The Pahawh Hmong alphabet was invented in 1959 by Shong Lue Yang (), 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.
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.
Each syllable is written with three symbols: a rime, a tone marker and an onset. When reading, the onset comes first. The tone markers appear above the onsets. If there is no tone marker, the syllable has a middle tone. If there is no onset marker, the syllble begins with k. A null-onset marker is used to indicate syllables without an onset.
Here are some examples of how the syllables of the name of this script, Pahawh Hmong or Phajhauj Hmoob, are structured:
RPA = Romanized Popular Alphabet - see the Hmong language page for details.
Hear these numbers:
Txhua tus neeg yug los muaj kev ywj pheej thiab sib npaug zos hauv txoj cai. Lawv xaj nrog lub laj thawj thiab lub siab thiab ib leeg yuav tsum coj ua ke ntawm ib leeg ntawm txoj kev ua kwv tij.
/tsʰuə˧ tu˩ neŋ˧˩̤ ʝu˧˩̤ lɒ˩ muə˥˧ ke˧˧˦ ʝɨ˥˧ pʰeŋ˥˧ tʰiə˦ ʂi˦ ᵐbau˧˩̤ ʐɒ˩ hau˧˦ tsɒ˥˧ cai˧. Laɨ˧˦ sa˥˧ ᶯɖɒ˧˩̤ lu˦ la˥˧ tʰaɨ˥˧ tʰiə˦ lu˦ ʂiə˦ tʰiə˦ i˦ leŋ˧˩̤ ʝuə˧˦ tʂu˩̰ cɒ˥˧ uə˧ ke˧ ⁿdaɨ˩̰ i˦ leŋ˧˩̤ ⁿdaɨ˩̰ tsɒ˥˧ ke˧˧˦ uə˧ kɨ˧˦ ti˥˧./
All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.
(Article 1 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights)
This is an introduction to the Pahawh Hmong alphabet in Hmong
Information about: Hmong | Hmong Dau | Hmong Njua | Scripts for Hmong: Pahawh Hmong | Romanized Popular Alphabet | Pollard Miao | Nyiakeng Puachue Hmong | Phrases in: Hmong Dau | Numbers in: Hmong Dau | Iu Mien | Tower of Babel in: Hmong Dau | Hmong Njua | Iu Mien | Books about Hmong
Information about the Hmong language and people
Online Hmong dictionary
Pahawh Hmong fonts
Hmong Language Institute of Minnesotta
Hmong Nationality Archives
Center for Hmong Studies, Concordia University, Saint Paul
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Page last modified: 07.11.23
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