Updated 11 November, 2023
This page brings together basic information about the Osage script and its use for the Osage language. It aims to provide a brief, descriptive summary of the modern, printed orthography and typographic features, and to advise how to write Osage using Unicode.
Richard Ishida, Osage Orthography Notes, 11-Nov-2023, https://r12a.github.io/scripts/osge/osa
𐒻𐓲𐓣𐓤𐓪 𐓰𐓘͘𐓤𐓘 𐓷𐓣͘ 𐓘𐓵𐓟 𐓘𐓬𐓘—𐓤𐓘𐓸𐓘 𐓤𐓯𐓣 𐓘𐓵𐓟 𐓘𐓬𐓘, 𐓪𐓬𐓸𐓘. 𐓏𐓟𐓲’𐓘 𐓷𐓣͘ 𐓣𐓵𐓘𐓬𐓟. 𐓏𐓘𐓲’𐓘 𐓘𐓤𐓸𐓘 “𐒼𐓪𐓰𐓘𐓡𐓘 𐓨𐓘𐓵𐓣͘,” 𐓘𐓤𐓸𐓘. 𐒻𐓲𐓣𐓤𐓪 𐓰𐓘͘𐓤𐓘 𐓘𐓬𐓘, “𐓍𐓣𐓟 𐓵𐓣𐓟 𐓤𐓪𐓰𐓘𐓡𐓘 𐓨𐓘𐓵𐓣͘ 𐓷𐓣𐓩𐓘͘𐓮𐓰𐓘 𐓰𐓛͘ 𐓨𐓣͘𐓤𐓯𐓟,” 𐒻𐓲𐓣𐓤𐓪 𐓰𐓘͘𐓤𐓘 𐓘𐓪𐓘 𐓟𐓤𐓣𐓟 𐓘𐓬𐓘.
𐓏𐓟𐓲’𐓘 𐓘𐓬𐓘, “𐒰͘𐓵𐓘𐓩𐓘͘𐓮𐓰𐓘 𐓘𐓡𐓘 𐓷𐓣𐓜𐓘𐓹𐓰𐓘𐓤𐓟 𐓰𐓛͘ 𐓨𐓣𐓤𐓯𐓟.”
𐒻𐓲𐓣𐓤𐓪 𐓰𐓘͘𐓤𐓘 𐓘𐓬𐓘, “𐒰͘𐓵𐓘𐓹𐓰𐓘𐓤𐓟 𐓟𐓰𐓘͘ 𐓘𐓬𐓘 𐓰𐓘͘ 𐓩𐓘͘𐓮𐓰𐓘𐓬𐓟.” 𐓏𐓘𐓩𐓘͘𐓮𐓰𐓘𐓬𐓟 𐓘𐓡𐓘 𐓵𐓟, 𐓏𐓟𐓲’𐓘 𐓘𐓬𐓘 𐓵𐓘𐓹𐓰𐓘𐓤𐓘𐓬𐓟 𐓮𐓣𐓵𐓟𐓲𐓟. 𐓍𐓘𐓹𐓰𐓘𐓤𐓘𐓬𐓟 𐓘𐓡𐓘, 𐒻𐓲𐓣𐓤𐓪 𐓰𐓘͘𐓤𐓘 𐓘𐓬𐓘 𐓘𐓵𐓘𐓬𐓟 𐓰𐓘͘, 𐓻𐓘͘ 𐓣͘ 𐓟𐓲𐓣 𐓲𐓟 𐓟𐓲𐓣 𐓮𐓣𐓵𐓣͘𐓤𐓘𐓬𐓟. 𐒿𐓣͘ 𐓘𐓤𐓹𐓘 𐓰𐓘͘, 𐓮𐓣 𐓲𐓟 𐓜𐓪𐓤𐓘 𐓣𐓬𐓘 𐓘𐓤𐓹𐓘.
𐒻𐓲𐓣𐓤𐓪 𐓰𐓘͘𐓤𐓘 𐓘𐓤𐓹𐓘, “𐓂𐓪 𐓘͘𐓯𐓣͘ 𐓷𐓘𐓧𐓣 𐓨𐓣͘𐓤𐓯𐓟!” 𐓘𐓤𐓹𐓘. 𐒿𐓣͘ 𐓯𐓪͘ 𐓘𐓤𐓹𐓘 𐓲’𐓟 𐓡𐓣͘𐓤𐓯𐓟 𐓘𐓬𐓘 𐓰𐓘͘ 𐓲’𐓘𐓬𐓟 𐓣𐓲𐓣𐓤𐓪 𐓰𐓘͘𐓤𐓘 𐓘𐓬𐓘. 𐒴𐓪𐓤𐓘𐓻𐓶𐓣𐓤𐓘 𐓜𐓪𐓤𐓘 𐓣𐓬𐓘𐓬𐓟 𐓰𐓘͘ 𐓲’𐓘𐓬𐓟.
Historically Osage was spoken in parts of Missouri, Arkansas and Kansas. The Osage tribe was moved to Oklahoma in 1872. Ethnologue reports no first language speakers since the last died in 2005, but second language speakers are emerging due to a concerted effort to re-introduce the language to an Osage community of around 11,000.
𐓏𐓘𐓻𐓘𐓻𐓟 𐓣𐓟 wɑʒɑʒɛ iɛ Osage
The Osage language has been written using Latin characters since the mid-1800s, but there was no standardised spelling. Writers simply used the Latin letters to represent the sounds as they felt fit.
Around 2006, a new orthography was developed, building on the Latin letters but creating a new set of glyphs for many sounds. This was enthusiastically received by students and teachers.
In 2014 further rationalisation of the script took place, partly driven by the aim of standardising a permanent form for encoding in the Unicode Standard. For details, see variants.
See also variants.
The Osage 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 Osage language.
Osage text runs left-to-right in horizontal lines. Words are separated by spaces.
The script is bicameral. The shapes of the upper and lowercase forms are typically the same.
Osage pronunciation has a good deal of allophonic variation built into most sounds in its alphabet, influenced by surrounding sounds or by dialect.
Osage has 21 basic consonant letters. It also has letters to represent 5 pre-aspirated sounds but the language-learning curriculum of the Osage Nation doesn't use them, with aim of simplifying the learning experience. Another 3 ejective sounds are written using ʼ [U+02BC MODIFIER LETTER APOSTROPHE]. ❯ consonants
This orthography is an alphabet where vowels are written using 10 vowel letters (20 in total), including some diphthongs. Nasalisation is very common and is marked using 0358. ❯ vowels
Three other combining marks can be used to indicate vowel length or accent, although they are not commonly used. None of the marks combine with their base characters to form precomposed shapes.
Numbers use ASCII digits. ❯ numbers
These are sounds for the Osage 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.
u is variable, and may be realised as ʉ or y following a velar plosive or near a front vowel with no intervening plosive. It may also conflate with i after ð or n.wl
ɛ can sometimes sound like e.
In fast speech, a is often pronounced ə after a stressed syllable or at the end of a word.wl The orthography has a separate letter for the sound ə, although Qintero doesn't classify it as phonemic.wl An ə sound may also be added to the end of English words, so that they don't end with a consonant. She gives the example of her own name, which may be pronounced carolinə.
õ and ã can often be interchangeable.q
For more details, see Wikipedia and Quintero.
There are a number of permutations of adjacent vowels without intervening consonants. The items shown here are those for which there are separate letters in Osage.
For more details, see Wikipedia and Quintero.
pˀ ʰp px pʃ
kˀ ʰk kx kʃ kʲ
t͡sˀ ʰt͡s t͡sʰ tx
|fricative||ð||s z||ʃ ʒ||x ɣ||h hʲ|
Many sounds are described in terms of voiced and unvoiced, however Quintero says "The feature distinguishing s and š from z and ž is probably tenseness vs. laxness more than voicelessness vs. voicing." The sounds represented here as p, t, and k, are realised as an unaspirated sound that is halfway between voiced and unvoiced. In some words the sound may be more like one than the other.
The br sequence contains the only clearly voiced plosive phone. It appears infrequently, except in verb forms.wl,#Stop_series
As well as ejectives, the table lists pre-aspirated stops and affricates, and the sound sequences that now represent historical post-aspiration, ie. consonants followed by x or ʃ. The pre-aspirated consonants are pronounced as geminates in some dialects.
For more details, see Wikipedia and Quintero.
Osage is based on syllables of the form:wl,#Consonant_clusters
Consonant clusters never appear in word-final position; only word-initial or word-medial.wl,#Consonant_clusters
Precise spelling may use additional combining marks to indicate vowel length and tone (not shown here).
For additional details see vowel_mappings.
The basic set of plain vowel letters is as follows.
These vowels can be lengthened, accented, or nasalised using diacritics.
There is also a set of single-letter diphthongs, most of which are nasalised.
Osage vowels can be followed by 4 combining marks, although only the one used for nasalisation is in common use. These are described in the sections that follow.
Although vowel length can occasionally produce contrasting pairs in Osage, it is generally difficult to perceive, can vary in application, and the rules are not clearly established. Long vowels may be shortened in unstressed positions, however short vowels can be lengthened in questions. Vowels at the end of a word are normally short.wl,#Vowel_clusters_and_long_vowels
As with the accent marks, length is not indicated in the text of the Osage Nation language-learning curricula, and these characters are only likely to be used for precise phonetic labelling of words.
Long vowels can be indicated using ̄ [U+0304 COMBINING MACRON] above the vowel, eg. 𐓬𐓘̄𐓹𐓪́
If the vowel is long and also accented, use ̋ [U+030B COMBINING DOUBLE ACUTE ACCENT], eg. 𐓰𐓘̋𐓜𐓘͘
This list shows the set of long vowels.e
Nasalisation is very common in Osage words. Normally it is indicated using ͘ [U+0358 COMBINING DOT ABOVE RIGHT] after the vowel, eg. 𐓯𐓪͘𐓤𐓟 However, 3 diphthongs place the dot inside the letter, and so are represented using precomposed characters.wl,#Phonology
This list shows the set of nasalised vowels.
It is easy to find words still written in the older style orthography, where nasalisation is indicated using ^ [U+005E CIRCUMFLEX ACCENT], eg. 𐓨𐓘͘𐓺𐓟𐓮𐓤𐓘 was formerly written 𐓨𐓘^𐓺𐓟𐓮𐓤𐓘
To signal pitch accents use ́ [U+0301 COMBINING ACUTE ACCENT], eg. 𐓡𐓘́𐓬𐓘
This list shows the set of non-lengthened vowels with pitch accents.
The Osage Nation does not use these accent marks in their online language courses. They are likely to be used only for precise phonetic labelling of words, such as one might find in a dictionary.
This section maps Osage vowel sounds to common graphemes in the Osage orthography, grouped by lowercase ( l ) and uppercase ( u ). 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.
Ejectives are written using ʼ [U+02BC MODIFIER LETTER APOSTROPHE], eg. compare 𐓲ʼ𐓟𐓤𐓘 𐓲𐓟𐓤𐓘 There are only 3 ejective sounds.
Osage words may contain pre-aspirated stops and affricates, however some dialects pronounce these instead as geminated consonants. For this reason, the orthography has a set of single letters that can be used to represent either a pre-aspirated or an equivalent geminated sound.
The lessons offered by the Osage Nation website don't contain any of these letters, as part of the simplification of the orthography intended to help people learn to write Osage. Pre-aspirated sounds are not distinguished from normal sounds. For example, deer ʰtɑ́ː is written 𐓰𐓘 rather than 𐓱𐓘. These letters may be used, however, for dictionaries or other places where the orthography needs to be more precise.
Sounds that were formerly post-aspirated are mostly represented by digraphs ending in 𐓸 [U+104F8 OSAGE SMALL LETTER KHA] or 𐓯 [U+104EF OSAGE SMALL LETTER SHA] , which are used in complementary fashion, eg. 𐓪𐓬𐓸𐓘 However, the single letter 𐓴 [U+104F4 OSAGE SMALL LETTER TSHA] is an allograph of 𐓰𐓸 [U+104F0 OSAGE SMALL LETTER TA + U+104F8 OSAGE SMALL LETTER KHA].
Consonant clusters do occur in the Osage script, per the conventions of the syllable structure (see structure), but are not indicated in any special way.
This section maps Osage vowel sounds to common graphemes, grouped by lowercase ( l ) and uppercase ( u ). Click on the character names to see examples.
ʼ [U+02BC MODIFIER LETTER APOSTROPHE], eg. .
Osage uses ASCII digits.
Osage text runs left to right in horizontal lines.
bidi_class properties for characters in the Osage 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 Osage character app.
The Osage script is not cursive, and involves no significant context-based shaping or positioning.
Osage has no special requirements for baseline alignment between mixed scripts and in general.
Osage is bicameral, and applications may need to enable transforms to allow the user to switch between cases.
Osage graphemes are typically single characters, with an optional combining mark to indicate nasalisation. Up to 2 more combining marks can be added to indicate vowel length and accents.
Unicode grapheme clusters can be applied to Osage without problems. There are no special issues related to operations that use grapheme clusters as their basic unit of text.
Osage words are separated by spaces.
In the early stages of the use of the Osage script syllables within a word were separated by periods, eg. 𐓧𐓘.𐓬𐓸𐓘͘.𐓤𐓟. This is no longer the case. Syllable boundaries are, in any case, easily identified in Osage text.
Osage uses standard ASCII punctuation for phrase boundaries.
, [U+002C COMMA]
; [U+003B SEMICOLON]
: [U+003A COLON]
. [U+002E FULL STOP]
The following dashes are used.
Osage commonly uses ASCII parentheses to insert parenthetical information into text.
Osage texts use quotation marks around quotations instead. 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]|
The default quote marks for Osage are “ [U+201C LEFT DOUBLE QUOTATION MARK] at the start, and ” [U+201D RIGHT DOUBLE QUOTATION MARK] at the end.
When an additional quote is embedded within the first, the quote marks are ‘ [U+2018 LEFT SINGLE QUOTATION MARK] and ’ [U+2019 RIGHT SINGLE QUOTATION MARK].
Lines are primarily 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 Osage orthography.
The following list gives examples of typical behaviours for some of the characters used in Osage. Context may affect the behaviour of some of these and other characters.
Click/tap on the characters to show what they are.
This section looks at ways in which spacing is applied between characters over and above that which is introduced during justification.
Osage uses the so-called 'alphabetic' baseline, which is the same as for Latin and many other scripts.
Osage has ascenders and descenders, and diacritics that sit above and below the base letters. However, the metrics match those of the Latin script.
To give an approximate idea, fig_baselines compares Latin and Osage glyphs from the Noto Sans Osage font. All the metrics can be seen to be about the same.
fig_baselines_other shows similar comparisons for the Barnsdall font.
Osage uses a decimal numeric counter style with ASCII digits. The default separator is a full stop + space.
This section is for any features that are specific to Osage and that relate to the following topics: general page layout & progression; grids & tables; notes, footnotes, etc; forms & user interaction; page numbering, running headers, etc.
Page layout for Osage follows the same practices as for US English text written in Latin script.
Changes introduced in 2014 include the following:e
Another recent change in the orthography sees the discontinuation of the practice of separating syllables within a word by periods, eg. the formerly written 𐓷𐓘.𐓮𐓘.𐓬𐓟 is now written 𐓷𐓘𐓮𐓘𐓬𐓟