If you want to see the Manipuri letters, you will probably have to download a font first.
| kok || ꯀ || ꯛ || || k
| sam || ꯁ || || || s
| lai || ꯂ || ꯜ || || l
| mit || ꯃ || ꯝ || || m
| pa || ꯄ || ꯞ || || p
| na || ꯅ || ꯟ || || n
| chil || ꯆ || || || c
| til || ꯇ || ꯠ || || t
| khou || ꯈ || || || kʰ
| ngou || ꯉ || ꯡ || || ṅ
| thou || ꯊ || || || tʰ
| wai || ꯋ || || || v
| yang || ꯌ || || || y
| huk || ꯍ || || || h
| un || ꯎ || || ꯀꯨ || u
| i || ꯏ || ꯢ || ꯀꯤ|| i
| pham || ꯐ || || || pʰ
| atiya || ꯑ || || ꯀꯥ || ā
| gok || ꯒ || || || g
| jham || ꯓ || || || jʰ
| rai || ꯔ || || || r
| ba || ꯕ || || || b
| jil || ꯖ || || || j
| dil || ꯗ || || || d
| ghou || ꯘ || || || gʰ
| dhou || ꯙ || || || dʰ
| bham || ꯚ || || || bʰ
| o || ꫡ || || ꯀꯣ || o
| e || ꫠ || || ꯀꯦ || e
| ou || || || ꯀꯧ || ou
| ei || || || ꯀꯩ || ei
| cha || ꫢ || || || d
| nya || ꫣ || || || ñ
| tta || ꫤ || || || ṭ
| ttha || ꫥ || || || ṭʰ
| dda || ꫦ || || || ḍ
| ddha || ꫧ || || || ḍʰ
| nna || ꫨ || || || ṇ
| sha || ꫩ || || || ś
| ssa || ꫪ || || || ṣ
| ii || || || ꯀꫫ || ī
| uu || || || ꯀꫬ || ū
| aai || || || ꯀꫭ || āi
| au || || || ꯀꫭ || au
| āu || || || ꯀꫮ || āu
|The consonants of Meitei Mayek in classical Sanskrit order; |
lonsum forms are shown in the left bottom corner,
and obsolete letters in light grey
The Manipuri language (self-designation Meitei-Lon) is spoken in North Eastern India, chiefly in the Manipur state. It belongs to the Sino–Tibetan language family and is usually grouped under the somewhat vague Kuki–Chin branch. Since 2004, Manipuri is an official language of the Indian Union.
The traditional alphabet (Meitei Mayek [ꯃꯩꯇꯩ ꯃꯌꯦꯛ] or Meethei Mayek [ꯃꯤꯇꯩ ꯃꯌꯦꯛ]) was abandoned in the 19.th century in favour of the Bengali script, yet it enjoys a strong revival since the first decade of the 21.st century; currently, it is tought in Manipuri elementary schools. As of 2012, it is known only to very young speakers; people past their teens employ the Bengali script throughout, and this is unlikely to change soon. Thus, most reader will find the index showing Manipuri spice names in Bengali script more helpful.
The Meitei Mayek script is a member of the Indic family of scripts; thus, consonant signs bear an inherent vowel that can be overwritten by special
dependent vowel signs.
Yet, Meitei Mayek stands apart in a couple of features. The most important of those is the collation: While all other Indic scripts have inherited the phonetic sorting from Sanskrit, Meitei Mayek sorts the letters according to the names of body parts, although the last two do not conform to that scheme:
the remaining letters are not used in nativer words and follow in arbitrary order. This feature makes it impossible to include Meitei Mayek into an index of other Indic scripts.
Further special features of the script rarely or never encountered in other Indic writing systems are:
- The character repertoire is significantly reduced with respect to the Indic standard. Among others, retroflexes and vowels for long I and U are missing. Thus, the name Manipur has to be spelt with regular dental N, whereas Bengali alphabet uses the etymologically correct retroflex Ṇ.
- Unicode Standard 6.1 introduces the missing letters for the purpose of historic spellings; those are, however, not used in contemporary official Manipuri orthography.
- Coda consonants in closed syllables are written with special signs, usually simplified versions of the regular letters (which are properly called syllable signs, including the implicit vowel). This is quite analogous to the Malayalam chillu forms. In my home-brew transliteration, those
pure consonant signs (lonsum [ꯂꯣꯟꯁꯨꯝ]) are marked with an apostrophe.
- Somewhat analogously, the vowel I ꯏ is written with a slightly varied shape ꯢ if it acts as part of a diphthong (AI, OI). Some fonts do not indicate the difference and show the same glyph.
- Syllable-final consonants that have no corresponding lonsum characters are written with the regular consonant sign, without any graphical indication to mute the inherent vowel. This applies mostly to loanwords, because native Meitei-Lon words allow only KLMPNTṄR at the end of a syllable, all of which (except R) have lonsum forms.
- There are only three independent vowel letters: Ā, I and U. All other syllable-initial vowels are written by decorating the letter Ā with the corresponding dependent vowel sign. This reminds to the Tibetan Alphabet.
- Syllable-initial consonants clusters are indcated by a visible virama, which appears as an underscore below the two consonant signs (all browsers tested fail, drawing the underline one letter too far left). Example: glas [ꯒ꯭ꯂꯥꯁ]
- Thus, the script lacks any consonantal ligatures. Historic orthographies had a number of those, and the Unicode Standard (Version 6.1) supports this with an alternative
- The velar nasal Ṅ may appear both at the start and at the end of a syllable. It is written, according to the rule outlined, with the letter ngou [ꯉꯧ]
uvula initially and as the corresponding lonsum form ꯡ finally; however, if in the latter position if is preceded by the implicit vowel A, an anusvara is used instead, e. g., lang [ꯂꯪ]
Therefore, no ambiguities with respect to syllabification can arise in Meitei Mayek. In this respect, it is superior to Bengali; yet the latter reflects the etymological relations among the numerous Indic loanwords to a better degree. Remarkably, both fail to account for the tonal nature of the Meitei-Lon language.
Since I could not find a single adult in Manipur that was familiar with both alphabets and with plant names, I had to construct the Meitei Mayek spellings for myself and at my sole responsibility. In case I deduced some wrong rule, many of the spellings might be flawed. In any case, feedback is welcome.