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The Pollard script, also known as Pollard Miao, is an abugida loosely based on the Latin alphabet and invented by Methodist missionary Sam 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—1841, “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 Chinamarker 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 [276486] by John Jenkins at Apple Computermarker.

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.

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