Sunday 23 January 2022

Unicode Trivia U+0780

Codepoint: U+0780 "THAANA LETTER HAA"
Block: U+0780..07BF "Thaana"

The Thaana script is used to write the Maldivian language. According to Wikipedia, it's an abugida with no inherent vowel. According to the ISO standard, it's a right-to-left-written alphabet (as indicated by the hundreds digit of its numeric ISO-15924 code "170").

It first appeared in about 1705 CE and seems have been developed with obfuscation in mind. The alphabet order is arbitrary and the consonant letterforms are derived from numeric figures:

On the top row, in white, are the 24 basic consonants in Thaana alphabetical order. These are the 24 consecutive Unicode codepoints U+0780 "THAANA LETTER HAA" to U+0797 "THAANA LETTER CHAVIYANI".

The second row shows the Arabic-Indic digits one to nine in blue and the Dhives Akuru digits one to six in red. Dhives Akuru was a Maldivian script used before Thaana. The main part of the alphabet looks very much like a simple replacement cipher.

An early version of the Thaana script, Gabulhi Thaana, was written scriptio continua, that is, without inter-word spacing or punctuation. This sounds like an absolute nightmare but was quite common in classical Greek and Latin. Before mechanical printing, Arabic was also written without spacing. This is, perhaps, why many writing systems have distinct letterforms for final letters in words.

According to "Scripts of Maldives", the early Thaana script, Gabulhi Thaana, got its name from the Maldivian word "gabulhi" meaning the in-between stage of a coconut, when it is neither fully ripe nor quite tender. Hence the idea of "immature" or "not fully-formed".

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