Ol Chiki is alphabetic, and does not share any of the syllabic properties
of the other Indic scripts. It contains 30 letters and five basic diacritics. It has 6 basic vowels and additional three vowels
are generated using Gahla Tudag. On commenting about Ol Chiki, Norman Zide (1996) observes,
"One ingenous - 'scientific' and unique feature of Ol Cemet'(Ol Chiki) that certainly
increases the efficiency of writing Santali is the deglottalizing ohot'(Ahad). This neatly preserves the
morphophonemic relationship between the glottalized and the voiced equivalent:..."
Pandit Raghunath Murmu
Born on 5th May,1905 and expired on 1st February, 1982
Raghunath Murmu is the inventor of Ol Chiki script. He was born in a village, called (Dahardih)Dandbose, on
5th May 1905 on the day of full moon in the district of Mayurbhanj, Orissa. After a brief stint in technical
profession, he took up the job of teaching in Badomtolia high school. During this time, his interest was drawn into Santali
literatures. Santali is a language with its own special characteristics, and has a literature which dates back to the beginning
of the 15th century. Naturally, he felt that Santals with their rich cultural heritage and tradition also need a separate
script to preserve and promote their language, and therefore, he took up the work of inventing Ol Chiki script for writing
Santali. The epoch making invention of Ol Chiki script was unveiled in 1925. In the novel Bidu Chandan,
he has vividly described how god Bidu, and godess Chandan who appear on Earth as human being would have naturally invented
the Ol Chiki script in order to communicate with each other using written Santali. He
wrote over 150 books covering a wide spectrum of subjects such as grammar, novels, drama, poetry, and story in Santali using
Ol Chiki as a part of his extensive programme for culturally upgrading the Santal community. "Darege Dhan",
"Sidhu-Kanhu", "Bidu Chandan" and "Kherwal Bir"
are among the most acclaimed of his works. Pandit Raghunath Murmu is popularly known as GURU GOMKE among the Santals, a title that
was conferred on him by the Mayurbhanj Adibasi Mahasabha. Besides the Govt of West Bengal and Orissa, several other organizations/associations including
Orissa Sahitya Academy have honoured him in various ways and Hon D. Litt. was conferred on him by Ranchi
University. The great thinker, philosopher, writer, and dramatist breathed his last breath on 1st February, 1982.
Why do we need
Ol Chiki script ?
In earlier times, all
Santali writings were in Bengali, Devanagari, or Roman script. Although there have been impressive number of works by foreigner
and non-Santal writers on dictionary, grammar, collection of folklore etc., these works are mostly intended for research
purposes. Roman script was in extensive use for writing Santali and several books in Santali have been published using Roman
script.But most of the creative literatures were written by the native
speakers in Bengali or Devanagari script. The use of different scripts for writing Santali has hindered the development and
utilization of Santali language. This, in turn, has effectively marred the progress of Santali language in several fields
such as philosophy, history, religion, science, novel, prose, poetry etc. The problem of using different scripts for the same
language necessitated the invention of a new script for Santali, and it finally led to the invention of Ol Chiki by Pandit
After the invention
of Ol Chiki, a large number of books have been written by various authors in Santali using Ol Chiki script. Types of books
include(i) novels and short stories, (ii) poetries, songs, and religious sermons,
(iii) books on Santal society, (iv) primary books for learning Ol Chiki, (v) books for learning primary mathematics, (vi)
books on Santali grammars and related topics, and (vii) books on great tribal persons. Santali magazines in Ol Chiki are also
being published regularly.
problems with Indic Scripts:
The problems of correctly representing Santali sounds in Indic scripts,
viz., Bengali, Devanagari & Oriya are explained here. Firstly, in Indic
language, some phonetics like checked consonants / k', c', t', p'/ do not exist. If one attempts to suppress the inherent
vowel of consonants /KA/, /CA/,/TA/ &/PA/ of any Indic script, it would only produce /k/, /c/, /t/ & /p/, respectively. There are no mechanisms to represent
these unique Santali sounds. Secondly, there is a difficulty of representing the Santali vowels. Currently, the Santali language does use eight or nine vowels that can be short or long and nasalized, whereas the
Indic scripts provide only six vowels. By modifying the vowels of Indic script using diacritic marks, the
santali vowels can be represented to some extent, but when such vowels are used in the beginning of a word, they tend
to approximate with closest vowels of the Indic script. Thirdly, there
is no mechanism to represent the Glottal stop of Santali sounds which Santals use very frequently.
The problems with Roman Script:
Although the Roman script can nicely represent checked consonants, but it is
not without deficiencies. The Roman script cannot distinguish between the short and long
vowels. It is worth mentioning that the Santali long vowels are pronounced much longer than those of English,
and other Indic languages. Another problem with Roman script is that it does not have any
explicit mechanism to represent the Glottal stop. Therefore to retain the beauty, specialty, peculiarity & sweetness
of Santali language, there is a need to use a script that can represent all sounds of the Santali language accurately and
is naturally appealing to all Santals, and it is definitely the Ol Chiki script that fulfils these requirements.
A Brief Introduction to Ol Chiki Script
The very basic information about Ol Chiki script
is provided here. The intention of this tutorial is to provide information about the unique features
of Ol Chiki writing system, which is often misunderstood due to a lack of organised information about the script. Here,
an attempt has been made to provide sufficient information about features and functions of various letters: vowels, consonants
and diacritics. This tutorial is written by R. C. Hansdah and N. C. Murmu.
script is also known as Ol Cemet', Ol script, Ol ciki Script and also Ol.
In Santali, Ol means writing and Cemet' means learning . So, Ol
Cemet' means the learning of writing. Ol Cemet' is the title of the book, written
by Pandit Raghunath Murmu for teaching the Ol Chiki to the beginners(primer). Ol Chiki is alphabetic, and does not share any
of the syllabic properties of the other Indic scripts. It is used for writing Santali which belongs to the Munda group languages
of the Austro-Asiatric family. One of the interesting feature of the Ol Chiki script is that it makes use
of signs and symbols long familiar to the Santals. The very ingenuity in shaping the symbols of the letters and arranging
the letters in the script has been greatly helpful in transmission of the script. A large number of words in the Santali language
are derived from natural sounds. Letters of Ol Chiki script are also derived from the physical environment and what surrounds
the people - hills, rivers, trees, birds, bees, plough, sickle - the list is endless . Norman Zide, an eminent linguist
in his work (Zide, 1996) says, The shapes of the letters are not arbitrary, but reflect the names for the letters, which are
words, usually the names of objects or actions representing conventionalized form in the pictorial shape of the characters.
For example, the word Atmeans earth and the shape of letter /AT/derived from the round shape of earth. Similarly /UD/means mushroom and
so is the shape of the letter /UD/.
On commenting about Ol Chiki, Zide (1996) observes,
One ingenious - scientific and unique feature of Ol Cemet that certainly increases the efficiency of writing Santali is the
deglottalizing ohot'(AHAD). This neatly preserves the morphophonemic relationship between the glottalized and
the voiced equivalent: The former occurs in words at certain word-internal preconsonantal junctures, whereas the
latter occurs prevocalically, but never morpheme-initially in these alterations. Thus /OK/ is the name
of a letter that represents both /k'/ and /g/. Two further diacritics include a horizontal
loop added at the top right of the character for aspiration of consonants, and a raised dot for vowel nasalization.
Santali language contains some phonetics which are
generally not used in English and neighbouring Indian languages, and hence, learning the correct pronunciations
of Ol Chiki letters is very important. In fact, these pronunciations give a feeling of why Santali language
needs a separate script, specially the pronunciations of unreleased stops/ k', c', t', p' /, which are
not found in English and other Indic languages. It is a momentary obstruction of the passage of air by the glottis and its
sudden release, which creates a small explosion of air, giving the consonant a hard sound. Another notable feature
of Santali language is the presence of voiced and voiceless /h/. The voiceless /h/ occurs frequently
in Santali language. The occurance of nasals are also extremely regular and they have the phonological
distinctions in even word final position.
Ol Chiki: The Ol Chiki letters are
arranged in a matrix of 6 by 5, in which the six letters in the first column of the matrix are vowels,
and the rest 24 letters are consonants. However, the five letters of the third column represent dual consonants, and
this, eventually, helps to represent 29 consonants with the help of diacritic Ahad. Ol Chiki gives 5
basic diacritics, and the combination of diacritics Mu Tudag and Gahla Tudag gives rise to another diacritic,
called Mu-Gahla Tudag. The matrix of Ol Chiki letters are listed with transliteration of alphabets,
with pronounciation in brackets and their sounds in bracelets.
Ol Chiki Letters
The above table gives Ol Chiki letters, their
transliterations, their pronunciation and the corresponding phonetic alphabets(IPA). Phonetic alphabets are given to understand the correct pronunciations of Ol Chiki letters. Note: sometimes /AAW/ also
approximates to /v/.
Diacritics: The diacritic
Mu Tudag functions like Devnagari chandrabindu, and it is used for nasalization of vowels.
Gahla Tudag is used for generating additional vowels, and Rela is used for generating
extra length in the vowels. Pharka is used as separator and Ahad has special properties,
that will be discussed later.
The important component of any writing system is the
vowels, which are, indeed, responsible for producing words by joining the consonants. The description of vowel system of Ol
Chiki script is given here. The Santali language has 9 vowels. The first six vowels are shown in first column of the Ol Chiki
alphabets matrix. The next three vowels are generated juxtaposing the Gahla Tudag. But one of the vowel generated by
placing Gahla Tudag (/A/+ Gahla Tudag) has marginal phonemic status and rarely used. In Santali all vowels may
be long or short and all vowels may be nasalized.The Santali diphthongs consists of two vowels;
unlike English they never consist of a vowel and a semi-consonant. The below is that list of Santali language vowels along
with their corresponding International phonetic alphabets.
The first six are familiar vowels in English
and many other Indian languages like Bengali, Hindi or Oriya. First vowel is equivalent to /o/ of boil,
boy , coy. The pronunciation of this vowel is similar to that of Bengali or Oriya first
vowel which is also the inherent vowel of Bengali/Oriya script. /a/ is pronounced as in
/a/ of English word car. The pronunciation of /i/ is similar to that
of /i/ in English word city or sit, and that of /u/
is similar to /u/ of put. The pronunciation of /e/ is similar to /e/
of English word get, and that of /o/ is more like /o/ of more.
The remaining three vowels are discussed in the Gahla Tudag section.
Word Formation: Ol Chiki
writing system is alphabetic, and so, it is better understood using Roman script. Normally, in Santali language, all words begin with either a vowel or single consonant. However, it is observed that
inside a word, a combination of two consonants may occur, and, sometimes even three. But then one of these is a nasal. It
is worth mentioning that, in Santali language, the occurrence of nasals is extremely regular. These are even distinguishable
in word final position.
Let us look at some of the examples that
illustrate how words can be formed using Ol Chiki letters. Suppose, one needs to construct a Santali word /am/,
then just put the vowel /a/ followed by the consonant /m/. so, we write /a/ +
/m/ = a + m = /am/ which, in Santali, means 'you'. Similarly, when we need to write
/ipil/, we write /i/ + /p/ + /i/ + /l/ = i+p+i+l = /ipil/ which,
in Santali, means 'star'. Given below is a list of examples which would help to understand the mechanism
of forming words using Ol Chiki vowels and consonants.
Additonal consonants : Apart
from the consonants mentioned above, Santali language does use other aspirated consonants. An aspirated consonant is generated
by juxtaposing /OH/, which functions more like English /h/, immediately after another
consonant. For example : /dh/ of Dhanbad, is generated using /EDD/ followed by /OH/. It should
be noted that, in Ol Chiki, it is /OH/(and not /IH/) that is used to generate the aspirated consonants, and this is
in contrast to the English language, where no such distinction is made. The consonant /OH/, when placed immediately
after the unaspirated consonants t/AT/, g/AG/, k/AAK/, j/AAJ/, c/UCH/, d/UD/, p/EP/, D/EDD/, t/OTT/, b/OB/ generates the
corresponding aspirated consonants.
Glottal stop: Here is an
example, where /OH/ is used along with /EN/ as in the word, /nhate/ which means 'this side'. This sound is a bit voiceless.
This is a prolongation of /n/ along with /h/ sound, and it is an example of glottal stop. A point to be noted here is
that this glottal stop is generated in combination of /IH/ with Ahad, but it
is normally written in a shorter form using /OH/. Although there are few words in Santali language that use
the glottal stop, but the use of such words are very frequent in Santali language. Here is a list of words
where glottal stop is used.
Mu Tudag: This diacritic
is used for the nasalization of vowels. As already mentioned that in Santali language, all vowels and diphthongs
may be nasalized. It works in the same way as the chandrabindu of Devnagari script. When it is placed immediately after
a vowel, the vowel gets nasalized. The example of nasalized vowels that are used in the words of Santali
language are given below.
Gahla Tudag: Gahla Tudag
is used to generate the additional vowels from the following vowels, viz., open vowel /o/(first vowel),
/a/, and /e/. The vowel /a/+/Gahla Tudag/ is the most frequently used vowel, and there is no exact English equivalent
for the same. This is a half open central vowel and its pronunciation is approximately equivalent to
that of /a/ in ago. The vowel /e/+/Gahla Tudag/ is pronounced as in
/a/ of English word gate and it is open /e/(half open front vowel). But the
pronunciation of the vowel /o/+/Gahla Tudag/ is very nearly the same as that of the original vowel, and it
occurs in a few words only.
Mu-Gahla Tudag: The Mu-Gahla Tudag
indicates that the new vowel generated by the Gahla Tudag is nasalized.
Rela: In Santali language,
all vowels may be short or longs and it is Rela that is used to lengthen the pronunciation of vowels. For example, in the
pair of words /hit/ and /heat/ (or /bit/ and /beat/ ) in English, the former uses a short vowel ,
but the later uses a long vowel. In case of Ol Chiki, the long vowels are pronounced
much longer than those of English, and a long vowel corresponding to a vowel is indicated by immediately following the
vowel with the diacritic Rela. The Rela is extensively used in the adverb of
Santali language. Here is a list of words that use the rela and their pronunciations and meanings.
Ahad: In Ol Chiki, the letters,
/AG/, /AAJ/, /UD/, and /OB/ are semi-consonants. These semi-consonants become consonants
(voiced equivalents), when they are immediately followed by a vowel or Ahad. This generates dual
sounds from these semi-consonants depending on whether they are immediately followed by a vowel/Ahad or not. This is a feature
unique to Ol Chiki, which is not observed in any other writing system. Take the example of /AG/:
it produces two sounds, viz., /k'/ and /g/. The use of /k'/
is in words like /amak'/your/ or /senok'/go/. The /k'/ is not fully released
in these circumstances. The pronunciation of this consonant is a bit unique to Santals, and it is in-between /k/ and /g/.
It starts with /k/ and glides towards /g/. Similar is the case with /AAJ/, which gives /c'/
and /j/ (Here /c/ is unreleased /ch/ of church ). Similarly, /UD/ gives /t'/
and /d/, and /OB/ gives /p'/ and /b/.
Whenever a semi-consonant occurs at the end of
a word, and the word is naturally extended for a different use using a vowel or Ahad, it is always the corresponding consonant as
given above that appears in the new word. What it means is that /k'/ will always get extended to /g/,
and never to /k/, and so on. This behaviour of semi-consonants normally occurs in verb formations,
and hence, this transformation is very widely used in Santali language. As an example, consider the following pair of sentences:
/Uniy rak' kek'a/He wept/ and /Uniy raga/He will weep/. In this example, /kek'a/
in the first sentence gets replaced by /a/ in the second sentence, and therefore, /k'/
in /rak'/ gets extended to /g/ in /raga/. Exmaples of pairs of sentences
using other semi-consonants are as follows: /Uni toway hedec'kek'a/He boiled milk/ and
/Uni toway hedeja/He will boil milk/, /Uniy ut' kek'a/He swallowed/ and /Uniy uda/He
will swallow/, and /Uniy up' kek'a/He poured/ and /Uniy uba/He will pour/. An
example of a pair of words that can show this behaviour is /rakap'/lift(intransitive
verb)/ and /rakab/lift(transitive verb)/. This is the reason why each of the Ol Chiki letters
/AG/, /AAJ/, /UD/, and /OB/ has been used to represent the dual sounds as given above, and because
of this special behaviour of these letters in word formation, they have been termed as "semi-consonants".
However, a better name can be sought if it is deemed so.
Pharka: The diacritic Pharka
is used very frequently in Santali writings and works as separator in two ways. First, it is used to separate two consonants
of similar paired words as in /sujh-bujh/understanding/. Second, it is used to separate a consonant from the following vowel.
It is generally used to prevent the semi-consonants from becoming full consonants and these
cases occur in a large number of verb formations such as /menak'-a/have/Verb/, /hijuk'-a/come/Verb/
etc. Also, there is another situation, where nasal consonant /ANG/, is separated by Pharka from
the following vowel.
Punctuation marks: The main
punctuation mark used is the single vertical line "|", and it marks the end of a sentence. There
are other familiar punctuation marks which are also used in Santali language. The names of punctuation marks as given
in the grammar book Ranal written by Pandit Raghunath Murmu are as given in the
The hand writing of Ol Chiki letters: The
Ol Chiki gives hand writing letters for fast writing. It is called /usA.ra ol/. The hand writing letters consist of
all letters which are vowels and consonants, and the letters which are formed in combination of /IH/
and four semi-consonants , /AG/, /AAJ/, /UD/, /OB/ with Ahad. In normal writing, the combination of
/IH/ with Ahad is not found, as it is generally written in a shorter form that is /OH/.
Digits: Ol Chiki uses decimal system,
and the symbol for basic digits 0-9 are as follows:
Origin of Ol Chiki letters:
The great novelties and usages in Santali language are
as a result of the natural derivation of the forms for words, where, sounds generating out of actions or
movements from animated or unanimated objects or sounds associated with living being and their corresponding words, are
robustly approximated. Therefore, Pandit Raghunath Murmu tried to infuse this concept of natural formation of Santali words
into Ol Chiki. When Pandit Raghunath Murmu devised the script, he carefully choose the shapes of the scripts from the nature,
the surroundings which is long familiar to the Santals, and is close to them. The Santals form a community which
has wonderful relationship with nature, and they respect it very well. Santal mythology gives many stories and songs that
depict very importance of respecting nature and sense of preserving it. The selection of shapes for Ol Chiki letters
is directly based on the shapes of objects or actions which the sounds for the letters represent, or with which
the sounds for the letters are in some way associated. Naturally, the sources for the shapes of letters were fire, soil,
water, air and sky- an environment that surrounds them. This is an indigenous concept and has multiple objectives. It would
greatly help them to remember the letters easily, since they are familiar with the shapes and sounds that can be
easily retrieved from the corresponding image from the nature. It can be observed that the shapes of most of the letters
are either oval or round. This is due to the nature of origin of letters, whose shapes are often
derived from the shape of an object or action of natural environment. For example, the word /AT/ means Earth and
the shape of letter /AT/ is derived from the round shape of Earth. Similarly /UD/ means mushroom and so looks the shape of
the letter /UD/. Here is the list of meaning of all letters given in Ol Chiki writing system.
The shape of burning fire. /AT/ : The shape of Earth. /AG/ :
The shape of mouth during vomiting which produces the
same sound as the name of the letter. /ANG/:
Blowing air. /AL/ : Writing. /AA/ : The shape of working in
the field with a spade. /AAK/: Sound of Swan or shape of a bird. /AAJ/ :
The shape of a person pointing towards a third person with
right hand(saying he). /AAM/: The shape of a person pointing towards a second
left hand(saying you). /AAW/: Opening lips. /I/ : Bending
tree . /IS/ : The shape of plough. /IH/ : The shape
of hand ups. /INY/ : The shape of a person pointing towards himself or herself with
left hand. /IR/ : The shape of a sickle used for cutting or reaping(IR). /U/
: The shape of a vessel used for preparing food. /UCH/: The shape of a peak of a mountain which
is usually high. /UD/ : The shape of mushroom. /UNN/: The picture of a
flying bee which makes this sound. /UY/ : The shape of a man bending towards ground to cut something. /
E/ : Overflowing rivers changing course. /EP/ : A person receiving
with both hands. /EDD/: The shape of a man with two legs stretching towards his
chest and mouth. /EN/ : The picture of thrashing grains with two legs. /ERR/: A
picture of a path that turns to avoid an obstruction or a
: The shape of mouth when sounding this. /OTT/: The hump of a camel. /OB/
: Curly hair. /OV/ : Nasalized. /OH/ : The figure of a man throwing something with