|Languages||languages of Burma|
|6th century to present|
The Mon script is a Brahmi-derived alphabet used to write Mon, and may be the source script of the writing systems of Burmese and Shan languages, as well as for other languages of Burma such as S'gaw, Eastern and Western Pwo, Geba, Palaung, and Red Karen languages, although it is not the only script that has been used for these languages. The Mon script is also used for the liturgical languages of Pali and Sanskrit. Support for all modern forms is included in the Unicode standard.
The Old Mon language may have been written in at least two scripts. The Old Mon script of Dvaravati (present-day central Thailand), derived from Grantha (Pallava), has conjecturally been dated to the 6th to 8th centuries CE. The second Old Mon script was used in what is now Lower Burma (Lower Myanmar), and is believed to have been derived from Kadamba or Grantha. According to mainstream colonial period scholarship, the Dvaravati script was the parent of Burma Mon, which in turn was the parent of the Old Burmese script, and the Old Mon script of Haripunjaya (present-day northern Thailand). However, no archaeological evidence or any other kind of proof that the Dvaravati and Burma Mon scripts are related exists. The extant evidence shows only that Burma Mon was derived from the Old Burmese script, not Dvaravati. (The earliest evidence of the Old Burmese script is securely dated to 1035, while an 18th-century casting of an old Pagan era stone inscription points to 984. The earliest securely dated Burma Mon script is 1093 at Prome while two other "assigned" dates of Old Burma Mon are 1049 and 1086.)
However, Aung-Thwin's argument that the Burmese script provided the basis for the Mon script of Burma relies on the general thesis that Mon influence on Burmese culture is overstated. According to Aung-Thwin, the backwardness of lower Burma and the Irrawady delta as compared to upper Burma during the Pagan period, and the lack of verifiable Mon presence in lower Burma during Pagan period, implies that the Mon could not have influenced a civilization as sophisticated as Pagan. According to Stadtner's rebuttal of Aung-Thwin, these assumptions are not backed by archaeological evidence. Pottery shards from Winka, 28 km to the northwest of Thaton, bears inscriptions in Mon that have been paleographically dated to the sixth century. Furthermore, contrary to Aung-Thwin's assertion that the Mon script of Burma cannot be attributed to the script used in Dvaravati because of a four century gap between the first appearance of the former and the last appearance of the latter, Mon inscriptions from after the Dvaravati period contemporary with the Mon inscriptions at Pagan appeared where Mon inscriptions have appeared previously in the epigraphical record, such as in northern Thailand and Laos. Such a distribution, in tandem with archaeological evidence of Mon presence and inscriptions in lower Burma, suggests a contiguous Mon cultural space in lower Burma and Thailand. In addition, there are specifically Mon features in Burmese that were carried over from the earliest Mon inscriptions. For instance, the vowel letter အ has been used in Mon as a zero-consonant letter to indicate words that begin with a glottal stop. This feature was first attested in Burmese in the 12th century, and after the 15th century, became default practice for writing native words beginning with a glottal stop. In contrast to Burmese, Mon only uses the zero-consonant letter for syllables which cannot be notated by a vowel letter. Although Mon of the Dvaravati inscriptions differ from Mon inscriptions of the early second millennium, orthographical conventions connect it to the Mon of the Dvaravati inscriptions and set it apart from other scripts used in the region. Given that Burmese is first attested during the Pagan era, the continuity of orthographical conventions in Mon inscriptions, and the differences between the Pyu script and the script used to write Mon and Burmese, scholarly consensus attributes the origin of the Burmese script to Mon. The Pyu itself shows broad stylistic variations, with the Myazedi inscription showing stylistic influence from Mon and Burmese while older inscriptions from Rakhine State showing affinities with the North Indic script Siddham.
The calligraphy of modern Mon script follows that of modern Burmese. Burmese calligraphy originally followed a square format but the cursive format took hold in the 17th century when popular writing led to the wider use of palm leaves and folded paper known as parabaiks. The script has undergone considerable modification to suit the evolving phonology of the Burmese language, but additional letters and diacritics have been added to adapt it to other languages; the Shan and Karen alphabets, for example, require additional tone markers.
The basic Mon script contains 35 consonants (including a null consonant), and numerous diacritics for vowels; individual alphabets may add additional letters. It makes prominent use of consonant stacking, particularly for Pali-derived vocabulary. There are two classes of consonant, 'clear' and 'breathy' (light and medium grey in the table below), which have different inherent vowels and affect the values of vowel diacritics differently. The class of the consonant originally depended on whether it represented a voiceless or a voiced sound in Pali.
For the Mon alphabet, the digits from zero to nine are as follows:
The number 1945 would be written as ၁၉၄၅.
The Burmese script was added to the Unicode Standard in September 1999 with the release of version 3.0. It was extended in October, 2009 with the release of version 5.2 and again in June, 2014 with the release of version 7.0.
The Unicode blocks for Burmese, called Myanmar, are U+1000–U+109F, U+AA60–U+AA7B, and U+A9E0-U+A9FF.
Official Unicode Consortium code chart (PDF)
| Myanmar Extended-A|
Official Unicode Consortium code chart (PDF)
| Myanmar Extended-B|
Official Unicode Consortium code chart (PDF)
For writing the basic Burmese language, only U+1000–U+104F is needed:
- the basic abugida for Burmese and other languages of Burma:
- U+1000–U+1020: the 33 base consonants
- U+1021–U+102A: 10 independent vowels letters (including 1 needed for Shan and 1 for Mon)
- U+102B–U+1035: 11 dependent vowel marks (diacritics combining on the right, above, below, or left of the base consonant)
- U+1036–U+103A: 5 syllable codas (anusvara, tone mark, visarga, virama, visible virama)
- U+103B–U+103E: 4 medial consonants (diacritics combining on the right, around, or below)
- U+103F: the Burmese letter "Great Sa" (ss)
- U+1040–U+1049: the 10 digits
- U+104A–U+104B: 2 punctuation marks (section signs)
- U+104C–U+104F: 4 other symbols (locative, completed, aforementioned, genitive)
The rest of the chart contains extensions for other languages:
- (Aung-Thwin 2005: 161–162): Of the 25 Mon inscriptions recovered in present-day Thailand, only one of them is securely dated—to 1504 CE. The rest have been dated based on what historians believed the kingdom of Dvaravati existed, to around the 7th century per Chinese references to a kingdom, which historians take to be Dvaravati, in the region. According to Aung-Thwin, the existence of Dvaravati does not automatically mean the script also existed in the same period.
- (Aung-Thwin 2005: 160–167) Charles Duroiselle, Director of the Burma Archaeological Survey, conjectured in 1921 that Mon was derived from Kadamba (Old Telugu–Canarese), and perhaps with influences from Grantha. G.H. Luce, not a linguist, in 1924 asserted that the Dvaravati script of Grantha origin was the parent of Burma Mon. Neither provided any proof. Luce's and Duroiselle's conjectures have never been verified or reconciled. In the 1960s, Tha Myat, a self-taught linguist, published books showing the Pyu origin of the Burmese script. But Tha Myat's books, written in Burmese, never got noticed by Western scholars. Per Aung-Thwin, as of 2005 (his book was published in 2005), there had been no scholarly debate on the origins of the Burmese script or the present-day Mon script. The colonial period scholarship's conjectures have been taken as fact, and no one has reviewed the assessments when additional evidence since points to the Burmese script being the parent of Burma Mon.
- Aung-Thwin 2005: 157
- Bauer 1991: 35
- Aung-Thwin 2005: 177–178
- Aung-Thwin 2005: 198
- Hideo 2013
- Jenny 2015: 2
- Lieberman 2003: 136
- Dho-ong Jhaan (2010-05-09). "Mon Consonants Characters". Retrieved 12 September 2010.
- Dho-ong Jhaan (2009-10-01). "Romanization for Mon Script by Transliteration Method". Retrieved 12 September 2010.
- Aung-Thwin, Michael (2005). The mists of Rāmañña: The Legend that was Lower Burma (illustrated ed.). Honolulu: University of Hawai'i Press. ISBN 9780824828868.
- Bauer, Christian (1991). "Notes on Mon Epigraphy". Journal of the Siam Society. 79 (1): 35.
- Lieberman, Victor B. (2003). Strange Parallels: Southeast Asia in Global Context, c. 800–1830, volume 1, Integration on the Mainland. Cambridge University Press. p. 136. ISBN 978-0-521-80496-7.
- Stadtner, Donald M. (2008). "The Mon of Lower Burma". Journal of the Siam Society. 96: 198.
- Sawada, Hideo (2013). "Some Properties of Burmese Script" (PDF).
- Jenny, Mathias (2015). "Foreign Influence in the Burmese Language" (PDF).