The Manchu writing system was an alphabet created under the order of Nurhachi in 1599 for his Manchu empire. It's top-to-bottom, left-to-right flow and letter shapes were derived from the earlier Mongolian alphabet, however the many ambiguities present in that older system are thoroughly eliminated, making Manchu an extremely accurate representation of the phonemic structure of Manchu's main dialect at the time.

The system was written cursively with ink brush, at the time even beginning to compete with Chinese logograms for calligraphy and official purposes. The alphabet contained a series of extra letters to represent Mandarin phonemes and tones, so it was also an accurate representation of Chinese. Like Mongolian, Manchu characters could have up to four forms; initial, medial, final, and separate. There were also several ligatures for writing common short words. Diacritics were used to distinguish certain similar looking letters and unique circumstances such as a nasal phoneme before a vowel or affrictives.

Daniels, Peter T. Bright, William. The World's Writing Systems. New York: Oxford University Press, 1996.

Man*chu" (?), a. [Written also Manchoo, Mantchoo, etc.]

Of or pertaining to Manchuria or its inhabitants.



A native or inhabitant of Manchuria; also, the language spoken by the Manchus.


© Webster 1913.

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