Related Scripts

Quick Facts
TypeSyllabic Alphabetic
LocationSoutheast Asia > The Philipines
Time14th century CE to Present
DirectionLeft to Right/Bottom to Top

The island of Mindoro in the Philipine archipelago is home to the Mangyans, an umbrella term of a number of indigenous tribes loosely related by language, culture, and religion. Unlike other native people in the Philipines that have abandoned their native scripts for the Roman alphabet after Spanish colonization, the Mangyan tribes such as the Buhid and Hanunóo have maintained their ancient script.

The Mangyan script is a distant descendent of the Brahmi script through the Kawi of Indonesia. As such, every letter is in fact a syllabic sign carrying the default vowel of /a/. To represent another vowel other than /a/, diacritical marks called kulit are used. The kulit to denote the vowel /i/ is usually a horizontal line above the letter, and the kulit for /u/ is often a line under or to the lower right of the letter, although sometimes the mark joins the letter itself and changes the overall look of the combination.

One interesting trait of Mangyan is the difference between writing and reading. While it is written from left to right, during reading the text is rotated 90 degrees counterclockwise so that it is read from bottom to top.

The following table is the Mangyan syllabic alphabet, as used for writing (as opposed to reading). There is no documented order of letters for Mangyan (like the order of the English alphabet), so I have arranged the letters in the traditional Indian order.

While it is possible to have consonants at the end of a syllable in Mangyan languages, the Mangyan script does not represent them at all. These syllable-ending consonants are simply left unwritten. Similarly, the semivowels forming part of a diphthong are also omitted from writing. There is also no separation or marker between words, making the text appears like one continuous block of letters. These factors cause occasional ambiguity in the reading of words, and the reader must rely on context to clarify what is written.

The Mangyan script is primarily used for recreation and personal correspondences, especially in the form of poetry and love songs. Literacy is actually quite high even among the youth, thus there is no danger of the Mangyan script dying out in the immediate future.

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