Fraser script

The Fraser or Old Lisu script, 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 Zaiwa or Atsi language e.g. the 1938 Atsi Gospel of Mark.

Script type
CreatorJames O. Fraser
Time period
c. 1915present
Related scripts
Parent systems
Phoenician script
ISO 15924
ISO 15924Lisu, 399 , Lisu (Fraser)
Unicode alias
Unicode range
U+A4D0–U+A4FF, U+11FB0–U+11FBF

The script 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 script 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] [tʃ] [k]1
Aspirate [pʰ] [tʰ] [tsʰ] [tʃʰ] [kʰ]
Voiced [b] [d] [dz] [dʒ] [ɡ] [ɦ]3
Fricative Voiceless [f] [s] [ʃ] [x] [h̃]3
Voiced [v] [z] [ʒ] [ɰ]?, [ɣ]2
Nasal [m] [n] [ŋ]
Approximant [w], [u̯]2 [l] [ʝ], [i̯]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 [h̃], which causes nasalization to the syllable.


Lisu language Bible in the Fraser script
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 script was added to the Unicode Standard in October, 2009 with the release of version 5.2.

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

Official Unicode Consortium code chart (PDF)
1.^ As of Unicode version 13.0

An additional character, the inverted Y used in the Naxi language, was added to the Unicode Standard in March, 2020 with the release of version 13.0. It is in the Lisu Supplement block (U+11FB0U+11FBF):

Lisu Supplement[1][2]
Official Unicode Consortium code chart (PDF)
U+11FBx 𑾰
1.^ As of Unicode version 13.0
2.^ Grey areas indicate non-assigned code points

See also

  • OMF International


  1. "Naxi Gospel of Mark 1932". Archived from the original on 2017-12-01. Retrieved 2017-12-01.
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