Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
The Mongolian language historically has four writing systems that have been used over the centuries.
Two writing systems based on simplified Chinese ideograms and Sinogram-typed alphabetic block (see Hangul), respectively, were used to write the Mongolic language of Khitan, and also to write the Tungusic Jurchen language in their modified forms. These two systems, called "Khitan/Jurchen big characters" and "Khitan/Jurchen small characters" fell into disuse when North China reverted to a homogenous Han Chinese culture.
During the Yuan Dynasty, the Kublai Khan asked Phagspa to design a new writing system to be used by the whole empire. Phagspa in turn modified the traditional Tibetan script and gave birth to a new set of characters called Phagspa characters. These characters did not receive wide acceptance and fell into disuse with the collapse of the Yuan dynasty in 1368. After this it became mainly a way for Mongolians to learn Chinese characters instead.
For the purpose of encoding in digital media, Phagspa characters are allocated a block of 56 characters from U+A840 to U+A87F, and they will be available in Unicode 4.1, scheduled to be published after April 2005.
Mongolian script proper
Intermediate between these is the Mongolian script proper, which was derived in the 12th-13th centuries from the Uyghur alphabet, a descendant of Sogdian alphabet that came from Syriac alphabet. Perhaps its two most notable features are that it is a vertical script, and that it is the only such script that is written from left to right. (All other vertical writing systems are written right to left.) In fact, the Uighurs changed the orientation of their script from horizontal to vertical to emulate the Chinese writing system. The visual effect is that of Syriac rotated 90 degrees counterclockwise. This alphabet is reasonably accurate with respect to the representation of consonants, but fails to distinguish several vowels. The situation is somewhat comparable to the various dialects of English, which must represent 10 or more vowels with only 5 letters.
Besides the Mongolian language, the Evenk language is written in this script.
The most recent Mongolian alphabet is a slightly modified Cyrillic script (the Russian alphabet plus 2 additional letters: Өө and Үү). This alphabet is a phonemic alphabet, meaning that there is a high level of consistency in the representation of individual sounds. It was introduced following the communist revolution in Mongolia, but is currently being phased out again in favor of the Mongolian alphabet proper, described above.
- Mongolian Alphabet
- SCA: Mongol Scripts
- Mongolian Alphabet
- GB18030 Support Package for Windows 2000/XP, including Chinese, Tibetan, Yi, Mongolian and Thai font by Microsoft
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