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Sylheti (ꠍꠤꠟꠐꠤ / • ছিলটী)

Sylheti is an eastern Indo-Aryan language spoken mainly in the Sylhet ( ꠍꠤꠟꠐ / সিলেট) region of Bangladesh, and the neighbouring Barak Valley in the Indian state of Assam. There are also speakers of Sylheti in the Indian states of Meghalaya, Tripura and Manipur, as well as in the USA and UK. In 2007 there were about 11 million speakers of Sylheti.

Sylheti at a glance

  • Native name: ꠍꠤꠟꠐꠤ / ছিলটি / Silôṭi
  • Linguistic affliation: Indo-European, Indo-Iranian, Indo-Aryan, Eastern, Bengali-Assamese
  • Number of speakers: c. 11 million (2007)
  • Spoken in: Bangladesh, India, UK, USA
  • First written: 16th century
  • Writing systems: Syloti-Nagri, Eastern Nagari and Latin alphabets

Sylheti is closely related to Bengali, and most speakers are bilingual in Sylheti and Bengali. It is also related to Assamese.

Written Sylheti

Sylheti has first written with the Syloti-Nagri alphabet, possibly in the 16th century. It is also written with the Eastern Nagari and Latin alphabets.

Syloti-Nagri alphabet for Sylheti

ꠍꠤꠟꠐꠤ (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

Syloti-Nagri alphabet for Sylheti


Eastern Nagari alphabet for Sylheti

Eastern Nagari alphabet for Sylheti

Latin alphabet for Sylheti

Latin alphabet for Sylheti

Download alphabet charts for Sylheti (Excel)

Sample text (Sylheti Nagari script)

ꠡꠛ ꠝꠣꠁꠘꠡꠞ ꠀꠎꠣꠖꠤ ꠎꠘꠝ ꠅꠄ ꠁꠎꠎꠔ ꠀꠞ ꠢꠇ ꠟꠂꠀ। ꠔꠣꠞꠣꠞ ꠢꠥꠡ ꠀꠞ ꠀꠇꠟ-ꠛꠥꠖꠗꠤ ꠀꠍꠦ ꠀꠞ ꠔꠣꠞꠣ ꠄꠇꠎꠘ ꠀꠞꠇꠎꠘꠞ ꠟꠉꠦ ꠞꠥꠢꠣꠘꠤ ꠜꠣꠁꠐ꠆ꠐꠣ ꠛꠦꠛꠢꠣꠞ ꠕꠣꠇꠔ।

Sample text (Eastern Nagari script)

শব মাইনশর আজাদি জনম ওএ ইজ্জত আর হক লৈআ। তারার হুশ আর আকল-বুদ্ধি আছে আর তারা একজন আরকজনর লগে রুহানি ভাইট্টা বেবহার থাকত।

Sample text (Latin alphabet)

Shob mainshor azadi zonmo oe izzot ar hox loia. Tarar hush ar axol-buddi ase ar tara exzon aroxzonor loge ruhani baitta bebohar taxto.

A recording of this text by Fakhar Uddin Chaudhury


All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.
(Article 1 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights)

Information about the Sylheti scripts and pronunciation compiled or corrected by Wolfram Siegel. Sample texts provided by Abu Saleh Mohammad Sultan.

Information about Sylheti | Numbers | Tower of Babel


Information about Syloti-Nagri alphabet and the Sylheti language

Syloti-Nagri fonts

Sylheti Translation and Research - a London-based research organisation dedicated to studying the folk literature of the Sylhet region of Bangladesh: http://www.sylheti.org.uk

Sylhet Nagri Texts Documentation Archive

Bengali and Sylheti Language Services

Indo-Aryan languages

Awadhi, Assamese, Bengali, Bhojpuri, Chakma, Dhivehi, Domari, Fiji Hindi, Garhwali, Gujarati, Hajong, Hindi, Kashmiri, Konkani, Kotia, Kutchi, Magahi, Maithili, Marathi, Marwari, Modi, Nepali, Odia, Palula, Punjabi, Rajasthani, Rohingya, Romani, Saraiki, Sarnámi Hindustani, Sindhi, Sinhala, Shina, Sourashtra, Sugali, Sylheti, Torwali, Urdu

Languages written with the Eastern Nagari (Bengali) alphabet

Also used to write: Bishnupriya, Bodo, Chakma, Chiru, Koda, Nisi, Deori, Dimasa, 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

If you need to type in many different languages, the Q International Keyboard can help. It enables you to type almost any language that uses the Latin, Cyrillic or Greek alphabets, and is free.

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