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Type alphabet
Spoken languages Lisu
Created by James O. Fraser
Time period c. 1915–present
Parent systems
  • Fraser
Note: This page may contain IPA phonetic symbols in Unicode.

The Fraser alphabet or Old Lisu Alphabet is an artificial script invented around 1915 by the Sara Ba Thaw, a Karen preacher from Myanmar, and improved by the missionary James O. Fraser, to write the Lisu language. It is a single-case (unicameral) alphabet.

The alphabet uses uppercase letters from the Roman alphabet, and rotated versions thereof, to write consonants and vowels. Tones and nasalization are written with Roman punctuation marks, identical to those found on a typewriter. Like the Indic abugidas, the vowel [a] is not written. However, unlike those scripts, the other vowels are written with full letters.

The Chinese government recognized the alphabet in 1992 as the official script for writing in Lisu.



Note: Font support is still poor, so the characters in this table are only approximations.

Fraser consonants
Labial Alveolar Alveolar
Velar Glottal
Plosive Tenuis P [p] T [t] F [ts] C [tʃ] K [k] 3
Aspirate Ԁ [pʰ] [tʰ] [tsʰ] Ɔ [tʃʰ] ʞ [kʰ]
Voiced B [b] D [d] Z [dz] J [dʒ] G [ɡ] [ɦ]5
Fricative Voiceless Γ2 [f] S [s] X [ʃ] H [x] V [h˜]5
Voiced W [v] [z] R [ʒ] B1 [ɰ?, ɣ]4
Nasal M [m] N [n] Λ [ŋ]
Approximant W [w, u̯] L [l] Y [ʝ, i̯]
  1. Rotate these letters 180°. They are not supported by Unicode.
  2. Actually, a rotated <J>, like <f> without the crossbar.
  3. Initial glottal stop is not written. It is automatic before all initial vowels but [ɯ] and [ə].
  4. B1 sometimes represents a "vowel", presumably a medial [ɰ], and sometimes a consonant [ɣ]. W and Y are likewise ambiguous.
  5. ⅁ only occurs in an imperative particle. It is an allophone of V [h̃], which causes nasalization to the syllable.


Fraser vowels
Front Central/back
High I [i] [y] [ɯ] U [u]
Mid E [e] Ǝ [ø] D* [ə] O [ʊ]
Low [ɛ] A** [ɑ]
*Rotate 180°.
**Not written after a consonant.

For example, <F> is [tsɑ̄], while <FE> is [tsē].

Fraser alphabet.png


Tones are written with standard punctuation. Lisu punctuation therefore differs from international norms: the comma is <-.> (hyphen period), and the full stop is <=> (equal sign).

Diacritics on the syllable F [tsa]
F [tsɑ̄] F. [tsɑ́] F, [tsɑ̌]
F., [tsɑ̄ˀ]* F.. [tsɑ̄ˀ] [tsɑ̄̃]
F; [tsɑ̂ˀ] F: [tsɑ̂] F_ [tsɑ̄ɑ̂]
*It is not clear how the <.,> mid tone differs from the unmarked mid tone.

The tones <.>, <,>, <..>, <.,> may be combined with <;> and <:> as compound tones. However, the only one still in common use is <,;>.

The apostrophe indicates nasalization. It is combined with tone marks.

The understrike (optionally a low macron) indicates the Lisu "A glide", a contraction of [ɑ̂] without an intervening glottal stop. The tone is not always falling, depending on the environment, but is written <_> regardless.


Fraser was added to Unicode 5.2 under the name Lisu.

Lisu chart (PDF)
  0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 A B C D E F

External links



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