On adopting the Limbu script for Wambule

Full text. By Jean Robert Opgenort, 2010. Appeared in Libju-Bhumju 41.


The Wambule language belongs to the Kiranti family of Tibeto-Burman, which includes some thirty-odd languages spoken in eastern Nepal. Some 5,000 people living near the confluence of the Sunkosi and Dudhkosi rivers speak Wambule. The Wambule have a distinct culture with a rich oral tradition and their own religion.

For a very long time, Wambule was an unwritten language, just like the vast majority of Tibeto-Burman languages that are spoken in Nepal. From the unification of Nepal in the 18th century, through the Rāṇā and Pañcāyat periods and up to as recent as VS 2047 (AD 1990), the government of Nepal promoted monolingualism by pursuing a ‘one nation, one language’ policy and suppressed the rights of its linguistic minorities. Only Nepali was permitted in education and broadcasts. In VS 2047, Nepal won its democracy after the People’s Movement brought an end to absolute monarchy. The new constitution acknowledged the multilingual character of the state and allowed communities the fundamental right to promote their own language and to use it as the medium of instruction at the primary level. The right to primary education in the mother tongue was granted, but remained largely unimplemented (Opgenort 2010).

Wambule became a written language soon after the advent of democracy in Nepal. In VS 2048, Vāmbule Rāī Sāhitya Prakāśan ‘Wambule Rai Literary Publications’ issued the first instalment of Libju-Bhumju magazine. The magazine was the first serious effort of writing stories (often translations), native poems and short word lists in the Wambule language. In VS 2054, the Vāmbule Rāī Samāj, Nepāl ‘Wambule Rai Society of Nepal’ was founded. The society is committed to the protection and promotion of the Wambule language and encourages its use in speech and writing, in public and private life. The society regularly organises poetry contest in the Wambule speaking area and cultural gatherings in the Kathmandu Valley, where many of its active members live and work. In VS 2057, the society published a dictionary named Vāmbule Rāī Śabdakoś, which was compiled by the brilliant lexicographer Avināth Rāī. The society is also involved in making primary education materials. Other indigenous publications with Wambule texts include Kāvā ‘friend’ magazine (since VS 2057) and the book Vāmbule Rāī Jāti, Bhāṣā ra Saṃkṛti ‘Wambule Rai Tribe, Language and Culture’ which was edited by the energetic Wambule language campaigner and journalist Gaṇeś Rāī in VS 2064.

Wambule is nowadays a written languages, but it does not have a script of its own. Unlike the neighbouring Sunwar tribe, which in the 1940s invented a specific Sunwar script that clearly shows an influence of the Roman script (Borchers 2007: 57-58), the Wambule decided to adopt already existing scripts. The script that is predominantly used for writing Wambule is the Devanāgarī script. In addition, a simplified Roman script is sometimes used in digital messages. Linguists use a specialised Roman script with phonetic symbols.

In the article entitled Kirāt lipi sikaũ ‘Let us teach the Kirat script’, which was published in the previous instalment of Libju-Bhumju magazine, Gaṇeś Rāī (VS 2066) promoted the idea of using the Limbu (or Kiranti) script for Wambule rather than the Devanāgarī script, and he presented a set of specific ‘Kirat Wambule’ graphs which Karun Thapa developed under the auspices of the Wambule Rai Society of Nepal.

In this paper, I will look at some practical problems that arise when adopting the Limbu script for Wambule. I will first discuss the Wambule sound system. Then I will give a short description of the Devanāgarī script and describe how the Devanāgarī script has been adapted for Wambule. After that I will discuss the Limbu script and its deficiencies for representing Wambule phonology. I will conclude with some remarks on how the standard Limbu script could be used as a writing system for Wambule, and give examples of Wambule written in the scripts discussed in this paper.

The Wambule sound system

In this section, I will briefly discuss the Wambule sound system. The Wambule phonemes are presented in Table 1.

Table 1: Wambule phonemes (adapted from Opgenort 2004, 2005)
/iː/ /i/     /u/ /uː/   /p/ /t/ /c/ /ṭ/ /k/
/e/ /ya/     /wa/ /o/   /ph/ /th/ /ch/ /ṭh/ /kh/
    /a/ /aː/ /ʌ/     /b/ /d/ /j/ /ḍ/ /g/
              /bh/ /dh/ /jh/ /ḍh/ /gh/
  /ʌi/     /ʌu/     /ɓ/ /ʔl/   /ɗ/ /ʔ/
              /m/ /n/     /ŋ/
              /w/ /y/     /h/


Vowels make a qualitative contrast which involves three degrees of vowel height dimension and three degrees in the front-back dimension. The quantitative contrast involves a binary opposition between short and long vowels, but differences in vowel length are not distinctive other than in the stressed open syllable of polysyllabic words and in some closed monosyllabic verb forms. Wambule distinguishes the close front vowels /i/ and /iː/, a half-close front vowel /e/, the open central vowels /a/ and /aː/, an open back vowel /ʌ/, a half-close back vowel /o/ and the close back vowels /u/ and /uː/. The vowels /e/ and /o/ can be often contrasted with the sequences /ya/ and /wa/, with which the former short vowels */ɛ/ and */ɔ/ have completely merged. In addition to these monophthongs, Wambule possesses a number of diphthongal vowel phonemes, i.e. /ʌi/ and /ʌu/, and vowel sequences such as [ɐj], [aːj], [ej], [ij], [ʷʌj], [oj] and [uj], and [ɐw], [iw], [ow] and [uw].


The system of consonants incorporates five series of plosive stops and affricates with the laryngeal settings voiceless, aspirated, voiced and breathy voiced, and spread over bilabial, alveolar, retroflex and velar points of articulation. There is a series of two implosive stops, one preglottalised lateral, a glottal stop, a series of nasals at three points of articulation, one fricative, one trill, one plain lateral, and three approximants (one could also characterise /h/ as a glottal fricative rather than an approximant). The semi-vowels /y/ and /w/ are typically followed by the open central vowel /a/.

The Devanāgarī script

Up till now Devanāgarī has been the preferred script for Wambule. The reason for this is obvious. Most Wambule people who are able to read and write have learned to done so through Nepali, and the script used for writing Nepali is Devanāgarī. Most Wambule are in effect bilingual in Nepali. The graphemes of the Devanāgarī script are given in Table 2.

Devanāgarī is a Brahmic script which has separate graphemes for consonants and vowels but writes consonant plus vowel combinations as graphemic units (ligatures) in which the vowel graph acts as a diacritic to the consonant graph. In contrast to the consonants, which are represented by one grapheme each, all but one, i.e. अ (a), of the vowels in the Devanāgarī script have two graphs each. Free-standing vowel characters are used in initial positions and after other vowels. By contrast, the vowel ligatures or diacritics ा (ā), ि (i), ी (ī), ु (u), ू (ū), ृ (ṛ), े (e), ै (ai), ो (o) and ौ (au) are used after consonants. The inherent vowel अ (a) is cancelled when a vowel diacritic is present or when the so-called virām ( ् ) is added to the consonant graph, indicating that no vowel follows the consonant. However, the inherent अ (a) is not generally deleted with a virām. The combinations that can be made with the consonant क् (k) are the following: क (ka; no vowel ligature), का (kā), कि (ki), की (kī), कु (ku), कू (kū), कृ (kṛ), के (ke), कै (kai), को (ko) and कौ (kau).

Besides the ordinary consonant characters, which are given above and represented by one graph each, there is a large set of conjunct or combining consonants, which are two or more consonant characters joined together and operating as one graphemic unit. Examples of conjunct consonants with ‘half’ initial consonants are क्ल (kl) < क + ल, and ब्ब (bb) < ब + ब. Frequently, though, conjunct consonants require special ligatures of their own, e.g. त्र (tr) < त + र, and श्र (śr) < श + र. The śirbindu ( ं ) written above a vowel may be used to represent nasal consonants. The candrabindu ( ँ ) is generally used to indicate a nasalised vowel. In Nepali, the visarga ( : ) is found only in Sanskrit borrowings, in which it is an allophone [h] of /r/ and /s/ in syllable-final position. Devanāgarī does not have distinct letter cases. There is a horizontal line running along the tops of the graphemes that links them together.

Table 2: The standard Devanāgarī script
अ (a) आ (ā)
इ (i) ई (ī)
उ (u) ऊ (ū)
ऋ (ṛ)
ए (e) ऐ (ai)
अो (o) अौ (au)
ं (ṃ) : (ḥ)
क (k) ख (kh) ग (g) घ (gh) ङ (ṅ)
च (c) छ (ch) ज (j) झ (jh) ञ (ñ)
ट (ṭ) ठ (ṭh) ड (ḍ) ढ (ḍh) ण (ṇ)
त (t) थ (th) द (d) ध (dh) न (n)
प (p) फ (ph) ब (b) भ (bh) म (m)
य (y) र (r) ल (l) व (v)
श (ś) ष (ṣ) स (s)
ह (h)

How the Devanāgarī script has been adapted for Wambule

Because there is no generally accepted standardised orthography for Wambule, the adaptations of the Devanāgarī script to handle the phonological distinctions found in Wambule merely reflect conventions which are used in published works.

In Table 3, the Wambule phonemes that are not accommodated within the standard Devanāgarī script are placed within rectangles with doubles lines. Other problematic areas involve the consonants /s/, /w/ and /b/.

Vowel length

The Devanāgarī script can accommodate length distinctions for high and low vowels, but not for mid vowels. Nonetheless, the orthographic distinctions between इ (i) and ई (ī) and between उ (u) and ऊ (ū) in Devanāgarī do not correspond to the phonemic length distinctions between high vowels in spoken Wambule, but are rather based on aesthetic considerations directly taken from Nepali, where ई (ī) is written at the ends of words and इ (i) elsewhere. The orthographic distinction between अ (a) and आ (ā) involves a phonological distinction in quality between the loan vowel /ʌ/, whereas orthographic आ (ā) is used for the short vowel /a/ and also sometimes for the long vowel /aː/. Phonetic and phonological vowel length in Wambule is frequently indicated in the spelling by means of the symbol ( ऽ ), which can be transliterated by means of the length symbol ( ː ), e.g. पाऽम (pāːm) ‘I will do it’ or खाऽमा (khāːmā) ‘alone’.

Table 3: Wambule phonemes in Devanāgarī script
























A distinctive mark of Wambule written in Devanāgarī is its use of three cleverly composed digraphs which consist of the consonant characters ब (b), ड (ḍ) or ल (l) joined together with the vowel character अ (a). The digraphs ब्अ (ɓ), ड्अ (ɗ) and ल्अ (ʔl) represent implosive or preglottalised sounds. These graphemes are followed by vowel ligatures, e.g. ब्अी (ɓī), ड्अु (ɗu) and ल्अा (ʔlā). The glottal stop /ʔ/, which has phonemic status as a syllable-initial segment in intervocalic and post-consonantal positions, is not rendered in the Devanāgarī script.

The consonants /s/, /w/ and /b/

The Wambule regularly make orthographic distinctions between श (ś), ष (ṣ) and स (s) and between व (v) and ब (b), but these do not necessarily represent phonemic distinctions. Firstly, there is only one alveolar fricative /s/ in Wambule, the most frequent phone of which is [s]. Secondly, although orthographic व (v) usually represents the same phoneme as ब (b) in spoken Nepali, i.e. /b/, and less frequently the Nepali phoneme /w/, orthographic व (v) usually represents the phoneme /w/ in Wambule, where there is a clear phonemic contrast between a bilabial stop and a bilabial glide. Some Wambule authors prefer to use orthographic व़ (w) to explicitly render the articulation [w] of the phoneme /w/. Others use the symbol व (v) to represent the Wambule phoneme /b/, but this usage is actually quite rare. Most authors use orthographic ब (b) to represent the phoneme /b/.

The Limbu script

The Limbu (or Kiranti) script is a Brahmic script that is used to write the Limbu language of Nepal and northern India. Limbu, like Wambule, belongs to the Kiranti family of Tibeto-Burman. The language is spoken by about 400,000 persons mainly in eastern Nepal, but also in the neighbouring Indian states of Sikkim and West Bengal. Virtually all Limbu speakers are bilingual in Nepali, and far more Limbu are literate in Nepali than in Limbu.

According to traditional histories, the Limbu script was developed by the legendary Limbu monarch Śirijaṅgā in the 9th Century. It fell out of use before being ‘reintroduced’ in the 18th century by the monk Śirijaṅgā. In fact, the Limbu script was devised at the behest of the third chögä of Sikkim by the Limbu monk Śirijaṅgā at the beginning of the 18th century (van Driem 2001: 674). Although the Limbu script was ‘created to further the spread of Buddhism, Śirijaṅgā used the Kiranti script to write books in which the deities of the indigenous Limbu pantheon figured at least as prominently as Buddhist doctrine. The Kiranti script also fuelled the Limbus’ sense of ethnic pride. Śirijaṅgā’s activities were therefore seen as an affront and a threat to the Dränjop aristocracy, and so Śirijaṅgā was murdered by the monks of the Dr’atshang in conspiracy with the chögä’ (ibid, p. 675). The Limbu script fell into disuse during the Rāṇā and Pañcāyat periods. In the middle of the 20th century, the great Limbu scholar Īmānsiṃha Cemjoṅ revived the script and named it ‘Śirijaṅgā’ in honour of the Limbu hero Śirijaṅgā. Cemjoṅ made some revisions to the original Kiranti script ‘by changing the value of some of the original Limbu letter and by adding new symbols to represent sub-phonemic distinctions in Limbu as well as Nepali phonemes which only occur in loans’ (ibid, p. 679), in particular voiced obstruents (b, d, j, g) and breathy voiced obstruents (bh, dh, jh, gh). This modern, revised script, which is clearly modelled after Devanāgarī, has been used since 1970 in Sikkim, and since the Nepalese Revolution of 1990, in Nepal. For the last 20 years, Kiranti language activists have promoted the use of the Limbu script for all Kiranti languages, even though few people can actually read the script.

In order to discuss how the Limbu script might be adapted for Wambule and the practical problems that arise in doing so, I will first present the characteristics of the standard, modern Limbu script. The Limbu script is presented in Table 4.

As in Devanāgarī and Tibetan, the Limbu script has separate graphemes for consonants and vowels but writes consonant plus vowel combinations as graphemic units (ligatures) in which the vowel graph acts as a diacritic to the consonant graph. Consonant letters represent syllable-initial consonants followed by the inherent vowel, short open [ɔ]. The Limbu script also provides for subjoined consonants ᤩ (-y), ᤪ (-r) and ᤫ (-w), which are joined to the bottom of the consonant letters as ‘medials’ in syllable-initial consonant clusters. An innovative feature of the Limbu script is that small letters are used to indicate syllable-final consonants of native Limbu words. Unlike the ‘half’ consonants in conjunct forms in the Devanāgarī script, these small letters may appear alone as syllable-final consonants. The small letters are never voiced and pronounced without the inherent vowel (the Devanāgarī script uses a virām ( ् ) to the consonant graph, indicating that no vowel follows the consonant).

Table 4: The standard Limbu script
Consonants   w   -t -ᤳ
k   ś   -n -ᤴ
kh     -p -ᤵ
g   s   -m -ᤶ
gh   h   -r -ᤷ
  Vowels   -l -ᤸ
c   ɔ   Various signs
ch   a ᤀᤠ   ʔ
j   i ᤀᤡ   ː
jh   u ᤀᤢ    
ñ   e ᤀᤣ   !
t   ai ᤀᤤ   ?
th   o ᤀᤥ   Digits
d   au ᤀᤦ   0
dh   ɛ ᤀᤧ   1
n   ɔ ᤀᤨ   2
p   Subjoined   3
ph   Ky- ᤁᤩ   4
b   Kr- ᤁᤪ   5
bh   Kw- ᤁᤫ   6
m   Finals   7
y   -k -ᤰ   8
r   -ᤱ   9
l   -~ -ᤲ      

The Limbu vowel system consists of [i, e, ɛ, a, ɔ, o, u]. The vowel [ɔ] functions as the inherent vowel. The inherent vowel is cancelled when a vowel diacritic is present with the consonant. There are also free-standing vowel characters, which are used in initial positions. The vowel characters are represented by the Limbu vowel-carrier character ᤀ, together with the appropriate vowel sign. Used without a following vowel diacritic, the vowel-carrier letter represents syllable-initial [ɔ], the inherent vowel.

Vowel length is phonologically distinctive in Limbu. In open syllables, length is indicated by writing the Limbu sign kemphreng (   ᤺), which looks like a diaeresis, over the initial consonant or cluster, e.g. ᤋᤠ᤺ (tā). In closed syllables, two different methods are used to indicate vowel length. In the first method, vowel length is not indicated by kemphreng. The syllable-final consonant is written as a full form (that is, like a syllable-initial consonant), marked by the Limbu sign sa-i, e.g. ᤐᤠᤏ᤻ (pān). Thus, the Limbu sign sa-i (    ᤻ ) generally marks vowel length in addition to functioning as a virām ( ् ) by suppressing the inherent vowel of the syllable-final consonant. In the second method, vowel length is indicated by kemphreng and the syllable-final consonant appears as a small letter without sa-i, e.g. ᤐᤠ᤺ᤴ (pān). In words with syllable-final consonants that do not have a small form (mostly in loan forms and phonologised final consonants such as /-b/), the Limbu sign sa-i is used regardless of the length of the syllable vowel, e.g. ᤗᤠ᤺᥀᤻ (lāb). The Limbu sign mukphreng ( ᤹ ) represents glottalisation. Mukphreng never appears as a syllable initial and after final consonants.

How the standard Limbu script could be adapted for Wambule

The Limbu script is reasonably well adapted to Limbu, and although it has no problem marking length distinctions for mid vowels and the glottal stop, its deficiencies for representing Wambule phonology are apparent. In Table 5, the Wambule phonemes which are not accommodated within the modern standard Limbu script, but for which the Wambule Rai Society of Nepal has invented special ‘Kirat Wambule’ graphs, are placed within rectangles with double lines. Another problematic area involves the graph for /jh/.

Retroflex and glottals

As the standard Limbu script lacks graphs for the glottalised sounds (ɓ, ɗ, ʔl) and the retroflex stops (ṭ, ṭh, ḍ, ḍh), the Wambule Rai Society of Nepal asked Karun Thapa to create new graphs and a digital typeface to represent these sounds which are given in Table 5. A problem with these newly invented graphs is they are not generally accepted and that they are not included in the Unicode standard.[1] To overcome this problem, I propose to look at graphic solutions within the standard Limbu script itself. For instance, for glottal sounds, one could propose to use digraphs with the glottalisation graph mukphreng ( ᤹ ), thus ᤹ᤒ (ɓ), ᤹ᤍ (ɗ)[2] and ᤹ᤗ (ʔl), as a substitute for the new graphs A (ɓ), E (ɗ) and N (ʔl), which are likewise modelled after the plain voiced counterparts ᤒ (b), * (ḍ) and ᤗ (l). In addition, instead of using the newly invented graphs to represent the retroflex stops (ṭ, ṭh, ḍ, ḍh), these phonemes could also be rendered by adding the standard small letter final consonant -ᤷ (-r), to the alveolar stop graphs ᤋ (t), ᤌ (th), ᤍ (d) and ᤎ (dh), i.e. ᤋᤷ (ṭ), ᤌᤷ (ṭh), ᤍᤷ (ḍ) and ᤎᤷ (ḍh).

The graph for /jh/

The Wambule have also invented a new graph H for /jh/ because the standard Limbu graph ᤉ is reportedly difficult to write. For the sake of consistency, I propose to keep standard ᤉ for Wambule in Limbu script.

Small letters and length

To keep matters simple, the use of the Limbu small letters to indicate syllable-final consonants should be avoided in Wambule, because Wambule has many final consonants which do not have a small form, mostly in loan forms and due to the fact that apocope has given phonemic status to voiced obstruents in final position. Instead, the Limbu sign sa-i (   ᤻ ) could be used as a virām (  ् ) in finals, regardless of the length of the syllable vowel. Wambule vowel length should only be indicated by means of the sign kemphreng (   ᤺ ), both in open and closed syllables. Limbu final -ᤷ (-r) could be used as the second consonant in conjunct forms to indicate retroflex sounds.

Table 5: Wambule phonemes in Limbu script with ‘Kirat Wambule’ modifications

















Here are some 100 Wambule words written in Roman with phonetic symbols, in Devanāgarī script with distinctive ligatures for glottalised sounds, and in Limbu script without special ‘Kirat Wambule’ graphs, but with the newly proposed ligatures based on the standard script for glottalised and retroflex sounds.

English Wambule वाम्बुले ᤘᤠᤔ᤻ᤒᤢᤗᤣ
I, we (dual, plural) uŋgu, uŋ उङ्गु, उङ ᤀᤢᤅ᤻ᤃᤢ, ᤀᤢᤅ᤻
singular, dual, plural unu, un उनु, उन ᤀᤢᤏᤢ, ᤀᤢᤏ᤻
he, she, they (dual, plural) aŋgu, aŋ आङ्गु, आङ ᤀᤠᤅ᤻ᤃᤢ, ᤀᤠᤅ᤻
this ame, am अामे, अाम ᤀᤠᤔᤣ, ᤀᤠᤔ᤻
that (relatively near) ime, im इमे, इम ᤀᤡᤔᤣ, ᤀᤡᤔ᤻
who, somebody acu अाचु ᤀᤠᤆᤢ
what, something, what kind of ama, am अामा, अाम ᤀᤠᤔᤠ, ᤀᤠᤔ᤻
negative marker a- अा- ᤀᤠ-
all, whole sʌb सब ᤛᤒ᤻
a lot, much, many, a large amount of bʌɖe khwal बडेख्वाल ᤒᤍᤷᤣᤂ᤻ᤘᤠᤗ᤻
one, a, some kwalo, kwal क्वालो, क्वाल ᤁ᤻ᤘᤠᤗᤥ, ᤁ᤻ᤘᤠᤗ᤻
two dui दुई ᤍᤢᤀᤡ
big, large, great, wide khwalbo ख्वाल्बो ᤂ᤻ᤘᤠᤗ᤻ᤒᤥ
long higbo िहग्बो ᤜᤡᤃ᤻ᤒᤥ
small, little, inferior ywakka य्वाक्का ᤕ᤻ᤘᤠᤁ᤻ᤁᤠ
woman (in general), female ɓiːco ब्अीऽचो ᤹ᤒᤡ᤺ᤆᤥ
man, the male (in general), male uːco उऽचो ᤀᤢ᤺ᤆᤥ
mankind, human race, man, person muyo मुयो ᤔᤢᤕᤥ
fish ŋwaso ङ्वासो ᤅ᤻ᤘᤠᤛᤥ
bird cwagbo च्वाग्बो ᤆ᤻ᤘᤠᤃ᤻ᤒᤥ
dog cali चाली ᤆᤠᤗᤡ
body louse syari स्यारी ᤛ᤻ᤕᤠᤖᤡ
tree rukh रुख ᤖᤢᤂ᤻
seed, grain, fruit; testicle cinci िचन्ची ᤆᤡᤏ᤻ᤆᤡ
leaf moli मोली ᤔᤥᤗᤡ
root (of tree or plant) suŋgir सुँिगर ᤛᤢᤅ᤻ᤃᤡᤖ᤻
bark of a tree bwakra ब्वाक्रा ᤒ᤻ᤘᤠᤁ᤻ᤖᤠ
skin, leather, rind, peel kwakte क्वाक्ते ᤁ᤻ᤘᤠᤁ᤻ᤋᤣ
flesh, meat so सो ᤛᤥ
blood usu उसु ᤀᤢᤛᤢ
bone rusu रुसु ᤖᤢᤛᤢ
fat, grease or meat of a living creature jwabo-so ज्वाब्वासो ᤈ᤻ᤘᤠᤒ᤻ᤘᤠᤛᤥ
egg ɓaɓaŋge ब्अाब्अाँगे ᤹ᤒᤠ᤹ᤒᤠᤅ᤻ᤃᤣ
horn roso रोसो ᤖᤥᤛᤥ
tail ɓulum ब्अुलुम ᤹ᤒᤢᤗᤢᤔ᤻
pinion, feather ɓasrumpha ब्अास्रुम्फा ᤹ᤒᤠᤛ᤻ᤖᤢᤔ᤻ᤑᤠ
hair swam स्वाम ᤛ᤻ᤘᤠᤔ᤻
head phutir फुितर ᤑᤢᤋᤡᤖ᤻
ear ɗwabu ड्अ्वाबु ᤹ᤍ᤻ᤘᤠᤒᤢ
eye ɓisi िब्असी ᤹ᤒᤡᤛᤡ
nose ɗusum ड्अुसुम ᤹ᤍᤢᤛᤢᤔ᤻
mouth, snout, muzzle ɗuli ड्अुली ᤹ᤍᤢᤗᤡ
tooth gumso गुम्सो ᤃᤢᤔ᤻ᤛᤥ
tongue lyam ल्याम ᤗ᤻ᤕᤠᤔ᤻
nail, claw gwarji ग्वार्जी ᤃ᤻ᤘᤠᤖ᤻ᤈᤡ
leg, including the foot lwasu ल्वासु ᤗ᤻ᤘᤠᤛᤢ
knee pumci पुम्ची ᤐᤢᤔ᤻ᤆᤡ
entire arm, including the hand la, ʔla ला, ल्आ ᤗᤠ, ᤹ᤗᤠ
stomach, belly, abdomen mwal म्वाल ᤔ᤻ᤘᤠᤗ᤻
throat, neck kliːji िक्लजी ᤁ᤻ᤗᤡ᤺ᤈᤡ
breast (of a man or animal) kucu कुचु ᤁᤢᤆᤢ
heart, mind twam त्वाम ᤋ᤻ᤘᤠᤔ᤻
liver ɖi िड ᤍᤷᤡ
to drink; to smoke tuːcam तुऽचाम ᤋᤢ᤺ᤆᤠᤔ᤻
to eat (eggs, rice, maize, biscuits) jacam जाचाम ᤈᤠᤆᤠᤔ᤻
to eat by biting and tearing ɓacam ब्अाचाम ᤹ᤒᤠᤆᤠᤔ᤻
to see hipcam िहप्चाम ᤜᤡᤐ᤻ᤆᤠᤔ᤻
to hear, smell thwacam थ्वाचाम ᤌ᤻ᤘᤠᤆᤠᤔ᤻
to know (by learning), get to know jwakcam ज्वाक्चाम ᤈ᤻ᤘᤠᤁ᤻ᤆᤠᤔ᤻
to lie down, go to sleep, go to bed glwamcam ग्ल्वाम्चाम ᤃ᤻ᤘᤠᤔ᤻ᤆᤠᤔ᤻
to die, be dead, be in heaven sicam िसचाम ᤛᤡᤆᤠᤔ᤻
to kill, put to death, slaughter, murder syaccam स्याच्चाम ᤛ᤻ᤕᤠᤆ᤻ᤆᤠᤔ᤻
to swim jwaku pacam ज्वाकु पाचाम ᤈ᤻ᤘᤠᤁᤢ ᤁᤠᤆᤠᤔ᤻
to fly, fly off walcam वाल्चाम ᤘᤠᤗ᤻ᤆᤠᤔ᤻
to walk, go, move, pace, travel on foot halcam हाल्चाम ᤜᤠᤗ᤻ᤆᤠᤔ᤻
to come, arrive; to be imported blaːcam ब्लाऽचाम ᤒ᤻ᤗᤠ᤺ᤆᤠᤔ᤻
to lie down, go to sleep, go to bed glwamcam ग्ल्वाम्चाम ᤃ᤻ᤗ᤻ᤘᤠᤔ᤻ᤆᤠᤔ᤻
to be, sit, remain bakcam बाक्चाम ᤒᤠᤁ᤻ᤆᤠᤔ᤻
to stand, stand up yamcam याम्चाम ᤕᤠᤔ᤻ᤆᤠᤔ᤻
to give, endow gwakcam ग्वाक्चाम ᤃ᤻ᤘᤠᤁ᤻ᤆᤠᤔ᤻
to say, quote, relate, inform, tell decam देचाम ᤍᤣᤆᤠᤔ᤻
sun, sunlight ɗwam ड्अ्वाम ᤹ᤍ᤻ᤘᤠᤔ᤻
moon tosyal तोस्याल ᤋᤥᤛ᤻ᤕᤠᤗ᤻
star soru सोरु ᤛᤥᤖᤢ
water; river kaku, kak काकु, काक ᤁᤠᤁᤢ, ᤁᤠᤁ᤻
rain, shower warsi वार्सी ᤘᤠᤖ᤻ᤛᤡ
stone luŋ, ʔluŋ लुङ ᤗᤢᤅ᤻, ᤹ᤗᤢᤅ᤻
sand baluwa बालुवा ᤒᤠᤗᤢᤘᤠ
earth, soil, mud, clay, ground kaksi काक्सी ᤁᤠᤁ᤻ᤛᤡ
cloud, mist (in sky), fog kuksyal कुक्स्याल ᤁᤢᤁ᤻ᤛ᤻ᤕᤠᤗ᤻
smoke, visible vapour khunimo खुिनमो ᤂᤢᤏᤡᤔᤥ
fire mi मी ᤔᤡ
ash, wet ashes phucul फुचुल ᤑᤢᤆᤢᤗ᤻
to burn (fingers), roast above a fire cwacam च्वाचाम ᤆ᤻ᤘᤠᤆᤠᤔ᤻
road, path, route, way lam, ʔlam लाम, ल्आम, ᤗᤠᤔ᤻, ᤹ᤗᤠᤔ᤻
hill, mountain, foothill pahar पाहार ᤐᤠᤜᤠᤖ
red lakajwam लाकाज्वाम् ᤗᤠᤁᤠᤈ᤻ᤘᤠᤔ᤻
green hʌriyo हिरयो ᤜᤖᤡᤕᤥ
yellow, (light) orange waʔwam वाऽवाम ᤘᤠ᤹ᤘᤠᤔ᤻
white, the colour of milk, silver, steel bubjwam बुब्ज्वाम ᤒᤢᤒ᤻ᤈ᤻ᤘᤠᤔ᤻
black khuccyam खुच्च्याम ᤂᤢᤆ᤻ᤆ᤻ᤕᤠᤔ᤻
night rat रात ᤖᤠᤋ᤻
summer season, heat gʌrmʌ गर्म ᤃᤖ᤻ᤔ
hot (of touch), hot-tempered tato तातो ᤋᤠᤋᤥ
cold (of temperature) khokho खोखो ᤂᤥᤂᤥ
wet, cold ciso चसो ᤆᤡᤛᤥ
filling, making full twamco त्वाम्चो ᤋ᤻ᤘᤠᤔ᤻ᤆᤥ
new ebo एबो ᤀᤣᤒᤥ
good, nice, fine, pretty, pleasant ranco रान्चो ᤖᤠᤏ᤻ᤆᤥ
round golo गोलो ᤃᤥᤗᤥ
dry swarco स्वार्चो ᤛ᤻ᤘᤠᤖ᤻ᤆᤥ
name ɗi ड्अी ᤹ᤍᤡ


In this paper I have shown that no new characters are needed in the Devanāgarī and Limbu scripts to accommodate the Wambule phonemes. Special combinations of graphs that are already present in standard Devanāgarī and Limbu fonts can be used to render typical Wambule sounds that are not present in Nepali or in Limbu. In particular, there is no real need to develop a ‘Kirat Wambule’ script as the Wambule could readily adopt the standard Limbu script with the guidelines set forth above.

[1] There are various types of fonts available for standard Devanāgarī and Limbu. The Devanāgarī fonts Preeti, Kantipur and Sagarmatha, the Limbu font Namdhinggo SIL L and even the Kirat Wambule font developed by Karun Thapa are old type fonts that continue to be used even though newer technology is now available. These legacy fonts are based on a Basic Latin font and only contain characters in the first 256 locations. Even though implementations exist for all major operating systems, the use of legacy fonts brings about a lot of complication in getting the documents from one computer to other. Unicode and its parallel standard, the ISO/IEC 10646 Universal Character Set, constitute a modern, unified character encoding. The Unicode standard insures interoperability and portability by prescribing conformant behaviour. Unicode eliminates data corruption and other problems due to incompatible code pages or missing conversion tables. Text in any language can be exchanged worldwide. Applications process text consistently and conformance is verifiable. The Unicode range of the Devanāgarī is U+0900 to U+097F, and that of the Limbu script is U+1900 to U+194F (The Unicode Standard, Version 5.2). Examples of Unicode Devanāgarī fonts are Kalimati, Sanskrit 2003 and Devanagari MT. Examples of Unicode Limbu fonts are Code2000, MPH 2B Damase and XenoType Limbu. The shareware font Code2000 contains 66 Limbu characters. The freeware font MPH 2B Damase offers support for Limbu, but has some severe issues displaying combining characters and its use should be avoided. The commercial font XenoType Limbu works as advertised, and it is provided at no cost to any person or organisation working on the Limbu language. A Unicode-based version of Namdhinggo SIL is currently in the final stages of development.

[2] Or ᤹ᤍᤷ to render the preferred retroflex articulation.


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