA|
|High||ား||á||-န်း||áɴ||Colon (:)||In both cases, the colon-like symbol (shay ga pauk) is used to denote the high tone.|
|Creaky||-||a̰||-န့်||a̰ɴ||Full stop (.)||Nasalised finals use the anusvara to denote the creaky tone in Burmese.|
1 Oral vowels are shown with -.
2 Nasal vowels are shown with -န် (-an).
A medial is a semivowel that comes before the vowel. Combinations of medials (such as h- and -r-) are possible. They follow the following order in transcription: h-, -y- or -r-, and -w-. In Standard Burmese, there are three pronounced medials. The following are medials in the MLC Transcription System:
|ျ||[j]||-y-†||Its possible combinations are with consonants ka., (က), hka., (ခ), ga. (ဂ), pa. (ပ), hpa. (ဖ), ba. (ဗ), and ma. (မ). The medial is possible with other finals and vowels.|
|ြ||[j]||-r-†||The aforementioned remarks apply to this medial as well.|
|ွ||[w]||-w-||Its possible combinations are with consonants ka. (က), hka. (ခ), ga. (ဂ), nga, (င), ca, (စ), hca, (ဆ), ja, (ဇ), nya, (ည), ta. (တ), hta, (ထ), da (ဒ), na, (န), pa, (ပ), hpa, (ဖ), ba, (ဗ), bha. (ဘ), ma, (မ), ya. (ယ), ra. (ရ), la. (လ), and sa. (သ). The medial is possible with other finals and vowels, using the already mentioned consonants.|
|ှ1||h-||Its possible combinations are with consonants nga. (င), nya. (ည), na. န), ma. (မ), ya. (ယ)‡, ra. (ရ)‡, and la. (လ).|
†The two medials are pronounced the same in Standard Burmese. In dialects such as Rakhine (Arakanese), the latter is pronounced [ɲ].
‡When the medial ှ is spelt with ra. (ရ), its sound becomes hra. [ʃa̰] (ရှ), which was once represented by hsya. (သျှ).
Formal Burmese has four abbreviated symbols, which are typically used in literary works:
|၍||ရုယ်||[jwé]||rwe||It is a connecting particle that connects two elements in a sentence and sometimes means "because" or "and".|
|၌||နှိုက်||[n̥aiʔ]||hnai.||It is a locative particle that acts as a postposition after nouns (at, in, on). It is equivalent to hma (မှာ) in colloquial Burmese.|
|၎င်း||လေကောင်||[la̰ ɡàuɴ]||la. kaung||It acts as a demonstrative noun (this or that) when it precedes a noun. It is also used as a connecting phrase (as well as) between two nouns within a clause.|
|၏||ဧအ်||[ḭ]||e||It is a genitive that is written at the end of a sentence that ends with a verb. It also marks possession of a preceding noun.|
- Appendix on MLCTS from Paulette Hopple's Doctoral Thesis
- Romabama transcription system by U Kyaw Tun
- Library of Congress ALA-LC romanization tables