Tocharian script
Kizil Caves standing Buddha. Often attributed in the past to the 7th century AD,[1] but now carbon dated to AD 245-340.[2] Tocharian B inscription reading:

Se pañäkte saṅketavattse ṣarsa papaiykau
"This Buddha was painted by the hand of Sanketava".[3][4][5][6]
Script type
Time period
8th century
LanguagesTocharian languages
Related scripts
Parent systems
Sister systems
Gupta, Tamil-Brahmi, Bhattiprolu, Sinhala
The theorised Semitic origins of the Brahmi script are not universally agreed upon.
 This article contains phonetic transcriptions in the International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA). For an introductory guide on IPA symbols, see Help:IPA. For the distinction between [ ], / / and  , see IPA § Brackets and transcription delimiters.
Sample of Tocharian script on a tablet.

The Tocharian script,[7] also known as Central Asian slanting Gupta script or North Turkestan Brāhmī,[8] is an abugida which uses a system of diacritical marks to associate vowels with consonant symbols. Part of the Brahmic scripts, it is a version of the Indian Brahmi script. It is used to write the Central Asian Indo-European Tocharian languages, mostly from the 8th century (with a few earlier ones, probably as early as AD 300)[9] that were written on palm leaves, wooden tablets and Chinese paper, preserved by the extremely dry climate of the Tarim Basin. Samples of the language have been discovered at sites in Kucha and Karasahr, including many mural inscriptions. Mistakenly identifying the speakers of this language with the Tokharoi people of Tokharistan (the Bactria of the Greeks), early authors called these languages "Tocharian". This naming has remained, although the names Agnean and Kuchean have been proposed as a replacement.[10][11]

Tocharian A and B are not mutually intelligible. Properly speaking, based on the tentative interpretation of twqry as related to Tokharoi, only Tocharian A may be referred to as Tocharian, while Tocharian B could be called Kuchean (its native name may have been kuśiññe), but since their grammars are usually treated together in scholarly works, the terms A and B have proven useful. A common Proto-Tocharian language must precede the attested languages by several centuries, probably dating to the 1st millennium BC. Given the small geographical range of and the lack of secular texts in Tocharian A, it might alternatively have been a liturgical language, the relationship between the two being similar to that between Classical Chinese and Mandarin. However, the lack of a secular corpus in Tocharian A is by no means definite, due to the fragmentary preservation of Tocharian texts in general.

History

The Tocharian script is derived from the Brahmi alphabetic syllabary (abugida) and is referred to as slanting Brahmi. It soon became apparent that a large proportion of the manuscripts were translations of known Buddhist works in Sanskrit and some of them were even bilingual, facilitating decipherment of the new language. Besides the Buddhist and Manichaean religious texts, there were also monastery correspondence and accounts, commercial documents, caravan permits, and medical and magical texts, and one love poem. Many Tocharians embraced Manichaean duality or Buddhism.

In 1998, Chinese linguist Ji Xianlin published a translation and analysis of fragments of a Tocharian Maitreyasamiti-Nataka discovered in 1974 in Yanqi.[12][13][14]

The Tocharian script probably died out after 840, when the Uyghurs were expelled from Mongolia by the Kyrgyz, retreating to the Tarim Basin. This theory is supported by the discovery of translations of Tocharian texts into Uyghur. During Uyghur rule, the peoples assimilated by the Turkic speaking Uyghurs now in Xinjiang.

Script

The Tocharian script is based on Brahmi, with each consonant having an inherent vowel, which can be altered by adding a vowel mark or removed by a special nullifying mark, the virama. Like Brahmi, Tocharian uses stacking for conjunct consonants and has irregular conjunct forms of , ra.[15] Unlike other Brahmi scripts, Tocharian has a second set of characters called Fremdzeichen that double up several of the standard consonants, but with an inherent "Ä" vowel.[16] The eleven Fremdzeichen are most often found as substitutes for the standard consonant+virama in conjuncts, but they can be found in any context other than with the explicit "Ä" vowel mark. Fremdzeichen as consonant+virama is not found in later Tocharian texts.

Table of Tocharian letters

Tocharian vowels
Independent A Ā I Ī U Ū
R̥̄ E Ai O Au Ä
Vowel diacritics
(here applied on
as an example)
Tha Thā Thi Thī Thu Thū
Thr̥ Thr̥̄ The Thai Tho Thau Thä
Tocharian consonants
Velars Ka Kha Ga Gha Ṅa
Standard
Fremdzeichen
Palatals Ca Cha Ja Jha Ña
Retroflexes Ṭa Ṭha Ḍa Ḍha Ṇa
Dentals Ta Tha Da Dha Na
Standard
Fremdzeichen
Labials Pa Pha Ba Bha Ma
Standard
Fremdzeichen
Sonorants Ya Ra La Va
Standard
Fremdzeichen
Sibilants Śa Ṣa Sa Ha
Standard
Fremdzeichen
Other marks
Visarga Anusvara Virama (on na) Jihvamuliya Upadhmaniya

Evolution from Brahmi to Tocharian

2nd-century CE Sanskrit, Kizil Caves. First line: "... [pa]kasah tasmad asma(d)vipaksapratipaksas..." . Spitzer, Manuscript folio 383 fragment.

Manuscripts in Sanskrit, using Middle Brahmi script and the Kushan period, and carbon dated to the 2nd century CE, have been discovered in the Tarim Basin, and particularly at Kizil. Some of the fragments, quite possibly the oldest Sanskrit manuscript of any type related to Buddhism and Hinduism discovered so far, were discovered in 1906 in the form of a pile of more than 1,000 palm leaf fragments in the Ming-oi, Kizil Caves, during the third Turfan expedition headed by Albert Grünwedel. The calibrated age of the manuscript by Carbon-14 technique is 130 CE (80–230 CE), corresponding to the rule of the Kushan king Kanishka.

The Tocharian script evolved from the Middle Brahmi script of the Kushan Empire:[17]

Evolution from Brahmi to Kushan Brahmi, and to Tocharian[18]
a i u e o k- kh- g- gh- ṅ- c- ch- j- jh- ñ- ṭ- ṭh- ḍ- ḍh-
Brahmi 𑀅 𑀇 𑀉 𑀏 𑀑 𑀓 𑀔 𑀕 𑀖 𑀗 𑀘 𑀙 𑀚 𑀛 𑀜 𑀝 𑀞 𑀟 𑀠
Kushan Brahmi
Tocharian
ṇ- t- th- d- dh- n- p- ph- b- bh- m- y- r- l- v- ś- ṣ- s- h-
Brahmi 𑀡 𑀢 𑀣 𑀤 𑀥 𑀦 𑀧 𑀨 𑀩 𑀪 𑀫 𑀬 𑀭 𑀮 𑀯 𑀰 𑀱 𑀲 𑀳
Kushan Brahmi
Tocharian



Unicode

Tocharian script was proposed for inclusion in Unicode in 2015 but has not been approved.[19]

References

  1. ^ Härtel, Herbert; Yaldiz, Marianne; Kunst (Germany), Museum für Indische; N.Y.), Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York (1982). Along the Ancient Silk Routes: Central Asian Art from the West Berlin State Museums : an Exhibition Lent by the Museum Für Indische Kunst, Staatliche Museen Preussischer Kulturbesitz, Berlin, Federal Republic of Germany. Metropolitan Museum of Art. p. 107. ISBN 978-0-87099-300-8.
  2. ^ Waugh (Historian, University of Washington), Daniel C. "MIA Berlin: Turfan Collection: Kizil". depts.washington.edu.
  3. ^ Härtel, Herbert; Yaldiz, Marianne; Kunst (Germany), Museum für Indische; N.Y.), Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York (1982). Along the Ancient Silk Routes: Central Asian Art from the West Berlin State Museums : an Exhibition Lent by the Museum Für Indische Kunst, Staatliche Museen Preussischer Kulturbesitz, Berlin, Federal Republic of Germany. Metropolitan Museum of Art. p. 107. ISBN 978-0-87099-300-8.
  4. ^ Le Coq, Albert von. Die Buddhistische Spätantike in Mittelasien : vol.5. p. 10.
  5. ^ "A dictionary of Tocharian B". www.win.tue.nl.
  6. ^ In Ashokan Brahmi: 𑀲𑁂𑀧𑀜𑀓𑁆𑀢𑁂 𑀲𑀡𑁆𑀓𑁂𑀢𑀯𑀝𑁆𑀲𑁂 𑀱𑀭𑁆𑀲 𑀧𑀧𑁃𑀬𑁆𑀓𑁅
  7. ^ Diringer, David (1948). Alphabet A Key To The History Of Mankind. pp. 347–348.
  8. ^ "BRĀHMĪ – Encyclopaedia Iranica". www.iranicaonline.org. Retrieved 2019-03-28.
  9. ^ Earliest paintings from Kizil Caves with Tocharian inscriptions, now carbon dated to AD 245-340, see Waugh (Historian, University of Washington), Daniel C. "MIA Berlin: Turfan Collection: Kizil". depts.washington.edu.
  10. ^ Namba Walter, Mariko (October 1998). "Tokharian Buddhism in Kucha: Buddhism of Indo-European Centum Speakers in Chinese Turkestan before the 10th Century C.E." (PDF). Sino-Platonic Papers. 85: 2-4.
  11. ^ Diringer, David (1948). Alphabet A Key To The History Of Mankind. pp. 347–348.
  12. ^ "Fragments of the Tocharian", Andrew Leonard, How the World Works, Salon.com, January 29, 2008
  13. ^ "Review of 'Fragments of the Tocharian A Maitreyasamiti-Nataka of the Xinjiang Museum, China. In Collaboration with Werner Winter and Georges-Jean Pinault by Ji Xianlin'", J. C. Wright, Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London, Vol. 62, No. 2 (1999), pp. 367–370
  14. ^ "Fragments of the Tocharian a Maitreyasamiti-Nataka of the Zinjiang Museum, China", Ji Xianlin, Werner Winter, Georges-Jean Pinault, Trends in Linguistics, Studies and Monographs
  15. ^ Gippert, Jost. "Tocharian Brahmi Script". TITUS Didactica. Retrieved 8 May 2013.
  16. ^ Wilson, Lee. "Proposal to Encode the Tocharian Script (in the Unicode Standard / ISO 10646)" (PDF). Retrieved 2020-06-09.
  17. ^ Joshi, R. Malatesha; McBride, Catherine (11 June 2019). Handbook of Literacy in Akshara Orthography. Springer. p. 27. ISBN 978-3-030-05977-4.
  18. ^ Diringer, David (1948). Alphabet A Key To The History Of Mankind. pp. 247–248.
  19. ^ https://scriptsource.org/cms/scripts/page.php?item_id=entry_detail&uid=bedhbwsx6g