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Monthly Photos August 2012

Photos taken by ILCAA staff and associates are posted here once a month; most of them are taken during their field research in Asia and Africa.

(The copyright belongs to the photographers.)

The earliest ancestor of literary Burmese

Burmese is known as a language which shows considerable differences between literary and colloquial styles, especially those in grammatical words.

Burmese has a history of about 900 years, and word forms from various eras coexist in modern literary Burmese: Some forms are attested in inscriptions of AD 12C and others came into use after 18C. On the other hand, some colloquial forms generally regarded as distinct from their literary counterparts tend to get mixed in with the literary style, under the fact that the same person uses both of the two styles according to types of communication. Therefore, the whole picture of the system of literary Burmese seems far more difficult to capture than that of colloquial Burmese.

Here I show the photo of Rajakumar Inscription (also as Myazedi Inscription, after the place of discovery) in Bagan, the oldest extant Burmese inscription with date about the curving. Although the square shape of the scripts of the inscription has transformed into the round shape in the modern script, many forms in the inscription are inherited by modern literary Burmese. Some words are thought to undergo historical sound changes, and others differ from their descendants in meanings and functions. Whereas some modern literary Burmese forms of ancient origin are felt “archaic” in competition with the latterly introduced forms with similar function, others are used commonly and no one is conscious of their ancient origins. Anyway, we can recognize a sure bond between the modern literary Burmese and its earliest ancestor, which could be said a testimony to the inheritance of “Burmeseness”.

Incidentally, this year is the nongenery of the carving of the inscription (B.E.1656).

JAN 2003
Inscription shed of Myazedi Pagoda, Bagan, Myanmar
Photograph by Hideo SAWADA

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