Pollard Script



The Pollard script, also known as Pollard Miao, is an abugida loosely based on the Latin alphabet and invented by Methodist missionary Samuel Pollard. Pollard invented the script for use with A-Hmao, one of several dialects of the Hmong language. The script underwent a series of revisions until 1936, when a translation of the New Testament was published using it. The introduction of Christian materials in the script that Pollard invented caused a great impact among the Lisu. Part of the reason was that they had a legend about how their ancestors had possessed a script but lost it. According to the legend, the script would be brought back some day. When the script was introduced, many Lisu came from far away to see and learn it (Enwall 1994).

Pollard credited the basic idea of the script to the Cree syllabics designed by James Evans in 1838¡ª1841, ¡°While working out the problem, we remembered the case of the syllabics used by a Methodist missionary among the Indians of North America, and resolved to do as he had done¡± (1919:174). He also gave credit to a Chinese pastor, ¡°Stephen Lee assisted me very ably in this matter, and at last we arrived at a system¡± (1919:174). In listing the phrases he used to describe devising the script, there is clear indication of intellectual work, not revelation: ¡°we looked about¡±, ¡°resolved to attempt¡±, ¡°adapting the system¡±, ¡°solved our problem¡± (Pollard 1919:174,175).

Changing politics in China led to the use of several competing scripts, most of which were romanizations. The Pollard script remains popular among Hmong in China, although Hmong outside China tend to use one of the alternative scripts. A revision of the script was completed in 1988, which remains in use. The Pollard script was proposed, in 1997, for inclusion in Unicode by John Jenkins at Apple Computer.

As with most other abugidas, the Pollard letters represent consonants, whereas vowels are indicated by diacritics. Uniquely, however, the position of this diacritic is varied to represent tone. For example, in Western Hmong, placing the vowel diacritic above the consonant letter indicates that the syllable has a high tone, whereas placing it at the bottom right indicates a low tone.

Published sources

  • Enwall, Joakim. 1994. A Myth Become Reality: History and Development of the Miao Written Language, two volumes. (Stockholm East Asian Monographs, 5 & 6.) Stockholm: Institute of Oriental Languages, Stockholm University.
  • Pollard, Samuel. 1919. Gathering up the Fragments. London: Hooks.
  • Wen, You 1938. Lun Pollard Script. Xinan bianjiang 1, 43-53.
  • Wen, You.1951. Guizhou Leishan xin chu canshi chukao. Huaxi wenwu. Reprinted in Wen You, 1985. Wen You lunji, Beijing: Zhongyang minzu xueyuan keyanchu.


Description of Pollard Script


Pollard Miao Alphabet Origin

The writing system known as Pollard Miao writing was devised in 1905 by Samuel Pollard, a British missionary, with help from Yang Yage and Li Shitifan. Before Pollard came along, the A-Hmao language, when written at all, was written with Chinese characters. Pollard Script underwent many changes and revisions and didn't become stable until 1936, when a translation of the New Testament was published in Pollard Script(Miao writing).

The authorities in Beijing were not too keen on a writing system invented by a foreign missionary and in 1957 they introduced an alternative system based on H¨¤nyŭ P¨©ny¨©n. This was not popular among the A-Hmao people, who were already familiar with the Pollard system.

Various efforts have been made to improve Pollard Miao writing, which inadequately represents the phonetics and tones of A-Hmao and is not ideal for writing Chinese loan words. A semi-official 'reformed' Pollard script has been in use since 1988, along with the older version of the script, and the p¨©ny¨©n version.

Notable features

  • Vowels (finals) are written in small letters around the consonants (initials). The positioning of the vowels indicates the tone of a syllable. An alternative system of tone indication is used in the 1988 version of the script.

Used to write

A-Hmao or Hwa Miao, a dialect of Miao spoken in Y¨²nn¨¢n province in the southwest of China. Outside China, Miao is known as Hmong and is spoken in Vietnam, Laos, Thailand and the USA. The approximate number of native speakers of Miao/Hmong is 5.5 million.

In Vietnam, Laos and Thailand, Hmong is written with either the Pahawh Hmong script or the Latin alphabet.

Pollard Miao alphabet Initials

Pollard Miao alphabet Finals



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shimenkan----English----Pollard Script