Santali

Ol Chiki orthography notes

Updated 27 January, 2024

This page brings together basic information about the Ol Chiki script and its use for the Santali language. It aims to provide a brief, descriptive summary of the modern, printed orthography and typographic features, and to advise how to write Santali using Unicode.

Referencing this document

Richard Ishida, Santali (Ol Chiki) Orthography Notes, 27-Jan-2024, https://r12a.github.io/scripts/olck/sat

Sample

Select part of this sample text to show a list of characters, with links to more details.
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ᱱᱤᱭᱟᱹ ᱣᱤᱠᱤᱯᱤᱰᱤᱭᱟ ᱫᱚ ᱥᱟᱱᱛᱟᱲᱤ ᱛᱮ ᱚᱞ ᱟᱠᱟᱱᱟ᱾ ᱚᱨᱦᱚᱸ ᱮᱴᱟᱜ ᱯᱟᱹᱨᱥᱤᱛᱮ ᱦᱚᱸ ᱟᱭᱢᱟ ᱣᱤᱠᱤᱯᱤᱰᱤᱭᱟ ᱢᱮᱱᱟᱜᱼᱟ ᱾ ᱱᱚᱸᱰᱮ ᱠᱤᱪᱷᱩ ᱛᱟᱹᱞᱠᱟᱹ ᱮᱢ ᱦᱩᱭᱱᱟ ᱾

Usage & history

The Ol Chiki script was invented by Pandi Raghunath Murmu in the 1920s to provide Santali, spoken by around 6 million people, with a dedicated script, instead of the Latin, Bengali, Devanagari, and Odia that had been and still are used. Ol Chiki is primarily used for the southern dialect of Santali, and has received some official recognition. It has been used for other Munda languages.

ᱚᱞ ᱪᱤᱠᱤ

ᱥᱟᱱᱛᱟᱲᱤ

Sources Unicode and Wikipedia.


Basic features

The Ol Chiki script is an alphabet. Both consonants and vowels are indicated by letters. See the table to the right for a brief overview of features for the Santali language.

Ol Chiki is mostly a simple and small orthography. There are no combining characters, and no symbols. The script has no case distinction.

Ol Chiki runs left to right in horizontal lines. Words are separated by spaces.

❯ consonantSummary

Santali has 23 consonant letters. Consonants can be aspirated by forming a digraph with a special aspiration letter.

Ol Chiki has a unique way of handling syllable-final consonants. Four of the voiced stops are typically pronounced unreleased, and unvoiced if they don't appear before a vowel. Where the full value of the letter should be retained, this can be indicated using a modifier called ahad. Another hyphen-like modifier, phaarkaa, applies the reduction before a vowel, when needed (for example for certain verb forms).

There are no special forms for consonant clusters in Santali.

❯ basicV

This orthography is an alphabet. Vowels are written using 6 basic vowel letters and 3 digraphs, where an existing vowel letter is followed by a dot. All vowels can be nasalised and lengthened by modifier letters. There are no combining marks.

Ol Chiki has native digit shapes.

Block-specific danda and double-danda are used as sentence and section dividers. Otherwise, most of the punctuation is ASCII.

Distinctive characteristics: an alphabet surrounded by abugidas; modifiers for voiced stops at word boundaries; no combining characters.

Character index

Letters

Show

Consonants

ᱯ␣ᱵ␣ᱛ␣ᱫ␣ᱪ␣ᱰ␣ᱴ␣ᱡ␣ᱠ␣ᱜ␣ᱥ␣ᱦ␣ᱢ␣ᱱ␣ᱧ␣ᱬ␣ᱝ␣ᱣ␣ᱶ␣ᱨ␣ᱲ␣ᱞ␣ᱭ

Vowels

ᱤ␣ᱩ␣ᱮ␣ᱳ␣ᱚ␣ᱟ

Other

ᱹ␣ᱸ␣ᱺ␣ᱻ␣ᱽ␣ᱼ␣ᱷ

Numbers

Show
᱐␣᱑␣᱒␣᱓␣᱔␣᱕␣᱖␣᱗␣᱘␣᱙

Punctuation

Show
᱾␣᱿␣“␣”␣‘␣’

Other

!␣(␣)␣,␣:␣;␣?

Other

Show

To be investigated

%␣-␣.␣[␣]␣§␣ʼ␣͏␣‌␣‍␣‑␣–␣—␣†␣‡␣…␣′␣″
Items to show in lists

Phonology

These are sounds for the Santali 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.

Vowel sounds

Plain vowels

i ĩ u ũ e o ə ə̃ ə ə̃ ɛ ɛ̃ ɔ ɔ̃ a ã

Santali can have successive vowels without intervening consonants, but they are not diphthongs such as those that combine with a glide at the end.

Consonant sounds

The following reprour are non-native or allophones. Source Wikipedia.

labial dental alveolar post-
alveolar
retroflex palatal velar glottal
stops p b t d     ʈ ɖ c ɟ k ɡ  
aspirated     ʈʰ ɖʰ ɟʰ ɡʰ  
fricatives     s         h
nasals m   n   ɳ ɲ ŋ
approximants w   l     j  
trills/flaps     r   ɽ

The aspirated stops occur primarily, but not exclusively, in Indo-Aryan loanwords.wl,#Phonology

ɳ only appears as an allophone of n before ɖ.wl,#Phonology

A typical Munda feature is that word-final stops are "checked", i. e. glottalised and unreleased.wl,#Phonology

Tone

tbd

Structure

tbd

Vowels

Vowel summary table

The following table summarises the main vowel to character assigments.

Long vowels are indicated by a following and nasalisation by or (not shown here).

Simple:
ᱤ␣ ␣ᱩ
ᱮ␣ ␣ᱳ
ᱟᱹ
ᱮᱹ␣ ␣ᱚ␣ᱚᱹ

For additional details see vowel_mappings.

Vowel letters

Basic vowels

The standard vowel sounds for Santali are written as follows.

ᱤ␣ᱩ␣ᱮ␣ᱳ␣ᱚ␣ᱟ

Additional vowels

Three additional vowel sounds are represented using [U+1C79 OL CHIKI GAAHLAA TTUDDAAG],

ᱮᱹ␣ᱚᱹ␣ᱟᱹ

ᱚᱹ [U+1C5A OL CHIKI LETTER LA + U+1C79 OL CHIKI GAAHLAA TTUDDAAG] is rarely used, and the phonetic difference between it and [U+1C5A OL CHIKI LETTER LA] is not clearly defined, but the ALA-LOC transcription page says that it has a lower pitch. The phonemic difference between the two may be only marginal.rp,9

Standalone vowels

tbd

Long vowels

To indicate a prolonged vowel sound, [U+1C7B OL CHIKI RELAA] is used,rp,9 eg. ᱢᱚᱹᱬᱮᱻ ᱢᱚᱸᱻᱦᱟ

Nasalisation

ᱸ␣ᱺ

Nasalisation of vowels is indicated using [U+1C78 OL CHIKI MU TTUDDAG],rp,9 eg. ᱦᱟᱸᱰᱮ

When the letter is followed by [U+1C79 OL CHIKI GAAHLAA TTUDDAAG] a separate Unicode character is used, rather than adding the two characters. That character is [U+1C7A OL CHIKI MU-GAAHLAA TTUDDAAG],rp,9 eg. ᱵᱮᱺᱫᱤ

Tones

tbd

Vowel absence

tbd

Vowel sounds to characters

This section maps Santali vowel sounds to common graphemes in the Ol Chicki 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.

Consonants

Consonant summary table

The following table summarises the main consonant to character assigments.

Stops
ᱯ␣ᱵ␣ᱛ␣ᱫ␣ᱪ␣ᱰ␣ᱴ␣ᱡ␣ᱠ␣ᱜ
ᱯᱷ␣ᱵᱷ␣ᱛᱷ␣ᱫᱷ␣ᱪᱷ␣ᱡᱷ␣ᱠᱷ␣ᱜᱷ
Fricatives
ᱣ␣ᱥ␣ᱦ
Nasals
ᱢ␣ᱱ␣ᱧ␣ᱬ␣ᱝ
Other
ᱣ␣ᱶ␣ᱨ␣ᱲ␣ᱞ␣ᱭ
Finals
ᱵ␣ᱫ␣ᱡ␣ᱜ␣ ␣ᱵᱽ␣ᱫᱽ␣ᱡᱽ␣ᱜᱽ

For additional details see consonant_mappings.

Basic consonants

ᱯ␣ᱵ␣ᱛ␣ᱫ␣ᱪ␣ᱰ␣ᱴ␣ᱡ␣ᱠ␣ᱜ
ᱥ␣ᱦ
ᱢ␣ᱱ␣ᱧ␣ᱬ␣ᱝ
ᱣ␣ᱶ␣ᱨ␣ᱲ␣ᱞ␣ᱭ

Aspiration

Aspirated consonant sounds are indicated using [U+1C77 OL CHIKI LETTER OH] after the consonant,fp,2 eg. ᱡᱷᱚᱛᱚ ᱛᱷᱚᱲᱟ

Onsets

tbd

Finals

ᱽ␣ᱼ

Four voiced stops are pronounced unvoiced and unreleased when they are not followed by a vowel, especially in word-final position.

[U+1C75 OL CHIKI LETTER OB]beg. ᱩᱵ
[U+1C6B OL CHIKI LETTER UD]deg. ᱢᱮᱫ
[U+1C61 OL CHIKI LETTER AAJ]ɟeg. ᱢᱩᱡ
[U+1C5C OL CHIKI LETTER AG]ɡeg. ᱫᱚᱜ

Where the voicing needs to be maintained, [U+1C7D OL CHIKI AHAD] is added, eg.

ᱨᱚᱡᱽcf. ᱨᱚᱡᱚ
ᱫᱟᱜᱽcf. ᱫᱟᱜᱤ

In the opposite situation, where a voiced consonant is used before a vowel but you want to allow the devoicing, put [U+1C7C OL CHIKI PHAARKAA] before the vowel.rp,10 For example, see this verb form: ᱢᱮᱱᱟᱜᱼᱟ

Consonant clusters

tbd

Consonant length

tbd

Consonant sounds to characters

This section maps Santali consonant sounds to common graphemes in the Ol Chiki 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.

Stops

Fricatives

Nasals

Other

Numbers

Digits

Ol Chiki has a set of native digits

᱐␣᱑␣᱒␣᱓␣᱔␣᱕␣᱖␣᱗␣᱘␣᱙

Text direction

Santali text runs left to right in horizontal lines.

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

Glyph shaping & positioning

Experiment with examples using the Ol Chiki character app.

Context-based shaping & positioning

Santali letters don't interact, so no special shaping is needed.

And there are no combining mark, so context-based positioning of glyphs is also not necessary.

Graphemes

Since there are no combining marks or decompositions, grapheme clusters correspond to individual characters.

Question: Should nasalisation or vowel extension dots be handled like combining characters, ie. form a grapheme with the preceding character?

Grapheme clusters

Base

Each base letter is a grapheme cluster, and there are no combining marks to extend them. Other following markers, being letters, are also treated as grapheme clusters, separately from the thing they modify. This includes [U+1C78 OL CHIKI MU TTUDDAG], [U+1C79 OL CHIKI GAAHLAA TTUDDAAG], [U+1C7B OL CHIKI RELAA], etc.

Click on the text version of this word to see more detail about the composition.

ᱨᱚᱡᱚ
ᱢᱚᱹᱬᱮᱻ ᱢᱚᱸᱻᱦᱟ
ᱢᱮᱱᱟᱜᱼᱟ

Punctuation & inline features

Word boundaries

Word units are separated by spaces.

Paired words may be separated by [U+1C7C OL CHIKI PHAARKAA], eg. ᱥᱩᱡᱷᱼᱵᱩᱡᱷ sujʰ-bujʰ

Phrase & section boundaries

,␣;␣:␣᱾␣?␣!␣᱿

Santali uses mostly ASCII punctuation, but also some Indic punctuation from the Santali block.

phrase

, [U+002C COMMA]

; [U+003B SEMICOLON]

: [U+003A COLON]

sentence

[U+1C7E OL CHIKI PUNCTUATION MUCAAD]

? [U+003F QUESTION MARK]

! [U+0021 EXCLAMATION MARK]

section ᱿ [U+1C7F OL CHIKI PUNCTUATION DOUBLE MUCAAD]

The ASCII full stop is not used, since it creates confusion with other dots in the orthography, therefore [U+1C7E OL CHIKI PUNCTUATION MUCAAD] is the main sentence delimiter.rp,11

᱿ [U+1C7F OL CHIKI PUNCTUATION DOUBLE MUCAAD] is used at the end of a paragraph or some other block of text.

Example of mucaad and double mucaad in Santali text.fp,6

Observation: Samples in the Unicode proposals suggest that the mucaad and double mucaad punctuation is preceded by a space.

Bracketed text

(␣)

Santali commonly uses ASCII parentheses to insert parenthetical information into text.

  start end
standard

( [U+0028 LEFT PARENTHESIS]

) [U+0029 RIGHT PARENTHESIS]

Quotations & citations

“␣”␣‘␣’

Santali texts use quotation marks around quotations. Of course, due to keyboard design, quotations may also be surrounded by ASCII double and single quote marks.

  start end
initial

[U+201C LEFT DOUBLE QUOTATION MARK]

[U+201D RIGHT DOUBLE QUOTATION MARK]
nested

[U+2018 LEFT SINGLE QUOTATION MARK]

[U+2019 RIGHT SINGLE QUOTATION MARK]

Line & paragraph layout

Line breaking & hyphenation

tbd

Observation: Lines appear to be broken at word boundaries.

Line-edge rules

As in almost all writing systems, certain punctuation characters should not appear at the end or the start of a line. The Unicode line-break properties help applications decide whether a character should appear at the start or end of a line.

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

The following list gives examples of typical behaviours for some of the characters used in Ol Chiki. Context may affect the behaviour of some of these and other characters.

Click/tap on the characters to show what they are.

  • “ ‘ (   should not be the last character on a line.
  • ” ’ ) . , ; ! ? । ॥ %   should not begin a new line.
  • ᱹ ᱸ ᱺ ᱻ ᱼ   do not create line-break opportunities when surrounded by other letters.

Line breaking should not move a danda or double danda to the beginning of a new line even if they are preceded by a space character.

Text alignment & justification

Observation: All but one of the samples in the Unicode submission document are fully justified. Mostly, the justification is achieved by stretching inter-word spacing, however some words also have the space between characters stretched.

Example of full justification, with the word at the end of the 3rd line from the bottom also showing signs of being stretched.fp,7

Baselines, line height, etc.

Santali uses the so-called 'alphabetic' baseline, which is the same as for Latin and many other scripts.

The height of Ol Chiki letters is very uniform, and there are no combining marks to increase the extension. Nor are there any descenders.

To give an approximate idea, fig_baselines compares Latin and Santali glyphs from the Noto font. The basic height of Santali letters is set to the Latin cap-height. The Santali glyphs don't extend past the Latin glyphs.

Hhqxᱢᱚᱹᱚᱸᱬᱮᱻᱦᱟ᱓
Font metrics for Latin text compared with Santali glyphs in the Noto Sans Santali font.

fig_baselines_other shows similar comparisons for the Nirmala UI font.

Hhqxᱢᱚᱹᱚᱸᱬᱮᱻᱦᱟ᱓
Latin font metrics compared with Santali glyphs in the Nirmala UI font.

Counters, lists, etc.

You can experiment with counter styles using the Counter styles converter. Patterns for using these styles in CSS can be found in Ready-made Counter Styles, and we use the names of those patterns here to refer to the various styles.

Santali Wikipedia pages use numeric styles.

Numeric

The numeric style is decimal-based and uses these digits.

᱑␣᱒␣᱓␣᱔␣᱕␣᱖␣᱗␣᱘␣᱙␣᱐

Examples:

᱑␣᱒␣᱓␣᱔␣᱑᱑␣᱒᱒␣᱓᱓␣᱔᱔␣᱑᱑᱑␣᱒᱒᱒␣᱓᱓᱓␣᱔᱔᱔

Prefixes and suffixes

A range of prefixes and/or suffixes is used in Wikipedia. They include a simple period, parentheses on both sides, and no mark.

List counters with parens. List counters with dots. List counters with no prefix/suffix.
Separators for Santali list counters in Wikipedia.

Page & book layout

References