Unified Wa Orthography

Unified Wa orthography, or Lái Vax Róub Róum, as the name suggests, is an attempt to combine the two main regional orthographies into one. It is just a gleam in our eye at the moment, but it has immediate advantages for our dictionary development. Unified Wa is a field in our database, which gives us an independent "meta-phonetic" category to work with, in order to group multiple entries with varying pronunciations, as, for example, English spellings like 'again' both represent and unify the multiple pronunciations of different speech communities (at least five contrasting main vowel sounds in the case of 'again').

Unified Wa is a synthesis of the two main Wa orthographies: it currently uses the initial stop consonant system of the Myanmar (Revised Bible) orthography (basically the same as IPA), including marking aspiration with the 'h' following the initial stop (and before the 'r' or 'l' in consonant clusters -- khr-, bhl- etc.). On the other hand, it uses the complete vowel system of the Chinese orthography, both for main vowels and diphthongs and for medial vowels. That is, it uses -o-, -ou-, -oui-, -ei-, -e-, -ae-, -ua- instead of -aw-, -o-, -oe-, -e-, -eu-, -au-, -wa-). Final consonants are already mostly identical in the two systems, but where they differ, UW favours familiarity over consistency and follows the Chinese system and one part of the Myanmar system, always using -b -d -g, rather than -p, -t, -k, as in IPA and (partially) in the Myanmar orthography (but on this, see more below).

Like the Chinese orthography, UW indicates breathiness in a syllable with a diacritic over the first vowel. But instead of a macron, it uses an acute accent over the vowel (kín) or an apostrophe after it (ki'n). Syllables written thus will normally sort together in the following order "kin, ki'n, kín", by default, using ordinary computer software. (Searches, however, would not find any of the alternative forms, as in a case-insensitive search, without a special implementation.)

Capitalisation and punctuation follow the international conventions for Latin-script alphabets which have evolved over two millennia: the first word in each sentence is capitalised, as are each syllable of proper nouns, and the main words of titles; sentences end with a full stop/period ( . ), question mark (?), or exclamation point (!), while phrases are separated by a comma (,), colon (:), or semicolon (;). Use of the Chinese serial comma ( 、), which the Chinese orthography adopts from Chinese hanzi usage, could also be an option, but is awkward to type and to render, and is better avoided.

As the drafters of the Chinese orthography said in 1958, (and unlike the shifting sands of Revised Bible spelling practise), "for the time being, polysyllabic words are not written together as one unit." However, there is the following exception: foreign proper names of more than one syllable are written as a single unit and without any diacritics (e.g., 'Abraham', 'Ameirikax').

Other features: 'i' or 'í' following a 'y' is generally written with a single 'i', rather than double "ii" or "íi". E.g., 'nyíex' ("house"), 'yíeh' ("hundred"), 'yiex' ("us two"), 'yíex' ("grandmother").

What if Unified Wa orthography was more logical and had voiceless unaspirated -p -t -k finals, to match the voiceless unaspirated initials, instead of -b -d -g? Here is how the Book of Jonah text above would be affected:
Book of Jonah text above, with -p -t -k finals