S'gaw Karen alphabet

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S'gaw Karen
LanguagesS'gaw Karen language
Time period
Parent systems
ISO 15924Mymr, 350
Unicode alias

The Karen script (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)

y (ʝ)

r (r)

l (l)

w (w)

th (θ)

h (h)

vowel holder (ʔ)


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 Pronouce
0 ဝး wa wah
1 တၢ tuh
2 ခံ kʰi khee
3 သၢ θɤ thuh
4 လွံၢ် lwi lwee
5 ယဲၢ် yeh
6 ဃု xu
7 နွံ nwi nwee
8 ဃိး xo xoh
9 ခွံ kʰ i khwee
10 ၁၀ တၢဆံ tsʰi t'hsee

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.