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Tone Markers / Cim

There are eight tones in the Hmong language and it is placed at the end
of each word as shown in blue below.
Click on each word below, tonal line word, to hear its tone.
koJ muS kuV niaM neeG siaB zoo toD
Example of the word na + the 8 different tones (j s v m g b _ d)
naj nas nav nam nag nab na nad
The word "na" has no tone markers but it has the tone "re" of the musical notes "Do Re Mi Fa..." , however.
The Hmong word nas means a squirrel, and nag means the rain, and nab means a snake.

The Hmong language is considered a tonal language, toneme in linguistics. Therefore, the words you hear might sound very similar, but due to its slight different pitch, their meanings are different. For example, the words zoo and zoov may sound very close, but the first word means "good", and the second one means "forest."

The Hmong tone markers is similar to the English ending character. For example, in English, the word dad is different than the word dap and each has its own meaning. For example, the Hmong word tob with the highest tone marker b means deep and tom with the lowest tone marker m means to bite. Don't worry, there is no such thing like the English word "READ" that has two different pronunciations - REED and RED that is :)

For ease of remembering, I have put these eight tones into a friendly sentence as you can see below. I suggest you remember this sentence so whenever you see the same ending tone marker, you can pronounce it by referencing these words.

The meaning of the sentence is as follows:
-k is soft k like sky (-ky), -t soft t like stay (-tay)
Koj
(-kaw!)
Mus
(moo)
Kuv
(-koo)
Niam
(nia)
Neeg
(neng)
Siab
(shia)
Zoo
(zhong)
Tod
(-taw)
You Go My Mother Human/Person Heart Good There


If you want to see a Tone Chart, click here.

Please note that the last tone, "D" is not really being used by most people and it is quite difficult to differentiate between the tone "M" and this "D" tone. Some Hmong people believe that the "D" tone is mostly being used when referring to locations and/or places, i.e., Ped, nrad, tid, tod etc... Again, this "D" tones is a longer tone that starts with the "M - cim Niam, the lowest pitch" and then gradually rise to the tone "V - cim Kuv." For example: Pem + ev = ped, tom + ov = tod.
koJ     muS     kuV     niaM     neeG     siaB     zoo     toD
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