Re: Rendering Isolated Syriac characters

From: Timothy Partridge (
Date: Wed May 24 2000 - 14:15:16 EDT

Patrick Andires recently said:

> Tim wrote :
> > The isolated form looks the same as the sequences kaph kaph, mim mim,
> > and nun nun respectively.

> I have the same impression. I have a source (in French,
> that indicates the same kind
> of glyph variant in modern-day West Syriac (Serto) for isolated nun and
> kaph. It does not use it in the name nun found in the alphabet table
> where it uses the "nominal" nun (after waw which is right-joining).
> However,
> when the same letters are not surrounded by any other letters they then
> take
> the isolated shape (see the phonetic table). I suspect therefore that
> the same phenomenon takes place in Serto and modern Aramaic (though mim is
> not mentioned in my source). Five different glyph types, then ? Another
> trick ?

This is most interesting and seems to confirm for kaph and mim at least.

> I have checked another source (R. Duval's Treatise on the Syriac Grammar)
> and I have noticed that:
> -- he never uses the distinct isolated form of the nun (nunnun)
> -- he uses the kaphkaph form (isolated) in his alphabet table and phonetic
> table (see, lower 3 images are
> from Duval's treatise) but not as a final letter after a right-joining one
> (see b'rakh -- "he knelt").
> So, I just wonder how obligatory those isolated forms are and whether they
> depend on the context (early texts as opposed to modern ones, Eastern vs.
> Western Syriac).

The world's writing systems chapter mentions that there aren't any single
letter words (at least not that aren't joined onto the following word)
so perhaps the single letters only occur in modern texts that have lists.

Were the letters ever used as part of a numbering system? I've seen bits
of the Bible with European numbers.

I haven't been able to find any more references that have isolated letters.
I have a vague memory of seeing a Unicode or ISO10646 proposal that mentions
the isolated letters, but I have reread some and can't find anything.


Tim Partridge. Any opinions expressed are mine only and not those of my employer

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