Romanized Popular Alphabet

Romanized Popular Alphabet

The Romanized Popular Alphabet (RPA) or Hmong RPA (also Roman Popular Alphabet), is a system of romanization for the various dialects of the Hmong language. Created in Laos between 1951 and 1953 by a group of missionaries and Hmong advisers, it has gone on to become the most widespread system for writing the Hmong language in the West. It is also used in Southeast Asia and China alongside other writing systems, notably Pahawh Hmong. [Smalley, William Mother of Writing. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1990. p. 151-154]


In Xieng Khuang province, Protestant missionary G. Lindwood Barney began working on the writing system with speakers of Green Mong (Mong Leng), Geu Yang and Tua Xiong, among others. He consulted with William A. Smalley, a missionary studying the Khmu language in Luang Prabang province at the time. Concurrently, Yves Bertrais, a Roman Catholic missionary in Kiu Katiam, Luang Prabang, was undertaking a similar project with Chong Yeng Yang and Chue Her Thao. The two working groups met in 1952 and reconciled any differences by 1953 to produce a version of the script. [Ibid.]


The alphabet was developed to write both the Hmong Der (White Hmong, RPA: "Hmoob Dawb") and Mong Leng (Green/Blue Mong, RPA: "Moob Leeg") dialects. While these dialects have much in common, each has unique sounds. Consonants and vowels found only in Hmong Der or Green Mong are color coded respectively. [Phonology adapted from: Golston, Chris, and Phong Yang. 2001. [ "Hmong loanword phonology."] In Caroline Féry, Antony Dubach Green, and Ruben van de Vijver, eds., Proceedings of HILP 5. Potsdam: University of Potsdam, 40-57. Smalley, William Mother of Writing. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1990. p. 48-51. See also: Mortensen, David. [ “Preliminaries to Mong Leng (Hmong Njua) Phonology”] Unpublished, UC Berkeley. 2004.] Some writers make use of variant spellings.

Consonants and vowels


The mid tone is not indicated in the orthography. The others are indicated by letters written at the end of the syllable.

# represents a phrase-final low-rising variant of the low-falling tone


External links

* [ Hmong Language FAQ] , David Mortensen
* [ Mong Literacy] - includes lessons on writing Mong Leng with RPA

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