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
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.
Type of writing system: abugida / alphasyllabary
Direction of writing: left to right in horizontal lines
Tocharian is a syllabic alphabet in which each consonant has an
inherent vowel /a/. Other vowels are indicated with independent vowel
letters or vowel diacritics.