August 25, 2008

A comparative table of Sukhothai-era scripts

Following up on last week's post, in which I took a cursory look at the script inscribed on the Ramkhamhaeng stele of Sukhothai, today I've got another couple charts to share.

These charts compare different scrips during the Sukhothai period. Naturally, different inscriptions had different variations.

In the charts below, the Ramkhamhaeng inscription is the leftmost example. I am not sure exactly which inscriptions the other two come from.

First, the consonants:

[Click on a chart for a larger version]

And the vowels:
Take note of the little plus sign (+), indicating where the consonant goes in relation to the vowel. As I mentioned before, one reason the authenticity of the Ramkhamhaeng inscription was questioned is that the script puts all vowels on a single line with the consonants, which was unheard of in the region at the time.

As you can see on this chart, other inscriptions of the Sukhothai era use the expected superscript and subscript vowels, as was and is the norm in all of Southeast Asia's Indic-derived scripts (Mon, Burmese, Khmer, Lao, Thai, etc).

In the text of the Ramkhamhaeng inscription, it states that there was no Thai writing before it. If this is true, and if modern script is descended from it, we would expect to see other inscriptions using this same vowel layout, and yet we don't.

[Tables are from Sirindhorn Anthropology Centre's inscription website, scanned from an unidentified book. Maybe the Fine Arts Department's จารึกในประเทศไทย series.]

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