Some issues on the inconsistency of the inventory of the ‘Phags-Pa script

Gyudong Yurn, Gyeyeong Choe, Sangchul Park, Minkyu Kim

Some issues on the inconsistency of the inventory of the ‘Phags-Pa script

(60th Meeting of the PIAC, Székesfehérvár 2017)

This study is part of an attempt to improve the basic inventory of the ‘Phags-Pa scripts which would ultimately allow for the formation of a unified transliteration system. In this study, we examine the inconsistency of the correspondence between the shapes of the ‘Phags-Pa letters used in existing research. This is a very fundamental step which is required to integrate the various results of this literature on the ‘Phags-Pa scripts and to promote subsequent study.

First, we considered four ‘Phags-Pa characters known to have been modified to represent Chinese sounds and their original forms. In the actual historical documents, these modified forms were used not only to represent Chinese sounds but also the Mongolian sounds as well. In contrast, the Chinese ‘Phags-Pa letters showed a variety of small differences, depending on each researcher’s analysis, with respect to (1) their shape, (2) the relationship between the original characters and the modified characters, and (3) the reconstructed sound value of those characters. This suggests that the character usage patterns need to be studied separately for each language that uses the script.

Second, we investigated cases in which the ‘Phags-Pa character inventories defined by different researchers do not correspond to each other. This is mainly attributed to the Mongolian phonemic inventory. The letters that correspond to the phonemes which are distinguished in other languages such as Chinese and Sanskrit are not distinguished in the Mongolian language and therefore not consistently indicated. Finally, we explored the unresolved issue of the glide ꡨ (U+A868), which has an allograph similar to the vowel ꡦ (U+A866).

In the course of this research, a review of the Unicode character type was additionally carried out. Since the implementation of the same Unicode symbol tends to vary depending on the word processor or the font type used, some font types need to be corrected.