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Kharoṣṭhī script

Subject Linguistics

DOI: 10.1111/b.9780631214816.1999.x


The beginning of Indian writing proper is usually associated with the aśoka edicts issued in the mid third century bce . These were redacted in two scripts, Brāhmī, the parent script of all modern Indian scripts, and Kharoṣṭhī, which remained without descendants. The Kharoṣṭhī script, which is also known as ‘Indo-Bactric’, was widely used in north-west India and Central Asia from the time of Aśoka until the fourth century ce ( figure 8 ). Although nothing is known about its origin, it is generally thought to be derived from the Aramaic script. Its direction from right to left as well as similarities with Aramaic letter forms support this assumption, and since at the time Aramaic was the most important ad-ministrative language from Syria to Afghanistan, it seems likely that the northern Indian empire borrowed the Aramaic script ( table 12 ). Figure 8 Kharoṣṭhī inscription on wood, third century ce (National Museum, New Delhi) If the assumption of Aramaic origin is correct, the typological differences between the two systems are yet to be explained. Aramaic, like all Semitic scripts, is a consonant script, while Kharoṣṭhī is a syllabic alphabet. The basic C letters have an inherent V a and are modified with diacritic satellites for other Vs ( table 13 ). It has been hypothesized that this kind of V indication may have originated from the Semitic practice of optional ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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