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Tocharian is an extinct branch of the Indo-European language family which was spoken in oases on the northern edge of the Tarim Basin, an area which is now part of Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region in China. Fragments of manuscripts and other writing in the Tocharian script dating from between the 6th and 8th centuries AD were discovered there in the early 20th century.

When the alphabet was deciphered, it was discovered that it represented two previously unknown languages which were dubbed Tocharian A, or East Tocharian, Agnean or Turfanian, and Tocharian B, or West Tocharian or Kuchean. Tocharian A appears more archaic and was used a liturgical language, while Tocharian B was spoken around Turfan and Tumshuq. The languages disappeared after Uyghur-speaking people settled in the area during the 9th century.

The Tocharian alphabet was derived from the Brahmi alphabet. It was written on palm, wooden tablets and Chinese paper, which were preserved in the dry climate of the Tarim Basin. Some inscriptions on mural have also been found.

Notable features

Tocharian alphabet

Indepedent vowels

Tocharian independent vowels

Regular vowel and other signs

Tocharian irregular vowel signs

Irregular vowel signs

Tocharian regular vowel and other signs


Tocharian consonants

Conjunct consonants

Tocharian conjunct consonants


Tocharian numbers

Tocharian alphabet images provided by Lee Wilson

Fragment of a Tocharian manuscript

Fragment of a Tocharian manuscript


Information about the Tocharian language and alphabet

Images of Tocharian Manuscripts

Syllabic alphabets / abugidas