1. Letters and Pronunciation1

The Old Miao script of Northeastern Yunnan features 24 basic single consonants. From these, there are derivatives including 12 aspirated consonants, 8 nasal consonants, and 8 nasal aspirated consonants, making a total of 52 consonants. Additionally, there are 19 basic vowels, with 14 forming compound vowels in combination with ‘i’ and 8 forming compound vowels with “u,” resulting in a total of 39 vowels.

滇东北老苗文有24个单音声母,在这24个单音声母的基础上又分别衍生出12个叹音声母(送气)、8个鼻音声母和8个鼻音叹音声母,总共有52个声母。有19个单韵母,其中有14个与i组合成复合韵母,8个与u组合成复合韵母,总共有39个韵母。

1). The 24 basic single consonants and their pronunciations are listed as follows (see Chart 1: Single Consonants):

二十四个单音声母及其发音如下(图表一:单音声母):

2).The nineteen single vowels and their pronunciations

十九个单韵母及其发音

In the structure of the Miao script, the initial consonants serve as the basic musical scale, while the vowels function to alter the pitch. These vowels are positioned to the right of the consonants. The 19 basic vowels and their pronunciations are as follows (see Chart 3: Nineteen Single Vowels):

声母在苗文谱中担任基本音阶的作用,韵母则起音高变化的作用,它放在声母的右边。19个单韵母及其发音如下(图表三:十九个单韵母):

2. Tones

1). Tone Positions

The Northeastern Dian sub-dialect of the Miao language has six tones, which are arranged in order from high to low based on the pitch. The highest pitch is at the top of the head, decreasing progressively to the lowest at the foot position. The second and third tones are both at the shoulder level, while the fifth and sixth tones are at the foot level. Apart from the first tone at the top of the head, the other five tones are positioned to the right of the characters. The diagram is as follows (Chart 9: Tone Positions).

1). 声调位置

滇东北次方言苗语有六个声调,根据发音高低按照从高到低的顺序排列下来,最高音在头顶,依次往下,最低音在脚位。第二声和第三声都并列在肩位,第五声和第六声并列在脚位。除了第一声在头顶,其它五个声调都在字母的右边。图示如下(图表九:声调位置):

2). Spelling Tones with Musical Notes

For outsiders, it is not easy to distinguish the high and low tones of the Miao language, similar to the experiences described by Berlie. However, using musical scales to vocalize makes it easier to grasp. Below, the tones are spelled out using musical notes to differentiate the pitch of each of the six tones (Chart 10: Spelling Tones).

2). 用音符拼读声调

局外人对苗语声调的高低不容易区别,就像当年柏格理的体会一样,但是用音阶唱出来就容易掌握。下面用音符拼读声调,以区别六个声调各自的音高(图表十:声调拼读):

The pitches of the Miao language tones are as follows (Chart 11: Tone Pitches).

从上表就得到苗语声调的音高如下(图表十一:声调音高):

(Edited and translated by ECura team)

  1. This content is adapted and excerpted with permission from original work 滇东北次方言老苗文与苗文谱的田野调查与研 (Investigation and Research on the Old Miao Script and Miao Script Spectrum in the Northeastern Yunnan Sub-dialect) by Yunhui Yang, which was originally published in the journal of 内蒙古大学学报 (Journal of Inner Mongolia University). All rights remain with the original author. ↩︎