Mongolian script

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For the traditional alphabet used specifically to write Mongolian, see traditional Mongolian alphabet.
Mongolian
Monggol bicig.svg
Guyuk khan's Stamp 1246.jpg
Type
Languages Mongolian language
Manchu language (obsolete)
Evenki language
Time period
ca.1204 – today
Parent systems
Child systems
Manchu alphabet
Oirat alphabet (Clear script)
Buryat alphabet
Galik alphabet
Evenki alphabet
Xibe alphabet
ISO 15924 Mong, 145
Direction Top-to-bottom
Unicode alias
Mongolian
U+1800 – U+18AF

The classical Mongolian script (in Mongolian script: ᠮᠣᠩᠭᠣᠯ ᠪᠢᠴᠢᠭ᠌ Mongγol bičig; in Mongolian Cyrillic: Монгол бичиг Mongol bichig), also known as Uyghurjin Mongol bichig, was the first writing system created specifically for the Mongolian language, and was the most successful until the introduction of Cyrillic in 1946. Derived from Uighur, Mongolian is a true alphabet, with separate letters for consonants and vowels. The Mongolian script has been adapted to write languages such as Oirat and Manchu. Alphabets based on this classical vertical script are used in Inner Mongolia and other parts of China to this day to write Mongolian, Sibe and, experimentally, Evenki.

History[edit]

The Mongolian vertical script developed as an adaptation of the Uyghur script to the Mongolian language. It was introduced by the Uyghur scribe Tata-tonga, who had been captured by the Mongols during a war against the Naimans around 1204. There were no changes in form for the first few centuries, though Uyghur γ was reassigned to Mongol q while Uyghur q became Mongol γ, and Uyghur g/k was restricted to loan-words. Without adaptation to Mongolian phonology, initial yodh stood for both /dʒ/ and /j/, while medial tsadi stood for both /dʒ/ and /tʃ/, and there was no letter for /d/ in initial position.

From the seventh and eighth to the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, the Mongolian language separated into southern, eastern and western dialects. The principal monuments of the middle period are: in the eastern dialect, the famous Secret History of the Mongols, monuments in the square script, materials of the Chinese-Mongolian glossary of the fourteenth century, and materials of the Mongolian language of the middle period in Chinese transcription, etc.; in the western dialect, materials of the Arab-Mongolian and Persian-Mongolian dictionaries, Mongolian texts in Arabic transcription, etc. The main features of the period are that the vowels ï and i had lost their phonemic significance, creating the i phoneme (in Chahar dialect, the Standard Mongolian in Inner Mongolia, they're still distinct); intervocal consonants γ/g, b/w had disappeared and the preliminary process of the formation of Mongolian long vowels had begun; the initial h was preserved in many words; grammatical categories were partially absent, etc. The development over this period explains why Mongolian script looks like a vertical Arabic script (in particular the presence of the dots system).

Eventually, minor concessions were made to the differences between the Uyghur and Mongol languages: In the 17th and 18th centuries, smoother and more angular versions of tsadi became associated with [dʒ] and [tʃ] respectively, and in the 19th century, the Manchu hooked yodh was adopted for initial [j]. Zain was dropped as it was redundant for [s]. Various schools of orthography, some using diacritics, were developed to avoid ambiguity.

Mongolian is written vertically. The Uyghur script and its descendants—Mongolian, Oirat Clear, Manchu, and Buryat—are the only vertical scripts written from left to right. This developed because the Uyghurs rotated their Sogdian-derived script, originally written right to left, 90 degrees counterclockwise to emulate Chinese writing, but without changing the relative orientation of the letters.[1]

Teaching[edit]

Mongols learnt their script as a syllabary, dividing the syllables into twelve different classes, based on the final phonemes of the syllables, all of which ended in vowels.[2] The Manchus followed the same syllabic method when learning Manchu script, also with syllables divided into twelve different classes based on the finals phonemes of the syllables.

Some westerners learn the script in an alphabetic manner instead.

Names[edit]

The Traditional Mongolian script is known by a wide variety of names. Due to its origins from the Uighur script, it became known as the Uighurjin Mongol script (Mongolian: Уйгуржин монгол бичиг). During the communist era, when Cyrillic became the official script for the Mongolian language, the traditional script became known as the Old Mongol script (Mongolian: Хуучин монгол бичиг), in contrast to the New script (Mongolian: Шинэ үсэг), referring to Cyrillic. The name Old Mongol script stuck, and it is still known as such among the older generation, who didn't receive education in the script.

Letters[edit]

The word Monggul in the classic script
A KFC in Hohhot, the capital, with a bilingual street sign in Chinese and Mongolian

Letters have different forms depending on their position in a word: initial, medial, or final. In some cases, additional graphic variants are selected for visual harmony with the subsequent character.

Alphabets[edit]

The Mongol script has been the basis of alphabets for several languages. First, after overcoming the Uyghur script ductus, it was used for Mongolian itself.

Clear script (Oirat alphabet)[edit]

Main article: Clear script

In 1648, the Oirat Buddhist monk Zaya-pandita Namkhaijamco created this variation with the goals of bringing the written language closer to the actual pronunciation of Oirat and making it easier to transcribe Tibetan and Sanskrit. The script was used by the Kalmyks of Russia until 1924, when it was replaced by the Cyrillic alphabet. In Xinjiang, China, the Oirat people still use it.

Manchu alphabet[edit]

Main article: Manchu alphabet

The Manchu alphabet was developed from the Mongolian script in the early 17th century to write the Manchu language. A variant is still used to write Xibe. It is also used for Daur.

Vagindra alphabet[edit]

Main article: Vagindra script

Another alphabet, sometimes called Vagindra or Vaghintara, was created in 1905 by the Buryat monk Agvan Dorjiev (1854–1938). It was also meant to reduce ambiguity, and to support the Russian language in addition to Mongolian. The most significant change, however, was the elimination of the positional shape variations. All letters were based on the medial variant of the original Mongol alphabet. Fewer than a dozen books were printed using it.[citation needed]

Evenki alphabet[edit]

Main article: Evenki alphabet

In the 1980s, an experimental alphabet for Evenki was created.

Additional characters[edit]

Galik characters[edit]

Main article: Galik alphabet

In 1587, the translator and scholar Ayuush Güüsh (Аюуш гүүш) created the Galik alphabet (Али-гали), inspired by the third Dalai Lama, Sonam Gyatso. It primarily added extra characters for transcribing Tibetan and Sanskrit terms when translating religious texts, and later also from Chinese. Some of those characters are still in use today for writing foreign names (compare table above).[3]

Unicode[edit]

Mongolian script was added to the Unicode Standard in September, 1999 with the release of version 3.0.

Block[edit]

The Unicode block for Mongolian is U+1800–U+18AF. It includes letters, digits and various punctuation marks for Hudum Mongolian, Todo Mongolian, Xibe (Manchu), Manchu proper, and Ali Gali, as well as extensions for transcribing Sanskrit and Tibetan.

Mongolian[1][2]
Official Unicode Consortium code chart (PDF)
  0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 A B C D E F
U+180x FV
 S1 
FV
 S2 
FV
 S3 
 MV 
S
U+181x
U+182x
U+183x
U+184x
U+185x
U+186x
U+187x
U+188x
U+189x
U+18Ax
Notes
1.^ As of Unicode version 7.0
2.^ Grey areas indicate non-assigned code points

Issues[edit]

Although the Mongolian script has been defined in Unicode since 1999, there was no support for Unicode Mongolian from the major vendors until the release of the Windows Vista operating system in 2007, and so Unicode Mongolian is not yet widely used. In China, legacy encodings such as the Private Use Area (PUA) Unicode mappings and GB18030 mappings of the Menksoft IMEs (espc. Menksoft Mongolian IME) are more commonly used than Unicode for writing web pages and electronic documents in Mongolian.

The inclusion of a Unicode Mongolian font and keyboard layout in Windows Vista has meant that Unicode Mongolian is now gradually becoming more popular, but the complexity of the Unicode Mongolian encoding model and the lack of a clear definition for the use variation selectors are still barriers to its widespread adoption, as is the lack of support for inline vertical display. Currently there are no fonts that successfully display all of Mongolian when written in Unicode[citation needed]. A report published in 2011 revealed many shortcomings with automatic rendering in all three Unicode Mongolian fonts the authors surveyed, including Microsoft's Mongolian Baiti.[4]

Furthermore, Mongolian language support has suffered from buggy implementations: the initial version of Microsoft's Mongolian Baiti font was, in the supplier's own words, "almost unusable",[5] and as of 2011 there remain some serious bugs with the rendering of suffixes in Mozilla Firefox.[6]

Other fonts, such as MonoType's Mongol Usug and Myatav Erdenechimeg's MongolianScript, suffer even more serious bugs.[4]

In Jan. 2013, Menksoft released several OpenType Mongolian fonts, delivered with its Menksoft Mongolian IME 2012. These fonts strictly follow Unicode standard, i.e. bichig is no longer realized as "B+I+CH+I+G+FVS2" (incorrect) but "B+I+CH+I+G" (correct), which is not done by Microsoft & Founder's Mongolian Baiti, MonoType's Mongol Usug, or Myatav Erdenechimeg's MongolianScript.[7]

References[edit]

  1. ^ György Kara, "Aramaic Scripts for Altaic Languages", in Daniels & Bright The World's Writing Systems, 1994.
  2. ^ Chinggeltei. (1963) A Grammar of the Mongol Language. New York, Frederick Ungar Publishing Co. p. 15.
  3. ^ Otgonbayar Chuluunbaatar (2008). Einführung in die Mongolischen Schriften (in German). Buske. ISBN 978-3-87548-500-4. 
  4. ^ a b Biligsaikhan Batjargal, et al. (2011). "A Study of Traditional Mongolian Script Encodings and Rendering: Use of Unicode in OpenType fonts". International Journal of Asian Language Processing 21 (1): 23–43. Retrieved 2011-09-10. 
  5. ^ Version 5.00 of the Mongolian Baiti font may be displayed incorrectly in Windows Vista
  6. ^ Bug 490534 - ZWJ and NNBSP rendered incorrectly in scripts like Mongolian
  7. ^ Menk Qagan Tig, Menk Hawang Tig, Menk Garqag Tig, Menk Har_a Tig, and Menk Scnin Tig.

External links[edit]