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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. -- Even a refrigerator can conform to the XML John Cowan Infoset, as long as it has a door sticker saying "No information items inside". --Eve Maler


bnathyuw <bnathyuw@...>
daniel andreasson <danielandreasson@...>