|Ahom script |
|Languages||Ahom language, Assamese language (rarely)|
|13th century–19th century|
The Ahom script or Tai Ahom Script, is an abugida that is used to write the Ahom language, a dead (but being revived) Tai language spoken by the Ahom people till the late 18th-century, who established the Ahom kingdom and ruled the eastern part of the Brahmaputra valley between the 13th and the 18th centuries. The old Ahom language today survives in the numerous manuscripts written in this script currently in institutional and private possession.
The Ahom script was probably ultimately derived from the Indic, or Brahmi script, the root of almost all the Indic and Southeast Asian abugidas. It is probably of South Indic origin. The Brahmi script spread in a peaceful manner, Indianization, or the spread of Indian learning. It spread naturally to Southeast Asia, at ports on trading routes. At these trading posts, ancient inscriptions have been found in Sanskrit, using scripts that originated in India. At first, inscriptions were made in Indian languages, but later the scripts were used to write the local Southeast Asian languages. Hereafter, local varieties of the scripts were developed. By the 8th century, the scripts had diverged and separated into regional scripts. It is believed that the Ahom people adopted their script from either Old Mon or Old Burmese, in Upper Myanmar before migrating to the Brahmaputra Valley in the 13th century. This is supported based on similar shapes of characters between Ahom and Old Mon and Old Burmese scripts. It is clear, however, that the script and language would have changed during the few hundred years it was in use.
The earliest attestation of the Ahom script is in the form of coins minted during the reign of Suklenmung (1539-1552). Samples of writing in the Ahom Script (Buranji's) remain stored in Assamese collections. The manuscripts were reportedly traditionally produced on paper prepared from agarwood (locally known as sachi) bark. Assamese replaced Ahom during the 17th century.
The Ahom script is no longer used by the Ahom people to read and write in everyday life. However, it retains cultural significance and is used for religious chants and to read literature. Ahom's literary tradition provides a window into the past, of Ahom's culture. A printed form of the font was developed in 1920, to be used in the first "Ahom-Assamese-English Dictionary".
Like most abugidas, each letter has an inherent vowel of /a/. Other vowels are indicated by using diacritics, which can appear above, below, to the left, or to the right of the consonant. The script does not, however, indicate tones used in the language. The Ahom script is further complicated as it contains inconsistencies; a consonant may be written once in a word, but pronounced twice, common words may be shortened, and consecutive words with the same initial consonant may be contracted.
Coin of Ahom king Sunyatphaa in Ahom script
Ahom script was added to the Unicode Standard in June, 2015 with the release of version 8.0.
The Unicode block for Ahom is U+11700–U+1173F:
Official Unicode Consortium code chart (PDF)