The Info List - Brahmi Script

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Brahmi (IAST: Brāhmī) is the modern name given to one of the oldest writing systems used in Ancient India
Ancient India
and present South and Central Asia from the 1st millennium BCE.[2] Brahmi is an abugida that thrived in the Indian subcontinent
Indian subcontinent
and uses a system of diacritical marks to associate vowels with consonant symbols. It evolved into a host of other scripts that continue in use.[3][4][5] Brahmi is related to the ancient Kharoṣṭhī
script, which was used in what is now eastern Afghanistan
and Pakistan. Kharoṣṭhī
died out in ancient times.[6] The best-known Brahmi inscriptions are the rock-cut edicts of Ashoka in north-central India, dating to 250–232 BCE. The script was deciphered in 1837 by James Prinsep, an archaeologist, philologist, and official of the East India Company.[7] The origin of the script is still much debated, with some scholars arguing that Brahmi was derived from or at least influenced by one or more contemporary Semitic scripts, while others favor the idea of an indigenous origin or connection to the much older and as-yet undeciphered Indus script.[8][9] The Brahmi system, vowels, consonants, their classification and methods of pronunciation are completely described in the Vedas as part of the Taittiriya Pratishakya providing some evidence that its origin may be much older than current estimations (Refer Taittiriya Pratishakya). Brahmi was at one time referred to in English as the "pin-man" script,[10] that is "stick figure" script. It was known by a variety of other names[11] until the 1880s when Albert Étienne Jean Baptiste Terrien de Lacouperie, based on an observation by Gabriel Devéria, associated it with the Brahmi script, the first in a list of scripts mentioned in the Lalitavistara Sūtra. Thence the name was adopted in the influential work of Georg Bühler, albeit in the variant form "Brahma".[12] The Gupta script
Gupta script
of the fifth century is sometimes called "Late Brahmi". The Brahmi script
Brahmi script
diversified into numerous local variants classified together as the Brahmic scripts. Dozens of modern scripts used across South Asia
South Asia
have descended from Brahmi, making it one of the world's most influential writing traditions.[13] One survey found 198 scripts that ultimately derive from it.[14] The script was associated with its own Brahmi numerals, which ultimately provided the graphic forms for the Hindu–Arabic numeral system
Hindu–Arabic numeral system
now used through most of the world.[citation needed]


1 Texts 2 Origins

2.1 Semitic model hypothesis

2.1.1 Bühler's theory 2.1.2 Falk's theory

2.2 Indigenous origin theory

2.2.1 Megasthenes

2.3 Issues with current theories on Brahmi script
Brahmi script
origins 2.4 Origin of the name

3 Ashoka
inscriptions 4 Early regional variants 5 Sri Lankan inscriptions 6 Characteristics

6.1 Punctuation

7 Letters

7.1 Vowels 7.2 Consonants

8 Descendants 9 Unicode
and digitization 10 See also 11 Notes 12 References

12.1 Bibliography

13 External links

Texts[edit] The Brahmi script
Brahmi script
is mentioned in the ancient Indian texts of Hinduism, Jainism
and Buddhism, as well as their Chinese translations.[15][16] For example, the Lipisala samdarshana parivarta lists 64 lipi (scripts), with the Brahmi script
Brahmi script
starting the list. The Lalitavistara Sūtra
Lalitavistara Sūtra
states that young Siddhartha, the future Gautama Buddha (~500 BCE), mastered philology, Brahmi and other scripts from the Brahmin
Lipikāra and Deva Vidyāiṃha at a school.[17][15] A shorter list of eighteen ancient scripts is found in the texts of Jainism, such as the Pannavana Sutra (2nd century BCE) and the Samavayanga Sutra (3rd century BCE).[18][19] These Jaina script lists include Brahmi at number 1 and Kharoṣṭhi at number 4 but also Javanaliya (probably Greek) and others not found in the Buddhist lists.[19] Origins[edit] Main article: Early Indian epigraphy

A fragment of Ashoka's 6th pillar edict (3rd-century BCE).

Evolution of the Brahmi script
Brahmi script
from 250 BCE to 800 CE.

While the contemporary Kharoṣṭhī
script is widely accepted to be a derivation of the Aramaic alphabet, the genesis of the Brahmi script is less straightforward. Salomon reviewed existing theories in 1998,[3] while Falk provided an overview in 1993.[20] An origin in Semitic scripts (usually the Aramaic or Phoenician alphabet) has been proposed by some scholars since the publications by Albrecht Weber
Albrecht Weber
(1856) and Georg Bühler's On the origin of the Indian Brahma
alphabet (1895).[21][4] Bühler's ideas have been particularly influential, though even by the 1895 date of his opus on the subject, he could identify no less than five competing theories of the origin, one positing an indigenous origin and the others deriving it from various Semitic models.[22] The most disputed point about the origin of the Brahmi script
Brahmi script
has long been whether it was a purely indigenous development or was borrowed or derived from scripts that originated outside India. Goyal noted that most proponents of the indigenous view are Indian scholars, whereas the idea of borrowing or influence from some non-Indian (typically Semitic) script are mostly Western scholars, and Salomon agrees with Goyal that there are no doubt biases – nationalist or imperialistic – on both sides of the debate.[23] Bühler curiously cited a passage by Sir Alexander Cunningham, one of the earliest indigenous origin proponents, that indicated that, in his time, the indigenous origin was a preference of English scholars in opposition to the "unknown Western" origin preferred by continental scholars.[22] Cunningham in the seminal Corpus Inscriptionum Indicarum of 1877 speculated that Brahmi characters were derived from, among other things, a pictographic principle based on the human body,[24] but Bühler noted that by 1891, Cunningham considered the origins of the script uncertain. Most scholars believe that Brahmi was likely derived from or influenced by a Semitic script model, with Aramaic being a leading candidate.[2] However, the issue is not settled due to the lack of direct evidence and unexplained differences between Aramaic, Kharoṣṭhī, and Brahmi.[25] Virtually all authors accept that regardless of the origins, the degree of Indian development of the Brahmi script
Brahmi script
in both the graphic form and the structure has been extensive. It is also widely accepted that theories about the grammar of the Vedic language probably had a strong influence on this development. Some authors – both Western and Indian – suggest that Brahmi was borrowed or inspired by a Semitic script, invented in a short few years during the reign of Ashoka
and then used widely for Ashokan inscriptions.[25] In contrast, some authors reject the idea of foreign influence.[26][27]

Heliodorus pillar
Heliodorus pillar
in the Indian state of Madhya Pradesh. Installed about 120 BCE and now named after the Indo-Greek, the pillar's Brahmi-script inscription states that Heliodorus is a Bhagvatena (devotee) of Vishnu. A couplet in it closely paraphrases a Sanskrit verse from the Mahabharata.[28][29]

The earliest known full inscriptions of Brahmi are in Prakrit, dated to be from 3rd to 1st-century BCE.[30] Prakrit
records predominate the epigraphic records discovered in the Indian subcontinent
Indian subcontinent
through about 1st-century CE.[30] The earliest known Brahmi inscriptions in Sanskrit are from the 1st-century BCE, such as the few discovered in Ayodhya, Ghosundi and Hathibada (both near Chittorgarh).[31][note 1] Ancient inscriptions have also been discovered in many North and Central Indian sites, occasionally in South India as well, that are in hybrid Sanskrit- Prakrit
language called "Epigraphical Hybrid Sanskrit".[note 2] These are dated by modern techniques to between 1st and 4th-century CE.[34][35] Surviving ancient records of the Brahmi script
Brahmi script
are found as engravings on pillars, temple walls, metal plates, terra-cotta, coins, crystals and manuscripts.[36][35] There appears to be general agreement at least that Brahmi and Kharoṣṭhī
are historically related, though much disagreement persists about the nature of this relationship. Bruce Trigger considered them, as a pair, to be one of four instances of the invention of an alphasyllabary, the other three being Old Persian cuneiform, the Meroitic alphabet, and the Ge'ez script. All four of these have striking similarities, such as using short /a/ as an inherent vowel, but Trigger (who accepted the Aramaic inspiration of Brahmi with extensive local development, along with a pre-Ashokan date) was unable to find a direct common source among them.[6] Trigger states that Brahmi was in use in Sri Lanka
Sri Lanka
and India at least by 4th or 5th century BCE, while Kharoṣṭhī
was used only in what are now eastern parts of modern Afghanistan
and neighboring regions of Pakistan
for a while before it died out in ancient times.[6] Justeson and Stephens proposed that this inherent vowel system in Brahmi and Kharoṣṭhī
developed by transmission of a Semitic abjad through the recitation of its letter values. The idea is that learners of the source alphabet recite the sounds by combining the consonant with an unmarked vowel, e.g. /kə/,/kʰə/,/gə/, and in the process of borrowing into another language, these syllables are taken to be the sound values of the symbols. They also accepted the idea that Brahmi was based on a North Semitic model.[37] One of the most important recent developments regarding the origin of Brahmi has been the discovery of Brahmi characters inscribed on fragments of pottery from the trading town of Anuradhapura
in Sri Lanka, which have been dated between the sixth to early fourth century BCE.[38] Coningham et al. in 1996,[39] stated that the script on the Anuradhapura
inscriptions is Brahmi, but stated that the language was a Prakrit
rather than a Dravidian language. The historical sequence of the specimens was interpreted to indicate an evolution in the level of stylistic refinement over several centuries, and they concluded that the Brahmi script
Brahmi script
may have arisen out of "mercantile involvement" and that the growth of trade networks in Sri Lanka
Sri Lanka
was correlated with its first appearance in the area.[39] Salomon in his 1998 review states that the Anuradhapura
inscriptions support the theory that Brahmi existed in South Asia
South Asia
before the Mauryan times, with studies favoring the 4th-century BC, but some doubts remain whether the inscriptions might be intrusive into the potsherds from a later date.[38] More recently in 2013, Rajan and Yatheeskumar published excavations at Porunthal and Kodumanal
in Tamil Nadu, where numerous both Tamil-Brahmi
and "Prakrit-Brahmi" inscriptions and fragments have been found.[40] Their stratigraphic analysis combined with radiocarbon dates of paddy grains and charcoal samples indicated that inscription contexts date to as far back as the 5th and perhaps 6th centuries BCE.[41] As these were published very recently, they have as yet not been commented on extensively in the literature. Semitic model hypothesis[edit]

Left pillar No.9 of the Great Chatya at Karla Caves. This pillar was donated by a Yavana
(Indo-Greek), circa 120 CE, like five other pillars. The inscription of this pillar reads: "Dhenukakata Yavanasa/ Yasavadhanana[m]/ thabo dana[m]" i.e. "(This) pillar (is) the gift of the Yavana
Yasavadhana from Denukakata".[42] Below: detail of the word "Ya-va-na-sa" (adjectival form of "Yavana", Brahmi script).

James Prinsep, known for deciphering Brahmi in early 19th-century, was first to propose a connection between Indian scripts and Greek. He suggested that the oldest Greek was a "topsy-turvy" version of an ancient Indian language.[43] K. Ottfried Muller reversed this proposal suggesting that Brahmi was derived from Greek after the arrival of Alexander the Great.[43] Many scholars link the origin of Brahmi to Semitic script models, particularly Aramaic.[21] The explanation of how this might have happened, the particular Semitic script and the chronology have been the subject of much debate. Bühler followed Max Weber in connecting it particularly to Phoenician and proposed an early 8th century BCE date[44] for the borrowing. A link to the South Semitic script, a less prominent branch of the Semitic script family has occasionally been proposed but has not gained much acceptance.[45] Finally, the Aramaic script being the prototype for Brahmi has been the more preferred hypothesis because of its geographic proximity to the Indian subcontinent, and its influence likely arising because Aramaic was the bureaucratic language of the Achaemenid empire. However, this hypothesis does not explain the mystery of why two very different scripts, Kharoṣṭhī
and Brahmi, developed from the same Aramaic. A possible explanation might be that Ashoka
created an imperial script for his edicts, but there is no evidence to support this conjecture.[46] Bühler's theory[edit] According to the Semitic hypothesis as laid out by Bühler in 1898, the oldest Brahmi inscriptions were derived from a Phoenician prototype.[47][note 3] Salomon states Bühler's arguments are "weak historical, geographical, and chronological justifications for a Phoenician prototype". Discoveries made since Bühler's proposal, such as of six Mauryan inscriptions in Aramaic suggest Bühler's proposal about Phoenician as weak. It is more likely that Aramaic, which was virtually certain the prototype for Kharoṣṭhī, also may have been the basis for Brahmi. However, it is unclear why the ancient Indians would have developed two very different scripts.[46] According to Bühler, Brahmi added symbols for certain sounds not found in Semitic languages, and either deleted or repurposed symbols for Aramaic sounds not found in Prakrit. For example, Aramaic lacks the phonetic retroflex feature that appears among Prakrit
dental stops, such as ḍ, and in Brahmi the symbols of the retroflex and non-retroflex consonants are graphically very similar, as if both had been derived from a single prototype. (See Tibetan alphabet
Tibetan alphabet
for a similar later development.) Aramaic did not have Brahmi’s aspirated consonants (kh, th, etc.), whereas Brahmi did not have Aramaic's emphatic consonants (q, ṭ, ṣ), and it appears that these unneeded emphatic letters filled in for some of Brahmi's aspirates: Aramaic q for Brahmi kh, Aramaic ṭ (Θ) for Brahmi th (ʘ), etc. And just where Aramaic did not have a corresponding emphatic stop, p, Brahmi seems to have doubled up for the corresponding aspirate: Brahmi p and ph are graphically very similar, as if taken from the same source in Aramaic p. Bühler saw a systematic derivational principle for the other aspirates ch, jh, ph, bh, and dh, which involved adding a curve or upward hook to the right side of the character (which has been speculated to derive from h, ), while d and ṭ (not to be confused with the Semitic emphatic ṭ) were derived by back formation from dh and ṭh.[49]

Bühler's aspirate derivations

IAST -aspirate +aspirate origin of aspirate according to Bühler


Semitic emphatic (qoph)


Semitic emphatic (heth) (hook addition in Bhattiprolu script)


curve addition


hook addition with some alteration


curve addition


hook addition with some alteration


Semitic emphatic (teth)


unaspirated glyph back formed


unaspirated glyph back formed as if aspirated glyph with curve


curve addition

The following table lists the correspondences between Brahmi and North Semitic scripts.[50][51]

Comparison of North Semitic and Brahmi scripts[51][note 4]

Phoenician Aramaic Value Brahmi Value



b [b]


g [ɡ]


d [d]


h [h], M.L.


w [w], M.L.


z [z]


ḥ [ħ]


ṭ [tˤ]


y [j], M.L.


k [k]


l [l]


m [m]


n [n]


s [s]


ʿ [ʕ], M.L.


p [p]


ṣ [sˤ]


q [q]


r [r]


š [ʃ]


t [t]


Bühler states that both Phoenician and Brahmi had three voiceless sibilants, but because the alphabetical ordering was lost, the correspondences among them are not clear. Bühler was able to suggest Brahmi derivatives corresponding to all of the 22 North Semitic characters, though clearly, as Bühler himself recognized, some are more confident than others. He tended to place much weight on phonetic congruence as a guideline, for example connecting c to tsade rather than kaph , as preferred by many of his predecessors. One of the key problems with a Phoenician derivation is the lack of evidence for historical contact with Phoenicians in the relevant period.[46] Bühler explained this by proposing that the initial borrowing of Brahmi characters dates back considerably earlier than the earliest known evidence, as far back as 800 BCE, contemporary with the Phoenician glyph forms that he mainly compared. Bühler cited a near-modern practice of writing Brahmic scripts
Brahmic scripts
informally without vowel diacritics as a possible continuation of this earlier abjad-like stage in development.[44] The weakest forms of the Semitic hypothesis are similar to Gnanadesikan's trans-cultural diffusion view of the development of Brahmi and Kharoṣṭhī, in which the idea of alphabetic sound representation was learned from the Aramaic-speaking Persians, but much of the writing system was a novel development tailored to the phonology of Prakrit.[53]

Some common variants of Brahmic letters

Another evidence cited in favor of Persian influence has been the Hultzsch proposal in 1925 that the Prakrit/ Sanskrit
word for writing itself, lipi is similar to the Old Persian word dipi, suggesting a probable borrowing.[54][55] A few of the Ashoka
edicts from the region nearest the Persian empire use dipi as the Prakrit
word for writing, which appears as lipi elsewhere, and this geographic distribution has long been taken, at least back to Bühler's time, as an indication that the standard lipi form is a later alteration that appeared as it diffused away from the Persian sphere of influence. Persian Dipi itself is thought to be an Elamite loanword.[56] Falk's theory[edit] Falk's 1993 book Schrift im Alten Indien is considered a definitive study on writing in ancient India.[57][58] Falk's section on the origins of the Brahmi script[20] features an extensive review of the literature up to that time. Falk also puts forth his own ideas. As have a number of other authors, Falk sees the basic writing system of Brahmi as being derived from the Kharoṣṭhī
script, itself a derivative of Aramaic. At the time of his writing, the Ashoka
edicts were the oldest confidently dateable examples of Brahmi, and he perceives in them "a clear development in language from a faulty linguistic style to a well honed one"[59] over time, which he takes to indicate that the script had been recently developed.[20][60] Falk deviates from the mainstream of opinion in seeing Greek as also being a significant source for Brahmi. On this point particularly, Salomon disagrees with Falk, and after presenting evidence of very different methodology between Greek and Brahmi notation of vowel quantity, he states "it is doubtful whether Brahmi derived even the basic concept from a Greek prototype".[43] Further, adds Salomon, in a "limited sense Brahmi can be said to be derived from Kharosthi, but in terms of the actual forms of the characters, the differences between the two Indian scripts are much greater than the similarities".[61] Falk also dated the origin of Kharoṣṭhī
to no earlier than 325 BC, based on a proposed connection to the Greek conquest.[62] Salomon questions Falk's arguments as to the date of Kharoṣṭhī
and writes that it is "speculative at best and hardly constitutes firm grounds for a late date for Kharoṣṭhī. The stronger argument for this position is that we have no specimen of the script before the time of Ashoka, nor any direct evidence of intermediate stages in its development; but of course this does not mean that such earlier forms did not exist, only that, if they did exist, they have not survived, presumably because they were not employed for monumental purposes before Ashoka".[60]

Coin of Vikramaditya (Chandragupta II) with the name of the king in Brahmi script
Brahmi script
380-415 CE.

Unlike Bühler, Falk does not provide details of which and how the presumptive prototypes may have been mapped to the individual characters of Brahmi. Further, states Salomon, Falk accepts there are anomalies in phonetic value and diacritics in Brahmi script
Brahmi script
that are not found in the presumed Kharoṣṭhī
script source. Falk attempts to explain these anomalies by reviving Greek influence hypothesis, a hypothesis that had previously fallen out of favor.[60][63] Hartmut Scharfe, in his 2002 review of Kharoṣṭī and Brāhmī scripts, concurs with Salomon's questioning of Falk's proposal, and states, "the pattern of the phonemic analysis of the Sanskrit
language achieved by the Vedic scholars is much closer to the Brahmi script than the Greek alphabet".[9] Indigenous origin theory[edit] The idea of an indigenous origin such as a connection to the Indus script is supported by some Western and Indian scholars and writers. The theory that there are similarities to the Indus script
Indus script
was suggested by early European scholars such as the Cambridge University archaeologist John Marshall[64] and the Oxford University professor Stephen Langdon,[65] and it continues to be suggested by scholars and writers such as (among others) the computer scientist Subhash Kak, the German Indologist Georg Feuerstein, the American teacher David Frawley, the British archaeologist Raymond Allchin, and the Cambridge University professor Jack Goody.[66][67][68] Raymond Allchin states that there is a powerful argument against the idea that the Brahmi script
Brahmi script
has Semitic borrowing because the whole structure and conception is quite different. He suggests that the origin may have been purely indigenous with the Indus script
Indus script
as its predecessor.[69] However, Allchin and Erdosy later in 1995 expressed the opinion that there was as yet insufficient evidence to resolve the question.[70] G.R. Hunter in his book The Script of Harappa and Mohenjodaro and Its Connection with Other Scripts (1934) proposed a derivation of the Brahmi alphabets from the Indus Script, the match being considerably higher than that of Aramaic in his estimation.[71] Subhash Kak
Subhash Kak
does not acknowledge the proposed Semitic origins of the script[72], instead arguing that the interaction between the Indic and the Semitic worlds via the Mitanni
prior to the rise of the Semitic scripts might imply a reverse process.[73] However, the chronology thus presented and the notion of an unbroken tradition of literacy is opposed by a majority of academics who support an indigenous origin. Evidence for a continuity between Indus and Brahmi has also been seen in graphic similarities between Brahmi and the late Indus script, where the ten most common ligatures correspond with the form of one of the ten most common glyphs in Brahmi.[74] There is also corresponding evidence of continuity in the use of numerals.[75] Further support for this continuity comes from statistical analysis of the relationship carried out by Das.[76] Salomon considered simple graphic similarities between characters to be insufficient evidence for a connection without knowing the phonetic values of the Indus script, though he found apparent similarities in patterns of compounding and diacritical modification to be "intriguing." However, he felt that it was premature to explain and evaluate them due to the large chronological gap between the scripts and the thus far indecipherable nature of the Indus script.[77] The main obstacle to this idea is the lack of evidence for writing during the millennium and a half between the collapse of the Indus Valley Civilisation around 1500 BCE and the first widely accepted appearance of Brahmi in the 3rd and 4th centuries BCE. Iravathan Mahadevan makes the point that even if one takes the latest dates of 1500 BCE for the Indus script
Indus script
and earliest claimed dates of Brahmi around 500 BCE, a thousand years still separates the two.[78] Furthermore, there is no accepted decipherment of the Indus script, which makes theories based on claimed decipherments tenuous. A promising possible link between the Indus script
Indus script
and later writing traditions may be in the megalithic graffiti symbols of the South Indian megalithic culture, which may have some overlap with the Indus symbol inventory and persisted in use up at least through the appearance of the Brahmi and Tamil Brahmi scripts up into the third century CE. These graffiti usually appear singly, though on occasion may be found in groups of two or three, and are thought to have been family, clan, or religious symbols.[79] In 1935, C.L. Fábri proposed that symbols found on Mauryan punch-marked coins were remnants of the Indus script
Indus script
that had survived the collapse of the Indus civilization.[80] Iravatham Mahadevan, decipherer of Tamil-Brahmi
and a noted expert on the Indus script, has supported the idea that both those semiotic traditions may have some continuity with the Indus script, but regarding the idea of continuity with Brahmi, he has categorically stated that he does not believe that theory "at all."[78] Another form of the indigenous origin theory is that Brahmi was invented ex nihilo, entirely independently from either Semitic models or the Indus script, though Salomon found these theories to be wholly speculative in nature.[81] Pāṇini
(6th to 4th century BCE) mentions lipi, the Indian word for writing scripts in his definitive work on Sanskrit
grammar, the Ashtadhyayi. According to Scharfe, the words lipi and libi are borrowed from the Old Persian dipi, in turn derived from Sumerian dup.[55][82] Scharfe adds that the best evidence, at the time of his review, is that no script was used or ever known in India, aside from the Persian-dominated Northwest, before around 300 BCE because Indian tradition "at every occasion stresses the orality of the cultural and literary heritage."[55] Megasthenes
observations[edit] Megasthenes, a Greek ambassador to the Mauryan court in Northeastern India only a quarter century before Ashoka, noted "… and this among a people who have no written laws, who are ignorant even of writing, and regulate everything by memory."[83] This has been variously and contentiously interpreted by many authors. Ludo Rocher almost entirely dismisses Megasthenes
as unreliable, questioning the wording used by Megasthenes' informant and Megasthenes' interpretation of them.[84] Timmer considers it to reflect a misunderstanding that the Mauryans were illiterate "based upon the fact that Megasthenes
rightly observed that the laws were unwritten and that oral tradition played such an important part in India."[85] Some proponents of the indigenous origin theories[who?] question the reliability and interpretation of comments made by Megasthenes
(as quoted by Strabo
in the Geographica
XV.i.53). For one, the observation may only apply in the context of the kingdom of "Sandrakottos" (Chandragupta). Elsewhere in Strabo
(Strab. XV.i.39), Megasthenes
is said to have noted that it was a regular custom in India for the "philosopher" caste (presumably Brahmins) to submit "anything useful which they have committed to writing" to kings,[86] but this detail does not appear in parallel extracts of Megasthenes
found in Arrian and Diodorus Siculus.[87][88] The implication of writing per se is also not totally clear in the original Greek as the term "συντάξῃ" can be read as a generic "composition" rather than a written composition in particular. Nearchus, a contemporary of Megasthenes, noted, a few decades prior, the use of cotton fabric for writing in Northern India. Indologists have variously speculated that this might have been Kharoṣṭhī
or the Aramaic alphabet. Salomon regards the evidence from Greek sources to be inconclusive.[89] Strabo himself notes this inconsistency regarding reports on the use of writing in India (XV.i.67). Issues with current theories on Brahmi script
Brahmi script

A palm leaf Sanskrit
manuscript in Brahmi script
Brahmi script
discovered in Miran, northwest China.

Kenneth Norman, a professor and the President of the Pali Text Society, suggests that writing scripts in ancient India evolved over a long period of time as with other cultures and that it is unlikely that Brahmi was devised as a complete writing system in a single effort in the Maurya era. Norman suggests that it is even less likely that Brāhmī was invented during Aśoka's rule, starting from nothing, for the specific purpose of writing his inscriptions and subsequently understood all over South Asia
South Asia
where the pillars of Ashoka
are found.[90] Reviewing recent archaeological discoveries relating to writing scripts in ancient India and particularly to Buddhism, Norman writes, "Support for this idea of pre-Aśokan development has been given very recently by the discovery of sherds at Anuradhapura
in Sri Lanka, inscribed with small numbers of characters which seem to be Brāhmī. These sherds have been dated, by both Carbon 14 and Thermo-luminescence dating, to pre-Aśokan times, perhaps as much as much as two centuries before Aśoka."[91] Jack Goody, a professor of social anthropology, similarly suggests that ancient India likely had a "very old culture of writing" along with its oral tradition of composing and transmitting knowledge, because the Vedic literature is too vast, consistent and complex to have been entirely created, memorized, accurately preserved and spread without a written system.[92][93] Walter Ong, a professor of literature and religious history, and John Hartley, a professor of cultural science, concur with Goody and share the same concerns about the theory that there may not have been any writing scripts including Brahmi during the Vedic age, given the quantity and quality of the Vedic literature.[94] Falk disagrees with Goody and suggests that it is a Western presumption and inability to imagine that remarkably early scientific achievements such as Panini's grammar (5th to 4th century BCE), and the creation, preservation and wide distribution of the large corpus of the Brahmanas and the Buddhist canonical literature, could have occurred without any writing scripts.[95] Johannes Bronkhorst, a professor of Sanskrit
and Indian studies, acknowledges that Falk is widely regarded as the definitive study on this subject but disagrees and states,

Falk goes too far. It is fair to expect that we believe that Vedic memorisation — though without parallel in any other human society — has been able to preserve very long texts for many centuries without losing a syllable. (...) However, the oral composition of a work as complex as Pāṇini’s grammar is not only without parallel in other human cultures, it is without parallel in India itself. (...) It just will not do to state that our difficulty in conceiving any such thing is our problem.[57]

Origin of the name[edit] Several divergent accounts of the origin of the name "Brahmi" appear in history and legend. Several Sutras of Jainism
such as the Vyakhya Pragyapti Sutra, the Samvayanga Sutra and the Pragyapna Sutra of the Jain Agamas
Jain Agamas
include a list of 18 writing scripts known to teachers before the Mahavira
was born, with the Brahmi script
Brahmi script
(bambhī in the original Prakrit) leading all these lists. The Brahmi script
Brahmi script
is missing from the 18 script list in the surviving versions of two later Jaina Sutras, namely the Vishesha Avashyaka and the Kalpa Sutra. Jain legend recounts that 18 writing scripts were taught by their first Tirthankara Rishabhanatha
to his daughter Brahmi, she emphasized Brahmi as the main script as she taught others, and therefore the name Brahmi for the script comes after her name.[96] A Chinese Buddhist account of the 6th century CE attributes its creation to the god Brahma, though Monier Monier-Williams, Sylvain Lévi and others thought it was more likely to have been given the name because it was moulded by the Brahmins.[97][98] The term Brahmi appears in ancient Indian texts in different contexts. The Vedic era Vajaseneyi Samhita of the Yajurveda, for example, uses this word in the sense of "Brahmanical, holy, divine.[99][100] According to the rules of the Sanskrit
language, it is a feminine word which literally means "of Brahma" or "the female energy of the Brahman".[101] In other texts such as the Mahabharata, it appears in the sense of a goddess, particularly for Saraswati
as the goddess of speech and elsewhere as "personified Shakti
(energy) of Brahma".[99] Ashoka

Connections between Phoenician (4th column) and Brahmi (5th column). Note that 6th-to-4th-century BCE Aramaic (not shown) is in many cases intermediate in form between the two.

Brahmi is clearly attested from the 3rd century BCE during the reign of Ashoka, who used the script for imperial edicts. It has commonly been supposed that the script was developed at around this time, both from the paucity of earlier dated examples, the alleged unreliability of those earlier dates, and from the geometric regularity of the script, which some have taken to be evidence that it had been recently invented.[48] Early regional variants[edit] Ashokan inscriptions are found all over India and a few regional variants have been observed. The Bhattiprolu alphabet, with earliest inscriptions dating from a few decades of Ashoka's reign, is believed to have evolved from a southern variant of the Brahmi alphabet. The language used in these inscriptions, nearly all of which have been found upon Buddhist relics, is exclusively Prakrit, though Telugu proper names have been identified in some inscriptions. Twenty-three letters have been identified. The letters ga and sa are similar to Mauryan Brahmi, while bha and da resemble those of modern Telugu script. Tamil-Brahmi
is a variant of the Brahmi alphabet that was in use in Tamil Nadu, Kerala and parts of Sri Lanka
Sri Lanka
during the Sangam period. The language used in most of these inscriptions have been identified as a form of Tamil with a heavy admixture of Prakrit
words though there are a few which are exclusively in Prakrit, as well. Sri Lankan inscriptions[edit] In English, the most widely available set of reproductions of Brahmi-script texts found in Sri Lanka
Sri Lanka
is Epigraphia Zeylanica; in volume 1 (1976), many of the inscriptions are dated from the 3rd to 2nd century BC.[102] Unlike the edicts of Ashoka, however, the majority of the inscriptions from this early period in Sri Lanka
Sri Lanka
are found above caves, are only a few words in length and "rarely say anything more than the name of the donor (who paid for the renovation of the cave, presumably); sometimes the donor's profession and village-of-origin are added, and sometimes the reader may be unable to guess if they are looking at the name of a person, profession or village, but can see that it is a name in any case (and not a philosophical statement)."[103] The language of Sri Lanka Brahmi inscriptions has been mostly been Prakrit
though some Tamil-Brahmi
inscriptions have also been found, such as the Annaicoddai seal.[104] The earliest widely accepted examples of writing in Brahmi are found in Anuradhapura, Sri Lanka.[39] Characteristics[edit]

The Brahmi symbol for /ka/, modified to represent different vowels

Variants of Brahmi over time

Brahmi is usually written from left to right, as in the case of its descendants. However, an early coin found in Eran
is inscribed with Brahmi running from right to left, as in Aramaic. Several other instances of variation in the writing direction are known, though directional instability is fairly common in ancient writing systems.[105] Brahmi is an abugida, meaning that each letter represents a consonant, while vowels are written with obligatory diacritics called mātrās in Sanskrit, except when the vowels commence a word. When no vowel is written, the vowel /a/ is understood. This "default short a" is a characteristic shared with Kharosthī, though the treatment of vowels differs in other respects. Special
conjunct consonants are used to write consonant clusters such as /pr/ or /rv/. In modern Devanagari the components of a conjunct are written left to right when possible (when the first consonant has a vertical stem that can be removed at the right), whereas in Brahmi characters are joined vertically downwards. Vowels following a consonant are inherent or written by diacritics, but initial vowels have dedicated letters. There are three "primary" vowels in Ashokan Brahmi, which each occur in length-contrasted forms: /a/, /i/, /u/; long vowels are derived from the letters for short vowels. There are also four "secondary" vowels that do not have the long-short contrast, /e/, /ai/, /o/, /au/.[106] Note though that the grapheme for /ai/ is derivative from /e/ in a way which parallels the short-long contrast of the primary vowels. However, there are only nine distinct vowel diacritics, as short /a/ is understood if no vowel is written. The initial vowel symbol for /au/ is also apparently lacking in the earliest attested phases, even though it has a diacritic. Ancient sources suggest that there were either 11 or 12 vowels enumerated at the beginning of the character list around the Ashokan era, probably adding either aṃ or aḥ.[107] Later versions of Brahmi add vowels for four syllabic liquids, short and long /ṛ/ and /ḷ/. Chinese sources indicate that these were later inventions by either Nagarjuna
or Śarvavarman, a minister of King Hāla.[108] It has been noted that the basic system of vowel marking common to Brahmi and Kharosthī, in which every consonant is understood to be followed by a vowel, was well suited to Prakrit,[109] but as Brahmi was adapted to other languages, a special notation called the virāma was introduced to indicate the omission of the final vowel. Kharoṣṭhī
also differs in that the initial vowel representation has a single generic vowel symbol that is differentiated by diacritics, and long vowels are not distinguished. The collation order of Brahmi is believed to have been the same as most of its descendant scripts, one based on Shiksha, the traditional Vedic theory of Sanskrit
phonology. This begins the list of characters with the initial vowels (starting with a), then lists a subset of the consonants in 5 phonetically-related groups of 5 called vargas, and ends with 4 liquids, 3 sibilants, and a spirant. Thomas Trautmann attributes much of the popularity of the Brahmic script family to this "splendidly reasoned" system of arrangement.[110] Punctuation[edit] Punctuation[111] can be perceived as more of an exception than as a general rule in Asokan Brahmi. For instance, distinct spaces in between the words appear frequently in the pillar edicts but not so much in others. ("Pillar edicts" refers to the texts that are inscribed on the stone pillars oftentimes with the intention of making them public.) The idea of writing each word separately was not consistently used. In the early Brahmi period, the existence of punctuation marks is not very well shown. Each letter has been written independently with some occasional space between words and longer sections. In the middle period, the system seems to be developing. The use of a dash and a curved horizontal line is found. A lotus (flower) mark seems to mark the end, and a circular mark appears to indicate the full stop. There seem to be varieties of full stop. In the late period, the system of interpunctuation marks gets more complicated. For instance, there are four different forms of vertically slanted double dashes that resemble "//" to mark the completion of the composition. Despite all the decorative signs that were available during the late period, the signs remained fairly simple in the inscriptions. One of the possible reasons may be that engraving is restricted while writing is not. Baums identifies seven different punctuation marks needed for computer representation of Brahmi:[112]

single and double vertical bar (danda) - delimiting clauses and verses dot, double dot, and horizontal line - delimiting shorter textual units crescent and lotus - delimiting larger textual units

Letters[edit] Vowels[edit]

Letter Mātrā (with ka) IAST
and Sanskrit
IPA Letter Mātrā (with ka) IAST
and Sanskrit

𑀅 𑀓 a /ə/ 𑀆 𑀓𑀸 ā /aː/

𑀇 𑀓𑀺 i /i/ 𑀈 𑀓𑀻 ī /iː/

𑀉 𑀓𑀼 u /u/ 𑀊 𑀓𑀽 ū /uː/

𑀋 𑀓𑀾 ṛ /r̩/ 𑀌 𑀓𑀿 ṝ /r̩ː/

𑀍 𑀓𑁀 l̩ /l̩/ 𑀎 𑀓𑁁 ḹ /l̩ː/

𑀏 𑀓𑁂 e /eː/ 𑀐 𑀓𑁃 ai /əi/

𑀑 𑀓𑁄 o /oː/ 𑀒 𑀓𑁅 au /əu/


Stop Nasal Approximant Fricative

Voicing → Voiceless Voiced Voiceless Voiced

Aspiration → No Yes No Yes No Yes

Velar 𑀓 ka /k/ 𑀔 kha /kʰ/ 𑀕 ga /g/ 𑀖 gha /ɡʱ/ 𑀗 ṅa /ŋ/

𑀳 ha /ɦ/

Palatal 𑀘 ca /c/ 𑀙 cha /cʰ/ 𑀚 ja /ɟ/ 𑀛 jha /ɟʱ/ 𑀜 ña /ɲ/ 𑀬 ya /j/ 𑀰 śa /ɕ/

Retroflex 𑀝 ṭa /ʈ/ 𑀞 ṭha /ʈʰ/ 𑀟 ḍa /ɖ/ 𑀠 ḍha /ɖʱ/ 𑀡 ṇa /ɳ/ 𑀭 ra /r/ 𑀱 ṣa /ʂ/

Dental 𑀢 ta /t̪/ 𑀣 tha /t̪ʰ/ 𑀤 da /d̪/ 𑀥 dha /d̪ʱ/ 𑀦 na /n/ 𑀮 la /l/ 𑀲 sa /s/

Labial 𑀧 pa /p/ 𑀨 pha /pʰ/ 𑀩 ba /b/ 𑀪 bha /bʱ/ 𑀫 ma /m/ 𑀯 va /w, ʋ/

The final letter does not fit into the table above; it is 𑀴 ḷa. Descendants[edit] Main article: Brahmic scripts

Gupta script
Gupta script
on stone Kanheri Caves, one of the earliest descendants of Brahmi

Over the course of a millennium, Brahmi developed into numerous regional scripts, commonly classified into a more rounded Southern India group and a more angular Northern India group. Over time, these regional scripts became associated with the local languages. A Northern Brahmi gave rise to the Gupta script
Gupta script
during the Gupta Empire, sometimes also called "Late Brahmi" (used during the 5th century), which in turn diversified into a number of cursives during the Middle Ages, including the Siddhaṃ script
Siddhaṃ script
(6th century), Śāradā script (9th century) and Devanagari
(10th century). Southern Brahmi gave rise to the Grantha alphabet
Grantha alphabet
(6th century), the Vatteluttu alphabet
Vatteluttu alphabet
(8th century), and due to the contact of Hinduism with Southeast Asia during the early centuries CE, also gave rise to the Baybayin
in the Philippines, the Javanese script
Javanese script
in Indonesia, the Khmer alphabet
Khmer alphabet
in Cambodia, and the Old Mon script in Burma. Also in the Brahmic family of scripts
Brahmic family of scripts
are several Central Asian scripts such as Tibetan, Tocharian (also called slanting Brahmi), and the one used to write the Saka language. Several authors have suggested that the basic letters of hangul were modeled on the 'Phags-pa script
'Phags-pa script
of the Mongol Empire, itself a derivative of the Tibetan alphabet, a Brahmi script
Brahmi script
(see origin of Hangul).[113][114] The arrangement of Brahmi was adopted as the modern order of Japanese kana, though the letters themselves are unrelated.[115] Unicode
and digitization[edit] Main article: Brahmi ( Unicode
block) Brahmi was added to the Unicode
Standard in October, 2010 with the release of version 6.0. The Unicode
block for Brahmi is U+11000–U+1107F. It lies within Supplementary Multilingual Plane. As of August 2014 there are two non-commercially available fonts that support Brahmi, namely Noto Sans Brahmi commissioned by Google
which covers all the characters,[116] and Adinatha which only covers Tamil Brahmi.[117] Segoe UI
Segoe UI
Historic, tied in with Windows 10, also features Brahmi glyphs.[118] The Sanskrit
word for Brahmi ( IAST
Brāhmī) in the Brahmi script should be rendered as follows: 𑀩𑁆𑀭𑀸𑀳𑁆𑀫𑀻.

Brahmi[1][2] Official Unicode
Consortium code chart (PDF)

  0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 A B C D E F

U+1100x 𑀀 𑀁 𑀂 𑀃 𑀄 𑀅 𑀆 𑀇 𑀈 𑀉 𑀊 𑀋 𑀌 𑀍 𑀎 𑀏

U+1101x 𑀐 𑀑 𑀒 𑀓 𑀔 𑀕 𑀖 𑀗 𑀘 𑀙 𑀚 𑀛 𑀜 𑀝 𑀞 𑀟

U+1102x 𑀠 𑀡 𑀢 𑀣 𑀤 𑀥 𑀦 𑀧 𑀨 𑀩 𑀪 𑀫 𑀬 𑀭 𑀮 𑀯

U+1103x 𑀰 𑀱 𑀲 𑀳 𑀴 𑀵 𑀶 𑀷 𑀸 𑀹 𑀺 𑀻 𑀼 𑀽 𑀾 𑀿

U+1104x 𑁀 𑁁 𑁂 𑁃 𑁄 𑁅 𑁆 𑁇 𑁈 𑁉 𑁊 𑁋 𑁌 𑁍


𑁒 𑁓 𑁔 𑁕 𑁖 𑁗 𑁘 𑁙 𑁚 𑁛 𑁜 𑁝 𑁞 𑁟

U+1106x 𑁠 𑁡 𑁢 𑁣 𑁤 𑁥 𑁦 𑁧 𑁨 𑁩 𑁪 𑁫 𑁬 𑁭 𑁮 𑁯




1.^ As of Unicode
version 10.0 2.^ Grey areas indicate non-assigned code points

See also[edit]

Early Indian epigraphy Lipi Pre-Islamic scripts in Afghanistan Sankhalipi Tamil-Brahmi


^ More numerous inscribed Sanskrit
records in Brahmi have been found near Mathura
and elsewhere, but these are from the 1st century CE onwards.[32] ^ The archeological sites near the northern Indian city of Mathura
has been one of the largest source of such ancient inscriptions. Andhau (Gujarat) and Nasik
(Maharashtra) are other important sources of Brahmi inscriptions from the 1st-century CE.[33] ^ Aramaic is written from right to left, as are several early examples of Brahmi.[48][page needed] For example, Brahmi and Aramaic g ( and ) and Brahmi and Aramaic t ( and ) are nearly identical, as are several other pairs. Bühler also perceived a pattern of derivation in which certain characters were turned upside down, as with pe and pa, which he attributed to a stylistic preference against top-heavy characters. ^ Bühler notes that other authors derive (cha) from qoph. "M.L." indicates that the letter was used as a mater lectionis in some phase of Phoenician or Aramaic. The matres lectionis functioned as occasional vowel markers to indicate medial and final vowels in the otherwise consonant-only script. Aleph and particularly ʿayin only developed this function in later phases of Phoenician and related scripts, though also sometimes functioned to mark an initial prosthetic (or prothetic) vowel from a very early period.[52]


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(1898). On the Origin of the Indian Brahma Alphabet. K.J. Trübner. pp. 6, 14–15, 23, 29. , Quote: "(...) a passage of the Lalitavistara which describes the first visit of Prince Siddhartha, the future Buddha, to the writing school..." (page 6); "In the account of Prince Siddhartha's first visit to the writing school, extracted by Professor Terrien de la Couperie from the Chinese translation of the Lalitavistara of 308 AD, there occurs besides the mention of the sixty-four alphabets, known also from the printed Sanskrit
text, the utterance of the Master Visvamitra[.]" ^ Richard Salomon (1998). Indian Epigraphy: A Guide to the Study of Inscriptions in Sanskrit, Prakrit, and the other Indo-Aryan Languages. Oxford University Press. pp. 8–10 with footnotes. ISBN 978-0-19-535666-3.  ^ Nado, Lopon (1982). "The Development of Language in Bhutan". The Journal of the International Association of Buddhist Studies. 5 (2): 95. Under different teachers, such as the Brahmin
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Monier Monier-Williams
(1970). Sanskrit-English dictionary. Motilal Banarsidass (Reprint of Oxford Claredon). p. xxvi with footnotes. ISBN 978-5-458-25035-1.  ^ a b Monier Monier Willians (1899), Brahmi, Oxford University Press, page 742 ^ Carl Cappeller (1891), Brahmi, A Sanskrit-English dictionary, Trubner, Strassburg ^ Arthur Anthony Macdonell (2004). Sanskrit
English Dictionary (Practical Hand Book). Asian Educational Services. p. 200. ISBN 978-81-206-1779-7.  ^ Epigraphia Zeylanica: 1904–1912, Volume 1. Government of Sri Lanka, 1976. http://www.royalasiaticsociety.lk/inscriptions/?q=node/12 ^ http://a-bas-le-ciel.blogspot.ca/2012/05/ashokas-edicts-dead-languages-and.html with an annotated photograph of one of the Sri Lankan cave inscriptions at the top of the article. ^ Raghupathy, Ponnambalam (1987). Early settlements in Jaffna, an archaeological survey. Madras: Raghupathy.  ^ Salomon 1998, pp. 27–28. ^ Salomon 1996, pp. 373–4. ^ Bühler 1898, p. 32. ^ Bühler 1898, p. 33. ^ Daniels, Peter T. (2008), "Writing systems of major and minor languages", Language in South Asia, Cambridge University Press, p. 287  ^ Trautmann 2006, p. 62–64. ^ Ram Sharma, Brāhmī Script: Development in North-Western India and Central Asia, 2002 ^ Stefan Baums (2006). "Towards a computer encoding for Brahmi". In Gail, A.J.; Mevissen, G.J.R.; Saloman, R. Script and Image: Papers on Art and Epigraphy. New Delhi: Shri Jainendra Press. pp. 111–143.  ^ Ledyard 1994, p. 336–349. ^ Daniels, Peter T. (Spring 2000). "On Writing Syllables: Three Episodes of Script Transfer" (PDF). Studies in the Linguistic Sciences. 30 (1): 73–86.  ^ Smith, Janet S. (Shibamoto) (1996). "Japanese Writing". In Daniels, Peter T.; Bright, William. The World's Writing Systems. Oxford University Press. pp. 209–17. ISBN 0-19-507993-0. CS1 maint: Uses editors parameter (link) ^ Google
Noto Fonts – Download Noto Sans Brahmi zip file ^ Adinatha font announcement ^ Script and Font Support in Windows - Windows 10, MSDN Go Global Developer Center.


Annette Wilke; Oliver Moebus (2011). Sound and Communication: An Aesthetic Cultural History of Sanskrit
Hinduism. Walter de Gruyter. ISBN 978-3-11-024003-0.  Bühler, Georg (1898). On the Origin of the Indian Brahma Alphabet.  Deraniyagala, Siran (2004). The Prehistory of Sri Lanka: An Ecological Perspective. Department of Archaeological Survey, Government of Sri Lanka. ISBN 978-955-9159-00-1.  Falk, Harry (1993). Schrift im alten Indien: ein Forschungsbericht mit Anmerkungen (in German). Gunter Narr Verlag.  Gérard Fussman, Les premiers systèmes d'écriture en Inde, in Annuaire du Collège de France 1988–1989 (in French) Oscar von Hinüber, Der Beginn der Schrift und frühe Schriftlichkeit in Indien, Franz Steiner Verlag, 1990 (in German) Keay, John (2000). India: A History. Grove Press. ISBN 978-0-8021-3797-5.  Ledyard, Gari (1994). The Korean Language Reform of 1446: The Origin, Background, and Early History of the Korean Alphabet. University Microfilms.  Masica, Colin (1993). The Indo-Aryan Languages. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 978-0-521-29944-2.  Norman, Kenneth R. (1992). "The Development of Writing in India and its Effect upon the Pāli Canon". Wiener Zeitschrift für die Kunde Südasiens / Vienna Journal of South Asian Studies. 36 (Proceedings of the VIIIth World Sanskrit
Conference Vienna): 239–249.  Patel, Purushottam G.; Pandey, Pramod; Rajgor, Dilip (2007). The Indic Scripts: Palaeographic and Linguistic Perspectives. D.K. Printworld. ISBN 978-81-246-0406-9.  Rocher, Ludo (2014). Studies in Hindu Law and Dharmaśāstra. Anthem Press. ISBN 978-1-78308-315-2.  Salomon, Richard (1996). "Brahmi and Kharoshthi". In Daniels, Peter T.; Bright, William. The World's Writing Systems. Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-507993-0. CS1 maint: Uses editors parameter (link) Salomon, Richard (1998). Indian Epigraphy: A Guide to the Study of Inscriptions in Sanskrit, Prakrit, and the other Indo-Aryan Languages. Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-535666-3.  Salomon, Richard (1995). "On the Origin of the Early Indian Scripts". Journal of the American Oriental Society. 115 (2): 271–279. doi:10.2307/604670. Retrieved 4 September 2017.  Salomon, Richard (1998). Indian Epigraphy: A Guide to the Study of Inscriptions in Sanskrit, Prakrit, and the Other Indo-Aryan Languages. Oxford: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-509984-2.  Trautmann, Thomas (2006). Languages and Nations: The Dravidian Proof in Colonial Madras. University of California Press. ISBN 978-0-520-24455-9.  Timmer, Barbara Catharina Jacoba (1930). Megasthenes
en de Indische maatschappij. H.J. Paris. 

External links[edit]

Wikimedia Commons has media related to Brahmi script.

"Brahmi Home". brahmi.sourceforge.net.  of the Indian Institute of Science "Ancient Scripts: Brahmi". www.ancientscripts.com.  "Brahmi Texts Virtual Vinodh". www.virtualvinodh.com.  "BhashaIndia - Empowering Indic Language Computing and Localization through Unicode". www.bhashaindia.com. 

v t e

Major languages of South Asia

Main articles

Languages of India

list by number of speakers scheduled

Languages of Pakistan Languages of Bangladesh Languages of Bhutan Languages of the Maldives Languages of Nepal Languages of Sri Lanka

Contemporary languages


Sri Lankan Creole Malay


Brahui Jeseri Kannada Malayalam Tamil Telugu Tulu


Angika Assamese Bhojpuri Bengali Chakma Chittagonian Dhivehi Dogri Gujarati Hindi Hindko Kashmiri Konkani Kumaoni Magahi Mahal Maithili Marathi Nepali Odia Punjabi Sanskrit Saraiki Sindhi Sinhala Sylheti Rajasthani language Urdu


Balochi Pashto Wakhi


Great Andamanese Burushaski Nihali Kusunda


Khasi Nicobarese


Ho Korku Mundari Santali Sora


Önge Jarawa


Ao Bodo Dzongkha Garo Meithei Mizo Nepal Bhasa Sikkimese Tenyidie Tibetan Tripuri

European influence


Indian English Pakistani English Sri Lankan English

French Portuguese



Indus (Undeciphered) Brahmi (Abugida) Kharosthi


Devanagari Bengali Gujarati Gurmukhī Malayalam Kannada Odia Ranjana Sinhala Tamil Telugu


Latin alphabet


Arwi Nastaʿlīq Shahmukhi Arabi Malayalam

Language activism

Hela Havula Bengali Language Movement Sanskrit
revival Pure Tamil movement Nepal Bhasa
Nepal Bhasa
movement Punjabi Language Movement Urdu

v t e

Types of writing systems


History of writing Grapheme


Writing systems

undeciphered inventors constructed

Languages by writing system / by first written accounts






Arabic Pitman shorthand Hebrew

Ashuri Cursive Rashi Solitreo

Tifinagh Manichaean Nabataean Old North Arabian Pahlavi Pegon Phoenician


Proto-Sinaitic Psalter Punic Samaritan South Arabian

Zabur Musnad

Sogdian Syriac

ʾEsṭrangēlā Serṭā Maḏnḥāyā

Teeline Shorthand Ugaritic




Asamiya (Ôxômiya) Bānglā Bhaikshuki Bhujinmol Brāhmī Devanāgarī Dogri Gujarati Gupta Gurmukhī Kaithi Kalinga Khojki Khotanese Khudawadi Laṇḍā Lepcha Limbu Mahajani Meitei Mayek Modi Multani Nāgarī Nandinagari Odia 'Phags-pa Newar Ranjana Sharada Saurashtra Siddhaṃ Soyombo Sylheti Nagari Takri Tibetan

Uchen Umê

Tirhuta Tocharian Zanabazar Square Zhang-Zhung

Drusha Marchen Marchung Pungs-chen Pungs-chung


Ahom Balinese Batak Baybayin Bhattiprolu Buhid Burmese Chakma Cham Grantha Goykanadi Hanunó'o Javanese Kadamba Kannada Karen Kawi Khmer Kulitan Lanna Lao Leke Lontara Malayalam Maldivian

Dhives Akuru Eveyla Akuru Thaana

Mon Old Makassarese Old Sundanese Pallava Pyu Rejang Rencong Sinhala Sundanese Tagbanwa Tai Le Tai Tham Tai Viet Tamil Telugu Thai Tigalari Vatteluttu

Kolezhuthu Malayanma



Boyd's syllabic shorthand Canadian syllabics

Blackfoot Déné syllabics

Fox I Ge'ez Gunjala Gondi Japanese Braille Jenticha Kayah Li Kharosthi Mandombe Masaram Gondi Meroitic Miao Mwangwego Sorang Sompeng Pahawh Hmong Thomas Natural Shorthand



Abkhaz Adlam Armenian Avestan Avoiuli Bassa Vah Borama Carian Caucasian Albanian Coorgi–Cox alphabet Coptic Cyrillic Deseret Duployan shorthand

Chinook writing

Early Cyrillic Eclectic shorthand Elbasan Etruscan Evenki Fox II Fraser Gabelsberger shorthand Garay Georgian

Asomtavruli Nuskhuri Mkhedruli

Glagolitic Gothic Gregg shorthand Greek Greco-Iberian alphabet Hangul Hanifi IPA Kaddare Latin

Beneventan Blackletter Carolingian minuscule Fraktur Gaelic Insular Kurrent Merovingian Sigla Sütterlin Tironian notes Visigothic

Luo Lycian Lydian Manchu Mandaic Medefaidrin Molodtsov Mongolian Mru Neo-Tifinagh New Tai Lue N'Ko Ogham Oirat Ol Chiki Old Hungarian Old Italic Old Permic Orkhon Old Uyghur Osage Osmanya Pau Cin Hau Runic

Anglo-Saxon Cipher Dalecarlian Elder Futhark Younger Futhark Gothic Marcomannic Medieval Staveless

Sidetic Shavian Somali Tifinagh Vagindra Visible Speech Vithkuqi Wancho Zaghawa


Braille Maritime flags Morse code New York Point Semaphore line Flag semaphore Moon type


Adinkra Aztec Blissymbol Dongba Ersu Shaba Emoji IConji Isotype Kaidā Míkmaq Mixtec New Epoch Notation Painting Nsibidi Ojibwe Hieroglyphs Siglas poveiras Testerian Yerkish Zapotec


Chinese family of scripts

Chinese Characters

Simplified Traditional Oracle bone script Bronze Script Seal Script

large small bird-worm

Hanja Idu Kanji Chữ nôm Zhuang


Jurchen Khitan large script Sui Tangut


Akkadian Assyrian Elamite Hittite Luwian Sumerian

Other logo-syllabic

Anatolian Bagam Cretan Isthmian Maya Proto-Elamite Yi (Classical)


Demotic Hieratic Hieroglyphs


Hindu-Arabic Abjad Attic (Greek) Muisca Roman



Celtiberian Northeastern Iberian Southeastern Iberian Khom


Espanca Pahawh Hmong Khitan small script Southwest Paleohispanic Zhuyin fuhao


ASLwrite SignWriting si5s Stokoe Notation


Afaka Bamum Bété Byblos Cherokee Cypriot Cypro-Minoan Ditema tsa Dinoko Eskayan Geba Great Lakes Algonquian syllabics Iban Japanese

Hiragana Katakana Man'yōgana Hentaigana Sogana Jindai moji

Kikakui Kpelle Linear B Linear Elamite Lisu Loma Nüshu Nwagu Aneke script Old Persian Cuneiform Vai Woleai Yi (Modern) Yugtun

v t e



1829 braille International uniformity ASCII braille Unicode
braille patterns


French-ordered scripts (see for more)

Albanian Amharic Arabic Armenian Azerbaijani Belarusian Bharati

(Hindi  / Marathi  / Nepali) Bengali Punjabi Sinhalese Tamil Urdu etc.

Bulgarian Burmese Cambodian Cantonese Catalan Chinese (Mandarin, mainland) Czech Dutch Dzongkha
(Bhutanese) English (Unified English) Esperanto Estonian Faroese French Georgian German Ghanaian Greek Guarani Hawaiian Hebrew Hungarian Icelandic Inuktitut (reassigned vowels) Iñupiaq IPA Irish Italian Kazakh Kyrgyz Latvian Lithuanian Maltese Mongolian Māori Navajo Nigerian Northern Sami Persian Philippine Polish Portuguese Romanian Russian Samoan Scandinavian Slovak South African Spanish Tatar Taiwanese Mandarin (largely reassigned) Thai & Lao (Japanese vowels) Tibetan Turkish Ukrainian Vietnamese Welsh Yugoslav

Reordered scripts

Algerian Braille

Frequency-based scripts

American Braille

Independent scripts

Japanese Korean Two-Cell Chinese

Eight-dot scripts

Luxembourgish Kanji Gardner–Salinas braille codes (GS8)

Symbols in braille

music Canadian currency marks Computer Braille
Code Gardner–Salinas braille codes (GS8/GS6) International Phonetic Alphabet
International Phonetic Alphabet
(IPA) Nemeth braille code


e-book Braille
embosser Braille
translator Braille
watch Mountbatten Brailler Optical braille recognition Perforation Perkins Brailler Refreshable braille display Slate and stylus Braigo


Louis Braille Charles Barbier Valentin Haüy Thakur Vishva Narain Singh Sabriye Tenberken William Bell Wait


Institute of America Braille
Without Borders Japan Braille
Library National Braille
Association Blindness organizations Schools for the blind American Printing House for the Blind

Other tactile alphabets

Decapoint Moon type New York Point Night writing Vibratese

Related topics

Accessible publishing Braille
literacy RoboBraille

v t e

Electronic writing systems

Emoticons Emoji iConji Leet Unicode

v t e

Internet slang
Internet slang

3arabizi Alay (Indonesia) Denglisch Doge Fingilish (Persian) Greeklish Gyaru-moji (Japan) Jejemon (Philippines) Leet
("1337") Lolspeak / LOLspeak / Kitteh Martian language (Chinese) Miguxês (Portuguese) Padonkaffsky jargon
Padonkaffsky jargon
(Russian) Translit Volapuk

See also English internet slang (at Wiktionary) SMS language

Authority control

GND: 43672