Brāhmī script

Brāhmī script

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Brāhmī is the modern name given to the oldest members of the Brahmic family of scripts
Brahmic family of scripts
The Brahmic or Indic scripts are a family of abugida writing systems. They are used throughout South Asia , Southeast Asia, and parts of Central and East Asia, and are descended from the Brāhmī script of the ancient Indian subcontinent...

. The best-known Brāhmī inscriptions are the rock-cut edicts of Ashoka
Edicts of Ashoka
The Edicts of Ashoka are a collection of 33 inscriptions on the Pillars of Ashoka, as well as boulders and cave walls, made by the Emperor Ashoka of the Mauryan dynasty during his reign from 269 BCE to 231 BCE. These inscriptions are dispersed throughout the areas of modern-day Bangladesh, India,...

 in north-central India, dated to the 3rd century BCE. These are traditionally considered to be early known examples of Brāhmī writing. Recent discoveries have revealed earlier epigraphy in Tamil-Brahmi
Tamil-Brahmi
Tamil-Brahmi, or Damili is an early phonetic script used to write Tamil characters. It is a variant of many Brahmi scripts used throughout South Asia, namely Ashokan Brahmi, Southern Brahmi, Bhattiprolu script and the Sri Lankan based Sinhala-Brahmi. It is known from surviving inscribed cave beds,...

, a Southern Brahmic alphabet found on pottery in South India and Sri Lanka dating from before the 6th century BCE Sangam period. Southern Brahmi gave rise to Tamil Brahmi, Vatteluttu
Vatteluttu
Vatteluttu alphabet, also spelled Vattezhuttu alphabet is an abugida writing system originating from the Tamil people of Southern India...

 and Pallava Grantha scripts that diversified into many South East Asian scripts like the Mon script in Burma, the Javanese script
Javanese script
The Javanese alphabet, natively known as Hanacaraka or Carakan , known by the Sundanese people as Cacarakan is the pre-colonial script used to write the Javanese language....

 in Indonesia
Indonesia
Indonesia , officially the Republic of Indonesia , is a country in Southeast Asia and Oceania. Indonesia is an archipelago comprising approximately 13,000 islands. It has 33 provinces with over 238 million people, and is the world's fourth most populous country. Indonesia is a republic, with an...

 and the Khmer script
Khmer script
The Khmer script is an alphasyllabary script used to write the Khmer language . It is also used to write Pali among the Buddhist liturgy of Cambodia and Thailand....

 in Cambodia
Cambodia
Cambodia , officially known as the Kingdom of Cambodia, is a country located in the southern portion of the Indochina Peninsula in Southeast Asia...

. 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 script was deciphered in 1837 by James Prinsep
James Prinsep
James Prinsep was an Anglo-Indian scholar and antiquary. He was the seventh son of John Prinsep, a wealthy East India merchant and Member of Parliament....

, an archaeologist, philologist, and official of the British East India Company
British East India Company
The East India Company was an early English joint-stock company that was formed initially for pursuing trade with the East Indies, but that ended up trading mainly with the Indian subcontinent and China...

. Like its contemporary in what is now Afghanistan and Pakistan, Kharoṣṭhī, Brāhmī was an abugida
Abugida
An abugida , also called an alphasyllabary, is a segmental writing system in which consonant–vowel sequences are written as a unit: each unit is based on a consonant letter, and vowel notation is obligatory but secondary...

.

Brāhmī was ancestral to most of the scripts of South Asia
South Asia
South Asia, also known as Southern Asia, is the southern region of the Asian continent, which comprises the sub-Himalayan countries and, for some authorities , also includes the adjoining countries to the west and the east...

 and Southeast Asia
Southeast Asia
Southeast Asia, South-East Asia, South East Asia or Southeastern Asia is a subregion of Asia, consisting of the countries that are geographically south of China, east of India, west of New Guinea and north of Australia. The region lies on the intersection of geological plates, with heavy seismic...

, several Central Asia
Central Asia
Central Asia is a core region of the Asian continent from the Caspian Sea in the west, China in the east, Afghanistan in the south, and Russia in the north...

n scripts such as Tibetan
Tibetan script
The Tibetan alphabet is an abugida of Indic origin used to write the Tibetan language as well as the Dzongkha language, Denzongkha, Ladakhi language and sometimes the Balti language. The printed form of the alphabet is called uchen script while the hand-written cursive form used in everyday...

 and Khotanese, and possibly, in part, Korea
Korea
Korea ) is an East Asian geographic region that is currently divided into two separate sovereign states — North Korea and South Korea. Located on the Korean Peninsula, Korea is bordered by the People's Republic of China to the northwest, Russia to the northeast, and is separated from Japan to the...

n Hangul
Hangul
Hangul,Pronounced or ; Korean: 한글 Hangeul/Han'gŭl or 조선글 Chosŏn'gŭl/Joseongeul the Korean alphabet, is the native alphabet of the Korean language. It is a separate script from Hanja, the logographic Chinese characters which are also sometimes used to write Korean...

. The varga arrangement of Brāhmī was adopted as the modern order of Japan
Japan
Japan is an island nation in East Asia. Located in the Pacific Ocean, it lies to the east of the Sea of Japan, China, North Korea, South Korea and Russia, stretching from the Sea of Okhotsk in the north to the East China Sea and Taiwan in the south...

ese kana
Kana
Kana are the syllabic Japanese scripts, as opposed to the logographic Chinese characters known in Japan as kanji and the Roman alphabet known as rōmaji...

, though the letters themselves are unrelated.


Origins



The origins of the Brahmi script can be traced to the Vedic period. The name Brahmi for the script of all Indian languages has come from Vajasaneyi Pratishakshya (8-25), which calls the letters of the alphabet as Brahma Rashi meaning universal units of spoken words. The name Brahmi lipi arose from the said description for that part of the Vedas, which can be written. In the Vedas, each letter of the alphabet is pronounced in not less than 18 ways (three divisions of hraswa, deergha, pluta based on time factor, three divisions of udatta, anudatta and swarita based on the position of the particular organ in the mouth while pronouncing that letter, and two divisions of nasal or non-nasal. Since each group is independent of the others, the total number of pronouncements come to 18. There may be further divisions). Since it is not possible to record these differences and they must be remembered by listening to it properly, the Vedas were not written, but was learned by hearing from the teacher, hence why they were called shruti. Ignorance of these principles have led many to propose different theories on the assumption that there was no system of writing or script in ancient India. Since the Vajasaneyi Pratishakshya is accepted to have been written before 8th Century BC, the Brahmi script dates back al least to 8th Century BC.

One consensus, based on Albrecht Weber
Albrecht Weber
Albrecht Friedrich Weber was a German Indologist and historian.He was born in Breslau, where his father was a Professor of Political Economy. He studied in that town, Bonn, and in Berlin, 1842-1845, busying himself especially with literature and Sanskrit archaeology. He received a doctor's degree...

 (1856) and Georg Bühler
Georg Bühler
Professor Johann Georg Bühler was a scholar of ancient Indian languages and law.Bühler was born to Rev. Johann G...

's On the origin of the Indian Brahma alphabet (1895), sees Brāhmī deriving from the Imperial Aramaic script. As of 1996, this Aramaic hypothesis was still considered the most likely scenario. However, it continues to be debated, especially within India.

Some scholars, such as F. Raymond Allchin
F. Raymond Allchin
Frank Raymond Allchin FBA was an archaeologist who specialized in South Asian archaeology. He was born in Harrow, London and studied at the Regent Street Polytechnic. He first visited India in 1944 whilst serving with the army in the Royal Corps of Signals, and from then on his interest in the...

, take Brāhmī as a purely indigenous development, perhaps with the Bronze Age Indus script
Indus script
The term Indus script refers to short strings of symbols associated with the Indus Valley Civilization, in use during the Early Harappan and Mature Harappan period, between the 35th and 20th centuries BC. In spite of many attempts at decipherments and claims, it is as yet undeciphered...

 as its predecessor. The Indus hypothesis has been challenged for the lack of any intervening evidence for writing during the millennium and a half between the collapse of the Indus Valley civilisation ca. 1900 BCE and the first appearance of Brahmi in the mid-4th century BCE.

Like Kharosthi, Brāhmī was used to write the early dialects of Prakrit
Prakrit
Prakrit is the name for a group of Middle Indic, Indo-Aryan languages, derived from Old Indic dialects. The word itself has a flexible definition, being defined sometimes as, "original, natural, artless, normal, ordinary, usual", or "vernacular", in contrast to the literary and religious...

. Surviving records of the script are mostly restricted to inscriptions on buildings and graves as well as liturgical texts. Sanskrit
Sanskrit
Sanskrit , is a historical Indo-Aryan language and the primary liturgical language of Hinduism, Jainism and Buddhism.Buddhism: besides Pali, see Buddhist Hybrid Sanskrit Today, it is listed as one of the 22 scheduled languages of India and is an official language of the state of Uttarakhand...

 was not written until many centuries later, and as a result, Brāhmī is not a perfect match for Sanskrit; several Sanskrit sounds cannot be written in Brāhmī.

Aramaic hypothesis


The origin of Brāhmī remains doubtful. However, a weak consensus exists among scholars for link with Aramaic . According to the Aramaic hypothesis, the oldest Brāhmī inscriptions shows striking parallels with contemporary Aramaic for the sounds that are congruent between the two languages, especially if the letters are flipped to reflect the change in writing direction. (Aramaic is written from right to left, as was Brāhmī originally, whereas Brāhmī later came to be written left to right.) For example, both Brāhmī and Aramaic g resemble Λ; both Brāhmī and Aramaic t resemble ʎ, etc.

Brāhmī does feature a number of extensions to the Aramaic alphabet, as it was required to write more sounds. For example, Aramaic did not distinguish dental stops such as from retroflex stops such as , and in Brāhmī the dental and retroflex series are graphically very similar, as if both had been derived from a single Aramaic prototype. Aramaic did not have Brāhmī’s aspirated
Aspiration (phonetics)
In phonetics, aspiration is the strong burst of air that accompanies either the release or, in the case of preaspiration, the closure of some obstruents. To feel or see the difference between aspirated and unaspirated sounds, one can put a hand or a lit candle in front of one's mouth, and say pin ...

 consonants , whereas Brāhmī did not have Aramaic's emphatic consonant
Emphatic consonant
Emphatic consonant is a term widely used in Semitic linguistics to describe one of a series of obstruent consonants which originally contrasted with series of both voiced and voiceless obstruents. In specific Semitic languages, the members of this series may be realized as pharyngealized,...

s ( – the dot diacritic here has a different meaning from the retroflex stops of Brāhmī), and it appears that these unneeded emphatic letters filled in for Brāhmī's aspirates: Aramaic q for Brāhmī kh, Aramaic (Θ) for Brāhmī th (ʘ), etc. And just where Aramaic did not have a corresponding emphatic stop, p, Brāhmī seems to have doubled up for the corresponding aspirate: Brāhmī p and ph are graphically very similar, as if taken from the same source in Aramaic p. The first letter of the two alphabets also match: Brāhmī a, which resembled a reversed κ, looks a lot like Aramaic alef
Aleph (letter)
' is the reconstructed name of the first letter of the Proto-Canaanite alphabet, continued in descended Semitic alphabets as Phoenician ' , Syriac ' , Hebrew Aleph , and Arabic ' ....

,
which resembled Hebrew א. The following table compares Brāhmī with Phoenician and Aramaic.

{| class="wikitable"
|+ Possible derivation of Brāhmī from the Phoenician script
|-align=center
|Greek
Greek alphabet
The Greek alphabet is the script that has been used to write the Greek language since at least 730 BC . The alphabet in its classical and modern form consists of 24 letters ordered in sequence from alpha to omega...

 || || || || colspan=2| || || || colspan=2| || || colspan=2| || || colspan=2| || || || colspan=2| || || || colspan=2| || || colspan=2| || || || colspan=2|
|-align=center
|Phoenician
Phoenician alphabet
The Phoenician alphabet, called by convention the Proto-Canaanite alphabet for inscriptions older than around 1050 BC, was a non-pictographic consonantal alphabet, or abjad. It was used for the writing of Phoenician, a Northern Semitic language, used by the civilization of Phoenicia...

 ||
||
||
|| colspan=2|
||
||
|| colspan=2|
||
|| colspan=2|
||
|| colspan=2|
||
||
|| colspan=2|
||
||
|| colspan=2|
||
|| colspan=2|
||
||
|| colspan=2|

|-align=center
|Aramaic
Aramaic alphabet
The Aramaic alphabet is adapted from the Phoenician alphabet and became distinctive from it by the 8th century BC. The letters all represent consonants, some of which are matres lectionis, which also indicate long vowels....

 || || || || colspan=2| || || || colspan=2| || || colspan=2| || || colspan=2| || || || colspan=2| || || || colspan=2| || , || colspan=2| || || || colspan=2|
|-align=center
|Brahmi || || || || || || ? || || || || ? || || || || || || || || || || || ? || || || || || || || || ||
|-align=center
|Devanagari
Devanagari
Devanagari |deva]]" and "nāgarī" ), also called Nagari , is an abugida alphabet of India and Nepal...

 || || || || || || || || || || || || || || || || || || || || || || || || || || || || || ||
|-align=center
|Kannada
Kannada script
The Kannada script is an alphasyllabary of the Brahmic family, used primarily to write the Kannada language, one of the Dravidian languages of southern India and also Sanskrit in the past. The Telugu script is derived from Old Kannada, and resembles Kannada script...

 || || || || || || || || || || || || || || || || || || || || || || || || || || || || || ||
|-align=center
|Tamil
Tamil script
The Tamil script is a script that is used to write the Tamil language as well as other minority languages such as Badaga, Irulas, and Paniya...

 || || || || || || || || || || || || || || || || || || || || || || || || || || || || || ||
|-align=center
| IAST || || || || || || || || ? || ? || || || || || || || || || || || * || || || || * || || || || * || ||
|-
|}

* Both Phoenician/Aramaic and Brahmi had three voiceless sibilants, but because the alphabetical ordering was lost, the correspondences among them are not clear.

Not accounted for are the six Brahmi consonants bh, gh, h, j, jh, ny, some of which could conceivably derive from the three Aramaic consonants with no obvious correspondence. (Brahmi ng was a later development.)

Pre-Ashokan epigraphy


The earliest likely contact of the Hindu Kush region with the Aramaic script occurred in the 6th century BCE with the expansion of the Achaemenid Empire
Achaemenid Empire
The Achaemenid Empire , sometimes known as First Persian Empire and/or Persian Empire, was founded in the 6th century BCE by Cyrus the Great who overthrew the Median confederation...

 under Darius the Great to the Indus valley. It appears that no use of any script to write an Indo-Aryan languages occurred before the reign of Emperor Ashoka in the 3rd century BCE, despite the evident example of Aramaic. Megasthenes
Megasthenes
Megasthenes was a Greek ethnographer in the Hellenistic period, author of the work Indica.He was born in Asia Minor and became an ambassador of Seleucus I of Syria possibly to Chandragupta Maurya in Pataliputra, India. However the exact date of his embassy is uncertain...

, an ambassador to the Mauryan court only a quarter century before Ashoka, noted explicitly that the Indians "have no knowledge of written letters" (need source). This might be explained by the cultural importance at the time (and indeed to some extent today) of oral literature
Oral literature
Oral literature corresponds in the sphere of the spoken word to literature as literature operates in the domain of the written word. It thus forms a generally more fundamental component of culture, but operates in many ways as one might expect literature to do...

 for history and Hindu scripture.

There have been claims that fragments of Brāhmī epigraphy found in Tamil Nadu
Tamil Nadu
Tamil Nadu is one of the 28 states of India. Its capital and largest city is Chennai. Tamil Nadu lies in the southernmost part of the Indian Peninsula and is bordered by the union territory of Pondicherry, and the states of Kerala, Karnataka, and Andhra Pradesh...


and Sri Lanka
Sri Lanka
Sri Lanka, officially the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka is a country off the southern coast of the Indian subcontinent. Known until 1972 as Ceylon , Sri Lanka is an island surrounded by the Indian Ocean, the Gulf of Mannar and the Palk Strait, and lies in the vicinity of India and the...

 date as far back as the 5th or 6th century BCE, which have been taken as evidence for an early spread of Buddhism
Buddhism
Buddhism is a religion and philosophy encompassing a variety of traditions, beliefs and practices, largely based on teachings attributed to Siddhartha Gautama, commonly known as the Buddha . The Buddha lived and taught in the northeastern Indian subcontinent some time between the 6th and 4th...

. However, evidence for pre-Mauryan Brahmi inscriptions remains inconclusive, restricted to pottery fragments with possible individual glyphs. The earliest complete inscriptions remain the 3rd-century-BCE Ashokan texts. Many early post-Ashokan remains show regional variation thought to have developed after a period of unity across India during the Ashokan period.

Ashokan inscriptions


Brāhmī is clearly attested from the 3rd century BCE during the reign of Ashoka
Ashoka
Ashok Maurya or Ashoka , popularly known as Ashoka the Great, was an Indian emperor of the Maurya Dynasty who ruled almost all of the Indian subcontinent from ca. 269 BC to 232 BC. One of India's greatest emperors, Ashoka reigned over most of present-day India after a number of military conquests...

, who used the script for imperial edicts
Edicts of Ashoka
The Edicts of Ashoka are a collection of 33 inscriptions on the Pillars of Ashoka, as well as boulders and cave walls, made by the Emperor Ashoka of the Mauryan dynasty during his reign from 269 BCE to 231 BCE. These inscriptions are dispersed throughout the areas of modern-day Bangladesh, India,...

. 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.

Early regional variants


The earliest Ashokan inscriptions are found across India—apart from the Kharosthi-writing northwest—and are highly uniform. By the late third century BCE regional variants had developed, due to differences in writing materials and to the structures of the languages being written. For example, Tamil-Brahmi
Tamil-Brahmi
Tamil-Brahmi, or Damili is an early phonetic script used to write Tamil characters. It is a variant of many Brahmi scripts used throughout South Asia, namely Ashokan Brahmi, Southern Brahmi, Bhattiprolu script and the Sri Lankan based Sinhala-Brahmi. It is known from surviving inscribed cave beds,...

 had a divergent system of vowel notation.

The earliest definite evidence of Brahmi script in South India
South India
South India is the area encompassing India's states of Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Kerala and Tamil Nadu as well as the union territories of Lakshadweep and Pondicherry, occupying 19.31% of India's area...

 comes from Bhattiprolu
Bhattiprolu
Bhattiprolu is a small village in Guntur District of Andhra Pradesh State in Southern India.-History:The original name of Bhattiprolu was Pratipalapura, a flourishing Buddhist town in the ancient Sala kingdom that predated Andhra Satavahanas. From available inscriptional evidence, King Kuberaka...

 in Andhra Pradesh
Andhra Pradesh
Andhra Pradesh , is one of the 28 states of India, situated on the southeastern coast of India. It is India's fourth largest state by area and fifth largest by population. Its capital and largest city by population is Hyderabad.The total GDP of Andhra Pradesh is $100 billion and is ranked third...

. The Bhattiprolu script
Bhattiprolu Script
The Bhattiprolu script is a variant of the Brahmi script which has been found in old inscriptions at Bhattiprolu, a small village in Guntur district, Andhra Pradesh, South India...

 was written on an urn containing Buddhist relics, apparently in Prakrit
Prakrit
Prakrit is the name for a group of Middle Indic, Indo-Aryan languages, derived from Old Indic dialects. The word itself has a flexible definition, being defined sometimes as, "original, natural, artless, normal, ordinary, usual", or "vernacular", in contrast to the literary and religious...

 and old Telugu
Telugu language
Telugu is a Central Dravidian language primarily spoken in the state of Andhra Pradesh, India, where it is an official language. It is also spoken in the neighbouring states of Chattisgarh, Karnataka, Maharashtra, Orissa and Tamil Nadu...

. 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
Telugu script
Telugu script, an abugida from the Brahmic family of scripts, is used to write the Telugu language, a language found in the South-Central Indian state of Andhra Pradesh as well as several other neighboring states. The Telugu script is derived from the Bhattiprolu script...

.

Characteristics




Brāhmī is usually written from left to right, as in the case of its descendants. However, a coin of the 4th century BCE has been found inscribed with Brāhmī running from right to left, as in Aramaic.

Brāhmī is an abugida
Abugida
An abugida , also called an alphasyllabary, is a segmental writing system in which consonant–vowel sequences are written as a unit: each unit is based on a consonant letter, and vowel notation is obligatory but secondary...

, meaning that each letter represents a consonant, while vowels are written with obligatory diacritic
Diacritic
A diacritic is a glyph added to a letter, or basic glyph. The term derives from the Greek διακριτικός . Diacritic is both an adjective and a noun, whereas diacritical is only an adjective. Some diacritical marks, such as the acute and grave are often called accents...

s. When no vowel is written, the vowel /a/ is understood. Special conjunct consonants are used to write consonant cluster
Consonant cluster
In linguistics, a consonant cluster is a group of consonants which have no intervening vowel. In English, for example, the groups and are consonant clusters in the word splits....

s such as /pr/ or /rv/. In modern Devanagari conjunct consonant are written left to right to join them as one composite character whereas in Brāhmī characters are joined vertically downwards.

Vowels following a consonant are written by diacritics, but initial vowels have dedicated letters. There are three vowels in Brāhmī, /a, i, u/; long vowels
Vowel length
In linguistics, vowel length is the perceived duration of a vowel sound. Often the chroneme, or the "longness", acts like a consonant, and may etymologically be one, such as in Australian English. While not distinctive in most dialects of English, vowel length is an important phonemic factor in...

 are derived from the letters for short vowels. However, there are only five vowel diacritics, as short /a/ is understood if no vowel is written.

Punctuation


Punctuation can be perceived as more of an exception than as a general rule in Asokan Brāhmī. 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 early Brāhmī period, the existence of punctuation marks is not very well shown. Each letter has been written independently with some space between words and edicts occasionally.

In the middle period, the system seems to be in progress. The use of a dash and a curved horizontal line is found. A 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.

Four basic forms of the punctuation marks can be cited as:
  • dash or horizontal bar
  • vertical bar
  • dot
  • circle

Descendants



Over the course of a millennium, Brāhmī 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. Alphabets of the Southern group spread with Hinduism and Buddhism into Southeast Asia
Southeast Asia
Southeast Asia, South-East Asia, South East Asia or Southeastern Asia is a subregion of Asia, consisting of the countries that are geographically south of China, east of India, west of New Guinea and north of Australia. The region lies on the intersection of geological plates, with heavy seismic...

, while the Northern group spread into Tibet
Tibet
Tibet is a plateau region in Asia, north-east of the Himalayas. It is the traditional homeland of the Tibetan people as well as some other ethnic groups such as Monpas, Qiang, and Lhobas, and is now also inhabited by considerable numbers of Han and Hui people...

. Today descendants of Brāhmī are used throughout India
India
India , officially the Republic of India , is a country in South Asia. It is the seventh-largest country by geographical area, the second-most populous country with over 1.2 billion people, and the most populous democracy in the world...

, Bangladesh
Bangladesh
Bangladesh , officially the People's Republic of Bangladesh is a sovereign state located in South Asia. It is bordered by India on all sides except for a small border with Burma to the far southeast and by the Bay of Bengal to the south...

, Sri Lanka
Sri Lanka
Sri Lanka, officially the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka is a country off the southern coast of the Indian subcontinent. Known until 1972 as Ceylon , Sri Lanka is an island surrounded by the Indian Ocean, the Gulf of Mannar and the Palk Strait, and lies in the vicinity of India and the...

, Nepal
Nepal
Nepal , officially the Federal Democratic Republic of Nepal, is a landlocked sovereign state located in South Asia. It is located in the Himalayas and bordered to the north by the People's Republic of China, and to the south, east, and west by the Republic of India...

, Bhutan
Bhutan
Bhutan , officially the Kingdom of Bhutan, is a landlocked state in South Asia, located at the eastern end of the Himalayas and bordered to the south, east and west by the Republic of India and to the north by the People's Republic of China...

, Tibet, Burma, Thailand
Thailand
Thailand , officially the Kingdom of Thailand , formerly known as Siam , is a country located at the centre of the Indochina peninsula and Southeast Asia. It is bordered to the north by Burma and Laos, to the east by Laos and Cambodia, to the south by the Gulf of Thailand and Malaysia, and to the...

, Laos
Laos
Laos Lao: ສາທາລະນະລັດ ປະຊາທິປະໄຕ ປະຊາຊົນລາວ Sathalanalat Paxathipatai Paxaxon Lao, officially the Lao People's Democratic Republic, is a landlocked country in Southeast Asia, bordered by Burma and China to the northwest, Vietnam to the east, Cambodia to the south and Thailand to the west...

, Cambodia
Cambodia
Cambodia , officially known as the Kingdom of Cambodia, is a country located in the southern portion of the Indochina Peninsula in Southeast Asia...

, and in scattered enclaves in Indonesia
Indonesia
Indonesia , officially the Republic of Indonesia , is a country in Southeast Asia and Oceania. Indonesia is an archipelago comprising approximately 13,000 islands. It has 33 provinces with over 238 million people, and is the world's fourth most populous country. Indonesia is a republic, with an...

, southern China, Vietnam
Vietnam
Vietnam – sometimes spelled Viet Nam , officially the Socialist Republic of Vietnam – is the easternmost country on the Indochina Peninsula in Southeast Asia. It is bordered by China to the north, Laos to the northwest, Cambodia to the southwest, and the South China Sea –...

, and the Philippines
Philippines
The Philippines , officially known as the Republic of the Philippines , is a country in Southeast Asia in the western Pacific Ocean. To its north across the Luzon Strait lies Taiwan. West across the South China Sea sits Vietnam...

. As the script of Buddhist scripture, Brahmic alphabets are used for religious purposes throughout China
China
Chinese civilization may refer to:* China for more general discussion of the country.* Chinese culture* Greater China, the transnational community of ethnic Chinese.* History of China* Sinosphere, the area historically affected by Chinese culture...

, Korea
Korea
Korea ) is an East Asian geographic region that is currently divided into two separate sovereign states — North Korea and South Korea. Located on the Korean Peninsula, Korea is bordered by the People's Republic of China to the northwest, Russia to the northeast, and is separated from Japan to the...

, Japan
Japan
Japan is an island nation in East Asia. Located in the Pacific Ocean, it lies to the east of the Sea of Japan, China, North Korea, South Korea and Russia, stretching from the Sea of Okhotsk in the north to the East China Sea and Taiwan in the south...

, and Vietnam
Vietnam
Vietnam – sometimes spelled Viet Nam , officially the Socialist Republic of Vietnam – is the easternmost country on the Indochina Peninsula in Southeast Asia. It is bordered by China to the north, Laos to the northwest, Cambodia to the southwest, and the South China Sea –...

.

Gary Ledyard has suggested that the basic letters of hangul
Hangul
Hangul,Pronounced or ; Korean: 한글 Hangeul/Han'gŭl or 조선글 Chosŏn'gŭl/Joseongeul the Korean alphabet, is the native alphabet of the Korean language. It is a separate script from Hanja, the logographic Chinese characters which are also sometimes used to write Korean...

 were taken from the Phagspa script
Phagspa script
The Phags-pa script was an alphabet designed by the Tibetan Lama 'Gro-mgon Chos-rgyal 'Phags-pa for Yuan emperor Kublai Khan, as a unified script for the literary languages of the Yuan Dynasty....

 of the Mongol Empire
Mongol Empire
The Mongol Empire , initially named as Greater Mongol State was a great empire during the 13th and 14th centuries...

, itself a derivative of the Brahmic Tibetan alphabet. Canadian Aboriginal syllabics
Canadian Aboriginal Syllabics
Canadian Aboriginal syllabic writing, or simply syllabics, is a family of abugidas used to write a number of Aboriginal Canadian languages of the Algonquian, Inuit, and Athabaskan language families....

 also show systematic similarity with principles and characters of Brāhmī.

Etymology and legend of Brahmi


The name Brahmi is said to have come from a Jain Legend. According to South Indian legend the Jain thirthankara (monk) Vrushabhadeva explained the script to his daughters, Brahmi and Soundhary. Therefore as a mark of this, the writing script is called Brahmi and the numerals are called Soundhary.

Unicode


Brāhmī was added to the Unicode
Unicode
Unicode is a computing industry standard for the consistent encoding, representation and handling of text expressed in most of the world's writing systems...

 Standard in October, 2010 with the release of version 6.0.

The Unicode block for Brāhmī is U+11000 ... U+1107F:

Further reading

  • Kenneth R. Norman, The Development of Writing in India and its Effect upon the Pâli Canon, in Wiener Zeitschrift für die Kunde Südasiens (36), 1993
  • Oscar von Hinüber, Der Beginn der Schrift und frühe Schriftlichkeit in Indien, Franz Steiner Verlag, 1990 (in German)
  • Gérard Fussman, Les premiers systèmes d'écriture en Inde, in Annuaire du Collège de France 1988–1989 (in French)
  • Siran Deraniyagala, The prehistory of Sri Lanka; an ecological perspective (revised ed.), Archaeological Survey Department of Sri Lanka, 1992.

External links