Brahmic family of alphabets

Brahmic family of alphabets

The Brahmic or Indic scripts are a family of abugida (alphabetic-syllabary) writing systems. They are used throughout South Asia (incuding Pakistan and Afghanistan), Southeast Asia, and parts of Central and East Asia, and are descended from the Brāhmī script of the ancient Indian subcontinent. They are used by languages of several language families: Indo-European, Dravidian, Tibeto-Burman, Mongolic[example needed], Austro-Asiatic, Austronesian, Tai, and possibly influenced Korean (hangul). They were also the source of the dictionary order of Japanese kana.



An inscription in Old Tamil script (Vatteluttu) from the Later Chola period, circa 11th century AD. Old Tamil is a direct descendant of the Brahmi writing system

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 recent finds of earlier epigraphy in Tamil-Brahmi writing found on pottery in South India and Sri Lanka, dating back to the 6th century BCE or even earlier[dubious ]. 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.[1]

Southern Brahmi evolved into Grantha and Old-Kannada Scripts among others, which in turn diversified into numerous scripts of 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', also known as 'old Kannada script', owing to its similarity to the same.[2][3]

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. Later under the influence of Granta vetteluthu evolved which looks similar to present day Malayalam script. Still further changes were made in 19th and 20th centuries to make use of printing and typewriting needs before we have the present script.

Gari Ledyard has hypothesized that the hangul script used to write Korean is based on the Mongol 'Phags-pa script, a descendant of the Brahmic family via Tibetan.


Halmidi Inscription Replica shows Kannada script which is thought to have emerged from Ashokan Brahmi around 4th or 3rd Century BCE as Proto-Kannada

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 summarized 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.


Below are comparison charts of several of the major Indic scripts; transliteration is indicated in ISO 15919; pronunciation is indicated in International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA). Pronunciation is taken from Sanskrit where possible, but other languages where necessary. These lists are not comprehensive; some glyphs are unrepresented. Some pronunciations may be inaccurate or different from the ones listed, partly because the graphemically corresponding glyphs listed in the same column are not necessarily phonetically identical.


ISO k kh g gh c ch j jh ñ ṭh ḍh t th d dh n p ph b bh m y r l v ś s h
IPA k ɡ ɡʱ ŋ c ɟ ɟʱ ɲ ʈ ʈʰ ɖ ɖʱ ɳ t̪ʰ d̪ʱ n p b m j r ɾ l ɭ ɻ ʋ ʃ ʂ s ɦ
Oriya ନ଼ ର଼ ଳ଼
E. Nagari   র/ৰ      
Gurmukhi     ਲ਼   ਸ਼  
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 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 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
Malayalam PNG Image
Burmese က ဉ/ည    


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.

ISO a ā æ ǣ i ī u ū e ē ai o ō au r̥̄ l̥̄
IPA a ɑː æ æː i u e ai o au r̩ː l̩ː
Oriya କା ଅଽ କଽ     କି କୀ କୁ କୂ     କେ କୈ     କୋ କୌ କୃ କୃ୍ କ୍ଲୃ କ୍ଳୃ
E. Nagari কা অ্যা ক্যা     কি কী কু কূ     কে কৈ     কো কৌ কৃ কৄ কৢ কৣ
Devanagari का अॅ कॅ कॉ कि की कु कू कॆ के कै कॊ को कौ कृ कॄ कॢ कॣ
Gujarati કા         કિ કી કુ કૂ     કે કૈ     કો કૌ કૃ કૄ કૢ કૣ
Gurmukhi ਕਾ         ਕਿ ਕੀ ਕੁ ਕੂ     ਕੇ ਕੈ     ਕੋ ਕੌ                
Tibetan ཨཱ ཀཱ         ཨི ཀི ཨཱི ཀཱི ཨུ ཀུ ཨཱུ ཀཱུ     ཨེ ཀེ ཨཻ ཀཻ     ཨོ ཀོ ཨཽ ཀཽ རྀ ཀྲྀ རཱྀ ཀཷ ལྀ ཀླྀ ལཱྀ ཀླཱྀ
Brahmi Brah a.png   Brah aa.svg           Brah i.png   Brah ii.png   Brah u.png   Brah uu.png       Brah e.png   Brah ai.png       Brah o.png                      
Telugu కా         కి కీ కు కూ కె కే కై కొ కో కౌ కృ కౄ కౢ కౣ
Kannada ಕಾ         ಕಿ ಕೀ ಕು ಕೂ ಕೆ ಕೇ ಕೈ ಕೊ ಕೋ ಕೌ ಕೃ ಕೄ ಕೢ ಕೣ
Sinhala කා කැ කෑ කි කී කු කූ කෙ කේ කෛ කො කෝ කෞ කෘ කෲ කෟ කෳ
Malayalam കാ         കി കീ കു കൂ കെ കേ കൈ കൊ കോ കൗ കൃ കൄ കൢ കൣ
Tamil கா         கி கீ கு கூ கெ கே கை கொ கோ கௌ                
Burmese က အာ ကာ         ကိ ကီ ကု ကူ ကေ အေး ကေး     ကော     ကော် ကၖ ကၗ ကၘ ကၙ
Khmer កា         កិ កី កុ កូ     កេ កៃ     កោ កៅ ក្ឫ ក្ឬ ក្ឭ ក្ឮ
Thai อะ อา กา         อิ กิ อี กี อุ กุ อู กู     เก อาย กาย     โอ โก อาว กาว กฤ ฤๅ กฤๅ กฦ ฦๅ กฦๅ
Balinese ᬓᬵ         ᬓᬶ ᬓᬷ ᬓᬸ ᬓᬹ     ᬓᬾ ᬓᬿ     ᬓᭀ ᬓᭁ ᬓᬺ ᬓᬻ ᬓᬼ ᬓᬽ
Baybayin               ᜃᜒ     ᜃᜓ     ᜃᜒ         ᜃᜓ                        

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


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E. Nagari

List of Brahmic scripts

Scripts derived from Brahmi.


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 Grantha and Old-Kannada Scripts with the spread of Hinduism spread Brahmic scripts throughout Southeast Asia.


script derivation period of derivation usage notes ISO 15924 Unicode range sample
Anga Lipi Brahmi 6th century BCE Angika U+0900–U+097F देवनागरी
Balinese Old Kawi 11th century Balinese language Bali U+1B00–U+1B7F ᬅᬓ᭄ᬱᬭ 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 Vatteluttu 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 Vatteluttu 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
Eastern Nagari Nagari 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 Java U+A980–U+A9DF ꦄꦏ꧀ꦱꦫ ꦗꦮ
Kannada Kadamba 12th century Kannada language, others Knda U+0C80–U+0CFF ಕನ್ನಡ ಅಕ್ಷರಮಾಲೆ
Khmer Vatteluttu 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, 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
Saurashtra Grantha 20th century Saurashtra language, mostly obsolete Saur U+A880–U+A8DF
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 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 Vatteluttu 8th century Tamil language Taml U+0B80–U+0BFF தமிழ் அரிச்சுவடி
Telugu Old Kannada 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 Tai Dam language Tavt U+AA80–U+AADF ꪼꪕꪒꪾ

See also


External links

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