Tuesday, October 15, 2013

83. Pahawh Hmong alphabet

 Pahawh Hmong

The Pahawh Hmong alphabet was invented in 1959 by Shong Lue Yang (Shong Lue Yang's name in the Pahawh Hmong alphabet), an illiterate Hmong farmer living in northern Laos close to the border with Vietnam. Shong Lue Yang believed that the alphabet was revealed to him by God, a belief shared by many among the Hmong.
Shong Lue Yang and his followers worked uncessingly to improve and disseminate his alphabet, and to bring about a revival of Hmong culture. In 1971 he was assassinated by government troops who were worried about his increasing influence.
Shong Lue Yang also created an alphabet for the Khmu language (a member of the Mon-Khmer family), but it never caught on and soon disappeared.

Notable features

  • Type of writing system: syllabic alphabet
  • Direction of writing: left to right in horizontal lines
  • Syllables are written with the vowel first then the consonant, but are pronounced with the consonant first.
  • Hmong has 8 tones which are indicated in the Pahawh Hmong alphabet with diacritics.
  • Though few Hmong use the Pahawh Hmong alphabet, they are very proud of the fact that it exists and that is was created by one of their people.

Used to write

Hmong, a Hmong-Mien language spoken by about 2.6 million people in China, Vietnam, Laos, Thailand, USA, and French Guiana. There are two major varieties of Hmong: White Hmong (Hmoob Dawb) and Green/Blue Hmong (Moob Leeg/Hmoob Ntsuab), which are named after the traditional colours worn by women of the different groups.

Pahawh Hmong alphabet


Hmong consonants


Hmong vowels

Tone indication

Hmong tone indication


Hmong vowels

Sample text in the Pahawh Hmong alphabet

Hmong sample text
Tower of Babel in White Hmong (Hmoob Dawb)
books   Books about the Hmong language and people


Information about the Hmong language and people
Online Hmong dictionary
Free Pahawh Hmong fonts
Hmong Language Institute of Minnesotta
Hmong Nationality Archives
Center for Hmong Studies, Concordia University, Saint Paul


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