Ol Chiki script

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Ol Chiki
Ol Chiki script (alphabet) 2014-05-06 02-05.jpg
Languages Santali language
Direction Left-to-right
ISO 15924 Olck, 261
Unicode alias
Ol Chiki

The Ol Chiki (ᱚᱞ ᱪᱤᱠᱤ) script, also known as Ol Cemetʼ (Santali: ol 'writing', cemet' 'learning'), Ol Ciki, Ol, and sometimes as the Santali alphabet, is the official writing system for Santali, an Austroasiatic-Munda language recognized as an official regional language in India. It has 30 letters, the forms of which are intended to evoke natural shapes, the script is written from left to right.

The shapes of the letters are not arbitrary, but reflect the names for the letters, which are words, usually the names of objects or actions representing conventionalized form in the pictorial shape of the characters.

— Norman Zide, [1]


The Ol Chiki script was created in 1925 by Raghunath Murmu for the Santali language, and publicized first in 1939 at a Mayurbhanj State exhibition.[2][3]

Previously, Santali had been written with the Latin script. However, Santali is not an Indo-Aryan language and Indic scripts did not have letters for all of Santali's phonemes, especially its stop consonants and vowels, which made writing the language accurately in an unmodified Indic script difficult. The detailed analysis was given by Byomkes Chakrabarti in his "Comparative Study of Santali and Bengali". Missionaries (first of all Paul Olaf Bodding, a Norwegian) brought the Latin script, which is better[citation needed] at representing Santali stops, phonemes and nasal sounds with the use of diacritical marks and accents. Unlike most Indic scripts, which are derived from Brahmi, Ol Chiki is not an abugida, with vowels given equal representation with consonants. Additionally, it was designed specifically for the language, but one letter could not be assigned to each phoneme because the sixth vowel in Ol Chiki is still problematic.


Chart with both printed and handwritten Ol Chiki letters

The values of the letters are as follows:

Letter Name IPA[4] Transliteration Shape[1]
ALA-LC[5] Zide[4] Deva.[6] Beng.[6] Odia[6]
la /ɔ/ a burning fire
at /t/ t t ତ୍ the Earth
ag /k’/, /g/ g k’ ଗ୍ vomiting mouth which produces the same sound as the name of the letter
ang /ŋ/ blowing air
al /l/ l l ଲ୍ writing
laa /a/ ā a working in the field with a spade
aak /k/ k k କ୍ bird (sound of a swan)
aaj /c’/, /j/ j c’ ଜ୍ person pointing towards a third person with the right hand (saying he)
aam /m/ m m ମ୍ person pointing towards a second person with the left hand (saying you)
aaw /w/, /v/ w w ওম় opening lips
li /i/ i i bending tree
is /s/ s s ସ୍ plow
ih /ʔ/, /h/ h ହ୍ hands up
iny /ɲ/ ñ ñ ଞ୍ person pointing towards himself/herself with the left hand
ir /r/ r r ର୍ sickle used for cutting or reaping
lu /u/ u u vessel used for preparing food
uch /c/ c c ଚ୍ peak of a mountain which is usually high
ud /t’/, /d/ d t’ ଦ୍ mushroom
unn /ɳ/ ଣ୍ picture of a flying bee (which makes this sound)
uy /j/ y y য় ୟ୍ a man bending towards ground to cut something
le /e/ e e overflowing rivers changing course
ep /p/ p p प़ ପ୍ person receiving with both hands
edd /ɖ/ ଡ୍ a man with two legs stretching towards his chest and mouth
en /n/ n n ନ୍ thrashing grains with two legs
err /ɽ/ ड़ ড় ଳ୍ a path that turns to avoid an obstruction or a danger
lo /o/ o o a mouth when sounding this letter
ott /ʈ/ ଟ୍ camel hump
ob /p’/, /b/ b p’ ବ୍ curly hair
ov /w̃/ उं nasalized
oh /ʰ/ h (C)h a man throwing something with one hand

Aspirated consonants are written as digraphs with the letter :[7][6] ᱛᱷ /tʰ/, ᱜᱷ /gʱ/, ᱠᱷ /kʰ/, ᱡᱷ /jʱ/, ᱪᱷ /cʰ/, ᱫᱷ /dʱ/, ᱯᱷ /pʰ/, ᱰᱷ /ɖʱ/, ᱲᱷ /ɽʱ/, ᱴᱷ /ʈʰ/, and ᱵᱷ /bʱ/.

Other marks[edit]

Ol Chiki employs several marks which are placed after the letter they modify (there are no combining characters):

Mark Name Description
găhlă ṭuḍăg This baseline dot is used to extend three vowel letters for the Santal Parganas dialect of Santali:[7] ᱚᱹ ŏ /ɔ/, ᱟᱹ ă /ə/, and ᱮᱹ ĕ /ɛ/. The phonetic difference between and ᱚᱹ is not clearly defined and there may be only a marginal phonemic difference between the two. ᱚᱹ is rarely used. ALA-LC transliterates ᱚᱹ as "ạ̄".[5]
mũ ṭuḍăg This raised dot indicates nasalization of the preceding vowel: ᱚᱸ /ɔ̃/, ᱟᱸ /ã/, ᱤᱸ /ĩ/, ᱩᱸ /ũ/, ᱮᱸ /ẽ/, and ᱳᱸ /õ/. ALA-LC transliteration uses "m̐" after the affected vowel.[5]
mũ găhlă ṭuḍăg This colon-like mark is used to mark a nasalized extended vowel. It is a combination of mũ ṭuḍăg and găhlă ṭuḍăg: ᱚᱺ /ɔ̃/, ᱟᱺ /ə̃/, and ᱮᱺ /ɛ̃/.
relā This tilde-like mark indicates the prolongation of any oral or nasalized vowel. Compare /e/ with ᱮᱻ /eː/, it comes after the găhlă ṭuḍăg for extended vowels: ᱮᱹᱻ /ɛː/. It is omitted in ALA-LC transliteration.[5]
ahad This special letter indicates the deglottalization of a consonant in the word-final position. It preserves the morphophonemic relationship between the glottalized (ejective) and voiced equivalents of consonants.[7] For example, represents a voiced /g/ when word initial but an ejective /k’/ when in the word-final position. A voiced /g/ in the word-final position is written as ᱜᱽ, the ahad is used with , , , , and which can form cursive ligatures with in handwriting (but not usually in printed text).[6] ALA-LC transliteration uses an apostrophe (’) to represent an ahad.[5]
phārkā This hyphen-like mark serves as a glottal protector (the opposite function as the ahad.) It preserves the ejective sound, even in the word-initial position. Compare ᱜᱚ /gɔ/ with ᱜᱼᱚ /k’ɔ/, the phārkā is only used with , , , and . It is omitted in ALA-LC transliteration.[5]


Ol Chiki has its own set of digits:

Digit 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9
Ol Chiki


Some Western-style punctuation marks are used with Ol Chiki: comma (,), exclamation mark (!), question mark (?), and quotation marks (“ and ”).

Period (.) is not used because it is visually confusable with the găhlă ṭuḍăg mark (ᱹ).[6] Instead of periods the script uses two dandas:

  • (mucăd) marks a minor break
  • ᱿ (double mucăd) marks a major break


Ol Chiki script was added to the Unicode Standard in April, 2008 with the release of version 5.1.

The Unicode block for Ol Chiki is U+1C50–U+1C7F:

Ol Chiki[1]
Official Unicode Consortium code chart (PDF)
  0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 A B C D E F
U+1C7x ᱿
1.^ As of Unicode version 10.0

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "Ol Chiki Script". A portal for Santals. 2002. Retrieved 2017-09-12. 
  2. ^ Hembram, Phatik Chandra (2002). Santhali, a Natural Language. U. Hembram. p. 165. 
  3. ^ Kundu, Manmatha (1994). Tribal Education, New Perspectives. Gyan Publishing House. p. 37. ISBN 9788121204477. 
  4. ^ a b Zide, Norman (1996). Daniels, Peter T.; Bright, William, eds. The World's Writing Systems. Oxford University Press, Inc. pp. 614–615. ISBN 978-0195079937. 
  5. ^ a b c d e f "Santali (in Ol script)" (PDF). ALA-LC Romanization Tables. Library of Congress. Retrieved 2017-09-12. 
  6. ^ a b c d e f Everson, Michael (2005-09-05). "L2/05-243R: Final proposal to encode the Ol Chiki script in the UCS" (PDF). 
  7. ^ a b c "Chapter 13.10: Ol Chiki". The Unicode Standard, Version 10.0 (PDF). Mountain View, CA: Unicode, Inc. June 2017. ISBN 978-1-936213-16-0.