Mandaic

Updated 20 September, 2021

This page gathers basic information about the Mandaic script and its use for the Neo-Mandaic language. It aims (generally) to provide an overview of the orthography and typographic features, and (specifically) to advise how to write Mandaic using Unicode.

The phonetic information in this document provides only an approximation to the actual sounds used by former speakers of Mandaic or current speakers of the Neo-Mandaic dialects. The aim is only to give a general idea of the pronunciation mappings.

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Other script summaries.

Sample (Mandaic)

Select part of this sample text to show a list of characters, with links to more details.
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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

Usage & history

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.

Basic features

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, [U+0840 MANDAIC LETTER HALQA], at the end, and including a ligature, [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.

Character index

Letters

Show

Consonants

ࡐ␣ࡁ␣ࡕ␣ࡃ␣ࡈ␣ࡊ␣ࡂ␣ࡒ␣ࡎ␣ࡆ␣ࡑ␣ࡔ␣ࡄ␣ࡌ␣ࡍ␣ࡓ␣ࡋ

Vowels

ࡉ␣ࡅ␣ࡀ␣ࡏ

Other

ࡖ␣ࡇ␣ࡗ␣ࡘ

Combining marks

Show
࡙␣࡛␣࡚

Punctuation

Show

Other unconfirmed

،␣؛␣«␣»␣؟␣﴾␣﴿
Character lists show:

Phonology

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 .

Vowel sounds

Plain vowels

i u ɪ ʊ e o ə ə ɛ ɔ æ a ɒ

The vowels i, u, and ɔ, are lengthened in open, accented syllables to , , 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

Diphthongs

ɛɪ ɔɪ ɔʊ aɪ aʊ

Consonant sounds

labial dental alveolar post-
alveolar
palatal velar uvular pharyngeal glottal
stop p b t d
ðˤ
      k ɡ q    
affricate       t͡ʃ d͡ʒ          
fricative f v θ ð s z
ʃ ʒ   ɣ χ ʁ ħ ʕ h
nasal m   n          
approximant w   l   j      
trill/flap     r    

Vowels

Vowel characters

These are the 4 characters used for vowels in the Mandaic Unicode block.

ࡉ␣ࡅ␣ࡀ␣ࡏ

The letters used for vowels all have their origin in consonants.

[U+0849 MANDAIC LETTER AKSA] and [U+0845 MANDAIC LETTER USHENNA] are only rarely used for y and w.

[U+0840 MANDAIC LETTER HALQA] and [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. di kḏ

Vowel disambiguation

 ࡚ [U+085A MANDAIC VOCALIZATION MARK] is used in teaching materials to disambiguate the sound of a vowel:w

Vowel sounds mapped to characters

The following tables show how the above vowel sounds commonly map to characters or sequences of characters in the Mandaic language. Phones are split to show initial (i), medial (m) and final (f) forms. Unless otherwise indicated, these letters represent both short and long sounds. Mandaic doesn't indicate the difference.

 
f

ࡉࡀ [U+0849 MANDAIC LETTER AKSA + U+0840 MANDAIC LETTER HALQA], or

‍ࡏ [U+084F MANDAIC LETTER IN] for long .

‍ࡇ [U+0847 MANDAIC LETTER IT] exclusively as the 1st person singular marker .

 
m

‍ࡅ‍ [U+0845 MANDAIC LETTER USHENNA] 

 
m

‍ࡉ‍ [U+0849 MANDAIC LETTER AKSA]

‍ࡏࡉ‍ [U+084F MANDAIC LETTER IN + U+0849 MANDAIC LETTER AKSA] where it appears alongside i.

‍ࡏ‍ [U+084F MANDAIC LETTER IN] is preferred after a consonant with a point below the line, ie. ࡊࡏ‍ kʿ‍, ࡍࡏ‍ nʿ‍, ࡐࡏ‍ pʿ‍, and ࡑࡏ‍ ᵴʿ‍‍‍.

 
m

‍ࡅ‍ [U+0845 MANDAIC LETTER USHENNA] 

 
f

‍ࡅ‍ [U+0845 MANDAIC LETTER USHENNA] 

Consonants

Basic consonants

The Mandaic block has 17 basic, native consonants:

Stops

ࡐ␣ࡁ␣ࡕ␣ࡃ␣ࡈ␣ࡊ␣ࡂ␣ࡒ

Fricatives

ࡎ␣ࡆ␣ࡑ␣ࡔ␣ࡄ

Nasals

ࡌ␣ࡍ

Liquids

ࡓ␣ࡋ

Special characters

ࡖ␣ࡇ␣ࡗ

[U+0847 MANDAIC LETTER IT] only appears at the end of personal names or at the end of words to indicate the third person singular suffix.

[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

[U+0857 MANDAIC LETTER KAD] is used to write the word kḏ when, as, likeIt was derived from a digraph of ࡊࡖ [U+084A MANDAIC LETTER AK + U+0856 MANDAIC LETTER DUSHENNA].

Repertoire extension

 ࡙ [U+0859 MANDAIC AFFRICATION MARK ] extends the character set to cover foreign sounds. Extensions include the following:u

The character [U+0858 MANDAIC LETTER AIN] is borrowed from ع [U+0639 ARABIC LETTER AIN] to represent the Arabic sound ʕ.

Consonant clusters & gemination

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 θ is pronounced χt.h,728

Consonant sounds to characters

This section attempts to pair the phonemic sounds above with letters in the Mandaic script. It includes the basic alphabet, but also extended graphemes.

Numbers

The Unicode Mandaic block has no native digits. How numbers are represented in Mandaic text is TBD.

Text direction

Mandaic text runs right to left in horizontal lines.

Show default bidi_class properties for characters in the Mandaic orthography described here.

Glyph shaping & positioning

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.

Cursive text

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.

ࡊ ࡊࡅ    ࡕ ࡅࡕ

Two examples of small tweaks to glyphs when joining.

Other small adaptations may occur between certain adjacent characters, such as kl, wt and mn.d

Two letters don't join on either side: [U+0857 MANDAIC LETTER KAD] and [U+0858 MANDAIC LETTER AIN].

Cursive joining forms

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.

isolatedright-joineddual-joinleft-joinedMandaic letters
ـࡐ ـࡐـ ࡐـ
ـࡁ ـࡁـ ࡁـ
ـࡕ ـࡕـ ࡕـ
ـࡃ ـࡃـ ࡃـ
ـࡈ ـࡈـ ࡈـ
ـࡊ ـࡊـ ࡊـ
ـࡂ ـࡂـ ࡂـ
ـࡒ ـࡒـ ࡒـ
ـࡎ ـࡎـ ࡎـ
ـࡑ ـࡑـ ࡑـ
ـࡄ ـࡄـ ࡄـ
ـࡌ ـࡌـ ࡌـ
ـࡍ ـࡍـ ࡍـ
ـࡓ ـࡓـ ࡓـ
ـࡋ ـࡋـ ࡋـ
ـࡅ ـࡅـ ࡅـ
ـࡏ ـࡏـ ࡏـ
Joining forms for shapes that join on both sides.
isolatedright-joined Mandaic letters
ـࡆ
ـࡔ
ـࡉ
ـࡀ
ـࡖ
ـࡇ
Joining forms for shapes that join on the right only.

Context-based shaping

tbd

Context-based positioning

tbd

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:

ࡕ࡙ࡌ࡙ࡋ࡙ࡍ࡙ ࡐ࡛ࡑ࡛ࡒ࡛ࡆ࡛

Diacritic placement varying horizontally and vertically.

Font styles

tbd

Punctuation & inline features

Grapheme boundaries

tbd

Word boundaries

Words are separated by spaces.

Phrase & section boundaries

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.

،␣؛␣؟

Parentheses & brackets

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.

﴾␣﴿

Quotations

Observation: The keyboard at MandeanNetwork.com suggests that writers of Mandaic use the following. This is TBC.

«␣»

Emphasis

tbd

Abbreviation, ellipsis & repetition

tbd

Inline notes & annotations

tbd

Other inline ranges

tbd

Other punctuation

tbd

Line & paragraph layout

Line breaking

Lines usually break between words.

Show (default) line-breaking properties for characters in the modern Mandaic orthography.

Text alignment & justification

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 [U+0847 MANDAIC LETTER IT] can sometimes be 'manipulated calligraphically in an otherwise pedestrian manuscript in order to fill out a line'.

Use the control below to see how your browser justifies the text sample here.

ࡊࡋ ࡁࡓ ࡀࡍࡀࡔࡀ ࡌࡉࡕࡋࡉࡓ ࡔࡀࡅࡉࡀ ࡁࡏࡒࡀࡓࡀ ࡅࡀࡂࡓࡉࡀ࡞ ࡁࡉࡍࡕࡀ ࡅࡕࡉࡓࡕࡀ ࡏࡕࡄࡉࡁࡋࡅࡍ ࡅࡋࡅࡀࡕ ࡄࡓࡀࡓࡉࡀ ࡈࡀࡁࡅࡕࡀ ࡀࡁࡓࡉࡍ ࡀࡊࡅࡀࡕ ࡖࡍࡉࡄࡅࡍ ࡀࡄࡉࡀ࡞

Letter spacing

tbd

Counters, lists, etc.

tbd

Styling initials

tbd

Page & book layout

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.

Languages using the Mandaic script

According to ScriptSource, the Mandaic script is used for the following languages:

References