An illustration of how vowel diacritics work in Devanagari

Abugidas / Syllabic alphabets

Abugidas consist of symbols for consonants and vowels. The consonants each have an inherent vowel which can be changed to another vowel or muted by means of diacritics or other modifications. Vowels can also be written with separate letters when they occur at the beginning of a word or on their own. Abugidas are also known as syllabic alphabets or alphasyllabaries.

When two or more consonants occur together without vowels between them, special conjunct symbols may be used which add the essential parts of first letter or letters in the sequence to the final letter.

The illustration on the right shows how some of the vowel diacritics (in red) are used in the Devanagari alphabet, and also shows a number of conjunct consonants.

Please note

transcriptions in the International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA) are used extensively throughout this website. The IPA transcriptions are the letters and other symbols which appear in square bracketts, like this [b], [p]. etc.

You can learn about the IPA and phonetics at

Writing systems: Abjads | Alphabets | Abugidas | Syllabaries | Semanto-phonetic scripts | Undeciphered scripts | Alternative scripts | Constructed scripts | Fictional scripts | Magical scripts | Index (A-Z) | Index (by direction) | Index (by language) | Index (by continent) | What is writing? | Types of writing system | Differences between writing and speech | Language and Writing Statistics | Languages

Page last modified: 21.05.24


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