Updated 11 November, 2023
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.
Richard Ishida, Santali (Ol Chiki) Orthography Notes, 11-Nov-2023, https://r12a.github.io/scripts/olck/sat
ᱱᱤᱭᱟᱹ ᱣᱤᱠᱤᱯᱤᱰᱤᱭᱟ ᱫᱚ ᱥᱟᱱᱛᱟᱲᱤ ᱛᱮ ᱚᱞ ᱟᱠᱟᱱᱟ᱾ ᱚᱨᱦᱚᱸ ᱮᱴᱟᱜ ᱯᱟᱹᱨᱥᱤᱛᱮ ᱦᱚᱸ ᱟᱭᱢᱟ ᱣᱤᱠᱤᱯᱤᱰᱤᱭᱟ ᱢᱮᱱᱟᱜᱼᱟ ᱾ ᱱᱚᱸᱰᱮ ᱠᱤᱪᱷᱩ ᱛᱟᱹᱞᱠᱟᱹ ᱮᱢ ᱦᱩᱭᱱᱟ ᱾
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.
Sources Unicode and Wikipedia.
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.
Santali has 23 consonant letters. Consonants can be aspirated by forming a digraph with a special aspiration letter. ❯ consonants
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). ❯ finals
There are no special forms for consonant clusters in Santali.
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. ❯ vowels
Ol Chiki has native digit shapes. ❯ numbers
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.
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.
Santali can have successive vowels without intervening consonants, but they are not diphthongs such as those that combine with a glide at the end.
The following reprour are non-native or allophones. Source Wikipedia.
|stops||p b||t d||ʈ ɖ||c ɟ||k ɡ|
|aspirated||pʰ bʰ||tʰ dʰ||ʈʰ ɖʰ||cʰ ɟʰ||ɡʰ|
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
Long vowels are indicated by a following ᱻ and nasalisation by ᱸ or ᱺ (not shown here).
For additional details see vowel_mappings.
The standard vowel sounds for Santali are written as follows.
Three additional vowel sounds are represented using ᱹ [U+1C79 OL CHIKI GAAHLAA TTUDDAAG],
ᱚᱹ [U+1C5A OL CHIKI LETTER LA + U+1C79 OL CHIKI GAAHLAA TTUDDAAG] is rarely used, and the phonetic difference between it and ᱚ [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
To indicate a prolonged vowel sound, ᱻ [U+1C7B OL CHIKI RELAA] is used,rp,9 eg. ᱢᱚᱹᱬᱮᱻ ᱢᱚᱸᱻᱦᱟ
Nasalisation of vowels is indicated using ᱸ [U+1C78 OL CHIKI MU TTUDDAG],rp,9 eg. ᱦᱟᱸᱰᱮ
When the letter is followed by ᱹ [U+1C79 OL CHIKI GAAHLAA TTUDDAAG] a separate Unicode character is used, rather than adding the two characters. That character is ᱺ [U+1C7A OL CHIKI MU-GAAHLAA TTUDDAAG],rp,9 eg. ᱵᱮᱺᱫᱤ
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.
For additional details see consonant_mappings.
Aspirated consonant sounds are indicated using ᱷ [U+1C77 OL CHIKI LETTER OH] after the consonant,fp,2 eg. ᱡᱷᱚᱛᱚ ᱛᱷᱚᱲᱟ
Four voiced stops are pronounced unvoiced and unreleased when they are not followed by a vowel, especially in word-final position.
|ᱵ [U+1C75 OL CHIKI LETTER OB]||b||→||p̚||eg. ᱩᱵ|
|ᱫ [U+1C6B OL CHIKI LETTER UD]||d||→||t̚||eg. ᱢᱮᱫ|
|ᱡ [U+1C61 OL CHIKI LETTER AAJ]||ɟ||→||c̚||eg. ᱢᱩᱡ|
|ᱜ [U+1C5C OL CHIKI LETTER AG]||ɡ||→||k̚||eg. ᱫᱚᱜ|
Where the voicing needs to be maintained, ᱽ [U+1C7D OL CHIKI AHAD] is added, eg.
In the opposite situation, where a voiced consonant is used before a vowel but you want to allow the devoicing, put ᱼ [U+1C7C OL CHIKI PHAARKAA] before the vowel.rp,10 For example, see this verb form: ᱢᱮᱱᱟᱜᱼᱟ
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.
ᱵ [U+1C75 OL CHIKI LETTER OB] when not followed by a vowel.
ᱫ [U+1C6B OL CHIKI LETTER UD] when not followed by a vowel.
ᱡ [U+1C61 OL CHIKI LETTER AAJ] when not followed by a vowel.
ᱜ [U+1C5C OL CHIKI LETTER AG] when not followed by a vowel.
Ol Chiki has a set of native digits
Santali text runs left to right in horizontal lines.
bidi_class properties for characters in the Santali 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 Ol Chiki character app.
Santali text is not cursive (ie. joined up like Arabic), however there is some ligation in hand written text which doesn't occur in printed content.
The orthography has no case distinction, and no special transforms are needed to convert between characters.
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?
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 ᱸ [U+1C78 OL CHIKI MU TTUDDAG], ᱹ [U+1C79 OL CHIKI GAAHLAA TTUDDAAG], ᱻ [U+1C7B OL CHIKI RELAA], etc.
Click on the text version of this word to see more detail about the composition.
Word units are separated by spaces.
Paired words may be separated by ᱼ [U+1C7C OL CHIKI PHAARKAA], eg. ᱥᱩᱡᱷᱼᱵᱩᱡᱷ sujʰ-bujʰ
Santali uses mostly ASCII punctuation, but also some Indic punctuation from the Santali block.
, [U+002C COMMA]
; [U+003B SEMICOLON]
: [U+003A COLON]
|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.
Observation: Samples in the Unicode proposals suggest that the mucaad and double mucaad punctuation is preceded by a space.
Santali commonly uses ASCII parentheses to insert parenthetical information into text.
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.
|initial||” [U+201D RIGHT DOUBLE QUOTATION MARK]|
|nested||’ [U+2019 RIGHT SINGLE QUOTATION MARK]|
Observation: Lines appear to be broken at word boundaries.
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.
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.
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.
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.
fig_baselines_other shows similar comparisons for the Nirmala UI font.
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.
The numeric style is decimal-based and uses these digits.
A range of prefixes and/or suffixes is used in Wikipedia. They include a simple period, parentheses on both sides, and no mark.
This section is for any features that are specific to Ol Chiki and that relate to the following topics: general page layout & progression; grids & tables; notes, footnotes, etc; forms & user interaction; page numbering, running headers, etc.