Brahmic family

The Brahmic family is a family of abugidas used in South Asia and Southeast Asia. The individuals abugidas may be called Brahmic scripts or Indic scripts.



Brahmic scripts are descended from the Brahmi script of ancient India, which in turn is believed to be descended from a Semitic script, thus they probably have a common ancestor with the European scripts. However, some academics (see references in Rastogi 1980:88-98) believe that the Viramkhol inscription is conclusive evidence that Brahmi had indigenous origins, probably from the Indus Valley (or Harappan) script.

The most prominent member of the family is Devanagari, which is used to write several languages of India and Nepal, including Hindi, Marathi, Nepali, and Sanskrit. The Dravidian languages of southern India have Brahmic scripts with a rounded appearance as they were traditionally written on palm leaves, on which straight lines could not easily be formed. Tamil has far fewer letters than some of the other Indic scripts as it has no separate aspirated or voiced consonants.

Burmese, Cambodian, Thai, and Tibetan are also written in Brahmic scripts, though with considerable modification to suit their phonology. The Siddham script was especially important in Buddhism because many sutras were written in it, and the art of Siddham calligraphy survives today in Japan.

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, it is short 'o' due to sound shifts). Other vowels are written by adding to the character. A mark, known in Sanskrit as a virama can be used to indicate the absence of an inherent consonant.
  • 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, the right of, above, below, or on both the left and the right sides of the base consonant.
  • Consonants (up to 5 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 summarized as follows: vowels, velar consonants, palatal consonants, retroflex consonants, dental consonants, bilabial consonants, and then other consonants. Each consonant grouping had four consonants (with all four possible values of voicedness and aspiration), and a nasalised consonant.

Many languages using Brahmic scripts are sometimes written in Latin script, primarily for the benefit of non-native speakers or for use in computer software without support for said scripts, but these practices have made little headway in India itself.

Urdu, Kashmiri, and Sindhi, all primarily use the non-Brahmic Arabic alphabet, though they are also written in Devanagari by some in India.

List of Brahmic Scripts encoded in Unicode

Other Brahmic Scripts

See also

External links


Rastogi, Naresh Prasad 1980. Origin of Brāhmī Script: The Beginning of Alphabet in India. Varanasi: Chowkhamba Schriften


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