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Hmong and semi-syllabic writing

From:dirk elzinga <dirk.elzinga@...>
Date:Wednesday, October 13, 1999, 17:53
On Wed, 13 Oct 1999, Paul Bennett wrote:

> There's another natlang that does that in romanisation, I can't think of the > name of it off the top of my head, (Hmoob-something?). There are [quite a few] > tones, all of which are romanised by following the syllable with a seemingly > random letter of the alphabet. The script writes two glyphs per syllable, IIRC > it's the CV component in the first glyph, with tone and (post?)nasalisation in > the second glyph. Someone with the very excellent [Daniels 1996] should be able > to clarify this a bit better. I have a copy, but it's not at work.
The language is Hmong. The script was devised by a Shong Lue Yang, a Hmong peasant who was reportedly illiterate. Each syllable is represented by two characters: the first represents the rhyme and includes tone (of which there are eight), and the second represents the onset which may contain a cluster. Note the orthographic order of the characters; the rhyme precedes the onset in writing, although the syllables proceed from left to right across the page (lines of text going from top to bottom). There's a fascinating book by William Smalley called _Mother of Writing_ which discusses the development of the Hmong script. Worth reading if you can find it. I've always thought that having separate characters for onset and rhyme was an interesting compromise between an alphabet and a syllabary. This kind of system would be useful for a language which allowed onset clusters, like Hmong, but nevertheless had a fairly limited range of syllable types. I'm trying to develop something similar to it for my new project, Shemspreg. Dirk -- Dirk Elzinga "All grammars leak." -Edward Sapir