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Example Abugida: Genesis text in Ethiopian script and language

The term Abugida (from ancient Ethiopian አቡጊዳ abugida , from the first four letters of the Amharic alphabet) or alphasyllabar describes a certain type of letter writing ( alphabet ) in which the letters are not arranged strictly according to the spoken order, but are grouped segmentally according to syllables, which is why they are sometimes mistakenly called syllabary .

This writing principle is characteristic of the Indian scripts and the Ethiopian script .

Inherent vowel

Example in the Devanagari script

  • K = / ka / =Devnag ka.png
  • Ki = / ki / =Devnag ki.png
  • K * = / k / = Devnag k.png(with halant Devnag halant.png under the sign)
  • K * M = / kma / =Devnag kma.png
  • İK = / ika / =Devnag ika.png
  • İK * = / ik / =Devnag ik.png
  • İKi = / iki / =Devnag iki.png
  • Etc.

In Abugidas, a group of characters the size of a syllable forms a graphic unit, but the syllable representation is composed of smaller segments. Each consonant has an inherent vowel that can be modified using various diacritical vowel marks. In the Indian Devanagari script, the क symbol stands for the syllable ka . The syllable के ke can be represented by adding a vowel mark .

Vowel sign
The dependent vowel sign cannot stand alone, but forms a fixed unit together with the consonant sign. The basic syllable ल la becomes ला , लि li , ली , लु lu , लू , ले le , लै lai , लो lo and लौ lau through the vowel signs .

ला लि ली लु लू ले लै लो लौ
la left lu le lai lo lukewarm

The resulting units generally do not match the spoken syllables.

In Abugidas, which are derived from the Indian scripts, initial vowels have a different form than when they are appended to consonants.

Position of the diacritical marks in Brahmi Abugidas
position syllable pronunciation Basic form font
above के / keː / / k (a) / Devanagari
below कु / ku /
Left कि / ki /
right को / koː /
around கௌ / chew / / ka / Tamil
surround កៀ / kie / / kɑɑ / Khmer
within ಕಿ / ki / / ka / Kannada


The term Abugida was coined by the linguist Peter T. Daniels and stands in contrast to the term Abdschad , a writing system without vowels. Analogous to the word alphabet, the name is derived from the first four letters of the Ethiopian script in the classical order. The term alphasyllabary is also common in English .

Atypical Abugida

An atypical Abugida is the Cree script developed at the beginning of the 19th century , in which the vowels are not represented by added sign elements, but by the orientation of the consonant sign.

i pi ti
a O   pa po   ta to
e   pe   te


  • Florian Coulmas (Ed.): The Blackwell Encyclopedia of Writing Systems . Blackwell Publishers, 1999, ISBN 0-631-21481-X
  • Peter T. Daniels (Ed.), William Bright (Ed.): The World's Writing Systems. Oxford University Press, Oxford 1996, ISBN 0-19-507993-0
  • Akira Nakanishi: Writing Systems of the World: Alphabets, Syllabaries, Pictograms . Tuttle Publishing, 1989, ISBN 978-0-8048-1654-0
  • Henry Rogers: Writing Systems: A Linguistic Approach (Blackwell Textbooks in Linguistics). Wiley-Blackwell, 2004, ISBN 978-0-631-23464-7
  • Hindi - Devanagari script . In: Fischer Lexicon Languages . 1972, ISBN 3-436-01177-0 , p. 157 f.
  • Elvira Friedrich: Introduction to the Indian Scriptures 1: Devanagari . Buske, Hamburg 1993, ISBN 978-3-87548-462-5
  • Jutta M Zimmermann: Sanskrit - Devanagari. The script from the city of the gods. A textbook for beginners - Volume I . Raja, 2012, ISBN 978-3-936684-06-3
  • Wolfgang-Ekkehard Scharlipp, Dieter Back: Introduction to the Tibetan script . Buske, Hamburg 1995, ISBN 978-3-87548-114-3

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