Syloti-Nagri alphabet    Syloti-Nagri

The Syloti-Nagri alphabet is related to the Kaithi alphabet of Bihar. The exact origins of the alphabet are unknown and the earliest surviving manuscripts dates from either 1549 or 1774 (the date is given within the manuscript though the text is not clear at that point).

The traditionally story of the origin of the Syloti-Nagri alphabet is that it was developed around the beginning of the 14th century by Saint Shahjalal and his 360 saintly companions, most of whom were Arabic speakers. Other scripts used at the time were deemed unsuitable for the Sylheti language.

In the late 17th century, Persian became the official language of the Delhi Sultanate and the Perso-Arabic script was used in all official documents. The Sylheti language and alphabet continued to be used by the ordinary people for everyday matters.

In the 1860s, a Sylheti by the name of Moulvi Abdul Karim spent several years in Europe and learnt the printing trade. After returning home, he designed a woodblock type for the Syloti-Nagri alphabet and founded the Islamia Press in Sylhet Town in about 1870. Other Sylheti presses were established in Sunamgonj, Shillong and Calcutta. These presses fell out of use during the early 1970s. Since then the Syloti-Nagri alphabet has been used mainly by linguists and academics.

Notable features

  • The alphabet is written in horizontal lines from left to right, but Sylheti books are paginated from right to left. This means that the front cover of a Sylhettan book is where the back cover of an English book would be.
  • This is a syllabic alphabet in which consonants all have an inherent vowel. Other vowels are indicated with diacritics or separate letters. The inherent vowel can be muted with a special diacritic called a hasanta.
  • Vowels can be written as independent letters, or by using a variety of diacritical marks which are written above, below, before or after the consonant they belong to.
  • When consonants occur together in clusters, special conjunct letters are used. The letters for the consonants other than the final one in the group are reduced. The inherent vowel only applies to the final consonant.

Used to write:

Sylheti, an eastern Indo-Aryan language spoken by around 10 million in the Sylhet region of Bangladesh and in parts of India. Sylheti is closely related to Bengali (Bangla) and most speakers are bilingual in Sylheti and Bengali.

Syloti-Nagri vowels and diacritics


  • The dvisvara sign can attach to consonants to form the diphthong /oi/ with the inherent vowel, or it can also combine with dependent or independent vowels to form other diphthongs. Those diphthongs can also be written with the independent vowel i.

Syloti-Nagri consonants

Bengali alphabet for Sylheti

Bengali alphabet for Sylheti

Latin alphabet for Sylheti

Latin alphabet for Sylheti

Information about the Sylheti scripts and pronunciation compiled or corrected by Wolfram Siegel


Information about Syloti-Nagri alphabet

Syloti-Nagri fonts

Sylheti Translation and Research - a London-based research organisation dedicated to studying the folk literature of the Sylhet region of Bangladesh:

Sylhet Nagri Texts Documentation Archive

Bengali and Sylheti Language Services

Indo-Aryan languages

Awadhi, Assamese, Bengali, Bhojpuri, Chakma, Dhivehi, Gujarati, Hindi, Kashmiri, Konkani, Kotia, Kutchi, Maithili, Marathi, Marwari, Modi, Nepali, Oriya, Punjabi, Rajasthani, Romany, Saraiki, Sindhi, Sinhala, Sourashtra, Sugali, Sylheti, Urdu

Languages written with the Bengali alphabet

Bengali, Garo, Manipuri, Mundari, Sylheti

Also used to write: Bishnupriya, Bodo, Chakma, Chiru, Koda, Nisi, Deori, Dimasa, Hajong, Koch, Khasi, Kudmali, Tiwa, Sauria Paharia, Miri, Chothe Naga, Thangal Naga, Moyon Naga, Maring Naga, Rabha, Rangpuri, Santali, Sadri, Oraon Sadri, Sulung, Panchpargania, Tippera, Kok Borok, Toto and Usui.

Syllabic alphabets / abugidas

Ahom, Badaga, Balinese, Batak, Baybayin (Tagalog), Bengali, Brahmi, Buhid, Burmese, Chakma, Cham, Dehong Dai, Devanagari, Dives Akuru, Ethiopic, Evēla Akuru, Fraser, Gondi, Grantha, Gujarati, Gupta, Gurmukhi, Hanuno'o, Javanese, Jenticha, Kaithi, Kannada, Kharosthi, Khmer, Khojki, Kulitan, Lanna, Lao, Lepcha, Limbu, Lontara/Makasar, Malayalam, Manpuri, Modi, Mongolian Horizontal Square Script, Mro, New Tai Lue, Oriya, Pahawh Hmong, Pallava, Phags-pa, Ranjana, Redjang, Shan, Sharda, Siddham, Sindhi, Sinhala, Sorang Sompeng, Sourashtra, Soyombo, Sundanese, Syloti Nagri, Tagbanwa, Takri, Tamil, Telugu, Thai, Tibetan, Tigalari (Tulu), Tikamuli, Tocharian, Tolong Siki, Varang Kshiti