Indic writing systems


Indic writing systems
Set of several dozen scripts used now or in the past to write many South and Southeast Asian languages.

Aside from the Kharoshthi (Kharosthi) script, used с 4th century BC–3rd century AD, all extant writing of the region descends from the Brahmi script, first attested in the Middle Indo-Aryan rock inscriptions of Ashoka (3rd century BC). In the first six centuries after Ashoka, Brahmi appears to have diversified into northern and southern variants. The northern types gave rise to the so-called Gupta scripts (4th–5th centuries), which are ultimately the progenitors of the Devanagari script (now used to write Sanskrit, Hindi, Marathi, and Nepali), the Bengali and Oriya scripts, and Gurmukhi, the script of the Sikh scriptures, used also for modern Punjabi in India. The southern types gave rise to the Sinhalese, Telugu, and Kannada scripts on the one hand, and to the Pallava script on the other. The latter formed the basis of numerous other scripts, including those of the Tamil and Malayalam languages, a host of Southeast Asian scripts (e.g., those used to write Mon, Burmese, Khmer, Thai, and Lao), and a number of Austronesian languages.

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      those that include the syllabic Kharoṣṭhī and semialphabetic Brāhmī scripts of ancient India. No systems of writing subsequently developed from the Kharoṣṭhī script. Brāhmī, however, is thought to be the forerunner of all of the scripts used for writing the languages of India, Tibet, Southeast Asia, and Indonesia (exceptions include those areas in which native writing systems have been replaced by the Latin or Arabic alphabet or by Chinese).

      A northern form of Brāhmī developed into the Gupta (Gupta script) scripts, from which derived the Tibetan and Khotanese systems. (Khotanese was also influenced by the Kharoṣṭhī script.) From the Tibetan script were derived the writing system of the Lepchā (Rong)—the aboriginal inhabitants of Sikkim, India—and the Passepa writing system of the Chinese Imperial chancery under the Yüan dynasty (1279–1368); the Passepa system is no longer in use.

      A southern form of Brāhmī developed into the Grantha (Grantha alphabet) alphabet, from which in turn the writing systems of the Dravidian (Dravidian languages) languages of southern India (e.g., Tamil, Malayalam, Telugu, and Kannada) as well as the writing systems of the Sinhalese language of Ceylon, the Khmer and Mon languages of Southeast Asia, and the Kavi, or Old Javanese, system of Indonesia were developed. The Thai writing system is thought by scholars to be derived from that of the Khmer (Khmer language), the Burmese and Lao systems from that of Mon (Mon language), and the Buginese and Batak systems of Indonesia from that of Kavi. The scripts used by speakers of the Tai dialects other than Shan and Lao are derived from the Burmese writing system. The ancient Cham inscriptions of the Austronesian (Malayo-Polynesian) speakers who formerly inhabited southern Vietnam are also written in a script of South Indic origin. See also Brāhmī; Grantha alphabet; Gupta script; Kharoṣṭhī.

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Universalium. 2010.

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