Brahmic scripts

Under the Indian script circle refers to the descendants of the Brahmi script. They are often called " Indian writings " means, even if some of them outside India are indigenous.

South Asia and Southeast Asia to the east followed (including Indonesia), the region of the world, the most different fonts are used in the day. This is especially true for the Indian subcontinent with the countries of Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka.

In India and other South Asian countries, including the following Indic scripts are used: Bengali script, Devanagari Gujarati script, Gurmukhi script, Kannada script, Malayalam script, Oriya font, font Sinhala, Tamil and Telugu font font. Outside the Indian subcontinent, for example, the Balinese, Burmese (Myanmar ), Khmer script, used Laotian, Thai and Tibetan script.

  • 6.2.1 Harvard - Kyoto
  • 6.2.2 ITRANS
  • 7.1 syllables
  • 7.2 consonants
  • 8.1 alphabet
  • 8.2 vowel diacritics
  • 8.3 Special case / r /
  • 8.4 ligatures
  • 8.5 write syllables
  • 8.6 linearity
  • 9.1 Additional Characters 9.1.1 Devanagari
  • 9.1.2 Dravidian languages
  • 9.1.3 Sinhala
  • 9.1.4 Tibetan
  • 9.1.5 Burmese, Khmer, Thai
  • 9.5.1 Indo-Aryan languages
  • 9.5.2 Dravidian languages
  • 9.5.3 Tibetan
  • 9.5.4 Khmer


In the area of ​​distribution of the group's total Indian script fonts come in front of the following groups:

  • Indian writing circle ( descendants of the Brahmi script )
  • Arabic - Persian ( each separate versions for example for Urdu, Sindhi, Kashmiri and Malay )
  • Ol Chiki ( for the Indian Munda Santali language )
  • Thaana ( Indo-Aryan language Dhivehi for the Maldives )
  • Latin ( in India besides Devanagari and other writings for the spoken in Goa Konkani as well as for some Munda and Tibeto - Burmese languages ​​and the Mon-Khmer language Khasi, also of course for English, which is one of India to the official languages ​​in SO- Asia for Bahasa Indonesia, Bahasa Melayu, and Vietnamese )

While the descendants of Brahmi and Ol Chiki and Thaana are autochthonous, are the Arabic and Latin script imported.


(see main article: Genealogy of objects derived from Proto Semitic alphabets )

(Excerpt :) ...

  • Brahmi script - about 250 BC (India, Sri Lanka) Cham script - about 200 AD (Vietnam, Cambodia) *
  • Gupta script - about 400 AD (North India ) Siddham - 600 (North India ) * Tibetan writing - about 650 (Tibet) * Phagspa font - 1269 (Mongolia)
  • Lepcha font - 1700 (Bhutan) * Limbu font - 1740 ( Sikkim ) *
  • Bengali font - 1050 ( East India, Bangladesh ) * Oriya font - 1100 ( East India ) *
  • Newari script ( Ranjana ) - 1150 (Nepal) * Sojombo font - about 1686 (Mongolia) *
  • Gurmukhi script - about 1539 (Pakistan, Northern India) *
  • Khmer script - about 600 ( Cambodia) * Thai font - 1283 (Thailand) * Lao font - 1350 (Laos ) *
  • Burmese script - about 1050 (Burma) *
  • Javanese font - 900 (Indonesia) *
  • Balinese font - 1000 (Indonesia) *
  • Altsundanesische font - 1300 (Indonesia) Formal Sundanese script - 1997 ( Indonesia) *
  • Kannada font - 1500 (South India ) *
  • Telugu font - 1500 (South India ) *
  • Sinhala font - 700 (Sri Lanka) * Dhives Akuru - 1100 (Maldives )
  • Saurashtra - 1900 (South India ) *


Text Examples

The variety of Indian texts is particularly evident when the same sentence again gives ( here a Sanskrit phrase ) in different scripts:

Written Tradition

The Indian climate is the preservation of old scripts and texts not conducive; so the typical writing materials, palm leaves and tree bark, a few years left before they expire. Narrated therefore are mainly writings on coins, rocks and buildings; the oldest manuscripts put until the 11th century AD. Traditionally, the written tradition applies in India compared to the oral than the more uncertain.

The writing materials used have partially influenced the shape of the characters.


The Indian scriptures are Clockwise and know not case- sensitive.

All Indian scriptures include (along with a few others, such as the Ethiopic script ) to a font that stands between syllabic scripts and alphabet fonts:

  • Vowels are fully written only in the syllable. After a consonant are only Vokaldiakritika. However, their use is mandatory ( unlike consonants script as Arabic and Hebrew).
  • The " short a" is not written to consonant (zero graph referred to as " inherent vowel ").
  • Instead, the Vokallosigkeit a consonant is an additional diacritic ( " Virama " or " Halant " called ) is displayed. In some neuindoarischen languages ​​( such as Hindi and Bengali ) Halant is not used consistently. In Panjabi Halant is not mentioned at all, so that can not be seen whether, after a consonant "a" is to speak or not.
  • Successive vowelless consonants are usually combined into ligatures.

The name for these fonts is not uniform. Often the term is chosen to be simple syllabary, which not only includes this particular type; newer coins are Abugida and " Alphasyllabar ".

Transliteration of Indian writings

The oldest Sanskrit texts were first transmitted orally. Only in the period around 400-300 BC Kharoshti and Brahmi have been developed for the representation of the spoken word. Although these were suitable to represent the Mittelindoarischen ( MIA), they were not sufficient for the phonetic representation of the classical Sanskrit and later modified in this respect. Although Sanskrit can be represented in all descendants of the Brahmi script and is so Devanagari has yet enforced as written form for the representation of Sanskrit. Linguists of the 19th century have Sankskrit play back in Devanagari. Edited by Max Müller editio princeps of the Rigveda was in Devanagari, an act at the time, as the only typographer had to make the set.

Since that time, philologists saw the need to represent Sanskrit with Latin letters. Franz Bopp in 1816 developed a first Transliterationsschema in which the vowel length by a circumflex ( â, î, û ) and the aspiration by a spiritus asper (eg ʽ b ) was shown. The sibilants s and were represented by spiritus asper ¶ and lenis ( s ʽ, s). Monier -Williams used in his 1899 dictionary launched S and S for sh ¶ and. Theodor Aufrecht published in his 1877 published edition, the Rig Veda in Sanskrit latinisiertem. Arthur Macdonell also came in his grammar of Vedic (1917 ) without Devanagari. Publications of the present use of IAST transliteration and NLAC.

Schemes using diacritics


The International Alphabet of Sanskrit Transliteration ( IAST ) represents the most common academic standards for the representation of Sanskrit in the Latin alphabet


The National Library at Calcutta ( NLAC ) has developed based on the IAST a Transliteration, which applies to all Indian writings - not only for Sanskrit.

ISO 15919

ISA 15919 provides a Transliteration for all languages ​​of South Asia dar. IAST and NLAC are subsets of ISO 159191 /2001. ISO 15919 defines the Latin representation in Unicode.

ISO 15919 transliterations are platform - independent and can thus be shown to be identical on all OS. ISO 15919 uses diacritics to graphemes represent the Brahmi writings

ASCII schemes without diacritics

ASCII transliteration can be encountered frequently on the Internet. All ASCII schemes are not official Translisterationskonventionen.

Harvard - Kyoto

The Harvard - Kyoto scheme is a transliteration system that uses ASCII for the representation of Indian scriptures like Devanagari. It uses no diacritics and is not used in the academic environment. The most common application: E -mail and Internet.


The "Indian languages ​​Transliteration " ( ITRANS ) is also an ASCII scheme for Indian fonts, such as Devanagari. It was developed by Avinash Chopde. It is larger than Harvard Kyoto, with which it is largely identical. With the spread of Unicode, there is as well as other ASCII schemes obsolete.

Comparison tables

Alphabetical arrangement

The alphabetical arrangement of the characters is strictly phonetic, and essentially same for all languages ​​. This systematic presentation reflects the excellent linguistic skills of the "old Indians ", which clearly already more than 2300 years ago phonetics and phonology of their language recognized and systematically describe exactly.

The alphabetical arrangement of Indian writings is first described here for use in Sanskrit characters in Latin transliteration (according to ISO 15919 ). This information is dispensed to the debate, since this varies from language to language.

The characters are divided into syllables ( " vowels " ) and consonants:

  • Syllables ( " vowels " )
  • Consonant with the sub-groups: plosives
  • Sonorants ( " semi-vowels " )
  • Sibilants and h

The syllables are usually referred to as " vowels ", although they also include the syllabic consonants [ r] and [ l].


In monophthongs and syllabic consonants distinction is made between short and long sounds. However ensures the long syllabic "l" represents only a construct, which was postulated by the ancient Indian grammarians, for reasons of symmetry. His single instance is his name!

And are always long in Sanskrit. Although they are monophthongs, they are referred to and classified as " diphthongs ". This is useful for reasons of Morphophonemik of Sanskrit.

In the alphabet, followed by additional characters that are used as diacritics after vowels. Therefore, they are also listed with the vowels:

Anusvara and Anunasika indicate nasalization, visarga a voiceless [ h] -like aftertaste of vowels.


The shutter sounds are arranged in a table with 5 rows and 5 columns. The rows correspond to the place of articulation in the order velar - palatal - retroflex - Dental - labial ( ie in the direction of air flow during speech ). The columns correspond to features of the manner of articulation voiceless / voiced, unaspiriert / aspirates and nasal.

It follows the line sonorant, also known as " semi-vowels " means:

From today's perspective only and semi-vowels are ( more correctly approximants ). They can also be viewed as nichtsilbisches occurrence of the vowels [i ] and [ u]. When occurring [ r] and [ l ] denotes syllabic as vowels, it is logical to call their nichtsilbisches occurrence as " semi-vowels ". In the modern phonetics but [ r] and [ l] are always the consonants, regardless of whether they occur syllabic or nichtsilbisch.

The last row contains the sibilants (in order palatal - retroflex - dental ) and the glottal h:

Of the ancient Indian grammarians the places of articulation of plosives were designated as follows:

  • Velar: कण्ठ्य kaṇṭhya (< कण्ठ Kantha throat, neck)
  • Palatal: तालव्य tālavya (< तालु Talu palate)
  • Retro flexes: मूर्धन्य mūrdhanya (< मूर्धन् mūrdhan summit, the highest point of the palate, also: forehead skull, head, top )
  • Dental: दन्त्य dantya (< दन्त danta tooth)
  • Labial: ओष्ठ्य oṣṭhya (< ओष्ठ oṣṭha lip )

Even today, one encounters in Indology often the outdated, missing or inaccurate " guttural " (Latin: guttur, throat ') for velars or " Kakuminale " (Latin: Cacumen, summit, highest point ') and " Cerebral " (lat. : cerebrum, brain ') for Retro flexes.

Devanagari as typological example


As an example of an Indian alphabet here is the Devanagari script used for Sanskrit with the characters and their likely pronunciation according to the International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA ) is shown (the inherent vowel consonant was omitted here.):

For the / occurring in the Vedic as allophone of / ɖ retroflex [ ɭ ] there ळ addition. This is also in Indian languages ​​(such as Marathi ) are used.

Vowel diacritics

The use of the vowel diacritics is shown here for the consonant :

Special case of / r /

The special position of r as " vocal " and " semi-vowel " comes to Indian scriptures expressed. Described herein for Devanagari.

Syllabic / r / is treated graphically as a vowel, that just means the syllable it is fully written. After consonant is only the corresponding diacritic.

Not syllabic / r / is written only in word-initial and intervocalic in his " long form ".

In consonant clusters diacritics are used, which have a different shape depending on the position of r in the consonant cluster. As the first component of the group is moved to the end of a syllable and put there as a check mark over the vowel. This form is called Reph.

As the last component of the group is set as a small slash or angle below the preceding consonant:

In some Indian scriptures such position variations also apply to the other " semi-vowels ". Examples of Devanagari (V = vowel, C = consonant, V r = vowel Reph, Cr = consonant with r- set, including diacritic ):


Groups of two or more consonants, of which only the latter is followed by a vowel (or diphthong ) are fused to a ligature. Their components are usually still be seen clearly. In special cases, entirely new characters can be formed.

The following examples represent only a small selection dar. In the Devanagari script a few hundred ligatures occur.

Simple Devanagari ligatures

Complex Devanagari ligatures

Write syllables

The string " consonant ( encluster ) vowel ± vowel Additional sign" is summarized in the Indian scriptures to write a syllable ( Akshara ). This need not be identical to a speech syllable. Morpheme can also lie in the middle of a graphic consonant cluster. (See also under Inherent vowel)


Although the writings of Indian script run as a whole circle considered linear. Within a write syllable but is very often a non-linearity observed.

As an example, the Hindi word may be cited for " Student": In the first syllable writing the diacritic for the short stands in front of the corresponding consonants . The second syllable contains the ligature whose components are one above the other. The r spoken at the beginning of the last syllable appears only at the end of a syllable with the vowel as " Reph ".

These features make the Indian scriptures for linguistic investigations and for didactic purposes a transliteration in a consistent linear font, such as the Latin, imperative.

Adaptation to individual languages

Since most modern Indian languages ​​have more than the sounds described above for Sanskrit, whose alphabets had to be extended by several characters. In the case of Tamil, the number of characters has been greatly reduced since voiced plosives occur only as allophones of the voiceless and since there is no aspiration in Tamil.

Additional sign

In North Indian writings are often used diacritics to extend the character set, such as a set under point ( " Nukta " ) or stroke. Some characters have also been re-formed.

Below are examples of Devanagari, Tamil, Kannada, Sinhalese and Tibetan:


In Rajasthani the full forms of and are written by अ used as a " vocal support " and the Vokaldiakritika connects it:

This notation was for a time also for the Hindi propagated to facilitate and thus to promote the spread of Hindi as the national language learning the Scripture:

Dravidian languages

We must distinguish between long and short e and o. Originally, this was not referred graphically in South Indian scriptures. Additional sign < ē > and < ō > were introduced by the Italian missionary Constanzo Beschi ( 1680-1774 ).

In the Latin transliteration is important to note that in Dravidian scriptures and always for the short vowel < ē > and < ō > stand for the long, whereas the corresponding Devanagari characters < ĕ > as and < ŏ > the short vowel and always the long call:

To play specific sounds Dravidian ( retroflex approximant, alveolar r and s), the southern Indian alphabets contain additional characters. In Tamil also a diacritic for [f ] and [ z] is used:

Kannada has its own diacritic for vowel length. This appears as the last character of a write syllable:

It further sign of vowels, consonants and for pränasalierte [ f] were created.

The sign for the consonants pränasalierten emerged from the associated non pränasalierten by adding an additional sheet as diacritic.


Even in the development of a font for the Tibetan from an Indian script missing some characters for Tibetan lute. The sign for the dental affricates were formed from the palatals by adding a Diakritikums. Other characters have been created or obtained by mirroring existing characters.

Later, the transliteration of Sanskrit texts centering more characters, in particular, introduced to represent the retro flexing and aspirated voiced plosives.

Burmese, Khmer, Thai

These writings were also extended to Tonmarken and numerous vowels, consonants Thai to sign.

Vokaldiakritika in Indian scriptures

In the Brahmi script which Vokaldiakritika were shown as small attached to the consonant strokes. With the advancement of the writings diacritics changed their shape, size and position. Some of them were also split. The following table shows a selection:

Syllabic consonants and special forms of r

In the neuindoarischen languages ​​there is no syllabic consonants more. The historical spelling of syllabic r is survived though, but the debate has changed in some languages ​​[ ri ], in others [ ru].

The Gurmukhi script is here the most consistent: it has neither a sign of syllabic r still for Reph.

In the Dravidian languages ​​(specifically, in the Dravidian languages ​​Wortgut this ) there is no syllabic consonants. Therefore, the Tamil font does not have a sign of syllabic r. Also for the other occurrences of r has Tamil special characters.

Kannada, Malayalam and Telugu have sign for all syllabic consonants of Sanskrit. Kannada also has Reph. However, this is no longer used in the reformed spelling of Malayalam and Telugu.


The principle illustrated above for Devanagari basically covers all North Indian scriptures, which here means reserves in many cases the final consonant of a ligature to its original shape. In the writings of South Indian ( Dravidian ) languages ​​Kannada and Telugu respectively, the first consonant is fully written, the next will be including behind added in a smaller and somewhat modified form or. The corresponding vowel merges with the full written consonants into ligatures.

Example Kannada:

Gurmukhi ( Punjabi ), the modern Sinhala and Tamil use almost no ligatures.

In Tibetan, Burmese, Khmer and Lao consonant clusters are analogous Kannada and Telugu represented by among themselves writing.

The modern Thai has no ligatures.


Indo-Aryan languages

The Devanagari script is the Phonembestand of Sanskrit again quite good. The Phonemsysteme the neuindoarischen languages ​​have evolved differently, without the spelling of the words of the new pronunciation has been adapted significantly. This resulted in historical orthographies.

Most striking are the changes in the eastern neuindoarischen languages ​​Assamese, Bengali and Oriya. Significant changes are here:

  • The inherent vowel is spoken here as [ ɔ ] or [ ɒ ].
  • The sibilants s s s have collapsed and that in Bengali to [ ʃ ], in Oriya to [s ], in the Assamese to [ x].
  • In Assamese, the palatals have become [s ], and the retro -flexing are coincided with the dentals.
  • The components of some consonant clusters have been matched to one another phonetically.

In the neuindoarischen languages ​​except Oriya and Sinhala, the inherent vowel is often not spoken, and that this is portrayed in Scripture by Halant or Ligaturbildung. Example Hindi:

The Dumb inherent vowel comes in reciting poems and singing reappear. ( The same can be observed in the "silent e" of French. )

In the Gurmukhi script ( Punjabi ) Halant comes not before, so you may not realize is whether to speak after a consonant, the inherent vowel or not.

Another feature of the Punjabi is that the aspirated voiced plosives have lost aspiration and voicing. The bearing the word accent syllable of a word containing this character receives a high or low tone. The aspirated voiced plosives will still be written, so that you can tell whether a word has a tone.

Dravidian languages

In the Tamil script the number of characters has been drastically reduced since the language has no aspirated sounds, and since only allophonic voicing occurs in the plosives. Compare the Tamil alphabet with the Devanagari alphabet:

The sounds of the penultimate row (except ள ) occur only in Dravidian languages. The last of the series are borrowed from the Grantha script, to write correctly at least in some cases Sanskrit words. Most of these, however, are in Tamil font barely recognizable as such; However, this corresponds to the debate in modern Tamil.

If you want to transliterate Sanskrit phonetically correct in the Tamil script, so you can use two methods:

  • Use of diacritical points for the missing in Tamil plosives,
  • Import the missing characters from the Grantha script.

The mixing of Sanskrit with a Dravidian language is called " Manipravala ". It is comparable with the mentioned " Denglish " mixture of German and English. As in Denglish an English word can take on a German suffix (eg download- s), a Sanskrit word can get a Tamil suffix in Manipravala. It can be observed in older Tamil texts or individual particularly strongly oriented on Sanskrit modern writers that the Sanskrit in Grantha script component that is written in Tamil Tamil - ending font " download " (even when yes is the English orthography of "download" received ):

The other Dravidian fonts contain all characters necessary for writing Sanskrit words. However, there is a difference in the orthographies of Malayalam one hand and Kannada / Telugu other.

In Malayalam the the Dravidian corresponding phonemic spelling is used, while the Sanskrit orthography applies to Sanskrit words for words similar to the Dravidian Tamil.

In Kannada and Telugu in all words, phonetically written independently of their origin.


The Tibetan orthography is extremely historic. You are the voice level of more than 1000 years. So be related to the modern language large amounts of 'superfluous " letters dragged derived from long disappeared from the language morphemes. The following four words are all [ ɡ ʲ uɡ ] pronounced! There are the ordinary forms of the verb " run ".

And looking up words in the dictionary Tibetan unparalleled in complexity. The above four words are "g " look, with additional rules must be observed for the connected with the " g" consonants.


The Khmer has a very high number of vowel phonemes (more than 30 including diphthongs ). For this purpose, additional characters were created. To keep the number as low as possible, divided you the plosives of the Indian alphabet in two series: Series 1 contains the characters who were in Indian alphabets for voiceless consonants, series 2 voiced. The does not mean that all the consonants of the Khmer Series 1 today voiceless, all of series 2 voiced today. Rather, a designated and the same vowel a different vowel, depending on whether it is associated with a consonant Series 1 or 2. This resulted in a halving of the required vowel signs. The Khmer script also contains two diacritics, with the one standing in a consonant Series 1 Vokaldiakritikum help get the pronunciation associated with Series 2 and vice versa.


Here are the signs of different Indian writings are listed. The inscription is shown as a transliteration of the National Library at Calcutta and pronunciation by the International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA). This list is incomplete because some characters are not shown.

Note: in some of the languages ​​shown is the pronunciation of the aspirates identical with the non- aspirated sounds.



Number of characters

Indian writing circle in Unicode

The following writings of Indian writing circle are encoded in the Unicode version 5.1 for data processing:

  • Indic Scripts: Bengali, Devanagari, Gujarati, Gurmukhi, Kannada, Lepcha, Limbu, Malayalam, Oriya, Saurashtra, Sinhala, Syloti Nagri, Tamil, Telugu.
  • Southeast Asian Fonts: Balinese, Buginese, Cham, Kayah Li, Khmer, Lao, Myanmar, New Tai Lue, Rejang, Sundanese Tai Le, Thai.
  • Central Asian Fonts: Phagspa, Tibetan
  • Philippine writings: Buid, Hanunoo, Tagalog, Tagbanuwa

For the correct display of complex representation algorithms are provided for the Indian Schrifen in Unicode.

See also: Inscript; Keyboard layout for input of Indic scripts on a computer