Script and sound system of Meiteilon

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Bobita Sarangthem
Laishram Lokendro


Meiteilon [məitəilon] is a tibeto-burman language spoken mainly in the state of Manipur, Northeast India. The paper provides an account of the history and development of Meitei Mayek or Meiteilon script, and attempts to present a diachronic analysis of the sound system in Meiteilon. Of the different versions of Meitei Mayek in existence, three versions namely: the 18 scripts, 27 scripts and 35 scripts systems which have been connoted by the local scholars are taken into consideration. In the early part of the 18th century, the Bengali script was adopted by the Meitei kings as an official writing system for the language. Subsequent studies have revealed the existence of a huge gap between the old and new Meiteilon, particularly concerning aspects of phonology. The reason may be located in the addition of more letters or graphemes   into the original set of Meiteilon script due to language contact.  Chelliah (1997:365) states that with the adoption of Hinduism in the 18th century, the Bengali alphabet became popular for the writing of Meiteilon, and from the 19th century onward the use of Meitei mayek (Meitei script) for all genres of writing declined. In the year 1980, the Government of Manipur recognised the 27 script as official Meetei mayek or Meitei mayek in Gazette notification (Meitei and Meetei are the terms that refer to the same community).


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