Manchu alphabet

Manchu alphabet
Manchu script
Alphabet mandchou (Encyclopédie).jpg
Type Alphabet
Languages Manchu language
Xibe language
Parent systems
Note: This page may contain IPA phonetic symbols.
Chinese (left) and Manchu (right) writing in the Forbidden City
The word “Manju” (Manchu) written in Manchu script.

The Manchu alphabet was used for recording the now near-extinct Manchu language; a similar script is used today by the Xibe people, who speak a language descended from Manchu. It is written vertically from top to bottom, with columns proceeding from left to right.



According to the Veritable Records (Manchu: Manju-1.png manju-i yargiyan kooli; Chinese: 滿洲實錄; pinyin: Mǎnzhōu Shílù), in 1599 the Manchu leader Nurhaci decided to convert the Mongolian alphabet to make it suitable for the Manchu people. He decried the fact that while illiterate Han Chinese and Mongolians could understand their respective languages when read aloud, that was not the case for the Manchus, whose documents were recorded by Mongolian scribes. Overriding the objections of two advisors named Erdeni and G'ag'ai, he is credited with adapting the Mongolian script to Manchu. The resulting script was known as tongki fuka akū hergen ("script without dots and circles").

In 1632, Dahai added diacritical marks to clear up a lot of the ambiguity present in the original Mongolian script; for instance, a leading k, g, and h are distinguished by the placement of no diacritical mark, a dot, and a circle respectively. This revision created the Standard script, known as tongki fuka sindaha hergen ("script with dots and circles"). As a result, the Manchu alphabet contains little ambiguity. Recently discovered manuscripts from the 1620s make clear, however, that the addition of dots and circles to Manchu script began before their supposed introduction by Dahai.

Dahai also added ten graphemes (tulergi hergen: "foreign (outer) letters"), to allow Manchu to be used to write Chinese and Sanskrit loanwords. Previously, these words contained sounds that did not have corresponding letters in Manchu. [1] Sounds that were transliterated included the aspirated sounds kh, gh, hh; ts' (Chinese pinyin: c); ts (Chinese pinyin: ci); sy (Chinese pinyin: si); dz (Chinese pinyin: z); c'y (Chinese pinyin: chi); jy (Chinese pinyin: zhi); and ž (Chinese pinyin: r). [2]

By the middle of the nineteenth century, there were three styles of writing Manchu in use: standard script (ginggulere hergen), semicursive script (gidara hergen), and cursive script (lasihire hergen). Semicursive script had less spacing between the letters, and cursive script had rounded tails. [3]


Characters Transliteration Unicode Notes
isolated initial medial final
Vowels [4]
ᠠ᠊ ᠊ᠠ᠊ ᠊ᠠ a 1820
ᡝ᠊ ᠊ᡝ᠊ ᠊ᡝ e 185D Second final form is used after [k] [g] [x] kh gh hh [5]
(Mongol a tail 2.jpg)
ᡳ᠊ ᠊ᡳ᠊ ᠊ᡳ i 1873
᠊ᡳ᠍᠊ ᠊ᡳ᠋
ᠣ᠊ ᠊ᠣ᠊ ᠊ᠣ o 1823
ᡠ᠊ ᠊ᡠ᠊ ᠊ᡠ u 1860
ᡡ᠊ ᠊ᡡ᠊ ᠊ᡡ ū/uu/v
(Mongol y1 head.jpg) ᠊ᡟ᠊ ᠊ᡟ y/y/i' 185F
Consonants [6]
Mongol n head.jpg Mongol n middle.jpg Mongol a tail 1.jpg ??? n 1828 First medial form is used before vowels; second is used before consonants
Mongol a middle 2.jpg
Mongol ngt tail.jpg ng 1829 First medial form is used before i o u ū; second is used before e i
Mongol q head.jpg Mongol q middle.jpg Mongol ga tail3.jpg k [q] 1874 First medial form is used before a o ū; second is used before consonants
Mongol ga middle.jpg
Mongol k head.jpg Mongol k middle.jpg Mongol g tail.jpg k [k] 1874
Mongol q middle.jpg g [ɢ] 1864
g [g] 1864
h [χ] 1865
h [x] 1865
Mongol b head.jpg Mongol mbm middle.jpg Mongol b tail.jpg b 182A
p 1866
Mongol s head.jpg Mongol s middle.jpg Mongol s tail.jpg s 1867
š 1867
Mongol t head2.jpg Mongol t middle.jpg Mongol t tail.jpg t 1868 First initial and medial forms are used before a o i;

second initial and medial forms are used before e u ū;
third medial form is used before consonants

d 1869 First initial and medial forms are used before a o i;

second initial and medial forms are used before e u ū

Mongol l head.jpg Mongol l middle.jpg Mongol l tail.jpg l 182F
Mongol m head.jpg Mongol m middle.jpg Mongol m tail.jpg m 182E
Mongol ac.jpg Mongol ac.jpg c/ch/c 1834
Mongol j1 head.jpg Mongol j1 middle.jpg j/zh/j 1835
Mongol r1 middle.jpg Mongol r1 tail.jpg r 1875
f 1875 First initial and medial forms are used before a e;

second initial and medial forms are used before i o u ū

Mongol w head.jpg Mongol w middle.jpg
Mongol w head.jpg Mongol w middle.jpg v (w) 1838


The Manchu alphabet has two kinds of punctuation: two dots, analogous to a period; and one dot, analogous to a comma. However, with the exception of lists of nouns being reliably punctuated by single dots, punctuation in Manchu is inconsistent, and therefore not of much use as an aid to readability. [7]

The equivalent of the question mark in Manchu script consists of some special particles, written at the end of the question. [8]

Jurchen script

The Jurchens were the ancestors of the Manchus, and their language, the Jurchen language is ancestral to the Manchu language, and their script was derived from the Khitan script, which was in turn derived from Chinese.


Wikipedia written in Manchu WikipediaInManchu.png

See also

  • Transliterations of Manchu


  1. ^ Gorelova, L: "Manchu Grammar", page 50. Brill, 2002.
  2. ^ Gorelova, L: "Manchu Grammar", pages 71-72. Brill, 2002.
  3. ^ Gorelova, L: "Manchu Grammar", page 72. Brill, 2002.
  4. ^ Gorelova, L: "Manchu Grammar", page 59. Brill, 2002.
  5. ^ Gorelova, L: "Manchu Grammar", page 53. Brill, 2002.
  6. ^ Gorelova, L: "Manchu Grammar", page 70. Brill, 2002.
  7. ^ Li, G: "Manchu: A Textbook for Reading Documents", page 21. University of Hawai'i Press, 2000.
  8. ^ Gorelova, L: "Manchu Grammar", page 74. Brill, 2002.

External links

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