Abugidas (was: Chinese writing systems)
|From:||John Cowan <jcowan@...>|
|Date:||Wednesday, November 6, 2002, 11:41|
Andreas Johansson scripsit:
> Would you please enlighten me on the term "alphasyllabary"? Does it mean a
> mixture of alphabetic and syllabic writing, or what?
It's not a very perspicuous term, particularly because it blurs the
fundamental difference between *abugidas* and *abjads*. We are concerned
with the former here.
In an abugida, the basic written forms are consonants. When the consonant
appears in its basic form, it is understood to be followed by a vowel,
called the *inherent vowel*. Exactly which vowel this is depends on the
language, though it is often "short a". To indicate the use of a
different vowel, a "vowel sign" is placed above, below, before, or after
the consonant (sometimes in multiple parts in different places), which
overrides the inherent vowel. A mark called a virama is used when there is no
vowel at all. The Ethiopic script, uniquely, writes its vowel marks
attached to the consonant.
Vowels not preceded by a consonant are expressed by independent vowel
letters. Sometimes these are derived from a "null consonant" with a
vowel sign, but often by unique letterforms.
One or more vowel-less consonants followed by an ordinary consonant
are often written either as a ligature, or with the vowel-less consonants
in a reduced ("half") form with no virama mark. Uniquely in Tibetan script,
they are stacked below the main consonant, often many letters deep.
Abugidas include the Ethiopic script on the one hand, and the many
Indic and Indic-derived scripts (Myanmar, Thai, Lao, various Philippine
scripts, various Indonesian scripts) on the other. All of them
except the extinct Kharosthi script are written left-to-right.
Because of the loss of consonant distinctions in Thai/Lao and their
replacement by tones, these scripts divide their tones into tone groups;
the particular consonant used encodes not only the (phonological)
consonant, but also the tone group. A tone mark then selects the specific
tone within the group.
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