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Hanunó'o alphabet

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Title: Hanunó'o alphabet  
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Hanunó'o alphabet

Languages Hanunó'o
Time period
c. 1300–present
Parent systems
Sister systems
Direction Left-to-right
Unicode alias

Hanunó’o is one of the indigenous scripts of the Philippines and is used by the Mangyan peoples of southern Mindoro to write the Hanunó'o language.[1] It is an abugida descended from the Brahmic scripts, closely related to Baybayin, and is famous for being written vertical but written upward, rather than downward as nearly all other scripts (however, it's read horizontally left to right). It is usually written on bamboo by incising characters with a knife.[2][3] Most known Hanunó'o inscriptions are relatively recent because of the perishable nature of bamboo. It is therefore difficult to trace the history of the script.[1]


Fifteen basic characters of the Hanunó'o script each represent one of the fifteen consonants /p t k b d ɡ m n ŋ l r s h j w/ followed by the inherent vowel /a/.[3] Other syllables are written by modifying each of these characters with one of two diacritics (kudlit) which change the vowel sound to /i/ or /u/.[2] The glyph for /la/ is the same as that for /ra/ but the glyphs for /li/ and /ri/ are distinct, as are those for /lu/ and /ru/. There are also three glyphs that represent vowels which stand alone (phonetically preceded by a glottal stop, written q in Roman transliteration).[4] Final consonants are not written, and so must be determined from context.[2]

Direction of writing

The Hanunó'o script is conventionally written away from the body (from bottom to top) in columns which go from left to right.[2] Within the columns, characters may have any orientation but the orientation must be consistent for all characters in a text. The characters are typically vertical with the /i/ diacritic on the left and the /u/ on the right, or horizontal with the /i/ on the top and the /u/ on the bottom.[4] Left-handed people often write in mirror image, which reverses both the direction of writing (right to left instead of left to right) and the characters themselves.[3]

Learning the script

Young Hanunó'o men and women (called layqaw) learn the script primarily in order to memorize love songs. The goal is to learn as many songs as possible, and using the script to write the songs facilitates this process. The script is also used to write letters, notifications, and other documents. The characters are not memorized in any particular order; learners typically begin by learning how to write their name. Literacy among the Hanunó'o people is high despite a lack of formal education in the script.[3]

Hanunó'o in Unicode

The Unicode range for Hanunó'o is U+1720–U+173F:

Official Unicode Consortium code chart (PDF)
  0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 A B C D E F
1.^ As of Unicode version 7.0
2.^ Grey areas indicate non-assigned code points

See also


  1. ^ a b Postma, Antoon (July 1971). "Contemporary Mangyan Scripts". Philippine Journal of Linguistics 2 (1): 1–12. 
  2. ^ a b c d Rubino, Carl. "The Hanunoo Script". Ancient Scripts of the Philippines. Retrieved September 2008. 
  3. ^ a b c d Conklin, Harold C. (2007). Fine Description: Ethnographic and Linguistic Essays. New Haven: Yale University Southeast Asia Studies. pp. 320–342. 
  4. ^ a b Daniels, Peter; William Bright (1996). The World's Writing Systems. New York: Oxford University Press. pp. 481–484. 

External links

  • Unicode Hanunóo Range 1720-173F (in PDF)
  • The Entire Hanunóo script
  • Hanunóo script written clearly
  • GNU FreeFont Unicode font with Hanunóo range in its serif face.
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