Tai Nüa/Tai Le

Updated 19 September, 2021

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

Phonetic transcriptions on this page should be treated as an approximate guide, only. Many are more phonemic than phonetic, and there may be variations depending on the source of the transcription.

More about using this page
Related pages.
Other script summaries.

Sample (Tai Nüa)

The two paragraphs show the same text, except that the first uses spacing characters for tone marks, and second shows the older combining-character orthography.

Select part of this sample text to show a list of characters, with links to more details.
Change size:   28px

ᥘᥬᥰ​ᥔᥩᥛᥳ​ᥝᥢᥰ​ᥘᥭᥳ,​ᥐᥩᥙ​ᥘᥭᥲ​ᥑᥨᥛᥱ​ᥑᥦᥢᥴ​ᥖᥫᥒᥰ​ᥐᥣ,​ᥝᥣᥐ​ᥖᥣᥙᥱ​ᥐᥨᥢᥰ​ᥑᥥᥢᥴ​ᥛᥣᥰ​ᥔᥥᥴ,​ᥛᥣᥢᥲ​ᥘᥣᥰ​ᥟᥢᥐᥬᥲ​ᥓᥛ​ᥑᥩᥙᥱ​ᥞᥤᥛᥰ​ᥙᥥᥲ​ᥢᥣᥢᥳ​ᥘᥢᥳ,​ᥛᥤᥰ​ᥐᥣᥭᥰ​ᥚᥣᥒᥳ​ᥓᥤᥢ​ᥚᥧᥒᥴ​ᥘᥫᥒ​ᥑᥝᥲ​ᥛᥣᥢᥳ​ᥛᥣᥰ,​ᥟᥣ​ᥛᥥᥝᥰ​ᥖᥭᥰ​ᥖᥒᥰ​ᥘᥣᥭᥴ​ᥟᥩᥢ​ᥐᥢ​ᥐᥣᥱ​ᥓᥩᥭ​ᥗᥦᥛᥴ.

ᥘᥬ̈​ᥔᥩᥛ̇​ᥝᥢ̈​ᥘᥭ̇,​ᥐᥩᥙ​ᥘᥭ̀​ᥑᥨᥛ̌​ᥑᥦᥢ́​ᥖᥫᥒ̈​ᥐᥣ,​ᥝᥣᥐ​ᥖᥣᥙ̌​ᥐᥨᥢ̈​ᥑᥥᥢ́​ᥛᥣ̈​ᥔᥥ́,​ᥛᥣᥢ̀​ᥘᥣ̈​ᥟᥢᥐᥬ̀​ᥓᥛ​ᥑᥩᥙ̌​ᥞᥤᥛ̈​ᥙᥥ̀​ᥢᥣᥢ̇​ᥘᥢ̇,​ᥛᥤ̈​ᥐᥣᥭ̈​ᥚᥣᥒ̇​ᥓᥤᥢ​ᥚᥧᥒ́​ᥘᥫᥒ​ᥑᥝ̀​ᥛᥣᥢ̇​ᥛᥣ̈,​ᥟᥣ​ᥛᥥᥝ̈​ᥖᥭ̈​ᥖᥒ̈​ᥘᥣᥭ́​ᥟᥩᥢ​ᥐᥢ​ᥐᥣ̌​ᥓᥩᥭ​ᥗᥦᥛ́.

Usage & history

The Tai Le script, or Dehong Dai script, is used to write the Tai Nüa language of south-central Yunnan, China. (The language is also known as Tai Nüa, Dehong Dai, Tai Mau, Tai Kong, and Chinese Shan.)

The script is currently widely used in China for government documents, public notice boards and signage, in advertising, education and publishing. There are 6 publishing houses in China which publish over 45,000 book copies per year in the script. It is estimated that speakers of Tai Le in Dehong are about 95% literate in the Tai Le script.s

ᥖᥭᥰᥘᥫᥴ tai˦.lə˧˥

Several orthographic conventions have been used over the 700-800 years of the script's use. Between 1952 and 1988, the script went through four reforms. The reform of 1954 rationalised the old system, to reduce the redundancy of symbols to represent sounds, to represent tones more accurately, and to standardise the handwritten cursive forms. That of 1963/4 standardised combining marks used to represent tones. The reform of 1988 replaced the tone diacritics with today's spacing characters.

Sources: Unicode Standard, Wikipedia, Scriptsource.

Basic features

The Tai Le script is an abugida, ie. consonants carry an inherent vowel sound that is overridden using vowel signs. In Tai Le, consonants carry an inherent vowel a. See the table to the right for a brief overview of features for the modern Tai Nüa orthography.

Tai Le text runs left to right in horizontal lines.

Words are not separated by spaces.

The key distinguishing feature of Tai Le is its regularity and simplicity compared to other Tai scripts. The sequence of characters is C(V)(C)(T). Tones always go after any other characters in the syllable.

Tai Le's 19 consonants are straightforward. There is no duplication for tone support, no stacking or other conjunct behaviour, etc.

The Tai Le orthography has an inherent vowel, and represents other vowels using 11 vowel-signs. All vowel-signs are ordinary spacing characters (no combining marks), and are stored after the base character.

Syllable-final consonant sounds use ordinary code points without an inherent vowel. Parsing syllables is usually straightforward because each syllable-final consonant is folllowed by a tone mark.

Tones are written using 5 spacing characters after the final character in a syllable, however they were written using 5 combining characters until 1988.

Tai Nüa numbers use ASCII digits, but may also use Myanmar digits with some shape changes.

Character index

Letters

Show

Consonants

ᥙ␣ᥚ␣ᥖ␣ᥗ␣ᥐ␣ᥠ␣ᥟ␣ᥓ␣ᥡ␣ᥜ␣ᥔ␣ᥑ␣ᥞ␣ᥛ␣ᥢ␣ᥒ␣ᥝ␣ᥘ␣ᥕ

Vowels

ᥤ␣ᥪ␣ᥧ␣ᥥ␣ᥨ␣ᥫ␣ᥦ␣ᥩ␣ᥣ␣ᥬ␣ᥭ

Tones

ᥰ␣ᥱ␣ᥲ␣ᥳ␣ᥴ

Combining marks

Show

Tones

̈␣̌␣̀␣̇␣́

Numbers

Show
၀␣၁␣၂␣၃␣၄␣၅␣၆␣၇␣၈␣၉

Punctuation

Show
〈␣〉␣《␣》␣(␣)␣!␣?␣:␣;␣。␣、␣,␣.
Character lists show:

Phonology

These sounds are for the Tai Nüa 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 ɯ ɯ u e o ə ə ɛ ɔ a aː

Diphthongs

iu ui eu oi əi əu əi əu ɛu ɔi ai aɯ au aːi aːu

Consonant sounds

labial dental alveolar post-
alveolar
palatal velar glottal
stop p
t
      k
ʔ
affricate   t͡s
t͡sʰ
         
fricative f   s     x h
nasal m   n     ŋ
approximant w   l   j  
trill/flap        

Syllable-final

labial dental alveolar post-
alveolar
palatal velar glottal
stop p t       k  
affricate              
fricative              
nasal m   n     ŋ
approximant            
trill/flap        

Structure

The script is syllable-based.

A syllable's phonetic and orthographic structure is very simple; C(V)(C)(T).

There are no medial consonant letters. Single characters are available for the onset sequences.

Syllable-final consonants are the same characters used for onset.

There are 6 tone marks, which may be represented by spacing characters or in older orthographies by combining marks, but which always come at the end of the syllable..

Vowels

Inherent vowel

a following a consonant is not written, but is seen as an inherent part of the consonant letter, so ka is written by simply using the consonant letter [U+1950 TAI LE LETTER KA].

Vowel signs

Non-inherent vowel sounds that follow a consonant can be represented using vowel-signs, eg. ki is written ᥐᥤ [U+1950 TAI LE LETTER KA + U+1964 TAI LE LETTER I].

All vowel signs in Tai Le are ordinary spacing characters, rather than combining characters, and appear after the base.

ᥤ␣ᥪ␣ᥧ␣ᥥ␣ᥨ␣ᥫ␣ᥦ␣ᥩ␣ᥣ␣ ␣ᥬ␣ᥭ

Tones

The current orthography for Tai Le uses spacing characters to represent tone marks.

ᥰ␣ᥱ␣ᥲ␣ᥳ␣ᥴ

Tone marks were introduced in 1963, and until 1988 were written using the following combining characters.

̈␣̌␣̀␣̇␣́

When a diacritic is used with a tall vowel letter it is displayed to the side, eg. compare ᥑᥥᥢ́ xen⁶ ᥙᥥ̀ pe⁴

Whether spacing character or combining characters are used, Tai Le tone marks always appear at the very end of a syllable (ie. after any final consonant).

The following tones are represented.

Mark Description
ᥰ or ◌̈ high-level
ᥱ or ◌̌ low-level
ᥲ or ◌̀ mid-fall
ᥳ or ◌̇ high-fall
ᥴ or ◌́ mid-rise

Consonants

Consonant letters

Stops

ᥙ␣ᥚ␣ᥖ␣ᥗ␣ᥐ␣ᥠ␣ᥟ

Affricates

ᥓ␣ᥡ

Fricatives

ᥜ␣ᥔ␣ᥑ␣ᥞ

Nasals

ᥛ␣ᥢ␣ᥒ

Liquids

ᥝ␣ᥘ␣ᥕ

Syllable-initial consonant clusters

Tai Le has no syllable-initial clusters. Check this.

Syllable-final consonants

Consonants do appear in syllable-final position, but Tai Le has no dedicated characters for this. Standard consonant characters are used. It is usually easy to tell that a character is used in final consonant position, because of the position of tone marks, however it seems possible that an open syllable with no tone mark followed by an open syllable using the inherent vowel would create some ambiguity.

When used in final position, [U+195D TAI LE LETTER VA] is pronounced w.

Numbers

In China, European digits are used, in the main, although Myanmar digits (U+1040..U+1049) are also used with slight glyph variants.

These are the Myanmar digits. Unfortunately, the default font for this page doesn't show the typical differences in glyph shape, in particular, for the digits 2, 6, 8, and 9. u

၀␣၁␣၂␣၃␣၄␣၅␣၆␣၇␣၈␣၉

The differences can be seen in fig_digits.u650

Table showing digit glyphs.

Comparison of glyphs for Myanmar digits used in Myanmar and Tai Le.

Text direction

Tai Le text runs left to right in horizontal lines.

Show default bidi_class properties for characters in the Tai Nüa 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 Tai Le character app.

Vowels all follow the initial consonant and are spacing characters with no special joining behaviour. Therefore, the Tai Le script has no need for special shaping, other than when diacritics are used for tone marks alongside tall characters, as described above. Nor is printed text cursive.

Tai Le has no special requirements for baseline alignment between mixed scripts or in general.

The orthography has no case distinction, and no special transforms are needed to convert between characters.

Font styles

tbd

Punctuation & inline features

Grapheme boundaries

tbd

Word boundaries

Words are not separated by spaces.

Phrase & section boundaries

Tai Le uses western and fullwidth Chinese punctuationu650, which may include the following (needs to be checked).

phrase

[U+FF0C FULLWIDTH COMMA]

[U+3001 IDEOGRAPHIC COMMA]

[U+FF1B FULLWIDTH SEMICOLON]

[U+FF1A FULLWIDTH COLON]

sentence

[U+FF0E FULLWIDTH FULL STOP]

[U+3002 IDEOGRAPHIC FULL STOP] 

[U+FF1F FULLWIDTH QUESTION MARK]

[U+FF01 FULLWIDTH EXCLAMATION MARK]

Parentheses & brackets

  start end
standard

[U+FF08 FULLWIDTH LEFT PARENTHESIS]

[U+FF09 FULLWIDTH RIGHT PARENTHESIS]

Quotations

  start end
initial

[U+300A LEFT DOUBLE ANGLE BRACKET]

[U+300B RIGHT DOUBLE ANGLE BRACKET]

nested

[U+3008 LEFT ANGLE BRACKET]

[U+3009 RIGHT ANGLE BRACKET]

Emphasis

tbd

Abbreviation, ellipsis & repetition

tbd

Inline notes & annotations

tbd

Other inline ranges

tbd

Other punctuation

tbd

Line & paragraph layout

Line breaking & hyphenation

tbd

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

Text alignment & justification

tbd

Letter spacing

tbd

Counters, lists, etc.

tbd

Styling initials

tbd

Page & book layout

This section is for any features that are specific to Tai Le 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 Tai le script

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

References