Fraser alphabet

Languages Lisu
Creator James O. Fraser
Time period
c. 1915present
Parent systems
Direction Left-to-right
ISO 15924 Lisu, 399
Unicode alias

The Fraser alphabet or Old Lisu Alphabet is an artificial script invented around 1915 by 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. It was also used for the Naxi language, e.g. the 1932 Naxi Gospel of Mark.[1], and used in the Atsi language e.g. the 1938 Atsi Gospel of Mark.

The alphabet uses uppercase letters from the Latin script, 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: You may need to download a Lisu capable Unicode font if not all characters display.

Fraser consonants
Plosive Tenuis [p] [t] [ts] [] [k]1
Aspirate [] [] [tsʰ] [tʃʰ] []
Voiced [b] [d] [dz] [] [ɡ] [ɦ]3
Fricative Voiceless [f] [s] [ʃ] [x] []3
Voiced [v] [z] [ʒ] [ɰ]?, [ɣ]2
Nasal [m] [n] [ŋ]
Approximant [w], []2 [l] [ʝ], []2
  1. Initial glottal stop is not written. It is automatic before all initial vowels but [ɯ] and [ə].
  2. sometimes represents a "vowel", presumably a medial [ɰ], and sometimes a consonant [ɣ]. and are likewise ambiguous.
  3. only occurs in an imperative particle. It is an allophone of [], which causes nasalization to the syllable.


Fraser vowels
High [i] [y] [ɯ] [u]
Mid [e] [ø] [ə] [ʊ]
Low [ɛ]** [ɑ]
**Not written after a consonant.

For example, is [tsɑ̄], while ꓝꓰ is [tsē].


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 [tsɑ]
[tsɑ̄]ꓝꓸ [tsɑ́]ꓝꓹ [tsɑ̌]
ꓝꓻ [tsɑ̄ˀ]*ꓝꓺ [tsɑ̄ˀ]ꓝʼ [tsɑ̄̃]
ꓝꓼ [tsɑ̂ˀ]ꓝꓽ [tsɑ̂]ꓝˍ [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 ꓹꓼ.

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 ˍ regardless.


The Fraser alphabet was added to the Unicode Standard in October, 2009 with the release of version 5.2.

An additional character which is the inverted Y used in Naxi is not in Unicode.

The Unicode block for the Fraser alphabet, called Lisu, is U+A4D0U+A4FF:

Official Unicode Consortium code chart (PDF)
1.^ As of Unicode version 11.0

See also


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