Khojki — 1350 AD, Pakistan

Khojki "dda"

Khojki was developed in around 1350 AD by Pir Sadardin in the Sindh region of Pakistan for recording Ismaili (a branch of Shia Islam) religious literature, mostly in the Sindhi language.  As with its sibling Gurmukhi, it is very similar to most other Brahmi-derived scripts, including vowel treatment like most Brahmi scripts (instead of like Punjabi Landa, from which it derives).

If you are reading this, you are probably on a computer with tens of fonts, with hundreds easily available to you.  You probably own a printer capable of printing 5000-1500 pages in eight hours in any of those hundreds of fonts.

This is emphatically not how easy it was for minority languages to reproduce printed material until very recently.  The first printing in Khojki was not until 1903 AD, and required Mr. Laljibhi Devraj to travel from Bombay to Germany for three months to oversee carving of Khojki metal type and arranging to ship it (and him) back to Bombay to use with his press.  For all that effort (and expense), he gained the ability to print about 1000 pages per day in one typeface.  Still, this was a huge improvement over hand-copied manuscripts (~50 pages per day), and he was lionized for this achievement.

Handwritten Khojki uses marks that look like colons to separate words.  (Interestingly, Ga’ez — the only African abugida — also uses that mark for interword separation).  Handwritten Khojki uses several other punctuation marks that other Brahmi-derived scripts use.  However, printed Khojki uses Latin punctuation, like spaces, commas, etc.  I don’t know if this is because Laljibhi Devraj thought the Latin punctuation was visually better somehow, but it is very clear that it is cheaper to use a space than a colon for interword separation: a space type slug needs no specialized skill to create, while carving a colon does, and you would need hundreds if not thousands of interword space characters.

Links: Wikipedia, Unicode proposal

About ducky

I'm a computer programmer professionally, currently working on mapping applications. I have been interested non-professionally for a long time in the effect on society on advances in communications technology -- things like writing, vowels, spaces between words, paper, etc.
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