Mandaic (draft)

Updated 10 June, 2020

This page gathers together basic information about the Mandaic script and its use for the 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.

Related pages

Character notes:

Character app:

Other:

About this page

Transcriptions. Unless in parentheses, the transcriptions in italics that follow Mandaic text are a transliteration developed for these pages. Those in parentheses follow one or more commonly used transcription methods. Transcriptions in ⌈ corner brackets ⌋ are either phonemic or phonetic.

Character lists. Colours and annotations on panels listing characters are relevant to their use for the Mandaic language. Panels with a yellow background contain commonly used characters for that language.

Links to detailed character information. Links on Unicode character names and links on code point values in character lists lead to character notes documents that list information character-by-character. This information is typically more detailed than that on this page.

Detailed topic information. Footnote links with an arrow alongside take you to more detailed information on the current topic.

Showing code points for examples.Clicking on Mandaic examples shows a list of the characters in that example.

Changing fonts.Click on the vertical blue bar (bottom right) to change font settings for the sample text.

Sample (Mandaic)

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

From Scriptsource:
The Mandaic script is used for writing Mandaic, an Iraqi language spoken by about 5,500 people. It is also the script of Classical Mandaic, the liturgical language of the Mandaean religion. The script has been difficult to date, and its exact derivation is controversial, but many scholars believe it to be closely related with a number of scripts descended from Parthian, itself descended from Aramaic writing. Early examples of Mandaic writing reveal that the script has remained relatively unchanged since it began to be used.
From Wikipedia:

Neo-Mandaic, sometimes called the "ratna" (Arabic: رطنة‎ raṭna "jargon"), is the modern reflex of Classical Mandaic, the liturgical language of the Mandaean religious community of Iraq and Iran. Although severely endangered, it survives today as the first language of a small number of Mandaeans (possibly as few as 100–200 speakers) in Iran and in the Mandaean diaspora. All Neo-Mandaic speakers are bi- or even tri-lingual in the languages of their neighbors, Arabic and Persian, and the influence of these languages upon the grammar of Neo-Mandaic is considerable, particularly in the lexicon and the morphology of the noun. Nevertheless, Neo-Mandaic is more conservative even in these regards than most other Neo-Aramaic dialects.

Neo-Mandaic survives in three subdialects, which arose in the cities of Shushtar, Shah Vali, Masjed Soleyman, and Dezful in northern Khuzestan Province, Iran. The Mandaean communities in these cities fled persecution during the 1880s and settled in the Iranian cities of Ahvaz and Khorramshahr. While Khorramshahr boasted the largest Mandaic-speaking population until the 1980s, the Iran–Iraq War caused many to flee into diaspora, leaving Ahvaz the only remaining Mandaic-speaking community.

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. (See the key. Character counts exclude ASCII characters.)

Mandaic script is written right-to-left. Words are separated by spaces, and contain a mixture of consonants and vowels, with diacritics to indicate vowel quality, gemination, or foreign sounds.

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].

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.

Text direction

Mandaic script is written right-to-left in horizontally stacked lines.

Character lists show:

Vowels

Vowel sounds

Click on the sounds to reveal locations in this document where they are mentioned.

Plain vowels

i u ɪ ʊ e o ə ə ɛ ɔ æ a ɒ

Sourcewp. Phones in a lighter colour are non-native or allophones.

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

Sourcewp.

Vowel characters

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.

The following maps sounds to graphemes. 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] 

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

ࡉ␣ࡅ␣ࡀ␣ࡏ

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, and .

Vowel disambiguation

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

Consonants

Consonant sounds

Click on the sounds to reveal locations in this document where they are mentioned.

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    

Sourcewp. Phones in a lighter colour are non-native or allophones.

consonants & graphemes

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

Basic consonants

The Mandaic block has 17 basic, native consonants:

ࡐ␣ࡁ␣ࡕ␣ࡃ␣ࡈ␣ࡊ␣ࡂ␣ࡒ
ࡎ␣ࡆ␣ࡑ␣ࡔ␣ࡄ
ࡌ␣ࡍ
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 you and ࡖࡎࡉࡍࡀ ḏsinā disina of hatred.

[U+0857 MANDAIC LETTER KAD] is used to write the word kḏ when, as, like. It was derived from a digraph of + [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.h728

Combining marks

The Mandaic block has 3 diacritics.

࡙␣࡛␣࡚

These are all described above.

Punctuation

The Mandaic block has only one punctuation character.

However, it appears that various western and arabic punctuation marks are also used in modern texts. See the section phrase.

Numbers

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

Glyph shaping & positioning

The script is unicameral and needs no transforms to convert between code points.

You can experiment with examples using the Mandaic character app.

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

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.

Baselines & inline alignment

tbd

Font styles

tbd

Structural boundaries & markers

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

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.

،␣؛␣«␣»␣؟␣﴾␣﴿

Bracketing & range markers

tbd

Quotations

tbd

Emphasis

tbd

Abbreviation, ellipsis & repetition

tbd

Other punctuation

tbd

Inline notes & annotations

tbd

Line & paragraph layout

Line breaking

Lines usually break between words.

Character properties

Characters used for the thisLanguage language have the following assignments related to line-break properties.

AL26ࡉ ࡅ ࡏ ࡀ ࡐ ࡁ ࡕ ࡃ ࡖ ࡈ ࡊ ࡂ ࡗ ࡒ ࡘ ࡎ ࡆ ࡑ ࡔ ࡄ ࡇ ࡌ ࡍ ࡓ ࡋ ࡞
CL1
CM3࡙ ࡛ ࡚
EX2؛ ؟
IS1،
OP1﴿
QU2« »
Show legend u

AL (ordinary alphabetic and symbol characters) requires other characters to provide break opportunities; otherwise, unless tailored rules are applied, no line breaks are allowed between pairs of them.

CL (close punctuation) should be kept with the preceding character. The class CL is closely related to the class CP (Close Parenthesis). They differ only in that CP will not introduce a break when followed by a letter or number, which prevents breaks within constructs like “(s)he”.

CM (combining mark) takes on the behaviour of its base character.

EX (exclamation mark/interrogation) behave like closing characters, except in relation to postfix (PO) and non-starter characters (NS).

IS (infix numeric separators) usually occurs inside a numerical expression and may not be separated from the numeric characters that follow, unless a space character intervenes. For example, there is no break in “100.00” or “10,000”, nor in “12:59”..

OP (open punctuation) should be kept with the character that follows. This is desirable, even if there are intervening space characters, as it prevents the appearance of a bare opening punctuation mark at the end of a line.

QU (quotation) characters can be opening or closing, or even both, depending on usage. The default is to treat them as both opening and closing.

Hyphenation

tbd

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

General page layout & progression

tbd

Grids & tables

tbd

Notes, footnotes, etc

tbd

Forms & user interaction

tbd

Page numbering, running headers, etc

tbd

Character lists

Version 12.0 of the Unicode Standard has the following block dedicated to the Mandaic script:

The modern Neo-Mandaic orthography described here uses characters from the following Unicode blocks.

Arabic3، ؛ ؟Copy to clipboard
Arabic Presentation Forms-A2﴾ ﴿Copy to clipboard
Latin-1 Supplement2« »Copy to clipboard
Mandaic28ࡀ ࡁ ࡂ ࡃ ࡄ ࡅ ࡆ ࡇ ࡈ ࡉ ࡊ ࡋ ࡌ ࡍ ࡎ ࡏ ࡐ ࡑ ࡒ ࡓ ࡔ ࡕ ࡖ ࡗ ࡙ ࡚ ࡛ ࡞Copy to clipboard

The infrequently used characters come from these blocks.

See also the Character usage lookup page, and the Script Comparison Table.

Languages using the Mandaic script

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

References

  1. [ d ] Peter T. Daniels and William Bright, The World's Writing Systems, Oxford University Press, ISBN 0-19-507993-0, pp511-513
  2. [ e ] Proposal for encoding the Mandaic script in the BMP of the UCS
  3. [ h ] Charles Häberl, pp. 725–737 in Semitic Languages: An International Handbook/Ein internationales Handbuch, Handbücher zur Sprach- und Kommunikationswissenschaft, ed. Stefan Weninger in collaboration with Geoffrey Khan, Michael P. Streck, and Janet C.E. Watson
  4. [ s ] Charles Häberl, Swadesh list in The Neo-Mandaic Dialect of Khorramshahr, 2009
  5. [ u ] The Unicode Standard v10.0, pp405-407
  6. [ w ] Wikipedia, Mandaic alphabet
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