S'gaw Karen alphabet

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S'gaw Karen
Script type
Time period
LanguagesS'gaw Karen language ksw
Related scripts
Parent systems
ISO 15924
ISO 15924Mymr (350), ​Myanmar (Burmese)
Unicode alias
[a] The Semitic origin of the Brahmic scripts is not universally agreed upon.
 This article contains phonetic transcriptions in the International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA). For an introductory guide on IPA symbols, see Help:IPA. For the distinction between [ ], / / and  , see IPA § Brackets and transcription delimiters.

The S'gaw Karen alphabet (S'gaw Karen: ကညီလံာ်ခီၣ်ထံး) is an abugida used for writing Karen. It was derived from the Burmese script in the early 19th century, and ultimately from either the Kadamba or Pallava alphabet of South India. The S'gaw Karen alphabet is also used for the liturgical languages of Pali and Sanskrit.


The Karen alphabet was created by American missionary Jonathan Wade in the 1830s, based on the S'gaw Karen language; Wade was assisted by a Karen named Paulah.

The consonants and most of the vowels are adopted from the Burmese alphabet; however, the Karen pronunciation of the letters is slightly different from that of the Burmese alphabet. Since Karen has more tones than Burmese, additional tonal markers were added.[citation needed]

The script is taught in the refugee camps in Thailand and in Kayin State.[citation needed]

Grouped consonants
k (kaˀ)

kh (kʰaˀ)

gh (ɣ)

x (x)

ng (ŋ)

s (s)

hs ()

sh (ʃ)

ny (ɲ)

t (t)

hṭ ()

d (d)

n (n)

p (p)

hp ()

b (b)

m (m)
Miscellaneous consonants

y (ʝ)

r (r)

l (l)

w (w)

th (θ)

h (h)

vowel holder (ʔ)

ahh (ɦ)

ah (a)

ee (i)

uh (ɤ)

u (ɯ)

oo (u)

ae or ay (e)

eh (æ)

oh (o)

aw (ɔ)
Tones S'gaw Karen
rising ၢ်
falling ာ်
high ၣ်
Medials S'gaw Karen
ှ (hg)
ၠ (y)
ြ (r)
ျ (l)
ွ (w)
Number S'gaw Karen
Numeral Written IPA Pronounce
0 ဝး wa wah
1 တၢ tuh
2 ခံ kʰi khee
3 သၢ θɤ thuh
4 လွံၢ် lwi lwee
5 ယဲၢ် yeh
6 ဃု hku
7 နွံ nwi nwee
8 ဃိး xo hkaw
9 ခွံ kʰ i kwee
10 ၁၀ တၢဆံ tsʰi tsee

The number 1962 would be written as ၁၉၆၂.


  • Aung-Thwin, Michael (2005). The mists of Rāmañña: The Legend that was Lower Burma (illustrated ed.). Honolulu: University of Hawai'i Press. ISBN 9780824828868.
  • Bauer, Christian (1991). "Notes on Mon Epigraphy". Journal of the Siam Society. 79 (1): 35.
  • Lieberman, Victor B. (2003). Strange Parallels: Southeast Asia in Global Context, c. 800–1830, volume 1, Integration on the Mainland. Cambridge University Press. p. 136. ISBN 978-0-521-80496-7.
  • Stadtner, Donald M. (2008). "The Mon of Lower Burma". Journal of the Siam Society. 96: 198.
  • Sawada, Hideo (2013). "Some Properties of Burmese Script" (PDF).
  • Jenny, Mathias (2015). "Foreign Influence in the Burmese Language" (PDF).
  • Wade, J. (1849). A Vocabulary of the Sgau Karen Language. Tavoy: Karen Mission Press.