Updated 13 March, 2023
This page brings together basic information about the Limbu script and its use for the Limbu language. It aims to provide a brief, descriptive summary of the modern, printed orthography and typographic features, and to advise how to write Limbu using Unicode.
ᤁᤢᤎᤠ ᥇. ᤁᤧᤖᤧᤰ ᤕᤠᤵᤔᤡᤜᤠ᤹ ᤀᤡᤱᤎᤠᤱ ᤏᤢ ᤕᤢᤰᤖᤧ ᤏᤠ᤺ᤶᤓᤣᤀᤥ ᤛᤠᤘᤠ᤺ᤴᤏᤥᤏᤢᤀᤣ ᤆᤥ᤺ᤰᤕᤢᤶᤓᤥᤒᤠ ᤏᤢ ᤐᤧᤶᤒᤧᤶᤒᤠ ᤔᤧᤘᤠ᤹ ॥ ᤂᤢᤏᤡ᤹ ᤏᤡᤛᤡ᤺ᤰᤐᤠ ᤏᤢ ᤂᤧᤛᤡᤱ ᤔᤧᤍᤠᤖᤢᤀᤠᤱ ᤔᤧᤍᤩᤧᤀᤠᤱ ᤔᤧᤘᤠ᤹ ᤜᤧᤰᤁᤩᤠᤱ ᤌᤡᤰᤘᤣ᤹ᤀᤥ ᤑᤢ᤹ᤏᤢᤛᤠ᤹ ᤀᤡᤛᤡᤰ ᤀᤥᤃᤠᤵ ᤆᤥ᤺ᤰᤔᤠᤛᤡ ᤐᤥ᤺ᤱ ॥
ᤁᤢᤎᤠ ᥈. ᤛᤢᤘᤠᤱ. ᤏᤠᤖᤠ-ᤆᤠ᤺ᤴ. ᤆᤢ. ᤐᤠ᤺ᤴ. ᤛᤠᤶᤕᤥ. ᤜᤠᤱᤎᤡᤶ ᤕᤠ ᤘᤣ᤹ ᤀᤡ᤺ᤳᤇᤡᤱ. ᤕᤠᤰᤐᤱᤃᤧᤴ ᤕᤠ ᤛᤱᤈᤢᤶᤔᤡᤒᤠ ᤁᤢᤒᤥ᤺ᤰ. ᤕᤠᤱᤛᤠ ᤁᤢᤴᤎᤣ. ᤛᤠᤘᤠ᤺ᤴ ᤕᤠ ᤘᤣ᤹ ᤀᤠᤳᤋᤡᤴᤇᤠᤱ ᤋᤠᤰᤑᤠ ᤜᤧᤰᤁᤣᤍᤱᤒᤠ ᤀᤠᤳᤋᤡᤴᤇᤠᤱ ᤏᤠ᤺ᤶᤓᤣ ᤀᤡᤛᤡᤰ ᤀᤠᤳᤋᤡᤴ ᤐᤖᤡᤰᤐᤠᤛᤠᤱ ᤛᤧᤴᤇᤡᤱᤂᤧᤛᤡᤱ ᤔᤧ᤺ᤴᤏᤣ ᤁᤧᤖᤧᤰ ᤕᤧᤵᤔᤡᤜᤠ᤹ᤖᤧ ᤁᤴ ᤀᤡᤱᤓᤥ᤺ᤴᤛᤰᤁᤥ ᤐᤥᤎᤰᤛᤡᤱᤒᤠ ᤕᤢᤰ ᤏᤢ ᤈᤥ᤺ᤰᤕᤢᤶᤓᤥᤜᤠ᤹ᤖᤧᤴ ᤕᤢᤰ ᤔᤧᤃᤳᤋᤢ᤹ ॥ ᤁᤴ ᤐᤜᤡᤰ ᤆᤥ᤺ᤰᤕᤢᤶᤓᤥᤒᤠ ᤕᤠ ᤘᤣ᤹ᤖᤧ ᤔᤧᤕᤢᤰᤋᤢᤒᤠ ᤔᤠᤰᤂᤣᤍᤱᤒᤠ ᤗᤠᤈᤣ᤹ ᤘᤠ᤹ᤛᤠᤱ ᤂᤧ᤹ᤕᤠᤱ ᤁᤧᤕᤢᤱᤒᤠ ᤋᤧᤴᤇᤠᤜᤠ᤹ ᤜᤠᤱᤎᤡᤶ॥ ᤋᤧᤱᤃᤵᤕᤢᤰ ᤕᤠ ᤘᤣ᤹ ᤗᤠᤈᤣ᤹ ᤕᤠ ᤋᤧᤱᤃᤵᤏᤢ ᤁᤧ᤹ᤀᤡᤖᤥᤒᤠ ᤕᤠᤵᤔᤡ. ᤀᤠᤳᤋᤡᤴᤇᤠᤱ ᤆᤥ᤺ᤰᤕᤢᤶᤓᤥᤒᤠ. ᤋᤠᤱᤛᤧ᤺ᤵᤛᤡᤱᤒᤠ. ᤀᤠᤒᤠᤅᤣᤒᤠ ᤜᤠᤱᤃᤧᤶᤖᤧ ᤁᤢᤏᤠ᤺ᤶᤓᤣᤀᤥ ᤛᤧᤴᤇᤡᤱ ᤂᤧᤛᤡᤱ ᤆᤥ᤺ᤰᤔᤠ᤹ ᤔᤧᤏᤢ᤹ᤏᤧᤴ ॥
The Limbu language is spoken by around 400,000 people in Nepal and Sikkim (India),@Ethnologue,https://www.ethnologue.com/language/lif/ however the speakers usually write in Nepali using the Devanagari script. Limbu can also be written in a version of the Devanagari script. It has been one of the official languages of Sikkim since 1981. It is currently taught in schools as a language option in Sikkim, and Nepal has a newspaper, published in Limbu in Kathmandu since 1995.
The origins of the script are unknown, but local folklore says that it was invented by King Sirijanga Hang in the 9th century, before falling out of use. It was reintroduced in the 1700s by and cultural hero Te-ongsi Sirijunga Xin Thebe. The modern script was developed in 1925 in Kalimpong, and was revised by Subba in the 1970s.
The Limbu script is an abugida, however an optional vowel sign exists for the inherent vowel sound , which would turn it into an alphabet. When used as an abugida, each consonant has an inherent vowel. See the table to the right for a brief overview of features for the modern Limbu orthography.
Limbu text runs from left to right in horizontal lines. Words are separated by spaces. The orthography is unicameral.
Modern Limbu uses 25 basic consonant letters. A number of older consonants are now obsolete. ❯ consonants
Limbu has 3 medial consonants for syllable onsets, and 9 syllable-final consonants that are all combining marks.
Consonant clusters and gemination are generally indicated using a syllable-final mark followed by a full-sized onset consonant. Syllable-final consonants for loan or foriegn words may be written with a full-sized consonant with a line below. There are no conjuncts. ❯ clusters ❯ gemination
The Limbu script uses 9 vowel signs to write vowels that are all combining marks. There are 2 circumgraphs, but no prebase glyphs. ❯ vowels
Long vowel sounds are indicated either by adding a double dot mark above a syllable, or by making the syllable-final consonant a full-sized character with 193B below. ❯ vowellength
Standalone vowel sounds are written using the vowel-carrier 1900 and a vowel sign. There are no independent vowels. ❯ standalone_vowels
Punctuation includes that used for the Latin script, but with some extras. The full stop acts as a comma, and the sentence delimiter is the double danda. Limbu has its own set of digits. ❯ phrase
Line-breaking and justification are primarily based on inter-word spaces.
The following represents the general repertoire of the Sunwar language.
Click on the sounds to reveal locations in this document where they are mentioned.
Phones in a lighter colour are non-native or allophones. Source Wikipedia.
The sound a may produced phonetically as ə. It is placed in the chart in a position that indicates the general area of production. Other allophones include ʌ for ɔ.
Limbu has no tones.
ᤁ kɔ U+1901 LETTER KA
ɔ following a consonant is normally not written, but is seen as an inherent part of the consonant letter, so kɔ is written by simply using the consonant letter.
However, the sound can be written using the vowel sign 1928, just as any other vowel sound. Consistent use of this combining mark would turn Limbu into an alphabet, rather than an abugida, but its use is optional, and not particularly common.
Non-inherent vowel sounds that follow a consonant are represented using combining vowel marks (vowel signs).
All vowel signs are combining marks that are typed and stored after the base consonant. Some produce glyphs on more than one side of the base character (see circumgraphs), but there are no pre-base glyphs, and no composite vowels.
Several vowel signs are spacing marks, meaning that they consume horizontal space when added to a base consonant.
ᤁᤡ ki U+1901 LETTER KA, U+1921 VOWEL SIGN I
Limbu uses the following dedicated combining marks for vowels, including 2 diphthongs.
1928 is the optional vowel sign mentioned earlier that can be used to represent what is normally the inherent vowel.
ᤁᤦ kaw U+1901 LETTER KA + U+1926 VOWEL SIGN AU
Two vowels are produced by a single combining character with visually separate parts, that appear on different sides of the consonant onset.
The combining mark is always stored after the base consonant. The rendering process places the glyphs around the base consonant, as needed.
When a conjunct follows a medial consonant the top glyph appears above the syllable-initial consonant, while the right-hand glyph appears to the right of the medial consonant.
See also encoding.
Limbu has 2 ways to indicate long vowel sounds.
193A is used above a vowel sign to indicate length in open syllables, and also closed syllables in Nepal.
In Sikkim, long vowels in closed syllables are commonly indicated by using a full-sized consonant in final position with 193B below it, rather than the final consonant mark.
In cases where this is used to kill the vowel of a consonant that doesn't have a final mark form, the length is ambiguous.
Limbu represents standalone vowels using the vowel-carrier, ᤀ, combined with a vowel sign.
There are no independent vowels, but the vowel-carrier without any vowel sign represents ɔ, the sound of the inherent vowel.
193B below a consonant indicates that the inherent vowel is not pronounced.
This section maps Limbu vowel sounds to common graphemes in the Limbu orthography. Click on a grapheme to find other mentions on this page (links appear at the bottom of the page). Click on the character name to see examples and for detailed descriptions of the character(s) shown.
Standalone vowels use ᤀ followed by the same characters as shown below. The empty rectangle represents a full-form consonant in syllable-final position.
ᤡ◌᤻ in Sikkim
ᤢ◌᤻ in Sikkim
ᤣ◌᤻ in Sikkim
ᤥ◌᤻ in Sikkim
ᤧ◌᤻ in Sikkim
ᤠ◌᤻ in Sikkim
Consonant clusters in syllable onsets are written by adding one of 3 medial consonant marks to the initial consonant.
Although the vowel sign follows the medial consonant in memory, it is displayed over the syllable-initial consonant. It is incorrect to type the vowel between the initial consonant and the medial.
Syllable-final consonants are normally represented by the 9 small forms above, which are implemented as combining marks. Finals are always unvoiced, unreleased and pronounced with a glottal stop.u
1932 is an alternative to 1931, but is not used as much in modern texts.
When a (normally foreign or loan) word ends with a consonant for which there is no corresponding small form, the final consonant is written using the full-sized glyph but has 193B below.
In Sikkim, this approach is common, even for consonants that do have a combining mark, as a way to indicate vowel length in closed syllables. See vowellength.
Limbu has no conjunct forms for consonant clusters.
In most cases, consonant clusters in Limbu occur across syllable boundaries; in which case, they involve a final consonant combining mark followed by a normal onset consonant.
In other cases, the consonant without a following vowel is indicated using 193B. This may happen when the Limbu repertoire doesn't have a combining mark for a syllable-final sound, such as in foreign or loan words.u It may also occur, in Sikkim, where 193B is used to indicate vowel length (see vowellength).
Consonant gemination is indicated in the same way as ordinary consonant clusters.
This section maps Limbu consonant sounds to common graphemes in the Latin orthography. Uppercase is not shown. Click on a grapheme to find other mentions on this page (links appear at the bottom of the page). Click on the character name to see examples and for detailed descriptions of the character(s) shown.
Sounds listed as 'infrequent' are allophones, or sounds used for foreign words, etc.
ᤐ᤻ after a long vowel, in Sikkim.
ᤋ᤻ after a long vowel, in Sikkim.
ᤁ᤻ after a long vowel, in Sikkim.
᥀ represents an exclamatory particle. See phrase.
This section offers advice about characters or character sequences to avoid, and what to use instead. It takes into account the relevance of Unicode Normalisation Form D (NFD) and Unicode Normalisation Form C (NFC).
Although usage is recommended here, content authors may well be unaware of such recommendations. Therefore, applications should look out for the non-recommended approach and treat it the same as the recommended approach wherever possible.
The same (or close) visual effect may be achieved by typing the 2 circumgraphs and one other vowel sign as a single character, or as two characters.
|Precomposed (recommended)||Decomposed (not recommended)|
The single code point per vowel sign is recommended because there is no equivalence in Unicode Normalisation Form D (NFD) and Unicode Normalisation Form C (NFC). This means that searching and other types of data processing may fail if the vowel signs are written in a non-standard way.
Letters should be typed in the order of pronunciation.
Medial consonants should be written immediately after the initial consonant in the syllable, and vowel signs should follow both, even though the vowel sign may be positioned over the initial consonant for display. (That will be rendered by the font.)
Likewise, syllable-final consonants should follow any vowel sign.
Limbu has its own set of digits, with a decimal base.
Limbu text is written horizontally, with lines that flow from top to bottom.
This section brings together information about the following topics: writing styles; cursive text; context-based shaping; context-based positioning; font styles; case & other character transforms.
You can experiment with examples using the Limbu character app.
Limbu letters are not joined, and are not cased.
Since the letters are all the same height, there tends not to be much variation in placement of combining marks. The placement of 193A relative to other combining marks may need some attention.
Vowel glyphs that are placed above and below a base are displayed relative to the syllable-initial consonant, rather than the medial consonant that they follow in memory. This is also the case for circumgraphs, where the parts of the vowel sign have to be split around the medial.
In Limbu text, grapheme clusters typically correspond to whole syllables. Where combining marks appear, the combination of base and combining mark still fits within the definition of a grapheme cluster.
Each syllable onset and following combining marks typically constitute a single grapheme cluster. However, when a syllable-final sound is written using a full-sized consonant with 193B that will constitute a separate grapheme cluster.
Words are separated by spaces.
Basic phrase and section boundaries in Limbu use ASCII punctuation.
The dot that looks like a full stop is used as a comma.
Limbu commonly uses ASCII parentheses to insert parenthetical information into text.
Limbu texts may use quotation marks around quotations. Of course, due to keyboard design, quotations may also be surrounded by ASCII double and single quote marks.
|initial||” [U+201D RIGHT DOUBLE QUOTATION MARK]|
|nested||’ [U+2019 RIGHT SINGLE QUOTATION MARK]|
Lines are generally broken between words.
The principal line-break opportunities are inter-word spaces.
Limbu uses the 'alphabetic' baseline.
This section is for any features that are specific to Limbu and that relate to the following topics: general page layout & progression; grids & tables; notes, footnotes, etc; forms & user interaction; page numbering, running headers, etc.