Devanagari ( देवनागरी Devanagari ) is a font that is used for letters of Sanskrit and several modern Indian languages ​​such as Hindi and Marathi. It goes back to the much older Brahmi script, which is occupied from the 3rd century BC in India. The oldest known inscription in Devanagari is from the 7th century. Since the 11th century it is the predominant font India.

The Devanagari syllabary is not, as is often stated, but a letter writing. The arrangement of the characters reflects the order of spoken syllables, but not always the order of individual sounds, which is why it is also called an alpha syllabic system.

Meaning of the name

The name Devanagari means freely translated " Scripture of the divine city" or " font from the City of the Gods ". This is expressed, that she was not of human origin. " Devanagari " is the usual transcription of the Sanskrit word, in part are found today in India and spellings ( and pronunciations ) as " Devnagri ", " Devanagari " or (more rarely) " Deonagri ".


Among the numerous fonts that are used in South Asia, Devanagari is the most widespread. In contrast to most other Indian scriptures, their use is limited to a language you write in the Devanagari several major languages ​​in the north of the Indian subcontinent. The most important are Hindi, the greatest Indian language and national language of the Indian Union, the spoken in the state of Maharashtra Marathi and Nepali, the official language of Nepal. There are also various partially summarized as dialects of Hindi regional language ( Bihari, Rajasthani, Pahari, etc.) and some smaller languages ​​such as Marathi related to the Konkani in Goa, Newari in Nepal and Bhili in the West Indies. Sanskrit, the classical language of Hinduism, was formerly written in different parts of India in the respective regional writing, but today Devanagari has established itself as the standard font for Sanskrit texts.

For some languages ​​Devanagari is used in parallel with other writings: Sun, Kashmiri and Sindhi are written in Pakistan in perso - Arabic script, in India in Devanagari; Panjabi write the Muslim spokesman in perso - Arabic Shahmukhi script, the Sikhs in the Gurmukhi script and the Hindus in Devanagari. In the case of Hindi and the languages ​​spoken by the Indian and Pakistani Muslims Urdu is the use of Devanagari script for Hindi or perso - Arabic script for Urdu besides differences in the vocabulary of the main distinguishing feature between these two languages.

Text example

Characteristics of the font

Devanagari is written from left to right. Unlike syllabic scripts, such as the Japanese hiragana and katakana, each character ( grapheme ) only a sound dar. Thus, a phoneme - grapheme correspondence ( PGK). The Devanagari has 33 consonants ( व्यंजन, Vyanjana ) and 13 vowels ( स्वर, svara ) and 2 additional sounds. The particularly common in Sanskrit as in Hindi vowel [ ʌ ] is displayed only word-initially, otherwise he shall be liable to the respective preceding consonant. The other vowels are represented by full word-initial letters, otherwise by ( diacritical ) characters that are available depending on vowel left or right, above or below the preceding spoken consonants. Vokallosigkeit of consonants can be represented either by an appended at the bottom of the consonant stroke ( Halant or called viram ), similar by the vowelless consonants are merged with the subsequent vowel bearing a ligature as in vocalized Arabic texts, or. The segmental order of Scripture, consisting of consonant ligatures with none to one vowel sign is not identical with the spoken syllables. Modern spellings use fewer ligatures than older ones. Due to these characteristics is created for each " syllable" a group of characters, an Akshara. The letters and groups of letters of a word are each called by a continuous line head, Rekha रेखा ( ' line '), connected to each other.

Example: ' Student ' Devanagari विद्यार्थी Transcription: Vidyarthi Graphemfolge: iv - dya - thir

This confusing for European readers representation of Graphemfolge using Latin letters is the Devenagarischrift does not do justice, if it is understood as consonant letters with diacritics. For then this is the v i attached a sheet with underscore before the letter, distinguished from ī, a bow with bar behind the letters. And at speaking in front of the th r is marked by a check mark right above the vocalized consonants.

The above-mentioned modern use of Rekha is also called Pausaform. In ancient Sanskrit manuscripts, however, is the scriptura continua used, with the upper Rekha - ' line is interrupted only by a few orthographically standardized exceptions. There will also be at the word and syllable boundaries phonetically held contractions and assimilations represented by ligatures ( संधि, sandhi ). For the ancient manuscripts applies: held together by a Akshara Rekha can represent more than one word, separate words are the exception.

The vowel signs for long i, for i, o and au protrude above the top line out, as are the secondary vowel signs for short and long i, e, i, o and au. As a secondary that are referred to, which are before, after, above or below consonants. The secondary vowel signs for short and long u are under the associated consonants. A stationary consonant at the beginning of cluster r is also realized above the line, in the form of a small hook or after the associated consonant symbols. Finally, above the line appear diacritics for Klassennasal and nasalization. Devanagari knows no distinction between uppercase and lowercase letters.



In the Devanagari distinction is made between isolated and modified forms of vowels. The Devanagari is a syllabary (more precisely: a Abugida ), whose basic signs represent a consonant a short, inherent a. This is to take a vowel another are used, this is achieved by modifying characters. Isolated forms occur word-initially and after another vowel on: की AI, but कई Kai.

The modifying characters for the short i is to the left (that apparently before) the modified syllable characters (such as other modifiers in ( u) on ( e ) or right next to it ( o) stand ). Nevertheless, the i is spoken by the corresponding consonants. Modifying vowels are not independent characters, but are added to the base characters. Devanagari is syllabic, not read letter by letter. Some browsers support the orientation of the i modifier is not correct, so that short i be misrepresented.

The following tables show, respectively, left the isolated right the modified form of the vowels ( the example of the basic syllable क ka).

In the Devanagari only a, i and u are regarded as true vowels. They each possess a short form (elementary ) and a long form ( lengthened grade ).

E and o be regarded as diphthongs, where e, however, is a mixture of a and u understood as a mixture of a and i, o, as you can see very beautiful in the long grade. The open form (first line) is used for the case of open vowels in English loan words and proper names, the short form (second line) for words from Dravidian languages ​​, which distinguish between short and long e and o ( in the North Indian languages ​​, however, are e and o is always long (third row ), while the long grade is a true diphthong, see fourth row).


Palatal sounds are today spoken as affricates, ie, cha, ja, etc. The retroflex tip of the tongue is far back bent ( somewhat like the English t in "true"). The dental sounds are a little further forward articulated as in English, the tongue tip is located on the lower incisors. Particularly challenging is the use of aspiration of the lute.

Sondergrapheme for sounds that were taken mainly from the Persian or loan words from other languages ​​(eg English), are basic marks in conjunction with a nuqta ( नुक़ता, nuqtā ' point ' < pers نقطة nuqt̤a ) marked. They occur only in modern languages ​​like Hindi; their pronunciation is indeed normalized, but in daily use varies greatly, often simply the basic form of spoken (such as " philm " instead of "film" ), as well as the lexicographic classification is performed at the base characters. " Let's make phiphti phiphti " ( fifty-fifty, '50 / 50 ').


In addition to the symbols shown here, there are still numerous ligatures which are used mainly in Sanskrit. They occur when the word or phrase two or more consonants immediately meet, for example, at the word Atma ( आत्मन् ) t and the consonants m. In this case, the character ta loses its vertical line and is attached to the front ma. To merge ta ( त ) and ma ( म ) to tma ( त्म ).

If the sign for the first consonant does not contain a vertical line, it remains largely unchanged and the following consonant ( with loss of its horizontal stroke ) under set, partly also added behind it. There are some exceptions, and also some special notations with more powerful contractions to these rules. A few nice examples can be found in the manual for the TeX package " devanagari ".

Other modifiers

The most important special characters are listed in the table below. There exist, especially in Sanskrit, is an immense number more of them, including pitch accents for the recitation etc. Also there are many different transliteration. The figures below have been specifically proven for Hindi as appropriate.


The digits of the Devanagari and their use in a decimal place value system go back to the same as today's Indian roots, in Europe as " Arabic " numerals designated.

Devanagari in ISO 8859

There have been attempts to standardize Devanagari as ISO 8859-12. This work, however, were discontinued in 1997.

Devanagari in Unicode

The Unicode range for Devanagari is U 0900 to U 097 F ( PDF, 116 kB). With the Unicode 4.1.0 standard, a new character was introduced at codepoint U 097 D. It is called DEVANAGARI LETTER glottal STOP and for writing the glottal sound in said Limbu used.