Soyombo script

Soyombo script

Infobox Writing system
name = Soyombo
type = Abugida
typedesc =
time = 17th century–18th century
languages = Mongolian, Tibetan, Sanskrit
fam1=Egyptian hieroglyphs
fam3=Proto-Canaanite alphabet [a]
fam4=Phoenician alphabet [a]
fam5=Aramaic alphabet [a]
footnotes= [a] The Semitic origin of the Brahmic scripts is not universally agreed upon.
creator = Bogdo Zanabazar, 1686
The Soyombo script (Mongolian _mn. Соёмбо бичиг, "soyombo bichig") is an abugida developed by the Mongolian monk and scholar Bogdo Zanabazar in 1686 to write Mongolian.It can also be used to write Tibetan and Sanskrit.

A special character of the script, the "Soyombo", became a national symbol of Mongolia, and has appeared on the national flag since 1921, and on the national coat of arms since 1992, as well as money, stamps, etc.


The Soyombo script was created as the fourth Mongolian script, only 38 years after the invention of the Clear script.

A legend talks about Zanabazar seeing letter-like signs in the sky one night, which he turned into his new script.The name of the script alludes to this story. It is derived from the Sanskrit word "Svayambhu", meaning "created out of itself".

The syllabic system in fact appears to be based on Devanagari script, while the base shape of the letters is derived from the Nepalese Lantsa script ("rajana").Details of individual characters resemble traditional Mongolian script and the Orkhon script. It is unclear whether Zanabazar designed the Soyombo symbol himself, or if it had existed beforehand.


The eastern Mongols used the script primarily as a ceremonial and decorative script. Zanabazar had created it for the translation of Buddhist texts from Sanskrit or Tibetan, and both he and his students used it extensively for that purpose.

As it was much too complicated to be adopted as an everyday script, its use is practically nonexistent today. Aside from historical texts, it can usually be found in temple inscriptions. It also has some relevance to linguistic research, because it reflects certain developments in the Mongolian language, such as that of long vowels.

The Soyombo

The Mongols give the elements in the "Soyombo" symbol the following significance (from top):
* Fire is a general symbol of wealth and success. The three tongues of the flame represent the past, present, and future.
* Sun and moon are old symbols of Tengriism for father sky, and thus for the origin of the Mongolian people.
* The two triangles allude to the point of an arrow or spear. They point downward to announce the defeat of interior and exterior enemies.
* The two horizontal rectangles give stability to the round shape. The rectangular shape represents the honesty and justice of the people of Mongolia, whether they stand at the top or at the bottom of society.
* The two fish are the equivalent of the Chinese "yin-yang" symbol, which illustrates the mutual complement of man and woman. In socialist times, they were alternatively interpreted as a symbol of vigilance, because fish never close their eyes.
* The two vertical rectangles can be interpreted as the walls of a fort. They represent unity and strength, based on a Mongolian proverb: "The friendship of two is stronger than stone walls."


The Soyombo script was the first Mongolian script to be written horizontally from left to right, in contrast to earlier scripts that had been written vertically. As in the Tibetan and Devanagari scripts, the signs are suspended below a horizontal line, giving each line of text a visible "backbone".

The two variations of the "Soyombo" are used as special characters to mark the start and end of a text. Two of its elements (the upper triangle and the right vertical bar) form the angular base frame for the other characters.

Within this frame, the syllables are composed of one to three elements. The first consonant is placed high within the angle.The vowel is given by a mark above the frame, except for u and ü which are marked in the low center.A second consonant is specified by a small mark, appended to the inside of the vertical bar, pushing any u or ü mark to the left side.A short oblique hook at the bottom of the vertical bar marks a long vowel.There is also a curved or jagged mark to the right of the vertical bar for the two diphthongs.


The first character of the alphabet represents a syllable starting with a short "a". Syllables starting with other vowels are constructed by adding a vowel mark to the same base character. All remaining base characters represent syllables starting with a consonant. A starting consonant without a vowel mark implies a following "a".

In theory, 20 consonants and 14 vowels would result in almost 4000 combinations, but not all of those actually occur in Mongolian. There are additional base characters and marks for writing Tibetan or Sanskrit.

Apart from the "Soyombo", the only punctuation mark is a full stop, represented by a vertical bar. In inscriptions, words are often separated by a dot at the height of the upper triangle.


As of Unicode 5.0, the Soyombo script is not encoded. There is a proposal to include it in the range 11100-1113F of the Supplementary Multilingual Plane.

See also

* Mongolian writing systems
* Mongolian script
* Clear script

External links

* [ Soyombo script] - Omniglot
* [ Soyombo fonts] (TeX/Metafont)
* [ Soyombo fonts] (TTF)

Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Soyombo Linux — The Soyombo project, based in the Mongolian Republic, aims to create a Mongolian language distribution of Linux with full support for writing Mongolian both in Cyrillic and in traditional scripts for Mongolian, including Soyombo script, Clear… …   Wikipedia

  • Écriture soyombo — Alphabet mongol traditionnel Le Soyombo, symbole dérivé de l écriture mongole traditionnelle. Caractéristiques Type Alphabet Langue(s) …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Clear script — Oirat alphabet Type Alphabet Language …   Wikipedia

  • ’Phagspa script — Infobox Writing system name=’Phagspa type=Abugida time=1269 ndash;c. 1360 languages=Chinese Mongolian Sanskrit Tibetan Uyghur fam1=Egyptian hieroglyphs fam2=Proto Sinaitic fam3=Proto Canaanite alphabet fam4=Phoenician alphabet fam5=Aramaic… …   Wikipedia

  • 'Phags-pa script — Phags pa ꡖꡍꡂꡛ ꡌ Christian tombsto …   Wikipedia

  • Kawi script — Kawi The Laguna Copperplate Inscription, a text in Kawi script from the Philippines, 900 CE …   Wikipedia

  • Mongolian script — For the traditional alphabet used specifically to write Mongolian, see traditional Mongolian alphabet. Mongolian …   Wikipedia

  • Ranjana script — Infobox Writing system name=Ranjana type=Abugida languages=Nepal Bhasa Sanskrit Tibetan time=c. 1100 ndash;present region=Nepal and India fam1=Proto Canaanite alphabet [a] fam2=Phoenician alphabet [a] fam3=Aramaic alphabet [a] footnotes= [a] The… …   Wikipedia

  • Nüshu script — Nüshu Nüshu written in Nüshu (right to left). Type syllabary …   Wikipedia

  • Runic script — Rune redirects here. For other uses, see Rune (disambiguation). Runic Type Alphabet Languages Germanic languages Time period …   Wikipedia

Share the article and excerpts

Direct link
Do a right-click on the link above
and select “Copy Link”

We are using cookies for the best presentation of our site. Continuing to use this site, you agree with this.