12 Surprising Effects of Daylight Saving Time

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Every March, clocks “spring forward” across much of the United States, robbing people of one precious hour of sleep. While hearing those same people complain about being tired is one not-so-surprising effect of Daylight Saving Time, the possibility of a longer prison sentence for those going before a judge on “sleepy Monday” is less expected. Here are 12 surprising effects of Daylight Saving Time—the good, the bad, and the scientifically ambiguous.

1. INCREASED SPENDING

Woman whips out her credit card while hanging out on a hammock
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In 2016, JP Morgan Chase decided to look into the economic consequences of Daylight Saving Time (DST) by examining Los Angeles and Phoenix, two cities that are large, relatively close to each other, and have stable weather. Critically, Phoenix doesn’t observe DST while Los Angeles does [PDF].

Among their findings, DST was “associated with a 0.9 percent increase in daily card spending per capita in Los Angeles at the beginning of DST.” Perhaps more surprising, the end of DST was associated with a per capita daily spending reduction of 3.9 percent.

2. A HIGHER RISK OF HEART ATTACKS

Many studies have shown that DST is associated with an increase in heart attacks, with one study showing a 24 percent increase in the number of heart attacks on the Monday after DST at a group of Michigan hospitals. According to the University of Michigan, Mondays are bad for heart attacks in general (researchers believes the stress of beginning a new workweek and changes to the sleep-wake cycle are the reason why), but DST makes everything worse. Interestingly, the Tuesday following the end of DST was associated with a 21 percent drop in patients.

3. MISSED APPOINTMENTS

Youg man runs to catch a missed train
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Somewhat relatedly, a 2017 study found that the percentage of missed medical appointments increased significantly following DST. But as with heart attack risk, the missed appointments decreased in the fall—at least temporarily.

4. MORE CAR ACCIDENTS ... MAYBE (AT LEAST FOR A FEW DAYS)

Another field where studies aren't as consistent as one might expect is traffic accidents. In 2001, an American study found that there was a significant increase in accidents on the Monday after the shift to DST. A 2018 New Zealand study echoed the sentiment, finding that on the first day of DST road accidents increased 16 percent. In contrast, a Swedish study found that DST didn’t have any important effect in that country.

Of course, there’s more to DST than just those first couple days. After DST has gotten started, there’s more light on the road later in the day. Several studies have found this light reduces accidents substantially, so much so that one study concluded that a year-round DST would reduce motor vehicle occupant fatalities by 195 per year.

It’s so complicated that a 2010 analysis in Minnesota listed 10 studies that found positive effects of DST on road safety, and six studies that showed negative effects in both the spring and fall changes.

5. LONGER PRISON SENTENCES

A photo of a judge handing out a sentence with a clock sitting next to her
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Researchers frequently use DST to study sleep deprivation in populations, as it’s a period of time when we all wake up an hour before we’re used to. One of these studies focused specifically on judicial punishment in U.S. federal courts [PDF]. The researchers looked at “sleepy Monday” (the Monday after the time change) and compared the sentence lengths to other Mondays. They found that on “sleepy Monday,” judges handed out 5 percent longer sentences. But don’t think you can get a lighter sentence during the fall switch; the researchers found no effect on sentencing at that time. But the researchers point out that this probably isn’t limited to judges—even managers may find themselves in the mood for doling out harsher punishments.

6. MORE MINING INJURIES

According to one study of mining injuries from 1983 to 2006, the Monday directly after the switch to DST was associated with 5.7 percent more workplace injuries and 68 percent more workdays lost because of injuries, indicating that there are more injuries that are more severe after the switch [PDF]. There isn’t, however, a corresponding decrease in the fall.

7. FEWER KOALA COLLISIONS

A street sign warns of koala bears
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One study decided to look at how DST affected human-wildlife interaction, specifically koala-vehicle collisions [PDF]. Because koalas are largely nocturnal, they often cross the road in the evening or at night. By shifting traffic patterns to times when it wasn’t dark, the researchers found that DST could “decrease collisions with koalas by 8 percent on weekdays and 11 percent at weekends” (although the difference between weekend and weekdays wasn’t significant, the researchers proposed that a slight increase in morning collisions lessened the benefit during the weekday). The researchers hope that further study can be done on human-animal interactions and DST.

Koalas aren’t the only ones crossing a road that benefit from DST; pedestrians might be safer as well. One study found “no significant detrimental effect on automobile crashes in the short run” and in the long run was associated with “a 8 to 11 percent fall in crashes involving pedestrians ... in the weeks after the spring shift to DST.” Meanwhile another study found that a year-long DST would mean 171 fewer pedestrian fatalities a year.

8. DECREASED SATISFACTION WITH LIFE IN GENERAL (AND INCREASED USE OF THE WORD TIRED)

In both the UK and Germany, studies have shown that life satisfaction deteriorates in the first week after the switch to DST in the spring. One study even quantified the deterioration in Germany with money. For the entire sample, the cost was calculated to be €213 (about $262), but for people in full employment—with relatively inflexible schedules—that increases to €332 ($408). And for the men in the sample, the cost of transition was €396 ($487).

Meanwhile, a Facebook analysis looked at the "feelings" people were sharing on the platform. On the Monday after the start of DST, the use of the word tired increased by 25 percent, with similar increases for “sleepy” and “exhausted” (as well as “wonderful” and “great”). In just the period from 5 a.m. to 12 p.m. on Monday, “feeling tired” usage increased an average of 86 percent, from a 12 percent increase in the non-DST Arizona up to a 231 percent increase in Delaware. By Thursday, “tired” is back to normal.

9. SLEEPIER KIDS (MAYBE)

The studies surrounding DST and school children are surprisingly inconclusive. On the one side, a 2009 article in Sleep Medicine looked at 469 Germans from 10 to 20 years old and divided them up into ‘larks’ (those who go to bed early and wake up early) and ‘owls’ (those who go to bed late and wake up late). They found that after the DST transition the group was sleepier for three weeks after the transition, with owls showing higher daytime sleepiness, and proposed that tests shouldn’t take place in the week following the switch over to DST.

A 2017 article in Economics of Education Review, however, looked at 22,000 Europeans students and found that, at least for low-stakes tests, the effect wasn’t statistically significant.

10. MORE CYBERLOAFING ON THE JOB

A woman gets caught cyberloafing at work
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Another study looked at people’s Google search trends for the Mondays before the switch to DST, immediately after the switch, and a week after, with a specific focus on sites like Facebook, YouTube, and ESPN (i.e. entertainment sites that people probably aren’t Googling for their jobs). They found that on the Monday after the switch, people searched for 3.1 percent more entertainment websites than the Monday before DST, and 6.4 percent more than the subsequent Monday. While the researchers caution they can’t be sure this was all "cyberloafing," the fact that there was nothing else special about these Mondays meant it very likely was [PDF].

11. MISTIMED INSULIN SHOTS

It might seem that in this age of smartphones and connected devices that figure it all out, the twice-yearly ritual of finding all the clocks to change is a thing of the past. But that’s not necessarily true. In a 2014 article in the Journal of Diabetes Science and Technology, the authors pointed out an easy clock to miss: insulin pumps. Because most commercial pumps aren’t GPS-enabled and lack internal time change mechanisms, they have to be manually set up. The study authors discuss an international college student with an insulin pump that came from a country that didn’t observe DST, meaning the clock was an hour off. They say that no significant harm resulted, but it just serves as a reminder to make sure you check all your clocks.

12. HIGHER ENERGY BILLS

Man reviews an energy bill on a tablet app
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One of the main rallying cries for DST is that it saves energy, but studies have been mixed. In 1975 the Department of Transportation issued a report about whether a short-lived, year-long DST experiment had been worthwhile [PDF]. They declared “modest overall benefits might be realized by a shift from the historic six-month DST system,” but cautioned that these benefits were difficult to isolate. Optimistically, though, they said DST might help reduce 1 percent of electricity use.

But as modern researchers have noted, electricity usage has shifted since then. Chief among the changes: Only 46 percent of the new single family households completed in 1975 had air conditioning, compared to 93 percent in 2016 [PDF].

Indiana provided a good place to test this change, because in 2006 they decided to observe DST as an entire state (individual counties had observed DST before). A study ultimately concluded that while DST does save electricity in lighting, this is more than offset by increased demands for heating and cooling, resulting in Indiana households being hit by $9 million per year in higher electricity bills [PDF]. However, the study only looked at residential electricity consumption, not commercial or industrial.

Around the same time, the Department of Energy also looked into DST and found that during a four-week extension, electricity use decreased about half a percentage point per day. Ultimately, Stanton Hadley at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory told Live Science, “I could see the answer being either way.”

10 Fascinating Facts About the Thesaurus for National Thesaurus Day

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iStock.com/LeitnerR

Writers often turn to a thesaurus to diversify their vocabulary and add nuance to their prose. But looking up synonyms and antonyms in a thesaurus can help anyone—writer or not—find the most vivid, incisive words to communicate thoughts and ideas. Since January 18 is Thesaurus Day, we’re celebrating with these 10 fascinating facts about your thesaurus.

1. Its name comes from the Greek word for treasure.

Greek lettering.
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Most logophiles consider the thesaurus to be a treasure trove of diction, but the word thesaurus really does mean "treasure." It derives from the Greek word thésauros, which means a storehouse of precious items, or a treasure.

2. You can call them thesauruses or thesauri.

Row of old books lined up.
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How do you refer to more than one octopus? People say everything from octopuses to octopi to octopodes. Similarly, many people have trouble figuring out the correct plural form of the word thesaurus. Though thesauri is technically correct—it attaches a Latin suffix to the Latin word thēsaurus—both thesauri and thesauruses are commonly used and accepted today.

3. Early thesauruses were really dictionaries.

Close-up of the term 'ideal' in a thesaurus.
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Ask a French scholar in the 16th century to see his thesaurus, and he'd gladly give you a copy of his dictionary. In the early 1530s, a French printer named Robert Estienne published Thesaurus Linguae Latinae, a comprehensive Latin dictionary listing words that appeared in Latin texts throughout an enormous span of history. And in 1572, Estienne's son Henri published Thesaurus Linguae Graecae, a dictionary of Greek words. Although the Estiennes's books were called thesauruses, they were really dictionaries comprised of alphabetical listings of words with their definitions.

4. A Greek historian wrote the first book of synonyms.

Stacks of books surrounding an open book and a pair of glasses.
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Philo of Byblos, a Greek historian and grammarian, wrote On Synonyms, a dictionary of synonyms that scholars consider to be the first ancient thesaurus. Dating to the late 1st century or early 2nd century CE, the book lists Greek words that are similar in meaning to each another. Sadly, we don’t know much more about On Synonyms because copies of the work haven’t survived over the centuries.

5. An early Sanskrit thesaurus was written in the form of a poem.

Sanskrit lettering.
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In the 4th century CE, an Indian poet and grammarian named Amara Sinha wrote The Amarakosha, a thesaurus of Sanskrit words. Rather than compile a boring list of similar words, Amara Sinha turned his thesaurus into a long poem. Divided into three sections—words relating to the divine, the earth, and everyday life—The Amarakosha contains verses so readers could memorize words easily. This thesaurus is the oldest book of its kind that still exists.

6. A British doctor wrote the first modern thesaurus.

Portrait of Peter Mark Roget.
Thomas Pettigrew, Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

Peter Mark Roget is the British doctor credited with authoring the first modern thesaurus. In 1805, he began compiling a list of words, arranged by their meaning and grouped according to theme. After retiring from his work as a physician in 1852, Roget published his Thesaurus of English words and phrases; so classified and arranged as to facilitate the expression of ideas and assist in literary composition. Today, Roget’s Thesaurus is still commercially successful and widely used. In fact, we celebrate Thesaurus Day on January 18 because Roget was born on this day in 1779.

7. The thesaurus has a surprising link to a mathematical tool.

Image of a vintage log log slide rule.
Joe Haupt, Flickr // CC BY-SA 2.0

The division between "words people" and "numbers people" is deep-seated. Many mathematicians may try to steer clear of thesauruses, and bibliophiles may avoid calculators, but the thesaurus is actually linked to a mathematical tool. Around 1815, Roget invented the log-log slide rule, a ruler-like device that allows users to easily calculate the roots and exponents of numbers. So while the inventor of the thesaurus was compiling words for his tome, he was also hard at work on the log-log slide rule. A true jack-of-all-trades.

8. The Oxford English Dictionary has its own historical thesaurus.

Synonyms for
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In 1965, a professor of English Language at Glasgow University suggested that scholars should create a historical thesaurus based on entries in the Oxford English Dictionary. The project was a massive undertaking, as people from multiple countries worked for 44 years to compile and classify words. Published in 2009, the Historical Thesaurus to the Oxford English Dictionary contains 800,000 words organized by theme and date. The thesaurus covers words and synonyms from Old English to the present day and lets readers discover when certain words were coined and how long they were commonly used.

9. One artist turned his love of words into a series of thesaurus paintings.

Mel Bochner,
Mel Bochner, "Crazy," 2004. Francesca Castelli, Flickr // CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

In 2014, the Jewish Museum in New York showed a survey of conceptual artist Mel Bochner’s art. Bochner had incorporated words and synonyms in his paintings for years—which were collectively referred to as the thesaurus paintings—featuring word paintings and lists of synonyms on canvas. The brightly colored paintings feature different groups of English and Yiddish synonyms. According to Bochner, Vietnam and Iraq war veterans cried after seeing his thesaurus painting Die, which features words and phrases such as expire, perish, succumb, drop dead, croak, go belly up, pull the plug, and kick the bucket.

10. There's an urban thesaurus for all your slang synonym needs

Copy of an Urban Dictionary book.
Effie Yang, Flickr // CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Urban Dictionary helps people decipher the latest slang terms, but where should you go when you need a thesaurus of slang? Urban Thesaurus, of course. The site, which is not affiliated with Urban Dictionary, indexes millions of slang terms culled from slang dictionaries, then calculates usage correlations between the terms. Typing in the word money, for example, gives you an eclectic list of synonyms including scrilla, cheddar, mulah, coin, and bling.

This story originally ran in 2017.

10 Endangered Alphabets You Should See Before It's Too Late

The Glagolitic script carved into wood
The Glagolitic script carved into wood
Courtesy of Tim Brookes

The Arabic and Simplified Chinese scripts aren't in danger of going anywhere anytime soon, but the same can't be said for Balinese, Mali, Pahawh (or Pahauh) Hmong, and the other 100-some alphabets that Vermont-based writer Tim Brookes has cataloged in his online Atlas of Endangered Alphabets, which is set for a soft launch on January 17. The featured alphabets—which Brookes has loosely defined to include writing systems of all sorts—are vanishing for varied reasons, including government policies, war, persecution, cultural assimilation, and globalization.

“The world is becoming much more dependent on global communications and those global communications take place in a relatively small number of writing systems—really something between 15 and 20,” Brookes tells Mental Floss. “And because that’s the case, all the others are to some degree being eroded.”

The atlas will include a bit of background information about each alphabet as well as links to any organizations attempting to revive them. By creating a hub for these alphabets, Brookes hopes to connect people who want to preserve their language and culture, while also showing the world how beautiful and intricate some of these scripts—including the 10 below—can be.

1. Cherokee

Although the Manataka American Indian Council says an ancient Cherokee writing system may have existed at one point but was lost to history, Cherokee was more or less a spoken language up until the early 19th century. Around 1809, a Cherokee man named Sequoyah started working on an 86-character writing system known as a syllabary, in which the symbols represent syllables. Most remarkably, Sequoyah himself had never learned how to read. At the time, many Native Americans deeply distrusted writing systems, and Sequoyah was put on trial for witchcraft after tribal leaders caught wind of his new creation. However, once they realized that written Cherokee could be used to preserve their language and culture, they asked Sequoyah to start teaching the syllabary. “The Cherokee achieved 90 percent literacy more rapidly than any other people in history that we know of,” Brookes says. “[Sequoyah’s syllabary] is one of the greatest intellectual achievements of all time.”

After a period of decline in the years following the Indian Removal Act of 1830, Cherokee language education saw somewhat of a revival in the late 20th century. The predominance of English and the Latin alphabet has made these efforts an uphill battle, though. Brookes says it’s difficult to find people who can teach the script, and even among Cherokee translators, few are confident in their grasp of the writing system.

2. Inuktitut

A stop sign containing the Inuktitut script
A stop sign in Nunavut, Canada
Sébastien Lapointe, Wikimedia Commons // CC BY-SA 3.0

Nine different writing systems are used among Canada’s 59,500 Inuit. Many of these are based on the Latin alphabet, but the one shown above uses syllabics that were first introduced by European missionaries in the 19th century. Since it’s difficult and costly to represent each of these writing systems in official documents, many Inuit officials write and hold meetings in English, all but ensuring the demise of their mother tongue. However, Canada’s national Inuit organization, the Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami, is now in the process of developing one common script for all Inuit. “Our current writing systems were introduced through the process of colonization,” the organization writes on its website. “The unified Inuktut [the collective name for Inuit languages] writing system will be the first writing system created by Inuit for Inuit in Canada.” It remains to be seen what that script will look like.

3. Glagolitic

A tablet containing the Glagolitic script
The Baška tablet, which was made around the year 1100
Neoneo13, Wikimedia Commons // Public domain

It’s widely believed that Glagolitic, the oldest known Slavic script, was invented by missionaries Saint Cyril and Saint Methodius around 860 CE in an effort to translate the Gospels and convert the Slavs to Christianity. The name Glagolitic stems from the Old Church Slavonic word glagolati, meaning to speak. Some of the symbols were lifted from Greek, Armenian, and Georgian, while others were entirely new inventions. Nowadays, academics are typically the only ones who can decipher the script, but some cultural institutions have made efforts to preserve its legacy. In 2018, the National and University Library in Zagreb launched an online portal containing digitized versions of Glagolitic texts. In addition to being a source of Croatian heritage and pride, the alphabet has also become an object of tourist fascination. Visitors can view monuments containing Glagolitic symbols along the Baška Glagolitic Path on the Croatian island of Krk. And in Zagreb, the capital city, it’s not hard to find gift shops selling merchandise adorned with Glagolitic writing. However helpful this may be to the tourism sector, it's no guarantee that more Croatians will want to start learning the script.

4. Mandombe

The Mandombe script
Moyogo, Wikimedia Commons // Public domain

This African script is unusual for several reasons. For one, the Mandombe alphabet reportedly came to David Wabeladio Payi—a member of the Kimbanguist church in the Democratic Republic of Congo—in a series of dreams and spiritual encounters in the late ‘70s. One day, he was looking at his wall when he noticed that the mortar between the bricks seemed to form two numbers: five and two. He believed these were divine clues, so he set out to create a series of symbols based off those shapes. Eventually, he assigned the symbols phonographic meaning and turned it into an alphabet that could be used by speakers of the Kikongo and Lingala languages. Perhaps most remarkably, the pronunciation changes depending on how the symbols are rotated. “It’s one of about three writing systems in the world where that’s true,” Brookes says. Unlike most of the other alphabets on this list, Mandombe is growing in popularity rather than declining. However, because it’s primarily being taught in Kimbanguist schools and used only for religious texts, it will be a challenge to convince the rest of the population to start using it. Elsewhere in the country, the Latin alphabet is used (French is the official language). “What it’s up against is, in essence, exactly the same forces that a declining script is up against,” Brookes says. For this reason, many new alphabets can be considered endangered.

5. Ditema tsa Dinoko

In a similar vein, Ditema tsa Dinoko is also a minority script, and it's too new to tell if it will stick around. A team of South African linguists, designers, and software programmers invented this intricate, triangular-shaped alphabet in just the last decade in hopes of forging a single script that could be used by speakers of indigenous languages in South Africa, Botswana, Zimbabwe, and Mozambique. Because the symbols were inspired by artworks and beadwork designs that are typical of the region, the alphabet is also a celebration of culture. “One of the really interesting features of African alphabets is how deeply embedded they are in what we would call graphic design,” Brookes says. “Instead of imitating the shapes or structures or layout of other writing systems, such as our alphabet, they often start from a completely different point of view and draw on designs that are found in war paintings, weaving textiles, pottery, and all of those other available graphic elements.” The colors used in the alphabet aren't necessary to understand the script, but they hark back to the alphabet's artistic origins while also functioning as a kind of font. For instance, different writers may use different colors to give their text "a certain feel or emotional resonance," Brookes says.

6. Mandaic

The Mandaic script
Courtesy of Tim Brookes

This ancient, mystic script dates back to the 2nd century CE and is still being used by some Mandaeans in Iraq and Iran. According to mythology, the language itself predates humanity, and the script was historically used to create religious texts. Charles Häberl, now an associate professor of Middle Eastern languages and literatures at Rutgers University, wrote in a 2006 paper that Mandaic is “unlike any other script found in the modern Middle East." And unlike most scripts, it has changed very little over the centuries. Despite its enduring quality, many of the speakers in Iraq have fled to other countries since the U.S. invasion in 2003. As these speakers assimilate into new cultures, it becomes more challenging to maintain their linguistic traditions.

7. Lanna

The Lanna script
Courtesy of Tim Brookes

According to Brookes, the Lanna script was primarily used during the time of the Lanna Kingdom in present-day Thailand from the 13th century to the 16th century. It’s still used in some regions of northern Thailand, but faces stiff competition from the predominant Thai script. The word Lanna translates to "land of a million rice fields." The script is one of Brookes’s personal favorites as far aesthetics are concerned. “It is so extraordinarily fluid and beautiful,” he says. “They developed this script to indicate not only consonants, but then the consonants have vowel markings and other consonant markings and tonal markings both above and below the main letters, and so you have this amazingly joyous and elaborate writing system, and it’s like a pond of goldfish. Everything is just curving around and swimming in all these different directions.”

8. Dongba

The Dongba script
Courtesy of Aubrey Wang

Members of the Naxi ethnic minority in China’s Yunnan province have been using this colorful pictographic script for well over 1000 years. The pictures stand for tangible objects like mud, mountains, and high alpine meadows, as well as intangible concepts such as humanity and religion [PDF]. Historically, it was mainly used by priests to help them remember their ceremonial rites, and the word Dongba means "wise man." However, the script has undergone something of a revival in recent years, having been promoted by people working in the arts and tourism industries. It’s also taught in some elementary schools, and it remains one of the few pictographic scripts that’s still in use today. At the same time, Brookes says he's seen little evidence of efforts "to create a circumstance where the script is actually used in a functional, everyday fashion." With the predominant Chinese script looming large throughout much of the country, Dongba's days may be numbered.

9. Tibetan

A student writes the Tibetan script
China Photos/Getty Images

Some of the world’s alphabets and languages are endangered for political reasons. Tibetan is perhaps the best-known example of that. The Chinese government has cracked down on language instruction in recent years, with the aim of promoting Mandarin, the predominant language—although some have argued this policy comes at the expense of minority languages. In Tibet, many schools now conduct the bulk of their lessons in Mandarin, and Tibetan might be taught in a separate language course. Chinese officials put a Tibetan activist on trial in January 2018 for “inciting separatism”—partly because he criticized the government’s policies on Tibetan language education. He was sentenced to five years in prison. In general, “the story behind endangered alphabets is almost never a pleasant or cheerful one, so that’s the human rights side of it,” Brookes says.

10. Mongolian

The Mongolian script

Anand.orkhon, Wikimedia Commons // CC BY-SA 4.0

Some have likened the appearance of the traditional Mongolian script to a kind of vertical Arabic. The script traveled to Mongolia by way of a Turkic ethnic group called the Uighurs in the 1100s. Beginning with Genghis Khan, Mongol leaders used the script to record historic events during their reign. Later, when Mongolia became a Soviet satellite state, the country started using the Cyrillic alphabet in the 1940s, and the traditional script was largely cast aside. The traditional alphabet is still used in inner Mongolia and is returning to Mongolia, and the renaissance of Mongolian calligraphy has bolstered its usage to some degree. Nonetheless, it, too, remains endangered.

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