Devanagari

Updated 19-Jul-2017 • tags devanagari, scriptnotes

This page provides basic information about the Devanagari script. For similar information related to other scripts, see Script comparison table.

Click on the orange text in the features list (right column) to see examples and notes. Click on red text examples to see the characters. Click on the vertical blue bar, bottom right, to change font settings.

For more details see: Character notes Script links

Sample (hindi)

अनुच्छेद १. सभी मनुष्यों को गौरव और अधिकारों के मामले में जन्मजात स्वतन्त्रता और समानता प्राप्त है । उन्हें बुद्धि और अन्तरात्मा की देन प्राप्त है और परस्पर उन्हें भाईचारे के भाव से बर्ताव करना चाहिए ।

अनुच्छेद २. सभी को इस घोषणा में सन्निहित सभी अधिकारों और आज़ादियों को प्राप्त करने का हक़ है और इस मामले में जाति, वर्ण, लिंग, भाषा, धर्म, राजनीति या अन्य विचार-प्रणाली, किसी देश या समाज विशेष में जन्म, सम्पत्ति या किसी प्रकार की अन्य मर्यादा आदि के कारण भेदभाव का विचार न किया जाएगा । इसके अतिरिक्त, चाहे कोई देश या प्रदेश स्वतन्त्र हो, संरक्षित हो, या स्त्रशासन रहित हो या परिमित प्रभुसत्ता वाला हो, उस देश या प्रदेश की राजनैतिक, क्षेत्रीय या अन्तर्राष्ट्रीय स्थिति के आधार पर वहां के निवासियों के प्रति कोई फ़रक़ न रखा जाएगा ।

Key features

Devanagari is an abugida. Consonant letters have an inherent vowel sound. Combining vowel-signs are attached to the consonant to produce a different vowel.

Actually, devanagari is based on orthographic syllables, so the vowel-sign is actually attached to the syllable. An orthographic syllable includes clusters of consonants without intervening vowel sounds. These clusters are typically represented as partially merged forms, called conjuncts.

Text is normally written horizontally, left to right.

For more information see ScriptSource, Wikipedia or Omniglot.

Combining characters

The main devanagari block has a fairly large number of combining characters (52 out of 158). All but six of those are vowel-signs. The remainder are 2 candrabindus, anusvara, visarga, nukta and virama.

The latter regularly combine with a vowel-sign attached to the same consonant or consonant cluster. The example below shows two combining characters that are positioned above the base character in a very common form of the verb 'to be'. One is [U+0948 DEVANAGARI VOWEL SIGN AI​], and the other the nasalisation mark [U+0902 DEVANAGARI SIGN ANUSVARA​].

हैं  

In the following the image to the left shows the normal position of [U+0942 DEVANAGARI VOWEL SIGN UU​], beneath the first letter. The example on the right shows that character displayed higher up and to the right when combined with the base character [U+0930 DEVANAGARI LETTER RA].

पूजा    vs.    परू

Context-based glyph changes

Context-based shaping

The shape of a character when displayed can vary, often dramatically, according to the context.

One very common example in most indic scripts is the handling of 'conjunct consonants', ie. groups of consonants with no intervening vowel sounds. Since consonants in indic scripts have an inherent vowel sound, when two consonants are combined this way you have to indicate that the vowel of the initial consonant is suppressed. This is normally done by altering the shape of the first consonant, or merging the shape of the two consonants.

To tell the font to do this, in Unicode you add  ् [U+094D DEVANAGARI SIGN VIRAMA​] between the two consonants. This produces the change in the shapes of the glyphs that indicates to the reader that this is a conjunct. The actual outcome is font dependent. For the word below which contains a conjunct of two [U+0932 DEVANAGARI LETTER LA] characters (making a long L sound) you may see a 'half-form' used for the first LA (shown on the left) or you may see (as shown on the right) a ligated form.

 vs.

There are other types of context-based shaping, which are font specific. One is shown below. The width of the glyph for  ि [U+093F DEVANAGARI VOWEL SIGN I​] differs according to the base character to which it is attached.

 vs.

Context-based positioning

Combining characters need to be placed in different positions, according to the context.

The example on the left below displays the dot (anusvara) immediately over the long vertical stroke. The example to the right has moved the dot slightly to the right in order to accomodate the vowel sign.

अंधे    vs.    में

In the following the image to the left shows the normal position of  ू [U+0942 DEVANAGARI VOWEL SIGN UU​], beneath the first letter. The example on the right shows that character displayed higher up and to the right when combined with the base character [U+0930 DEVANAGARI LETTER RA].

पूजा    vs.    परू

Punctuation

Devanagari uses standard Latin punctuation, but also has its own version of a full stop, [U+0964 DEVANAGARI DANDA], which can be seen in the sample text above. (Although an ASCII full stop is also seen after the lead-in text for each article.)

चाहिए ।

For boundaries of text above the sentence level there is [U+0965 DEVANAGARI DOUBLE DANDA].

Both of these characters (using the same code point) are used in a number of other indic scripts.

Digits

Devanagari has a set of digits, that can be referred to as 'hindi' numerals. They are used regularly.

०१२३४५६७८९

An interesting feature of large numbers written in India is that they apply groupings of two, rather than three, digits between commas (even when using european digits). For example, two million would be written:

20,00,000

Text layout

Justification

Justification is done, principally, by adjusting the space between words. (I have no information about whether high-end systems also adjust inter-character spacing slightly if inter-word doesn't resolve the issue, or to improve aesthetics.)

Use the control below to see how your browser justifies the text sample here.

क़ानून की निग़ाह में सभी समान हैं और सभी बिना भेदभाव के समान क़ानूनी सुरक्षा के अधिकारी हैं । यदि इस घोषणा का अतिक्रमण करके कोई भी भेद-भाव किया जाया उस प्रकार के भेद-भाव को किसी प्रकार से उकसाया जाया, तो उसके विरुद्ध समान संरक्षण का अधिकार सभी को प्राप्त है ।

Character lists by language

The Devanagari script characters in Unicode 10.0 are contained in 2 blocks (not counting shared characters, such as punctuation):

The following is an incomplete list of languages and the number of characters they use, per version 31 of CLDR's lists of characters (exemplarCharacters).

Click on the links to see a list of characters with names.

Hindi

Main ॐ अ आ इ ई उ ऊ ऋ ऌ ऍ ए ऐ ऑ ओ औ क ख ग घ ङ च छ ज झ ञ ट ठ ड ढ ण त थ द ध न प फ ब भ म य र ल ळ व श ष स ह ऽ 50
Auxiliary ‌ ‍ 2
Combining characters ़ ँ ं ः ा ि ी ु ू ृ ॄ ॅ े ै ॉ ो ौ ् 18
Punctuation - , ; : ! ? . ‘ ’ “ ” ( ) [ ] { } ॰ 18
First published 11 Jul 2017. This version 2017-07-19 21:33 GMT.  •  Raise an issue.  •  Copyright r12a. Licence CC-By.