Limbu alphabet

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Limbu / ᤕᤠᤰᤌᤢᤱ
Type
Languages Limbu
Time period
c. 1740–present
Parent systems
Direction Left-to-right
ISO 15924 Limb, 336
Unicode alias
Limbu
U+1900–U+194F
[a] The Semitic origin of the Brahmic scripts is not universally agreed upon.[citation needed]

The Limbu script is used to write the Limbu language, it is a Brahmic type abugida.[1]

History[edit]

According to traditional histories, the Limbu script was first invented in the late 9th century by King Sirijunga Hang, then fell out of use, to be reintroduced in the 18th century by Te-ongsi Sirijunga Xin Thebe during the time, teaching of the limbu script was outlawed by the monarchy in Sikkim, as it posed a threat to the Monarchy.

Accounts with Sirijunga[edit]

Limbu, Lepcha and Nepal Bhasa are the only Sino-Tibetan languages of the Central Himalayas to possess their own scripts. (Sprigg 1959: 590), (Sprigg 1959: 591-592 & MS: 1-4) tells us that the Limbu or Kirat Sirijunga script was devised during the period of Buddhist expansion in Sikkim in the early 18th century when Limbuwan still constituted part of Sikkimese territory. The Limbu script was probably composed at roughly the same time as the Lepcha script which was by the third King of Sikkim, Phyag-rdor Nam-gyal (ca. 1700-1717). The Kirat Sirijunga script is ascribed to the Limbu hero, Te-ongsi Sirijunga (translation: Reincarnated Sirijunga; refer to Sirijunga Hang) who was killed by the Tasong monks in conspiracy with the king of Sikkim at the time when Simah Pratap Shah was King of Nepal (i.e. 11 January 1775 to 17 November 1777; Stiller 141,153).

Structure[edit]

The Limbu script. Gray letters are obsolete.

As an abugida, a basic letter represents both a consonant and an inherent, or default, vowel; in Limbu, the inherent vowel is /ɔ/.

Consonants
Transcription ko kho go gho ngo co cho jo to
IPA /kɔ/ /kʰɔ/ /ɡɔ/ /ɡʱɔ/ /ŋɔ/ /cɔ/ /cʰɔ/ /ɟɔ/ /tɔ/
Letter
Transcription tho do dho no po pho bo bho mo
IPA /tʰɔ/ /dɔ/ /dʱɔ/ /nɔ/ /pɔ/ /pʰɔ/ /bɔ/ /bʱɔ/ /mɔ/
Letter
Transcription yo ro lo vo sho so ho
IPA /jɔ/ /rɔ/ /lɔ/ /wɔ/ /ʃɔ/ /sɔ/ /hɔ/
Letter

To change the inherent vowel, a diacritic is added:

Dependent vowel signs
Transcription -a -i -u -ee -ai -oo -au -e -o
IPA /a/ /i/ /u/ /e/ /ai/ /o/ /au/ /ɛ/ /ɔ/
Diacritic
Example using ᤁᤠ
/ka/
ᤁᤡ
/ki/
ᤁᤢ
/ku/
ᤁᤣ
/ke/
ᤁᤤ
/kai/
ᤁᤥ
/ko/
ᤁᤦ
/kau/
ᤁᤧ
/kɛ/
ᤁᤨ
/kɔ/

ᤁᤨ /kɔ/ represents the same syllable as /kɔ/. Some writers avoid the diacritic, considering it redundant.

Syllable-initial vowels use the vowel-carrier with the appropriate dependent vowel sign. Used by itself, represents syllable-initial /ɔ/.

Initial consonant clusters are written with small marks following the main consonant:

Subjoined consonants
Transcription -y- -r- -w-
IPA /j/ /r/ /w/
Diacritic
Example using ᤁᤪ
/kjɔ/
ᤁᤫ
/krɔ/
ᤁᤩ
/kwɔ/

Final consonants after short vowels are written with another set of marks, except for some final consonants occurring only in loanwords, they follow the marks for consonant clusters, if any.

Final consonants
Transcription -k -ng -t -n -p -m -r -l
IPA /k/ /ŋ/ /t/ /n/ /p/ /m/ /r/ /l/
Diacritic
Example using ᤁᤰ
/kɔk/
ᤁᤱ
/kɔŋ/
ᤁᤳ
/kɔt/
ᤁᤴ
/kɔn/
ᤁᤵ
/kɔp/
ᤁᤶ
/kɔm/
ᤁᤷ
/kɔr/
ᤁᤸ
/kɔl/

Long vowels without a following final consonant are written with a diacritic called kemphreng (), for example, ᤁ᤺ /kɔː/.

There are two methods for writing long vowels with syllable-final consonants:

  1. Use the kemphreng diacritic and the final consonant, such as ᤁ᤺ᤰ /kɔːk/.
  2. Replace the final consonant with the corresponding full consonant and add an underscore-like diacritic mark. This indicates that the consonant is final (vowel-less) and that the preceding vowel is lengthened, for example: ᤁᤁ᤻ /kɔːk/. This same diacritic may be used to mark final consonants in loanwords that do not have final forms in Limbu, regardless of the length of the vowel.

The first method is widely used in Sikkim; the second method is advocated by certain writers in Nepal.[1]

Glottalization is marked by a sign called mukphreng (). For example, ᤁ᤹ /kɔʔ/.

Obsolete characters[edit]

Three additional letters were used in early versions of the modern script:[1]

  • /ɟʱɔ/
  • /ɲɔ/
  • /ʂɔ/

Two ligatures were used for Nepali consonant conjuncts:[2]

  • for त्र (Devanagari jña)
  • for ज्ञ (Devanagari tra)

Nineteenth-century texts used a small anusvara () to mark nasalization, this was used interchangeably with /ŋ/.

The sign was used for the exclamatory particle ᤗᤥ (/lo/).[1]

Punctuation[edit]

The main punctuation mark used in Limbu is the Devanagari double danda (),[1] it has its own exclamation mark () and question mark ().

Digits[edit]

Limbu has its own set of digits:

0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9

Unicode[edit]

Limbu script was added to the Unicode Standard in April, 2003 with the release of version 4.0.

The Unicode block for Limbu is U+1900–U+194F:

Limbu[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+190x
U+191x
U+192x
U+193x
U+194x
Notes
1.^ As of Unicode version 10.0
2.^ Grey areas indicate non-assigned code points

References[edit]