Updated 5 January, 2023
This page brings together basic information about the Mandaic script and its use for the Neo-Mandaic language. It aims to provide a brief, descriptive summary of the modern, printed orthography and typographic features, and to advise how to write Mandaic using Unicode.
ࡊࡋ ࡁࡓ ࡀࡍࡀࡔࡀ ࡌࡉࡕࡋࡉࡓ ࡔࡀࡅࡉࡀ ࡁࡏࡒࡀࡓࡀ ࡅࡀࡂࡓࡉࡀ࡞ ࡁࡉࡍࡕࡀ ࡅࡕࡉࡓࡕࡀ ࡏࡕࡄࡉࡁࡋࡅࡍ ࡅࡋࡅࡀࡕ ࡄࡓࡀࡓࡉࡀ ࡈࡀࡁࡅࡕࡀ ࡀࡁࡓࡉࡍ ࡀࡊࡅࡀࡕ ࡖࡍࡉࡄࡅࡍ ࡀࡄࡉࡀ࡞
ࡈࡅࡁࡀࡊ ࡈࡅࡁࡀࡊ ࡍࡉࡔࡌࡀ ࡖࡍࡐࡀࡒࡕ ࡌࡉࡍࡇ ࡌࡍ ࡀࡋࡌࡀ ࡍࡐࡀࡒࡕࡇ ࡋࡒࡉࡋࡅࡌࡀ ࡅࡋࡐࡀࡂࡓࡀ ࡎࡀࡓࡉࡀ ࡖࡄࡅࡉࡕࡁࡇ ࡋࡃࡀࡅࡓࡀ ࡖࡃࡅࡓ ࡁࡉࡔ࡙ࡉࡀ ࡋࡀࡕࡓࡀ ࡖࡊࡅࡋࡇ ࡄࡀࡈࡉࡀ ࡋࡀࡋࡌࡀ ࡖࡄࡔࡅࡊࡀ ࡖࡎࡉࡍࡀ ࡒࡉࡍࡀ ࡅࡐࡋࡅࡂࡉࡀ
The Mandaic script is used for writing Mandaic, an Iraqi language spoken by about 5,500 people, and is also the script of Classical Mandaic, the liturgical language of the Mandaean religion. Persecution and war over a long period has reduced the language to a severely endangered level. There may be 200 or less first language speakers of Mandaic.
ࡀࡁࡀࡂࡀ ābāgā Mandaic alphabet
The origins of the script are not clear, but many scholars believe it to be descended from Aramaic via Parthian. Research has indicated that it has remained relatively unchanged since its initial development between the 2nd and 7th centuries CE.
Sources: Scriptsource, Wikipedia.
The Mandaic script is an alphabet. This means that it is phonetic in nature, where each letter represents a basic sound. This is unusual among scripts of semitic origin. See the table to the right for a brief overview of features for the modern Neo-Mandaic orthography.
Mandaic text runs right-to-left in horizontal lines, but numbers and embedded Latin text are read left-to-right.
Words are separated by spaces, and contain a mixture of consonants and vowels, with diacritics to indicate vowel quality, gemination, or foreign sounds.
There is no case distinction.
The script is cursive, but basic letter shapes don't change radically. In some letters, the joining edge of the glyph adapts to join with an adjacent character.
The standard Mandaic alphabet consists of 24 letters, since 24 is a significant number to Mandaeans, however this is only achieved by repeating the first letter of the alphabet, ࡀ [U+0840 MANDAIC LETTER HALQA], at the end, and including a ligature, ࡗ [U+0857 MANDAIC LETTER KAD].
There are 20 basic consonants and 4 vowel letters, which are also derived from consonants. Repertoire extension for many additional sounds used in Arabic can be achieved using an affrication mark added to consonants and one extra character.
Letters representing vowel sounds are somewhat ambiguous, but can be clarified for educational purposes by a combining mark.
These sounds are for the Neo-Mandaic 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 .
The vowels i, u, and ɔ, are lengthened in open, accented syllables to iː, uː, and ɔː or ɒː. i and u are realized as ɪ and ʊ when they occur in closed syllables. The other three principle vowels, o, e, and a, appear only exceptionally in open, accented syllables. e is realized as e in open syllables and ɛ in closed syllables. a is realized as ɑ in closed accented syllables, and as a or æ elsewhere.h
|stop||p b||t d||k ɡ||q|
|fricative||f v||θ ð||s z
|ʃ ʒ||ɣ||χ ʁ||ħ ʕ||h|
This section maps Mandaic vowel sounds to common graphemes in the Mandaic orthography, grouped by word-initial ( i ), medial ( m ), and final ( f ) types. 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.
The Mandaic Unicode block has 4 characters used for vowels.
Click on the characters in the lists for detailed information. For a mapping of sounds to graphemes see vowel_mappings.
The letters used for vowels all have their origin in consonants.
ࡉ [U+0849 MANDAIC LETTER AKSA] and ࡅ [U+0845 MANDAIC LETTER USHENNA] are only rarely used for y and w.
ࡀ [U+0840 MANDAIC LETTER HALQA] and ࡏ [U+084F MANDAIC LETTER IN] are available because the language dropped the glottal and pharyngeal sounds.
Although the script is basically alphabetic, vowel sounds are not always shown. For example, the i is not shown in ࡌࡍ mn min from
Three characters in the Unicode block also have unwritten vowel sounds, ie. ࡖ ḏ diࡗ kḏࡇ ẖ iː
࡚ [U+085A MANDAIC VOCALIZATION MARK] is used in teaching materials to disambiguate the sound of a vowel:w
This section maps Mandaic consonant sounds to common graphemes in the Mandaic 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.
Sounds listed as 'infrequent' are allophones, or sounds used for foreign words, etc.
The Mandaic block has 17 basic, native consonants:
ࡇ [U+0847 MANDAIC LETTER IT] ẖ only appears at the end of personal names or at the end of words to indicate the third person singular suffix.
ࡖ [U+0856 MANDAIC LETTER DUSHENNA] has a morphemic function, being used to write the relative pronoun and genitive exponent ḏ-, eg. ࡖࡍࡐࡀࡒࡕ ḏnpāqt dinpaqt who left youࡖࡎࡉࡍࡀ ḏsinā disina of hatred
ࡗ [U+0857 MANDAIC LETTER KAD] is used to write the word ࡗ kḏ when, as, likeIt was derived from a digraph of ࡊࡖ [U+084A MANDAIC LETTER AK + U+0856 MANDAIC LETTER DUSHENNA].
࡙ [U+0859 MANDAIC AFFRICATION MARK ] extends the character set to cover foreign sounds. Extensions include the following:u
The character ࡘ [U+0858 MANDAIC LETTER AIN] is borrowed from ع [U+0639 ARABIC LETTER AIN] to represent the Arabic sound ʕ.
Häberlh,729 provides some detailed information about rules for consonant clusters.
࡛ [U+085B MANDAIC GEMINATION MARK ] indicates gemination of a consonant (referred to by native writers as 'hard' pronunciation), eg. ࡋࡉࡁ࡛ࡀ lib˖ā lebba heart
Note that geminated ࡕ࡙ tˑ θ is pronounced χt.h,728
The Unicode Mandaic block has no native digits. How numbers are represented in Mandaic text is TBD.
Mandaic text runs right to left in horizontal lines.
bidi_class properties for characters in the Mandaic orthography described here.
This section brings together information about the following topics: writing styles; cursive text; context-based shaping; context-based positioning; baselines, line height, etc.; font styles; case & other character transforms.
You can experiment with examples using the Mandaic character app.
The script is unicameral and needs no transforms to convert between code points.
Mandaic is cursive, ie. letters in a word are joined up. Fonts need to produce the appropriate joining form for a code point, according to its visual context.
The cursive treatment doesn't produce significant variations of the essential part of a rendered character (unlike Arabic). In some letters, the joining edge of the glyph adapts to join with an adjacent character. Two examples show how strokes away from the baseline are typically shortened to create joining shapes.
Other small adaptations may occur between certain adjacent characters, such as kl, wt and mn.d
Two letters don't join on either side: ࡗ [U+0857 MANDAIC LETTER KAD] and ࡘ [U+0858 MANDAIC LETTER AIN].
The cursive treatment produces only minor changes to glyph shapes in most cases. fig_joining_forms and fig_right_joining_forms show all the basic shapes in Mandaic and what their joining forms look like.
The position of diacritics may vary according to whether or not the glyph of the base character extends below the baseline. The diacritic also needs to be positioned horizontally underneath the character in the appropriate place. Several such variations are shown here:
Words are separated by spaces.
Mandaic uses sentence punctuation sparselye. ࡞ [U+085E MANDAIC PUNCTUATION] is used to start and end text sections. Everson describes a smaller version of this symbol that is used like a comma.e There is no Unicode character for the smaller version.
The smaller size is also used in colophons (historical lay text added to religious text).d
Observation: The keyboard at MandeanNetwork.com suggests that writers of Mandaic use Arabic punctuation, such as the following, in addition to western punctuation such as colon, full stop, etc. This is TBC.
Observation: The keyboard at MandeanNetwork.com suggests that writers of Mandaic use Arabic parentheses, such as the following (the shape may vary). This is TBC.
Observation: The keyboard at MandeanNetwork.com suggests that writers of Mandaic use the following. This is TBC.
Lines usually break between words.
Show (default) line-breaking properties for characters in the modern Mandaic orthography.
When text is fully justified the baseline may be stretched, as in Arabic. [Unicode] saysu that ـ [U+0640 ARABIC TATWEEL] may be used to achieve that effect, however this is not a good solution typographically.
Daniels saysd that ࡇ [U+0847 MANDAIC LETTER IT] can sometimes be 'manipulated calligraphically in an otherwise pedestrian manuscript in order to fill out a line'.
This section looks at ways in which spacing is applied between characters over and above that which is introduced during justification.
Mandaic uses the so-called 'alphabetic' baseline, which is the same as for Latin and many other scripts.
This section is for any features that are specific to thisScript and that relate to the following topics: general page layout & progression; grids & tables; notes, footnotes, etc; forms & user interaction; page numbering, running headers, etc.