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The Brahmic scripts are a family of abugida writing systems. They are used throughout South Asia (including Pakistan and Afghanistan), Southeast Asia, and parts of Central and East Asia, and are descended from the Brāhmī script of the ancient India. They are used by languages of several language families: Indo-European, Dravidian, Tibeto-Burman, Mongolic (Soyombo alphabet), Austroasiatic, Austronesian, Tai. They were also the source of the dictionary order of Japanese kana.

History

A fragment of Ashoka’s 6th pillar edict.Brahmic scripts are descended from the Brahmi script. Brahmi is clearly attested from the 3rd century BC during the reign of Ashoka, who used the script for imperial edicts, but there are some claims of earlier epigraphy found on pottery in South India and Sri Lanka. The most reliable of these were short Brahmi inscriptions dated to the 4th century BCE and published by Coningham et al., but scattered press reports have claimed both dates as early as the 6th century BCE and that the characters are identifiably Tamil Brahmi, though these latter claims do not appear to have been published academically. Northern Brahmi gave rise to the Gupta script during the Gupta period, which in turn diversified into a number of cursives during the Middle Ages, including Siddham, Sharada and Nagari.

The Siddham script was especially important in Buddhism, as many sutras were written in it. The art of Siddham calligraphy survives today in Japan. The syllabic nature and dictionary order of the modern kana system of Japanese writing is believed to be descended from the Indic scripts, most likely through the spread of Buddhism.

Southern Brahmi evolved into Old-Kannada, Pallava and Vatteluttu scripts, which in turn diversified into other scripts of South India and Southeast Asia.

Bhattiprolu was a great centre of Buddhism during 3rd century BCE and from where Buddhism spread to east Asia. The present Telugu script is derived from Bhattiprolu Script or ‘Kannada-Telugu script’ or Kadamba script, also known as ‘old Telugu script’, owing to its similarity to the same.

Initially, minor changes were made which is now called Tamil Brahmi which has far fewer letters than some of the other Indic scripts as it has no separate aspirated or voiced consonants.

Characteristics

Some characteristics, which may not be present in all the scripts, are:

  • Each consonant has an inherent vowel which is usually short ‘a’ (in Bengali, and Assamese, it is short ‘ô’ due to sound shifts). Other vowels are written by adding to the character. A mark, known in Sanskrit as a virama/halant can be used to indicate the absence of an inherent vowel.
  • Each vowel has two forms, an independent form when not part of a consonant, and a dependent form, when attached to a consonant. Depending on the script, the dependent forms can be either placed to the left of, to the right of, above, below, or on both the left and the right sides of the base consonant.
  • Consonants (up to 4 in Devanagari) can be combined in ligatures. Special marks are added to denote the combination of ‘r’ with another consonant.
  • Nasalization and aspiration of a consonant’s dependent vowel is also noted by separate signs.
  • The traditional ordering can be summarised as follows: vowels, velar consonants, palatal consonants, retroflex consonants, dental consonants, bilabial consonants, approximants, sibilants, and other consonants. Each consonant grouping had four consonants (with all four possible values of voicing and aspiration), and a nasalised consonant.

Comparison

Below are comparison charts of several of the major Indic scripts, organised on the principle that glyphs in the same column all derive from the same Brahmi glyph. Accordingly:

  • The charts are not comprehensive. Glyphs may be unrepresented if they don’t derive from any Brahmi character, but are later inventions.
  • The pronunciations of glyphs in the same column may not be identical. The pronunciation row is only representative; the International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA) pronunciation is given for Sanskrit where possible, or another language if necessary.

The transliteration is indicated in ISO 15919.

Consonants

ISO k kh g gh c ch j jh ñ ṭh
IPA k ɡ ɡʱ ŋ tʃʰ dʒʱ ɲ ʈ ʈʰ
Oriya
Assamese
Bengali
Devanagari
Gujarati
Gurmukhi
Tibetan
Brahmi Brah k.png Brah kh.png Brah g.png Brah gh.png Brah ng.png Brah c.svg Brah ch.png Brah j.png Brah jh.png Brah ny.png Brah t1.png Brah th1.png
Telugu
Kannada
Sinhala
Malayalam
Tamil ஜ*
Burmese က ဉ/ည
Khmer
Thai
Lao
Balinese
Javanese ꦑ* ꦓ* ꦖ* ꦙ* ꦜ*
Sundanese
Buginese
Baybayin

 

ISO ḍh t th d dh n p ph
IPA ɖ ɖʱ ɳ t̪ʰ d̪ʱ n p
Oriya ନ଼
Assamese
Bengali
Devanagari
Gujarati
Gurmukhi
Tibetan
Brahmi Brah d1.png Brah dh1.png Brah n1.png Brah t.png Brah th.png Brah d.png Brah dh.png Brah n.png Brah p.png Brah ph.png
Telugu
Kannada
Sinhala
Malayalam ഩ*
Tamil
Burmese
Khmer
Thai
Lao
Balinese
Javanese ꦞ* ꦟ* ꦡ* ꦣ* ꦦ*
Sundanese
Buginese
Baybayin

 

ISO b bh m y r l v ś s h
IPA b m j ɾ r l ɭ ɻ ʋ ʃ ʂ s ɦ
Oriya ର଼ ଳ଼
Assamese
Bengali
Devanagari
Gujarati
Gurmukhi ਲ਼ ਸ਼
Tibetan
Brahmi Brah b.png Brah bh.png Brah m.png Brah y.png Brah r.png Brah l.png Brah l1.png Brah v.png Brah sh.png Brah s1.png Brah s.png Brah h.png
Telugu
Kannada
Sinhala
Malayalam
Tamil ஶ* ஷ* ஸ* ஹ*
Burmese
Khmer
Thai
Lao
Balinese
Javanese ꦨ* ꦯ* ꦰ*
Sundanese
Buginese
Baybayin
  • Malayalam. Malayalam nna implemented in Unicode 6.0. May not be rendered correctly.
  • Tamil. Letters not used in actual Tamil, but for transcribing foreign names.
  • Javanese. Letters used in Old Javanese. They are now obsolete, but are used for capitalization in contemporary Javanese ortography.

Vowels

Vowels are presented in their independent form on the left of each column, and in their corresponding dependent form (vowel sign) combined with the consonant k on the right. A glyph for ka is an independent consonant letter itself without any vowel sign, where the vowel a is inherent. When used to write their own languages, Khmer and Thai script can have either an a or an o as the inherent vowel, following the rules of their respective orthographies. Thai and Lao script do not have independent vowel forms, for syllables starting with a vowel sound, a zero consonant, อ and ອ respectively, is used as a placeholder.

ISO a ā æ ǣ i ī u ū
IPA ə / a / ɔ ɑː æ/ɔ æː/ɔ i u
Oriya କା ଅଽ କଽ କି କୀ କୁ କୂ
Assamese কা অ্যা ক্যা কি কী কু কূ
Bengali কা অ্যা ক্যা কি কী কু কূ
Devanagari का अॅ कॅ कॉ कि की कु कू
Gujarati કા કિ કી કુ કૂ
Gurmukhi ਕਾ ਕਿ ਕੀ ਕੁ ਕੂ
Tibetan ཨཱ ཀཱ ཨི ཀི ཨཱི ཀཱི ཨུ ཀུ ཨཱུ ཀཱུ
Brahmi Brah a.svg Brahmi letter Ka.svg Brah aa.svg Brahmi letter Kā.svg Brah i.svg Brahmi letter Ki.svg Brah ii.svg Brahmi letter Kī.svg Brah u.svg Brahmi letter Ku.svg Brah uu.svg Brahmi letter Kū.svg
Telugu కా కి కీ కు కూ
Kannada ಕಾ ಕಿ ಕೀ ಕು ಕೂ
Sinhala කා කැ කෑ කි කී කු කූ
Malayalam കാ കി കീ കു കൂ
Tamil கா கி கீ கு கூ
Burmese က အာ ကာ ကိ ကီ ကု ကူ
Khmer កា កិ កី កុ កូ
Thai กา กิ กี กุ กู
Lao ກາ ກິ ກິ ກຸ ກູ
Balinese ᬓᬵ ᬓᬶ ᬓᬷ ᬓᬸ ᬓᬹ
Javanese ꦄꦴ ꦏꦴ ꦏꦶ ꦏꦷ ꦏꦸ ꦈꦴ ꦏꦹ
Sundanese ᮊᮤ ᮊᮥ
Buginese ᨕᨗ ᨕᨘ
Baybayin ᜃᜒ ᜃᜓ

 

ISO e ē ai o ō au
IPA e aɪ̯ o aʊ̯
Oriya କେ କୈ କୋ କୌ
Assamese কে কৈ কো কৌ
Bengali কে কৈ কো কৌ
Devanagari कॆ के कै कॊ को कौ
Gujarati કે કૈ કો કૌ
Gurmukhi ਕੇ ਕੈ ਕੋ ਕੌ
Tibetan ཨེ ཀེ ཨཻ ཀཻ ཨོ ཀོ ཨཽ ཀཽ
Brahmi Brah e.svg Brahmi letter Ke.svg Brah ai.svg Brahmi letter Kai.svg Brah o.svg Brahmi letter Ko.svg Brahmi letter Au.svg Brahmi letter Kau.svg
Telugu కె కే కై కొ కో కౌ
Kannada ಕೆ ಕೇ ಕೈ ಕೊ ಕೋ ಕೌ
Sinhala කෙ කේ කෛ කො කෝ කෞ
Malayalam കെ കേ കൈ കൊ കോ കൗ
Tamil கெ கே கை கொ கோ கௌ
Burmese ကေ အေး ကေး ကော ကော်
Khmer កេ កៃ កោ កៅ
Thai เก ไก or ใก โก เกา or กาว
Lao ເກ ໄກ or ໃກ ໂກ ເກົາ or ກາວ
Balinese ᬓᬾ ᬓᬿ ᬓᭀ ᬓᭁ
Javanese ꦏꦺ ꦏꦻ ꦏꦺꦴ ꦎꦴ ꦏꦻꦴ
Sundanese ᮊᮦ ᮊᮧ
Buginese ᨕᨙ ᨕᨚ
Baybayin ᜃᜒ ᜃᜓ

 

ISO r̥̄ l̥̄
IPA r̩ː l̩ː
Oriya କୃ କୃ୍ କ୍ଲୃ କ୍ଳୃ
Assamese কৃ কৄ কৢ কৣ
Bengali কৃ কৄ কৢ কৣ
Devanagari कृ कॄ कॢ कॣ अं कं अः कः
Gujarati કૃ કૄ કૢ કૣ
Gurmukhi
Tibetan རྀ ཀྲྀ རཱྀ ཀཷ ལྀ ཀླྀ ལཱྀ ཀླཱྀ
Brahmi
Telugu కృ కౄ కౢ కౣ అం కం అః కః
Kannada ಕೃ ಕೄ ಕೢ ಕೣ
Sinhala කෘ කෲ කෟ කෳ
Malayalam കൃ കൄ കൢ കൣ അം കം അഃ കഃ
Tamil
Burmese ကၖ ကၗ ကၘ ကၙ
Khmer ក្ឫ ក្ឬ ក្ឭ ក្ឮ
Thai กฤ ฤๅ กฤๅ กฦ ฦๅ กฦๅ
Lao
Balinese ᬓᬺ ᬓᬻ ᬓᬼ ᬓᬽ
Javanese ꦏꦽ ꦉꦴ ꦏꦽꦴ
Sundanese
Buginese
Baybayin

Note: Glyphs for r̥̄, , l̥̄ and a few other glyphs are obsolete or very rarely used.

Numerals

Hindu-Arabic 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9
Oriya
Assamese
Bengali
Devanagari
Gujarati
Gurmukhi
Tibetan
Brahmi
Telugu
Kannada
Malayalam
Tamil
Burmese
Khmer
Thai
Lao
Balinese
Javanese
Sundanese

List of Brahmic scripts

Scripts derived from Brahmi.

Historical

The Brahmi script was already divided into regional variants at the time of the earliest surviving epigraphy around the 3rd century BCE. Cursives of the Brahmi script began to diversify further from around the 5th century CE and continued to give rise to new scripts throughout the Middle Ages. The main division in antiquity was between northern and southern Brahmi. In the northern group, the Gupta script was very influential, and in the southern group the Vatteluttu and Old-Kannada/Pallava scripts with the spread of Hinduism sent Brahmic scripts throughout Southeast Asia.

  • Northern Brahmic
    • Gupta script, 5th century
      • Sharada, 8th century
      • Assamese script, 6th century
        • Bengali alphabet, 11th century
      • Siddham, 7th century
        • Phagspa, 13th century
      • Nagari, 8th century
        • Oriya,10th century
        • Devanagari, 13th century
        • Kaithi, Sylheti Nagari, 16th century
        • Modi, 17th century
    • Nepal
      • Bhujimol, 6th century
      • Ranjana, 12th century
        • Soyombo, 17th century
      • Prachalit
    • Anga Lipi, 720
    • Mithilakshar, 15th century
  • Southern Brahmic (Tamil Brahmi, perhaps 5th or older but certainly 3rd, century BCE, Kalinga, Bhattiprolu)
    • Proto Kannada
      • Kadamba or Old Kannada, 5th century
      • Pallava, 6th century
        • Kawi script, 8th century
          • Javanese script
        • Mon script
          • Burmese script
        • Ahom, 13th century
        • Tai Tham (Lanna), 14th century
        • Batak, 14th century
    • Vatteluttu
      • Tamil script
    • Grantha, 6th century
      • Dhives Akuru and others
  • Tocharian script (“Slanting Brahmi”), 7th century
  • Meeitei Mayek

Contemporary

script derivation period of derivation usage notes ISO 15924 Unicode range sample
Balinese Old Kawi 11th century Balinese language Bali U+1B00–U+1B7F ᬅᬓ᭄ᬲᬭ ᬩᬮᬶ
Baybayin Old Kawi 14th century Tagalog, other Philippine languages Tglg U+1700–U+171F ᜊᜌ᜔ᜊᜌᜒᜈ᜔
Buhid Old Kawi 14th century Buhid language Buhd U+1740–U+175F ᝊᝓᝑᝒᝇ
Burmese Pallava grantha 11th century Burmese language, numerous modifications for other languages including Chakma, Eastern and Western Pwo Karen, Geba Karen, Kayah, Mon, Rumai Palaung, S’gaw Karen, Shan Mymr U+1000–U+109F မြန်မာအက္ခရာ
Cham Pallava grantha 8th century Cham language Cham U+AA00–U+AA5F ꨌꨠ
Devanagari Nagari 13th century Numerous Indo-Aryan languages, including Sanskrit, Hindi, Marathi, Nepali, Bhili, Konkani, Angika, Bhojpuri, Magahi, Maithili, Kurukh, Nepal Bhasa and sometimes Sindhi and Kashmiri. Formerly used to write Gujarati. Sometimes used to write or transliterate Sherpa Deva U+0900–U+097F देवनागरी
Assamese script/Bengali script Gupta 11th century Assamese language (Assamese script variant), Bengali language (Bengali script variant), Bishnupriya Manipuri Beng U+0980–U+09FF
  • অসমীয়া লিপি
  • বাংলা লিপি
Gujarati Nagari 17th century Gujarati language, Kutchi language Gujr U+0A80–U+0AFF ગુજરાતી લિપિ
Gurmukhi Sharada 16th century Punjabi language Guru U+0A00–U+0A7F ਗੁਰਮੁਖੀ
Hanunó’o Old Kawi 14th century Hanuno’o language Hano U+1720–U+173F ᜱᜨᜳᜨᜳᜢ
Javanese Old Kawi 16th century Javanese language, Sundanese language, Madurese language Java U+A980–U+A9DF ꦄꦏ꧀ꦱꦫ ꦗꦮ
Kannada Kadamba 12th century Kannada language, Konkani language, others Knda U+0C80–U+0CFF ಕನ್ನಡ ಅಕ್ಷರಮಾಲೆ
Khmer Pallava grantha 11th century Khmer language Khmr U+1780–U+17FF, U+19E0–U+19FF អក្សរខ្មែរ
Lao Khmer 14th century Lao language, others Laoo U+0E80–U+0EFF ອັກສອນລາວ
Lepcha Tibetan 18th century Lepcha language Lepc U+1C00–U+1C4F
Limbu Lepcha 18th century Limbu language Limb U+1900–U+194F ᤛᤡᤖᤡᤈᤨᤅ
Lontara Old Kawi 17th century Buginese language, others; mostly extinct, restricted to ceremonial use Bugi U+1A00–U+1A1F ᨒᨚᨈᨑ
Malayalam Grantha 12th century Malayalam language, Sanskrit language, Tulu language, Konkani language, Mlym U+0D00–U+0D7F മലയാളലിപി
Oriya Kalinga 10th century Oriya language Orya U+0B00–U+0B7F ଉତ୍କଳାକ୍ଷର
Rejang script Old Kawi 18th century Rejang language, mostly obsolete Rjng U+A930–U+A95F ꥆꤰ꥓ꤼꤽ ꤽꥍꤺꥏ
Saurashtra Grantha 20th century Saurashtra language, mostly obsolete Saur U+A880–U+A8DF ꢱꣃꢬꢵꢰ꣄ꢜ꣄ꢬꢵ
Sinhala Grantha 12th century Sinhala language Sinh U+0D80–U+0DFF ශුද්ධ සිංහල
Sundanese script Old Kawi 14th century Sundanese language Sund U+1B80–U+1BBF ᮃᮊ᮪ᮞᮛ ᮞᮥᮔ᮪ᮓ
Tai Le Pallava grantha? Tai Lü language Tale U+1950–U+197F ᥖᥭᥰᥖᥬᥳᥑᥨᥒᥰ
New Tai Lue Tai Tham 1950s Tai Lü language Talu U+1980-U+19DF ᦟᦲᧅ ᦷᦎ ᦺᦑ
Tagbanwa Old Kawi 14th century various languages of Palawan, nearly extinct Tagb U+1760–U+177F ᝦᝪᝨᝯ
Tamil Chola-Pallava alphabet 8th century Tamil language Taml U+0B80–U+0BFF தமிழ் அரிச்சுவடி
Telugu Bhattiprolu script 13th Century Telugu language Telu U+0C01–U+0C6F తెలుగు లిపి
Thai Khmer 13th century Thai language Thai U+0E00–U+0E7F อักษรไทย
Tibetan Siddham 8th century Tibetan language, Dzongkha language, Ladakhi language Tibt U+0F00–U+0FFF དབུ་ཅན་
Tai Viet Thai? Tai Dam language Tavt U+AA80–U+AADF ꪼꪕꪒꪾ




Published - September 2013













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