Sinhala — 700 AD, Sri Lanka

Sinhala "ma" (Elu)

Sinhala has my vote for the prettiest script on the planet.

Sinhala has two sets of characters: the Elu set represents all the spoken Sinhala phonemes, while the Mixed set represents characters for loan words, mostly from Sanskrit and Pali (another liturgical language). Almost all of the Mixed set can be represented or approximated with the Elu set, but using the Mixed set marks them as loan words.  This is similar to how Hiragana is used for native words and Katakana is used for loan words in Japanese.

One complication is that there are some characters in the Mixed set which have the same sound as a character in the Elu set.  There are also two characters in the Elu set for sounds that are no longer pronounced distinctly from other sounds.  This means that it is quite easy to misspell words — something that is not easy in languages with a closer one-to-one relationship between sounds and characters.

Aside from having two sets of characters, Sinhala is a pretty vanilla Indic abugida, with a virama (called a hal kirima in Sinhala) and consonant conjuncts to kill the vowel and diacritics to change the vowel, plus a  diacritics to show nasalization.  Unlike in most Indic writing systems, the virama does change its shape depending upon the shape of the glyph it modifies.

Links: Wikipedia, Omniglot, Ancient Scripts

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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