Ancient Meitei adopted 18 foremost letters. The Wakoklon Heelel Thilel Salai Amailon Pukok Puya (c. 1398 BC) is an ancient Meitei text that describes about the letters of the Ancient Meitei writing system. The text itself is written in the Ancient Meitei language and script. In contrast to the Wakoklon text, there are other theories of Ancient Meitei writing system using 35 letters too. However, the 18 letters theory turns out to be the most accepted theory as of now.
Unlike Modern Meitei writing system, it doesn't use the 9 extended full sound carrying letters. However, it uses the 8 half sound carrying letters, similar to Modern Meitei.
The Ancient Meitei language doesn't have any sounds of the 9 extended full sound carrying letters of the modern Meitei writing system. Though not usually done, 9 of the 18 foremost full sound carrying letters can produce the sounds for the 9 extended letters, besides their respective original sounds. To make the foremost letters produce additional sounds, special characters need to be attached to them.
18 Foremost LettersEdit
|ꯏ||ee||I or E||/i(ː)/|
|ꯐ||pham||F or Ph||/pʰ/|
Notes: 1. The Ancient Meitei name of the letter "ꯑ" is different from that of the Modern Meitei. In Ancient Meitei, it is called "Atinga" while in Modern Meitei, it is called "Atiya".
8 Half Sound CarriersEdit
The half sound carrying letters or the Lonsum Mayek letters in Ancient Meitei writing system has no significant differences with those of Modern Meitei writing system.
|Lonsum letter||Name||Derived from Mapung Mayek letter|
Ancient Meitei writing system uses more number of diacritics than Modern Meitei writing system.
|ꯤ||aloompa ee-nap||ī||ee or i|
|ꯨ||aloompa uu-nap||ù||u or oo|
|ꯦ||yet-nap||e||ay or e|
|ꯧ||sou-nap||ow||ou or ow|
|ꯪ||nung or noong||ɐŋ||ang or ng|
Evolution of VowelsEdit
In Ancient Meitei writing system, most of the vowels are evolved from the one of the foremost letters - "ꯑ" (A). The other vowel letters among the foremost letters are ꯎ (Oo/U) and ꯏ (Ee/I). Among these 3 vowels, only ꯑ (A) accepts the application of diacritics to form new vowels. The other two, ꯎ (Oo/U) and ꯏ (Ee/I) doesn't accept the application of diacritics.
- ꯑꯥ - aa (ā) - application of the diacritic ꯥ
- ꯑꯦ - e - application of the diacritic ꯤ
- ꯑꯩ - ei - application of the diacritic ꯩ
- ꯑꯣ - o - application of the diacritic ꯣ
- ꯑꯧ - ou (ow) - application of the diacritic ꯧ
- ꯑꯪ - ang (ung) - application of the diacritic ꯪ