The Burmese language belongs to the Tibeto-Burman group of the Tibeto-Chinese family of languages, but, unlike Chinese, it is not ideographic. That is, it does not have characters which originated as pictures, but an alphabet, of eleven vowels and thirty-two consonants, derived from the Pahlavi script of South India. "Our language comes from North and South" would look like this in Burmese type:
By this I mean that our actual words, and the way we put them together, came to us from the North, with the early migrations from China, while the way we write them came from the South, brought to Burma by Indian traders and missionaries at a slightly later period. So far as we know, Burmese was first reduced to writing in the eleventh century at Pagan. Many inscriptions on stone still survive there.
Burmese, as is true of many Oriental languages, is monosyllabic; generally speaking, each word has only one syllable. Nouns, adjectives, and verb tenses are formed by the addition of suffixes to the verbal roots --a process of agglutination, as the philologists call it. To express anything but the very simplest things we must combine words of different meanings. In English, for example, you have separate root-terms for "sheep," "ewe," "lamb," and "mutton." To render these distinctions a Burmese will say: "sheep" (tho), "female sheep" (tho-ma), "young sheep" (tho-galay), and "meat of sheep" (tho-tha).