RPA Writing Structure

The Romanized Popular Alphabet (RPA) or Hmong RPA (also Roman Popular Alphabet), is a system of romanization for the various dialects of the Hmong language. Created in Laos between 1951 and 1953 by a group of missionaries and Hmong advisers, it has gone on to become the most widespread system for writing the Hmong language in the West. It is also used in Southeast Asia and China alongside other writing systems, notably Pahawh Hmong.

 

History

 
In Xieng Khuang province, Protestant missionary G. Lindwood Barney began working on the writing system with speakers of Green Mong (Mong Leng), Geu Yang and Tua Xiong, among others. He consulted with William A. Smalley, a missionary studying the Khmu language in Luang Prabang province at the time. Concurrently, Yves Bertrais, a Roman Catholic missionary in Kiu Katiam, Luang Prabang, was undertaking a similar project with Chong Yeng Yang and Chue Her Thao. The two working groups met in 1952 and reconciled any differences by 1953 to produce a version of the script.

Orthography

 
The alphabet was developed to write both the Hmong Der (White Hmong, RPA: Hmoob Dawb) and Mong Leng (Green/Blue Mong, RPA: Moob Leeg) dialects. While these dialects have much in common, each has unique sounds. Consonants and vowels found only in Hmong Der or Green Mong are color coded respectively. Some writers make use of variant spellings.

Tones ( Tsiaj Ntawv Cim )

 
The mid tone is not indicated in the orthography. The others are indicated by letters written at the end of the syllable. This is a way for the RPA to write Hmong without using any diacritics like that used in the Vietnamese alphabets or Mandarin Chinese pinyin system.

There are eight tones in the Hmong RPA system.

Tone Letter Tone NameName Definition
bCim Siab (Sab)liver
mCim Niam (Nam)mom , mother
d Cim Tod there , over there
j Cim Ntuj sky , world
v Cim Kuv I , me
uaCim Ua do , to do
s Cim Mus go , to go
g Cim Neeg horse , human

Tones Examples

TonesExampleOrthographic Spelling
High ( b ) /pɔ́/ "ball"pob
Low-falling (creaky) tone ( m ) /pɔ̰/ "to see"pom
Fall-Rising tone ( d ) /pɔ̌/ "to see (exaggerated more)"pod
High-falling ( j ) /pɔ̂/ "female"poj
Mid-rising ( v ) /pɔ̌/ "to throw"pov
Mid ( ) /pɔ/ "spleen"po
Low ( s ) /pɔ̀/ "thorn"pos
Mid-low (breathy) tone ( g ) /pɔ̤/ "grandmother"pog

Vowels ( Tsiaj Ntawv Niam )

 
There are 14 vowels in the RPA Writing System.  The vowel ” ia ” is only used for White Hmong writing while the vowel ” aa ” is only used Green Hmong writing.

There are six simple vowels ( Tsiaj Ntawv Niam Tab )

a     e     i     o     u     w

There are eight complex vowles ( Tsiaj Ntawv Niam Txooj )

ua     au     ia      ai     aw      ee      oo      aa

Consonants ( Tsiaj Ntawv Txiv )

 

There 17 Simple Consonants ( Tsiaj Ntawv Txiv Tab )

C  D  F  H  K  L  M  N  P  Q  R  S  T  V  X  Y  Z

There are 43 Complex Consonants ( Tsiaj Ntawv Txiv Txooj )

Complex Consonants Two Letters

CH  DH  HL  HM  HN  KH  ML  NC  NK  NP  NQ  NR  NT  NY  PH  PL  QH  RH  TH  TS  TX  XY  DL

Complex Consonants Three Letters

HML  HNY  NCH  NKH  NPH  NPL  NQH  NTH  NRH  NTS  NTX  PLH  TSH  TXH  NDL DLH

Complex Consonants Four Letters

NPLH   NTSH   NTXH  NDLH



Word Construction & Pronunciation

 

Tsiaj ntawv ib tug

T(wm)  =  tos ( t ) + (w) + cim niam ( m ) = twm

L(iab) = los ( l ) +  (ia) + cim siab ( b ) = liab

P(aug) = pos ( p ) + (au) + cim neeg ( g ) = paug

Tsiaj ntawv ob tug

Nt(uj) = nos tos ntos ( nt ) + (u) + cim ntuj ( j ) = ntuj

Ts(ov) = tos sos tsos ( ts ) + (o) + cim kuv ( v ) = tsov

kh(oom) = kos hos khos ( kh ) + (oo) + cim niam ( m ) = khoom

Tsiaj ntawv peb tug

Nch(o) = nos cos hos nchos ( nch ) + ( o ) = ncho

Txh(ab) = tos xos hos txhos ( txh ) + ( a ) + cim siab ( b ) = txhab

Nts(uag) = nos tos sos ntsos ( nts ) + ( ua ) + cim neeg ( g ) = ntsuag

Tsiaj ntawv plaub tug

Nplh(aib) = nos pos los hos nplhos ( nplh ) + ( ai ) + cim siab ( b ) = nplhaib

Ntsh(uas) = nos tos sos hos ntshos (ntsh ) + ( ua ) + cim mus ( s ) = ntshuas

Ntxh(ais) = nos tos xos hos ntxhos (ntxh ) + ( ai ) + cim mus ( s ) = ntxhais

Dl(aaj) = dos los dlos ( dl ) + (aa) + cim ntuj ( j ) = dlaaj

Source: Wikipedia ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Romanized_Popular_Alphabet#cite_note-3 )

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