Xi Xia (Tangut) Script

From: Richard Cook (rscook@socrates.Berkeley.EDU)
Date: Sat Nov 25 2000 - 20:38:27 EST

List members might find information on work being done on Xi Xia
(Tangut) Script to be of interest.
Prof. GONG Hwang-cherng and his colleagues in the Institute of
Linguistics at Academia Sinica in Taiwan have been working for the past
several years to create an outline font of the large Xi Xia (Tangut)
character set, to be employed in the production of a forth-coming dictionary.

The CIDFont for this project at present encodes approximately 5400
characters, the style of which is exemplified in this PDF:


Structurally, the script employs some 400 classifiers, and composite
characters are produced from components by processes similar to those
at work in the Chinese script. As Chinese scholars have remarked, the
Tangut script is visually similar enough to Chinese to cause headaches: as
though Chinese characters were put in a mirror and turned upside-down or

With texts dating from the 11th-13th c., Tangut is a dead Sino-Tibetan
(ST) language of uncertain position within the ST family. The capital of
the Xi Xia (a.k.a. Da Xia, Baishang, Tangute, Tangut) people was present
day Yinchuan (in Ningxia Province, on the Inner Mongolian border), between
Helan Mountain and the west bank of the Yellow River. In 1208 A.D. their
territiory extended west of this some 1500 kilometers, south to Qinghai
Lake, and north to Mongolia. Some scholars have argued that Tangut is
closely related to the Qiangic languages, while others argue that there
is no real linguistic evidence for an especially close relation with
Qiangic. The Tangut language is read only by a handful of specialists,
such as Prof. LIN Ying-chin (colleague and student of Prof. GONG), who
contributes her reconstruction work to augment STEDT's Tangut data.

Richard S. COOK, Jr.
STEDT Project, Linguistics Department
University of California, Berkeley

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