Zolai — 1952 AD, India

Zolai "hr"

There is a small ethnic group on the border of India and Burma with many names.  They are called the Zo, Zou, Jo, Chin, and several other names. They speak a language that is in the same language family as the language which the Pau Cin Hau logographic script and the Pau Cin Hau alphabetic script were developed for; whether it is a separate language or part of the same language as Pin Chin Hau was used for (which has many names including Tedim) is unclear.  (I could not find much information about this language.)

In 1952, M. Siahzathang developed a script (usually called Zolai) for writing the Zou language.  This happened at the same time as rapid Christianization of the Zou people; I speculate that the Christians wanted to erase the connection between the Laipian religion founded by Mr. Pau Chin Hau and people’s writing system.

There are several unusual features of the Zolai script.

  • Unlike most scripts, it has both capital and small letters.
  • It is a cross between a syllabary and an alphabet: there are some glyphs that represent vowels (e.g. “a”, “e”, and “o”), some that represent syllables (e.g. “ka”, “mo”, and “fi”, and some that represent consonants (e.g. “th”, “ph”), and even some that look to me like consonant clusters (e.g. “hr”, “tl”, and “lh”).
  • It has gotten significantly more characters over time: it started with 25 characters and now has 90.  It seems more common to me for a language to start with a lot more characters, then drop a lot of them.  Sometimes, a language will gain small numbers of characters over time to handle foreign loan words, but I haven’t seen an almost 4x increase in 50 years before.

Links: Unicode introduction

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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