The New Akha alphabet is an alternative way of writing the
Akha language, a Tibeto-Burman language spoken Yunnan province of China,
Thailand and Burma by about 1 million people. It was devised by
Ian James. There are a number of other methods of writing Akha
using the Latin alphabet.
Part of Ian's aim was to create a script which looked both
authentically historic and reasonably sophisticated. The design is
based on ancient Pallava/Brahmi, the parent of almost all scripts
of Southeast Asia. But while the consonants are clearly derived
(and will be somewhat familiar to readers of Tai- and Mon-based
languages), the vowels and tones are necessarily specific to Akha.
- Words are typically a single syllable, consisting of consonant
+ vowel + tone.
- In writing, the consonant and vowel are joined together with a
tonal marker as 'binding', so forming a single glyph. This direct
attachment is inspired by Pallava.
- Of the 5 tones, 2 use a diacritic to represent 'creaky' vocalization.
The creaky marker also helps to visually highlight the qualities of
certain unvoiced consonants.
- The writing system attempts to be phonetically consistent.
Used to write
Akha and related languages of the South Loloish branch of the
New Akha alphabet
Consonants and vowls
The consonant phonemes are listed here with the international phonetic symbol
and the 'Baptist Akha' romanization. Some of these can be devoiced, shown by the
addition of a dot above. Unless in the presence of a creaky vowel-tone (see below),
those will also be aspirated (breathy):
Syllables end in vowels (are coda-less), except for those few with final /-m/.
Some vowels are paired with lip-rounded versions. A few diphthongs are used in
If one syllable glides smoothly into a second syllable which has only a vowel,
the bridging vowel-holder consisting of a vertical bar is used in lieu of a
consonant. Otherwise, initial vowels have the glottal plosive as their consonant.
Tones are at one of 3 pitches. Their markers are written as joiners
between the consonant and vowel, helping to shape a syllable into a unit glyph.
The addition of a 'creaky' symbol over the basic tone symbol gives a shorter,
throaty effect to the vowel. If one of the devoiced consonants is involved,
the creakiness caps any aspiration.
Here, the vowel /o/ is used as an example to hang off the tone marker.
The /m/ phoneme can also fill a syllable, and then like a vowel can also
take a tone; there are special forms for solo low and high syllabic /m/.
Numerals and numbers
For numerals, it may be sufficient to borrow the local Burmese (modified slightly),
or try a new set based loosely on the Thai:
Sample text in the New Akha alphabet
The romanized extract represents the opening passages of
the Bible (Genesis) is the sample given at
Information about the Akha language
Information about the Akha people
The Akha Language Podcast : Learn Akha Online
Download a font for the New Akha alphabet (TrueType, 11K)
Alphabets by Ian James
Sigil Panel Script,
Tengwar for Scottish Gaelic,
See also: http://www.skyknowledge.com/orthographies.htm
Other constructed scripts