'Phags-pa

ʼPhags-pa
Yang Wengshe 1314.jpg
Christian tombstone from Quanzhou dated 1314, with inscription in the ʼPhags-pa script ꞏung shė yang shi mu taw 'tomb memorial of Yang Wengshe'
Script type
CreatorDrogön Chögyal Phagpa
Time period
1269 – c. 1360
Directiontop-to-bottom Edit this on Wikidata
Languages
Related scripts
Parent systems
Child systems
Horizontal square script
Sister systems
Lepcha, Meitei. Marchen
ISO 15924
ISO 15924Phag, 331 Edit this on Wikidata, ​Phags-pa
Unicode
Unicode alias
Phags-pa
U+A840–U+A87F
[a] The Semitic origin of the Brahmic scripts is not universally agreed upon.
 This article contains phonetic transcriptions in the International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA). For an introductory guide on IPA symbols, see Help:IPA. For the distinction between [ ], / / and ⟨ ⟩, see IPA § Brackets and transcription delimiters.

The ʼPhags-pa script is an alphabet designed by the Tibetan monk and State Preceptor (later Imperial Preceptor) Drogön Chögyal Phagpa for Kublai Khan, the founder of the Yuan dynasty, as a unified script for the written languages within the Yuan. The actual use of this script was limited to about a hundred years during the Mongol-led Yuan dynasty, and it fell out of use with the advent of the Ming dynasty.[citation needed]

It was used to write and transcribe varieties of Chinese, the Tibetic languages, Mongolian, the Uyghur language, Sanskrit, Persian,[1][2] and other neighboring languages during the Yuan era.[3][4] For historical linguists, the documentation of its use provides clues about the changes in these languages.

Its descendant systems include Horizontal square script, used to write Tibetan and Sanskrit. There is a theory that the Korean Hangul alphabet had very limited influence from ʼPhags-pa (see Origin of Hangul). During the Pax Mongolica the script has even made numerous appearances in western medieval art.

Nomenclature[]

ʼPhags-pa script: ꡏꡡꡃ ꡣꡡꡙ ꡐꡜꡞ mongxol tshi, "Mongolian script";

Mongolian: дөрвөлжин үсэг dörvöljin üseg, "square script";

Tibetan: ཧོར་ཡིག་གསར་པ་, Wylie: hor yig gsar ba "new Mongolian script";

Yuan dynasty Chinese: 蒙古新字; pinyin: měnggǔ xīnzì "new Mongolian script";

Modern Chinese: 八思巴文; pinyin: bāsībā wén "ʼPhags-pa script"

History[]

During the Mongol Empire, the Mongols wanted a universal script to write down the languages of the people they subjugated. The Uyghur-based Mongolian alphabet is not a perfect fit for the Middle Mongol language, and it would be impractical to extend it to a language with a very different phonology like Chinese.[citation needed] Therefore, during the Yuan dynasty (c. 1269), Kublai Khan asked the Tibetan monk ʼPhags-pa to design a new alphabet for use by the whole empire. ʼPhags-pa extended his native Tibetan alphabet[2] to encompass Mongol and Chinese, evidently Central Plains Mandarin.[5] The resulting 38 letters have been known by several descriptive names, such as "square script" based on their shape, but today are primarily known as the ʼPhags-pa alphabet.[citation needed]

Descending from Tibetan script it is part of the Brahmic family of scripts, which includes Devanagari and scripts used throughout Southeast Asia and Central Asia.[2] It is unique among Brahmic scripts in that it is written top bottom,[2] like how Chinese used to be written; and like the Manchu alphabet or later Mongolian alphabet.

Despite its origin, the script was written vertically (top to bottom) like the previous Mongolian scripts. It did not receive wide acceptance and was not a popular script even among the elite Mongols themselves, although it was used as an official script of the Yuan dynasty until the early 1350s[6] when the Red Turban Rebellion started. After this it was mainly used as a phonetic gloss for Mongols learning Chinese characters. It was also used as one of the scripts on Tibetan currency in the twentieth century, as script for Tibetan seal inscriptions from the Middle Ages up to the 20th century and for inscriptions on the entrance doors of Tibetan monasteries.[citation needed]

Syllable formation[]

Although it is an alphabet, phagspa is written like a syllabary or abugida, with letters forming a single syllable glued or 'ligated' together.[2]

An imperial edict in ʼPhags-pa
The ʼPhags-pa script, with consonants arranged according to Chinese phonology. At the far left are vowels and medial consonants.

Top: Approximate values in Middle Chinese. (Values in parentheses were not used for Chinese.)
Second: Standard letter forms.
Third: Seal script forms. (A few letters, marked by hyphens, are not distinct from the preceding letter.)

Bottom: The "Tibetan" forms. (Several letters have alternate forms, separated here by a • bullet.)

Unlike the ancestral Tibetan script, all ʼPhags-pa letters are written in temporal order (that is, /CV/ is written in the order C–V for all vowels) and in-line (that is, the vowels are not diacritics). However, vowel letters retain distinct initial forms, and short /a/ is not written except initially, making ʼPhags-pa transitional between an abugida, a syllabary, and a full alphabet. The letters of a ʼPhags-pa syllable are linked together so that they form syllabic blocks.[2]

Typographic forms[]

ʼPhags-pa was written in a variety of graphic forms. The standard form (top, at right) was blocky, but a "Tibetan" form (bottom) was even more so, consisting almost entirely of straight orthogonal lines and right angles. A "seal script" form (Chinese 蒙古篆字 měnggǔ zhuànzì "Mongolian Seal Script"), used for imperial seals and the like, was more elaborate, with squared sinusoidal lines and spirals.[citation needed]

Korean records state that hangul was based on an "Old Seal Script" (古篆字), which may be ʼPhags-pa and a reference to its Chinese name 蒙古篆字 měnggǔ zhuànzì (see origin of hangul). However, it is the simpler standard form of ʼPhags-pa that is the closer graphic match to hangul.

Letters[]

Basic Letters[]

The following 41 are the basic ʼPhags-pa letters.

Letters 1-30 and 35-38 are base consonants. The order of Letters 1-30 is the same as the traditional order of the thirty basic letters of the Tibetan script, to which they correspond. Letters 35-38 represent sounds that do not occur in Tibetan, and are either derived from an existing Tibetan base consonant (e.g. Letters 2 and 35 are both derived from the simple Tibetan letter KHA, but are graphically distinct from each other) or from a combination of an existing Tibetan base consonant and the semi-vowel (subjoined) letter WA (e.g. Letter 36 is derived from the complex Tibetan letter KHWA).

As is the case with Tibetan, these letters have an inherant [a] vowel sound attached to them in non-final positions when no other vowel sign is present (e.g. the letter KA with no attached vowel represents the syllable ka, but with an appended vowel i represents the syllable ki).

Letters 31-34 and 39 are vowels. Letters 31-34 follow the traditional order of the corresponding Tibetan vowels. Letter 39 represents a vowel quality that does not occur in Tibetan, and may be derived from the Tibetan double-E vowel sign.

Unlike Tibetan, in which vowels signs may not occur in isolation but must always be attached to a base consonant to form a valid syllable, in the ʼPhags-pa script initial vowels other than a may occur without a base consonant when they are not the first element in a diphthong (e.g. ue) or a digraph (e.g. eeu and eeo). Thus in Chinese ʼPhags-pa texts the syllables u 吾 wú, on 刓 wán and o 訛 é occur, and in Mongolian ʼPhags-pa texts the words ong qo chas "boats", u su nu (gen.) "water", e du -ee "now" and i hee -een "protection" occur. These are all examples of where 'o, 'u, 'e, 'i etc. would be expected if the Tibetan model had been followed exactly. An exception to this rule is the Mongolian word 'er di nis "jewels", where a single vowel sign is attached to a null base consonant. Note that the letter EE is never found in an initial position in any language written in the ʼPhags-pa script (for example, in Tao Zongyi's description of the Old Uighur script, he glosses all instances of Uighur e with the ʼPhags-pa letter EE, except for when it is found in the initial position, when he glosses it with the ʼPhags-pa letter E instead).

However, initial semi-vowels, diphthongs and digraphs must be attached to the null base consonant 'A (Letter 30). So in Chinese ʼPhags-pa texts the syllables 'wen 元 yuán, 'ue 危 wēi and 'eeu 魚 yú occur; and in Mongolian ʼPhags-pa texts the words 'eeu lu "not" and 'eeog bee.e "gave" occur. As there is no sign for the vowel a, which is implicit in an initial base consonant with no attached vowel sign, then words that start with an a vowel must also use the null base consonant letter 'A (e.g. Mongolian 'a mi than "living beings"). In Chinese, and rarely Mongolian, another null base consonant -A (Letter 23) may be found before initial vowels (see "Letter 23" below).

No. ʼPhags-pa
letter
Derivation Letter Name Transcription Mongolian Examples Chinese Examples
1 TIBETAN LETTER KA ཀ [U+0F40] KA k Only used for words of foreign origin, such as kal bu dun (gen. pl.) from Sanskrit kalpa "aeon" [cf. Mongolian galab ᠭᠠᠯᠠᠪ], with the single exception of the common Mongolian word ye kee "large, great" [cf. Mongolian yeke ᠶᠡᠬᠡ] kiw 裘 qiú

kue 夔 kuí

2 TIBETAN LETTER KHA ཁ [U+0F41] KHA kh kheen "who" [cf. Mongolian ken ᠬᠡᠨ] khang 康 kāng

kheeu 屈 qū

3 TIBETAN LETTER GA ག [U+0F42] GA g bi chig "written document, book" [cf. Mongolian bičig ᠪᠢᠴᠢᠭ] ging 荊 jīng

gu 古 gǔ

4 TIBETAN LETTER NGA ང [U+0F44] NGA ng deng ri "heaven" [cf. Mongolian tengri ᠲᠡᠩᠷᠢ] ngiw 牛 niú

ngem 嚴 yán ding 丁 dīng

5 TIBETAN LETTER CA ཅ [U+0F45] CA c cay 柴 chái

ci 池 chí

6 TIBETAN LETTER CHA ཆ [U+0F46] CHA ch cha q-an "white" [cf. Mongolian čaɣan ᠴᠠᠭᠠᠨ] chang 昌 chāng

cheeu 褚 chǔ

7 TIBETAN LETTER JA ཇ [U+0F47] JA j jil "year" [cf. Mongolian ǰil ᠵᠢᠯ] jim 針 zhēn
8 TIBETAN LETTER NYA ཉ [U+0F49] NYA ny nyiw 鈕 niǔ
9 TIBETAN LETTER TA ཏ [U+0F4F] TA t Mostly used in words of foreign origin, such as 'er ti nis (also 'er di nis) "jewels" [cf. Mongolian erdenis ᠡᠷᠳᠡᠨᠢᠰ] and ta layi "sea, ocean" [cf. Mongolian dalai ᠳᠠᠯᠠᠢ] ten 田 tián

tung 童 tóng

10 TIBETAN LETTER THA ཐ [U+0F50] THA th thu thum "each, all" [cf. Mongolian tutum ᠲᠤᠲᠤᠮ] thang 湯 tāng

thung 通 tōng

11 TIBETAN LETTER DA ད [U+0F51] DA d u ri da nu (gen.) "former, previous" [cf. Mongolian urida ᠤᠷᠢᠳᠠ] dung 東 dōng

du 都 dū

12 TIBETAN LETTER NA ན [U+0F53] NA n ma nu "our" [cf. Mongolian manu ᠮᠠᠨᠤ] nee 聶 niè

nung 農 nóng gon 管 guǎn

13 TIBETAN LETTER PA པ [U+0F54] PA p Only used in words of foreign origin, such as pur xan "Buddha" [cf. Mongolian burqan ᠪᠤᠷᠬᠠᠨ] pang 龐 páng

pay 白 bái

14 TIBETAN LETTER PHA ཕ [U+0F55] PHA ph phon 潘 pān

phu 浦 pǔ

15 TIBETAN LETTER BA བ [U+0F56] BA b ba sa "then, still, also" [cf. Mongolian basa ᠪᠠᠰᠠ] ban 班 bān

been 邊 biān

16 TIBETAN LETTER MA མ [U+0F58] MA m 'a mi than "living beings" [cf. Mongolian amitan ᠠᠮᠢᠲᠠᠨ] min 閔 mǐn

mew 苗 miáo gim 金 jīn

17 TIBETAN LETTER TSA ཙ [U+0F59] TSA ts tsaw 曹 cáo

tsin 秦 qín

18 TIBETAN LETTER TSHA ཚ [U+0F5A] TSHA tsh Only used in words of foreign origin, such as sha tshin "religion" tshay 蔡 cài

tshiw 秋 qiū

19 TIBETAN LETTER DZA ཛ [U+0F5B] DZA dz dzam 昝 zǎn

dzew 焦 jiāo

20 TIBETAN LETTER WA ཝ [U+0F5D] WA w Only used in words of foreign origin, such as wa chi ra ba ni "Vajrapāṇi" wan 萬 wàn

wu 武 wǔ xiw 侯 hóu gaw 高 gāo

21 TIBETAN LETTER ZHA ཞ [U+0F5E] ZHA zh zheeu 茹 rú

zhew 饒 ráo

22 TIBETAN LETTER ZA ཟ [U+0F5F] ZA z Only found in the single word za ra "month" [cf. Mongolian sara ᠰᠠᠷᠠ] zeeu 徐 xú

zi 席 xí

23 TIBETAN LETTER -A འ [U+0F60] -A - This letter is found rarely initially, e.g. -ir gee nee (dat./loc.) "people" [cf. Mongolian irgen ᠢᠷᠭᠡᠨ], but frequently medially between vowels where it serves to separate a syllable that starts with a vowel from a preceding syllable that ends in a vowel, e.g. er khee -ud "Christians" and q-an "emperor, khan" [cf. Mongolian qaɣan ᠬᠠᠭᠠᠨ] (where q-an is a contraction for the hypothetical qa -an) -an 安 ān

-ing 應 yīng -eeu 郁 yù

24 TIBETAN LETTER YA ཡ [U+0F61] YA y na yan "eighty" [cf. Mongolian nayan ᠨᠠᠶᠠᠨ] yi 伊 yī

yang 羊 yáng day 戴 dài hyay 解 xiè

25 TIBETAN LETTER RA ར [U+0F62] RA r chee rig "army" [cf. Mongolian čerig ᠴᠡᠷᠢᠭ]
26 TIBETAN LETTER LA ལ [U+0F63] LA l al ba "tax, tribute" [cf. Mongolian alba ᠠᠯᠪᠠ] leeu 呂 lǚ

lim 林 lín

27 TIBETAN LETTER SHA ཤ [U+0F64] SHA sh shi nee "new" [cf. Mongolian šine ᠱᠢᠨᠡ] shi 石 shí

shwang 雙 shuāng

28 TIBETAN LETTER SA ས [U+0F66] SA s hee chus "end, goal" [cf. Mongolian ečüs ᠡᠴᠦᠰ] su 蘇 sū

syang 相 xiàng

29 TIBETAN LETTER HA ཧ [U+0F67] HA h Initially in words that now have null initials, such as har ban "ten" [cf. Mongolian arban ᠠᠷᠪᠠᠨ], and medially only in the single word -i hee -een (or -i h-een) "protector, guardian" hwa 花 huā

sh.hi 史 shǐ l.hing 冷 lěng j.hang 莊 zhuāng

30 TIBETAN LETTER A ཨ [U+0F68] 'A ' 'eeu lu "not" [cf. Mongolian ülü ᠦᠯᠦ] 'wang 王 wáng

'eeu 虞 yú

31 TIBETAN VOWEL SIGN I ི [U+0F72] I i -i hee -een (or -i h-een) "protection" li 李 lǐ

n.hing 能 néng heei 奚 xī

32 TIBETAN VOWEL SIGN U ུ [U+0F74] U u u su nu (gen.) "water" [cf. Mongolian usun ᠤᠰᠤᠨ] u 吳 wú

mue 梅 méi

33 TIBETAN VOWEL SIGN E ེ [U+0F7A] E e e du -ee "now" [cf. Mongolian edüge ᠡᠳᠦᠭᠡ] ze 謝 xiè

jem 詹 zhān gue 國 guó

34 TIBETAN VOWEL SIGN O ོ [U+0F7C] O o ong qo chas "boats" [cf. Mongolian ongɣočas ᠣᠩᠭᠣᠴᠠᠰ] no 那 nā

mon 滿 mǎn

35 TIBETAN LETTER KHA ཁ [U+0F41] QA q qa muq "all" [cf. Mongolian qamuɣ ᠬᠠᠮᠤᠭ]
36 TIBETAN LETTER KHA [U+0F41] plus TIBETAN SUBJOINED LETTER WA [U+0FAD] ཁྭ XA x Only used in words of foreign origin, such as pur xan "Buddha" [cf. Mongolian burqan ᠪᠤᠷᠬᠠᠨ] xu 胡 hú

xong 黃 huáng

37 TIBETAN LETTER HA [U+0F67] plus TIBETAN SUBJOINED LETTER WA [U+0FAD] ཧྭ FA f fang 方 fāng

fi 費 fèi

38 TIBETAN LETTER GA ག [U+0F42] GGA
39 TIBETAN VOWEL SIGN EE ཻ [U+0F7B] EE ee el deeb "various" [cf. Mongolian eldeb ᠡᠯᠳᠡᠪ] (Poppe reads this word as eel deeb, as the only example of an initial letter EE, but I think that it is clear from the rubbing of the inscription that the initial letter is a slightly deformeed letter E) chee 車 chē

seeu 胥 xū geeing 經 jīng

40 TIBETAN SUBJOINED LETTER WA ྭ [U+0FAD] SUBJOINED WA w xway 懷 huái

jwaw 卓 zhuō gwang 廣 guǎng

41 TIBETAN SUBJOINED LETTER YA ྱ [U+0FB1] SUBJOINED YA y hya 夏 xià

gya 家 jiā dzyang 蔣 jiǎng

Additional Letters[]

No. ʼPhags-pa
letter
Derivation Letter Name Transcription Sanskrit or Tibetan Examples
42 TIBETAN LETTER TTA ཊ [U+0F4A] TTA tt sha tt-a pa ... i ta (Sanskrit ṣaṭ pāramitā) [Ill.3 Line 6]
43 TIBETAN LETTER TTHA ཋ [U+0F4B] TTHA tth pra tish tthi te (Sanskrit pratiṣṭhite) [Ill.3 Line 8] (TTHA plus unreversed I)

dhish tthi te (Sanskrit dhiṣṭhite) [Tathāgatahṛdaya-dhāraṇī Line 16] (TTHA plus reversed I) nish tthe (Sanskrit niṣṭhe) [Tathāgatahṛdaya-dhāraṇī Line 10] (TTHA plus reversed E)

44 TIBETAN LETTER DDA ཌ [U+0F4C] DDA dd dann dde (Sanskrit daṇḍaya) [Tathāgatahṛdaya-dhāraṇī Line 14]

'-a kad ddha ya (Sanskrit ākaḍḍhaya) [Ill.4 Line 7] (DDA plus reversed HA)

45 TIBETAN LETTER NNA ཎ [U+0F4E] NNA nn sb-a ra nna (Sanskrit spharaṇa) [Ill.3 Line 3]

ush nni ... (Sanskrit uṣṇīṣa) [Ill.3 Line 6] (NNA plus reversed I) kshu nnu (Sanskrit kṣuṇu) [Tathāgatahṛdaya-dhāraṇī Line 2] (NNA plus reversed U)

ha ra nne (Sanskrit haraṇe) [Ill.4 Line 5] (NNA plus reversed E) pu nn.ya (Sanskrit puṇya) [Tathāgatahṛdaya-dhāraṇī Line 13] (NNA plus reversed subjoined Y)

46 TIBETAN SUBJOINED LETTER RA ྲ [U+0FB2] Subjoined RA r bh-ru^ (Sanskrit bhrūṁ) [Ill.3 Line 2]

mu dre (Sanskrit mudre) [Ill.3 Line 9] ba dzra (Sanskrit vajra) [Ill.3 Line 9]

bkra shis (Tibetan bkra-shis "prosperity, good fortune") [Ill.5]

47 TIBETAN LETTER RA ར [U+0F62] Superfixed RA sangs rgyas (Tibetan sangs-rgyas "Buddha") [Ill.6]
48 TIBETAN SIGN SNA LDAN ྃ [U+0F83]

DEVANAGARI SIGN CANDRABINDU [U+0901]

Candrabindu ^ o^ bh-ru^ bh-ru^ (Sanskrit oṁ bhrūṁ bhrūṁ) [Ill.3 Line 2]

sa^ ha ... (Sanskrit saṁhatana) [Ill.3 Line 9]

Menggu Ziyun[]

Following are the initials of the ʼPhags-pa script as presented in Menggu Ziyun. They are ordered according to the Chinese philological tradition of the 36 initials.[citation needed]

36 initials in 蒙古字韵 Menggu Ziyun
No. Name Phonetic
value
ʼPhags-pa
letter
ʼPhags-pa
Initial
Notes
1 jiàn *[k] g-
2 *[kʰ] kh-
3 qún *[ɡ] k-
4 *[ŋ] ng-
5 duān *[t] d-
6 tòu *[tʰ] th-
7 dìng *[d] t-
8 *[n] n-
9 zhī *[ʈ] j-
10 chè *[ʈʰ] ch-
11 chéng *[ɖ] c-
12 niáng *[ɳ] ny-
13 bāng *[p] b-
14 pāng *[pʰ] ph-
15 bìng *[b] p-
16 míng *[m] m-
17 fēi *[p̪] f- Normal form of the letter fa
18 *[p̪ʰ] f¹- Variant form of the letter fa
19 fèng *[b̪] f- Normal form of the letter fa
20 wēi *[ɱ] w- Letter wa represents [v]
21 jīng *[ts] dz-
22 qīng *[tsʰ] tsh-
23 cóng *[dz] ts-
24 xīn *[s] s-
25 xié *[z] z-
26 zhào *[tɕ] j-
27 穿 chuān *[tɕʰ] ch-
28 chuáng *[dʑ] c-
29 shěn *[ɕ] sh¹- Variant form of the letter sha
30 chán *[ʑ] sh- Normal form of the letter sha
31 xiǎo *[x] h- Normal form of the letter ha
32 xiá *[ɣ] x-
h¹- Variant form of the letter ha
33 yǐng *[ʔ] ʼ- glottal stop
y- Normal form of the letter ya
34 *[j] - null initial
y¹- Variant form of the letter ya
35 lái *[l] l-
36 *[ɲ] zh-

Unicode[]

ʼPhags-pa script was added to the Unicode Standard in July 2006 with the release of version 5.0.

The Unicode block for ʼPhags-pa is U+A840–U+A877:[citation needed]

Phags-pa[1][2]
Official Unicode Consortium code chart (PDF)
  0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 A B C D E F
U+A84x
U+A85x
U+A86x
U+A87x
Notes
1.^ As of Unicode version 13.0
2.^ Grey areas indicate non-assigned code points

U+A856 PHAGS-PA LETTER SMALL A is transliterated using U+A78F LATIN LETTER SINOLOGICAL DOT from the Latin Extended-D Unicode block.[7]

See also[]

References[]

  1. ^ "CHINESE-IRANIAN RELATIONS viii. Persian Lang. – Encyclopaedia Iranica". www.iranicaonline.org. Retrieved 2019-06-28.
  2. ^ a b c d e f "BabelStone : ʼPhags-pa Script : Description". www.babelstone.co.uk. Retrieved 2019-06-28.
  3. ^ Theobald, Ulrich. "The ʼPhags-pa Script (www.chinaknowledge.de)". www.chinaknowledge.de. Retrieved 2019-06-28.
  4. ^ "BabelStone : Phags-pa Script : Overview". www.babelstone.co.uk. Retrieved 2019-06-28.
  5. ^ Coblin, W. South (2002). "Reflections on the Study of Post-Medieval Chinese Historical Phonology". In 何大安 (ed.). 第三屆國際漢學會議論文集: 語言組. 南北是非 : 漢語方言的差異與變化 [Papers from the Third International Conference on Sinology, Linguistics Section. Dialect Variations in Chinese]. Taipei: Institute of Linguistics, Academia Sinica. pp. 23–50. ISBN 978-957-671-936-3. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2013-05-16. Retrieved 21 October 2011. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link) p. 31.
  6. ^ Strange Names of God: The Missionary Translation of the Divine Name and the Chinese Responses to Matteo Ricci's "Shangti" in Late Ming China, 1583-1644, by Sangkeun Kim, p139
  7. ^ West, Andrew (2009-04-04). "L2/09-031R: Proposal to encode a Middle Dot letter for Phags-pa transliteration" (PDF).

Further reading[]

External links[]