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An illustration of how vowel diacritics work in Devanagari

Syllabic alphabets

Syllabic alphabets, alphasyllabaries or 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.

When two or more consonants occur together, special conjunct symbols are often 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

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