devanagari script

Devanagari

[dey-vuh-nah-guh-ree]

(देवनागरी, in English), or Nāgarī, is an abugida alphabet of India and Nepal. It is written from left to right, lacks distinct letter cases, and is recognizable by a distinctive horizontal line running along the tops of the letters that links them together. Devanāgarī is the main script used to write Hindi, Marathi, and Nepali. Since the 19th century, it has been the most commonly-used script for Sanskrit and Pali. Devanāgarī is also employed for Bhili, Bhojpuri, Konkani, Magahi, Maithili, Marwari, Newari, Pahari (Garhwali and Kumaoni), Santhali, Tharu, and sometimes Sindhi, Panjabi, and Kashmiri. It was formerly used to write Gujarati. There are now some efforts underway to promote the Devanāgarī script for Romany as well.

Origins

Devanāgarī is part of the Brahmic family of alphabets of Nepal, India, Tibet, and South-East Asia. It is a descendant of the Gupta script, along with Siddham and Sharada. Eastern variants of Gupta called Nāgarī are first attested from the 8th century; from c. 1200 these gradually replaced Siddham, which survived as a vehicle for Tantric Buddhism in East Asia, and Sharada, which remained in parallel use in Kashmir.

Sanskrit is the feminine of "urban(e)", a vrddhi adjectival form of nagara "city". It is feminine from its original phrasing with lipi "script" as "urban(e) script", that is, the script of the cultured. There are several varieties of Nāgarī in use, one of which was distinguished by affixing Deva "god" or "deity" to form a tatpurusha compound meaning the "urban(e) [script] of the gods", or "divine urban(e) [script]".

The use of the name is relatively recent, and the older term is still common. The rapid spread of the term may be related to the almost exclusive use of this script to publish sacred Sanskrit texts in colonial times. This has led to such a close connection between Devanāgarī and Sanskrit that Devanāgarī is now widely thought to be the Sanskrit script; however, before the colonial period there was no standard script for Sanskrit, which was written in whichever script was familiar to the local populace.

Principles

As a Brahmic abugida, the fundamental principle of Devanāgarī is that each letter represents a consonant, which carries an inherent vowel a [ə]. For example, the letter क is read ka, the two letters कन are kana, the three कनय are kanaya, etc. Other vowels, or the absence of vowels, require modification of these consonants or their own letters:

  • Consonant clusters are written with ligatures ( "conjuncts"). For example, the three letters कनय kanaya may be joined to form क्नय knaya, कन्य kanya, or क्न्य knya.
  • Vowels other than the inherent a are written with diacritics. From क ka we get के ke, कु ku, की kī, का kā, etc.
  • For vowels without a consonant, either at the beginning of a word or after another vowel, there are full letters. Thus while the vowel ū is written with the diacritic in कू kū, it has its own letter ऊ in ऊक ūka and कऊ kaū.
  • A final consonant is marked with the diacritic , called the virāma in Sanskrit, halanta in Hindi, and a "killer stroke" in English. This cancels the inherent vowel, so that from क्नय knaya we get क्नय् knay. The halanta will often be used for consonant clusters when typesetting ligatures is not feasible.

Such a letter or ligature, with its diacritics, is called an "syllable". For example, कनय kanaya is written with what are counted as three akshara, whereas क्न्य knya and कु ku are each written with one.

Letters

The letter order of Devanāgarī, like nearly all Brahmi scripts, is based on phonetic principles which consider both the manner and place of articulation of the consonants and vowels they represent. This arrangement is usually referred to as the "garland of letters". The format of Devanāgarī for Sanskrit serves as the prototype for its application, with minor variations or additions, to other languages.

Vowels

The vowels and their arrangement are:

Independent form Romanized As diacritic with प Independent form Romanized As diacritic with प

(Guttural)
पा

(Palatal)
पि पी

(Labial)
पु पू

(Cerebral)
पृ पॄ

(Dental)
पॢ पॣ

(Palato-Guttural)
पे पै

(Labio-Guttural)
पो पौ

  • Arranged with the vowels are two consonantal diacritics, the final nasal anusvāra and the final fricative visarga (called अं and अः ). notes of the anusvāra in Sankrit that "there is some controversy as to whether it represents a homorganic nasal consonant [...], a nasalized vowel, a nasalized semivowel, or all these according to context". The visarga represents post-vocalic voiceless glottal fricative [h], in Sanskrit an allophone of , or less commonly , usually in word-final position. Some traditions of recitation append an echo of the vowel after the breath: इः [ihi]. considers the visarga along with letters and for the "largely predictable" velar and palatal nasals to be examples of "phonetic overkill in the system".
  • Another diacritic is the candrabindu/anunāsika . describes it as a "more emphatic form" of the , "sometimes [...] used to mark a true [vowel] nasalization". In a New Indo-Aryan language such as Hindi the distinction is formal: the indicates vowel nasalization while the indicates a homorganic nasal preceding another consonant: e.g. हँसी [ɦə̃si] "laughter, गंगा [gəŋgɑ] "Ganges". When an akshara has a vowel diacritic above the top line, that leaves no room for the candra ("moon") stroke candrabindu, which is dispensed with in favour of the lone dot: हूँ [ɦũ] "am", but हैं [ɦɛ̃] "are". Some writers and typesetters dispense with the "moon" stroke altogether, using only the dot in all situations.
  • The avagraha (usually transliterated with an apostrophe) is a Sanskrit punctuation mark for the elision of a vowel in sandhi: एकोऽयम् (< + ) "this one". An original long vowel lost to coalescence is sometimes marked with a double avagraha: सदाऽऽत्मा (< + ) "always, the self". In Hindi, states that its "main function is to show that a vowel is sustained in a cry or a shout": आईऽऽऽ! . In Magahi, which has "quite a number of verbal forms [that] end in that inherent vowel" , the is used to mark the non-elision of word-final inherent a, which otherwise is a modern orthographic convention: बइठऽ "sit" versus *बइठ
  • The syllabic consonants , , and are specific to Sanskrit and not included in the of other languages. The sound represented by has been lost as well, and its pronunciation now ranges from [ɾɪ] (Hindi) to [ɾu] (Marathi).
  • is not an actual phoneme of Sanskrit, but rather a graphic convention included among the vowels in order to maintain the symmetry of short–long pairs of letters.
  • There are non-regular formations of रु ru and रू .

Consonants

The consonants and their arrangement are:


(Stop)

(Nasal)

(Approximant)

(Fricative)
Voicing
Aspiration

(Guttural)

/k/

/kʰ/

/g/

/gʱ/

/ŋ/

/h,ɦ/
tālavya
(Palatal)

/c,ʧ/

/cʰ,ʧʰ/

/ɟ,ʤ/

/ɟʱ,ʤʱ/

/ɲ/

/j/

/ɕ,ʃ/
mūrdhanya
(Cerebral)

/ʈ/

/ʈʰ/

/ɖ/

/ɖʱ/

/ɳ/

/r/

/ʂ/
dantya
(Dental)

/t̪/

/t̪ʰ/

/d̪/

/d̪ʱ/

/n/

/l/

/s/

(Labial)

/p/

/pʰ/

/b/

/bʱ/

/m/

/ʋ/

  • Rounding this out where applicable is /ɺ̡/, which represented the intervocalic lateral flap allophone of the voiced retroflex stop in Vedic Sanskrit, and which is a phoneme in languages such as Marathi and Rajasthani.
  • Beyond the Sanskritic set new shapes have rarely been formulated. offers the following, "In any case, according to some, all possible sounds had already been described and provided for in this system, as Sanskrit was the original and perfect language. Hence it was difficult to provide for or even to conceive other sounds, unknown to the phoneticians of Sanskrit." Where foreign borrowings and internal developments did inevitably accrue and arise in New Indo-Aryan languages, they have been either ignored in writing, or dealt through means such as diacritics and ligatures (ignored in recitation).
    • The most prolific diacritic has been the subscript nuqtā . Hindi uses it for the Persian sounds क़ qa /q/, ख़ xa /x/, ग़ /ɣ/, ज़ za /z/, and फ़ fa /f/, and for the allophonic developments ड़ /ɽ/ and ढ़ /ɽʱ/. (Although /ɺ̡ʱ/ could also exist but there is no use of it in Hindi.)
    • Sindhi's implosives are accommodated with underlining : ग॒ [ɠə], ज॒ [ʄə], ड॒ [ɗə], ब॒ [ɓə].
    • Aspirated sonorants may be represented as conjuncts/ligatures with ha: म्ह mha, न्ह nha, ण्ह , व्ह vha, ल्ह lha, ळ्ह , र्ह rha.
    • notes Marwari as using a special symbol for [ɗə] (while ड = [ɽə]).

Conjuncts

You will only be able to see the ligatures if your system has a Unicode font installed that includes the required ligature glyphs (e.g. one of the TDIL fonts, see "external links" below).

As mentioned, successive consonants lacking a vowel in between them may physically join together as a 'conjunct' or ligature. The government of these clusters ranges from widely to narrowly applicable rules, with special exceptions within. While standardized for the most part, there are certain variations in clustering, of which the Unicode used on this page is just one scheme. The following are a number of rules:

  • 24 out of the 36 consonants contain a vertical right stroke (, , etc.). As first or middle fragments/members of a cluster, they lose that stroke. e.g. + = त्व, + = ण्ढ, + = स्थ. ś(a) appears as a different, simple ribbon-shaped fragment preceding va, na, ca, la, and ra, squishing down these second members. Thus श्व śva, श्न śna, श्च śca श्ल śla, and श्र śra.
  • r(a) as a first member it takes the form of a curved upward dash above the final character or its ā-diacritic. e.g. र्व rva, र्वा rvā, र्स्प rspa, र्स्पा rspā. As a final member with ट ठ ड ढ ङ छ it is two lines below the character, pointed downwards and apart. Thus ट्र ठ्र ड्र ढ्र ङ्र छ्र. Elsewhere as a final member it is a diagonal stroke jutting leftwards and down. e.g. क्र ग्र भ्र. ta is shifted up to make त्र tra.
  • As first members, remaining vertical stroke-less characters such as d(a) and h(a) may have their second member, shrunken and minus its horizontal stroke, placed underneath. k(a), ch(a), and ph(a) shorten their right hooks and join them directly to the following member.

The table below shows all the viable symbols for the biconsonantal clusters of Sanskrit as listed in . Scroll your cursor over the conjuncts to reveal their romanizations.

New Indo-Aryan languages may use the above forms for their Sanskrit loanwords (or otherwise).

Accent marks

The pitch accent of Vedic Sanskrit is written with various symbols depending on shakha. In the Rigveda, anudātta is written with a bar below the line (॒), svarita with a stroke above the line (॑) while udātta is unmarked.

Numerals

Devanāgarī numerals
0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9

Transliteration

There are several methods of transliteration from Devanāgarī into Roman scripts. The most widely used transliteration method is IAST. However, there are other transliteration options.

The following are the major transliteration methods for Devanāgarī:

ISO 15919

A standard transliteration convention was codified in the ISO 15919 standard of 2001. It uses diacritics to map the much larger set of Brahmic graphemes to the Latin script. See also Transliteration of Indic scripts: how to use ISO 15919 The Devanāgarī-specific portion is nearly identical to the academic standard for Sanskrit, IAST.

IAST

The International Alphabet of Sanskrit Transliteration (IAST) is the academic standard for the romanization of Sanskrit. IAST is the de-facto standard used in printed publications, like books and magazines, and with the wider availability of Unicode fonts, it is also increasingly used for electronic texts. It is based on a standard established by the Congress of Orientalists at Athens in 1912.

The National Library at Kolkata romanization, intended for the romanization of all Indic scripts, is an extension of IAST.

Harvard-Kyoto

Compared to IAST, Harvard-Kyoto looks much simpler. It does not contain all the diacritic marks that IAST contains. This makes typing in Harvard-Kyoto much easier than IAST. Harvard-Kyoto uses capital letters that can be difficult to read in the middle of words.

ITRANS

ITRANS is a lossless transliteration scheme of Devanāgarī into ASCII that is widely used on Usenet. It is an extension of the Harvard-Kyoto scheme. In ITRANS, the word Devanāgarī is written as "Devanaagarii". ITRANS is associated with an application of the same name that enables typesetting in Indic scripts. The user inputs in Roman letters and the ITRANS pre-processor displays the Roman letters into Devanāgarī (or other Indic languages). The latest version of ITRANS is version 5.30 released in July, 2001.

ALA-LC Romanization

ALA-LC romanization is a transliteration scheme approved by the Library of Congress and the American Library Association, and widely used in North American libraries. Transliteration tables are based on languages, so there is a table for Hindi, one for Sanskrit and Prakrit, etc.

Encodings

ISCII

ISCII is a fixed-length 8-bit encoding. The lower 128 codepoints are plain ASCII, the upper 128 codepoints are ISCII-specific.

It has been designed for representing not only Devanāgarī, but also various other Indic scripts as well as a Latin-based script with diacritic marks used for transliteration of the Indic scripts.

ISCII has largely been superseded by Unicode, which has however attempted to preserve the ISCII layout for its Indic language blocks.

Devanāgarī in Unicode

The Unicode range for Devanāgarī is U+0900 .. U+097F. Grey areas indicate non-assigned code points.

Devanāgarī Keyboard Layouts

Devanāgarī and Devanāgarī-QWERTY keyboard layouts for Mac OS X

The Mac OS X operating system supports convenient editing for the Devanāgarī script by insertion of appropriate Unicode characters with two different keyboard layouts available for use. To input Devanāgarī text, one goes to System Preferences → International → Input Menu and enables the keyboard layout that is to be used. The layout is the same as for INSCRIPT/KDE Linux:

INSCRIPT / KDE Linux

This is the India keyboard layout for Linux (variant 'Deva')

Typewriter

Phonetic

See Bolnagri Home Page

See also

Software

  • Apple Type Services for Unicode Imaging - Macintosh
  • HindiWriter - The Phonetic Hindi Writer with AutoWord lookup and Spellcheck for MS Word and OpenOffice.org for Windows.
  • Pango - open source (GNOME)
  • Uniscribe - Windows
  • WorldScript - Macintosh, replaced by the Apple Type Services for Unicode Imaging, mentioned above
  • Baraha - Devanāgarī Input using English Keyboard
  • Lipikaar - The indic script typing tool with support for Devanāgarī through a Windows desktop executable or Firefox Extension.

References

Bibliography

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