Miao (Pollard)Plrd

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Handwritten Note in the Pollard Script
Influences of Other Writing Systems on the Miao script
Naming Samuel Pollard's Script
Origin and Development of the Miao Script
Pollard Hymn Book
The Uses and Users of the Miao Script


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  • This is a handwritten note which was found in a book of hymns, Hwa Miao Gospel Hymns, published in 1938 in Changsha, Hunan Province. The book was given to SIL by John F. Graham, who was born in a Miao village in 1931.

    CopyrightNo known copyright
    LicenseCreative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Allows modification and redistribution
    ContributorSteph Holloway
  • The inventor of the Miao script, Samuel Pollard, was influenced by at least two other systems in his creation of Miao writing. Prior to going to China, he worked for a London bank, where he became familiar with Pitman shorthand. The Miao script shares with the Pitman system the geometric shape of the letters, as well as the ability of any given vowel to join to a consonant in a variety of positions. In Pitman shorthand the position of the vowel indicates its position within the word; in Miao it indicates the tone of the syllable.

    Pollard had also been impressed by the development of the Cree syllabary in Canada, and adopted some Cree letters for use in the Miao script.

    According to some accounts, the A-Hmao historically had a script, which has since been lost, but remnants of which survive in the decorative patterns on traditional fabrics. They propose that some speakers of the language also aided in the creation of the script, influenced by the shapes in these patterns.


    Lewis & Dorais, Two related indigenous writing systems; Canada's syllabic and China's A-Hmao scripts, in The Canadian Journal of Native Studies XXIII, 2(2003):277-304

    ContributorScriptSource Staff
  • There has been some debate with regard to the name of the script invented by Samuel Pollard in Southern China. It is often referred to by English speakers as the Pollard or Pollard Miao script. The International Standards Organisation calls it the Pollard Phonetic script. However, Pollard objected to the use of his name, crediting a number of outside influences and coworkers with the script's creation, and only ever referred to it as the Miao or A-Hmao script. The Unicode proposal submitted in 2007 proposed the name Northeastern Yunnan Simple Miao script, but the 2009 proposal calls it the Miao or Lao Miaowen script. Users of the script variously call it Miao, Miaowen, Lao Miaowen, Old Miao and Simple Miao.


    Discussion between Michael Everson, Erich Fickle, John Cowen and others at

    ContributorScriptSource Staff
  • At the time that the Miao script was created, the A-Hmao language had no writing system of its own. Attempts had been made to write it using Chinese characters or to develop a Romanized transcription, but neither had met with great success. The A-Hmao did have a rich oral tradition however, including accounts of an ancient writing system which had been lost.

    Prior to arriving in the A-Hmao community, Pollard had travelled extensively in southern China and had attempted to create scripts for some other languages in the area. These were never widely used, but illustrate his desire to make written language available to poor communities and speakers of minority languages.

    In 1904 Pollard was approached by a number of A-Hmao speakers who had located him at great personal cost, wishing to learn to read. Pollard and his colleagues began teaching them Chinese characters, but realised that a simpler script would be more accessible to the preliterate A-Hmao. As they themselves became more proficient in the A-Hmao language, they realised it was syllabic, and, inspired by the success of the Cree syllabary created for a sociolinguistically similar community in Northern Canada, invented a new script for the purpose of teaching the A-Hmao to read.

    Some historians and linguists, as well as many A-Hmao speakers, point to the highly patterned textiles produced by the A-Hmao and claim that remnants of the ancient script referenced in indigenous stories can be identified in these patterns. According to these accounts, the creation of the Miao script was aided by a number of A-Hmao speakers who had some knowledge of the linguistic derivation of the patterns. This belief is of great cultural significance to users of the script and played a large part in their acceptance of it.

    Pollard and his coworkers went to great lengths to promote the script, establishing many schools and publishing a significant corpus of (predominantly Christian) literature. The impact was so far-reaching that an estimated half-dozen languages now use an adapted form of the script, notably the Eastern Lisu (Lipo) language.

    After Pollard's death in 1915, demand for the script arose from other languages and dialects, and it was modified to accommodate these, as well as to better represent the A-Hmao language. One of the most significant modifications to the script was the representation of tone values by means of static tone marks, replacing the original representation of tone classes through the position of the vowel letters.

    The form of the script which was in use in 1936 is widely used, largely due to a translation of the New Testament published that year. Further reforms in 1988 also yielded a popular form. The script is one of few minority scripts in the region which continues to grow both within the Miao dialects and also continues to spread into other language groups.


    Lewis & Dorais, Two related indigenous writing systems; Canada's syllabic and China's A-Hmao scripts, in The Canadian Journal of Native Studies XXIII, 2(2003):277-304.

    ContributorScriptSource Staff
  • This is a page from a hymn book entitled Hwa Miao Gospel Songs written in the Pollard script. The book was given to SIL by John F. Graham, who was born in the Miao village where his parents were working as missionaries, in 1931. The book was published in 1938, in Changsha, Hunan Province.

    LicenseCreative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Allows modification and redistribution
    ContributorSteph Holloway
  • Abstract:
    The Miao Script (formerly the Pollard Script) has been adapted to nine languages in three different language groups: Hmongic, Lolo-Burmese, and Burmic. It has been standardized by the International Standardization Organization. Historically, it was used for official publications in China and for literature and literacy development within the nine ethnolinguistic groups. Five of them still use the script. In the past decade, more than twenty languages in these three groups have been newly recognized, which raises the question of its potential for use in literacy development among the least literate of these groups.


    Authors: Jeremiah Y.S. Chung (formerly of the SIL East Asia Group) and Eric Drewry (Azusa Pacific University, Azusa, California, USA)

    Copyright© 2014 E.Drewry & J. Chung
    LicenseCreative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Allows modification and redistribution
    ContributorE. Drewry



Copyright © 2017 SIL International and released under the  Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 license (CC-BY-SA) unless noted otherwise. Language data includes information from the  Ethnologue. Script information partially from the  ISO 15924 Registration Authority. Some character data from  The Unicode Standard Character Database and locale data from the  Common Locale Data Repository. Used by permission.