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In-Depth explanation of Devanagari Sound Modifiers अं अः हँ म्

So far, this Devanagari article seems most clear


However, I am looking for more in-depth explanation of Devanagari Sound Modifiers, i.e

अं - small dot on top

अः - two small dots on right

हँ - moon dot

म् - diagonal line

The article does a half-decent job ...... please guide

July 27, 2018



हँ - moon dot - adds nasal quality to the vowel, like in French "bon"

अं - small dot on top - sometimes adds nasal quality as in the above, other times it is a shorthand way of creating the letter N

अः - two small dots on right - It's not a symbol you need to worry about for Hindi. It's used in Sanskrit, i.e. it is part of the Devanagari writing system, but irrelevant to Hindi.

म् - diagonal line - it tells you not to pronounce a short /a/ vowel after the consonant. It's pretty irrelevant to Hindi because usually in Hindi, in similar context, you already drop the /a/ sound. It's relevant to Sanskrit where, by default, you don't drop the /a/ sound. Occasionally in Hindi it might be unclear whether the situation calls for dropping the /a/ sound, but it's rare. For example, in Hindi, कमज़ोर means "weak" and it's pronounced /kamzor/, NOT /kamazora/. With practice, you automatically know not to put /a/ after /m/ and /z/ because /kam/ and /zor/ are each syllables and /a/ is not included at the end of a syllable.


Thank you for this clarification. Especially mentioning some things are relevant to Sanskrit, rather than Hindi.

This deserves 2 Lingots!


In addition to what the other poster said, the 'diagonal line' does have a use that is relevant to Hindi - making consonant conjuncts. For instance, the conjunct of प and र (which is actually प-अ+र) is written as प्र because the usual way of writing this letter is not supported by most fonts.

As for the ं (small dot on top), I'll copy and paste my comment from another post:

The pronunciation of this diacritic comes with a lot of rules and many exceptions. So, I'll try to keep this simple. Of course, the best way to familiarise yourself with the pronunciation is just to listen to a lot of words.

Refer to this image of Devanagari consonants (http://rahulvats.info/blogs/media/blogs/sanskrit/sanskrit_cons.gif) Notice how the letters are arranged in a table such that the last consonant in the first five rows end has a nasal sound. Think of each row forming a family of letters. (You can forget about the very last letter because it is not used in Hindi and include 'ha' with the previous row).

Now, in cases where ं(anusvaar) appears in the middle of the word, the pronunciation is guided by the consonant that follows it. If that consonant belongs to the first five rows, pronounce it like the nasal consonant of that family. For example in हिंदी, the anusvaar is followed by द. Since the nasal in द's family is न, you would pronounce it with an 'n' sound. Similarly, in लंबा(tall), you would pronounce it with an 'm' sound because म is the nasal in ब's family. You will sometimes see the above two words written as हिन्दी and लम्बा to reflect the pronunciation.

It is a little more tricky if the consonant after the anusvaar belongs to the next two rows, but you can take it to indicate nasalisation of the vowel.

If the anusvaar is at the end of the word, it can either be pronounced with an 'm' sound or nasalisation depending on the word. In Hindi, in many instances where nasalisation is required, the ं is replaced with the ँ diacritic- the 'anunaasika' but they are sometimes used interchangably.


vinay92 ji,

I'm not sure what you mean here. Can you please clarify? "...the 'diagonal line' does have a use that is relevant to Hindi - making consonant conjuncts. For instance, the conjunct of प and र (which is actually प-अ+र) is written as प्र because the usual way of writing this letter is not supported by most fonts." So, प्र is not supported by a font and instead we write पर or what? Are you saying we should put the diagonal line under the प so we know that it runs directly into र? Can you think of some example where one would actually need to do that?

I learned about that diagonal line in the 1990s, before computer font stuff was an issue, and when I had a pandit teach me the handwriting of Devanagari, and I can barely remember ever seeing that diagonal line since then :)

Side notes: Arabic alphabet has a diacritical mark that serves the same function (called "sukūn"). Only beginners to the script use it, and you never see it after that, e.g. in Urdu.

Punjabi Gurmukhi, which works like Devanagari, doesn't worry about making these extra conjunct characters and symbols. The only problem is whether the family name is Garewal or Grewal :) (or Agarwal)


Conjuncts are consonant combinations. They are made by combining two consonants by removing the 'a' sound on the first. For instance, in क्या('what'), the letter क्य is made by combining क and य with the क not being pronounced with the obligatory a sound. As you saw in this example क्य has its own symbol but is completely equivalent to writing क् य with the use of the halant (though it's almost never done).

Now the usual way of writing the conjunct of some consonant + र is by drawing half of a forward slash starting from the middle of the letter(sorry I can't be more descriptive). So, in prem(love), the first letter would be written प with a slash starting where the curve meets the line. But this is equivalent to प्र and that is the preferred form for typing (which makes the word प्रेम ). Similar arrangements are made for conjuncts involving ढ and ड which are traditionally written vertically.

You're right that modern Punjabi does away with most conjuncts except when transliterating into Gurmukhi from another Indian language.


I know what conjunct consonants are and I know what halant is. What I was asking about was what you were saying about halant's relevance to Hindi. I said it was "pretty irrelevant" and then you said it does have relevance and gave the प्र example. I am asking what would one actually do with halant that you think the learner of Hindi would encounter. Are you saying that someone wants to write प्रेम but they don't have the right keyboard, so they write परेम (but with halant under the P - sorry I don't know how to type it)?

I'm not convinced that I should upgrade my rating of "pretty irrelevant" 8-)


Yes. That is what I'm saying. Making certain conjuncts with the use of the halant rather than the standard way is increasingly becoming common, both in typography and handwritten Hindi.

(By the way, sorry for what must have seemed a condescending reply above. I didn't want to assume your level of Hindi)


That's really interesting! I wasn't aware of this increasingly common trend-- thanks! I'd be interested to see some examples at some point.

It's interesting, too, that some Devanagari writers feel the need to use halant. Urdu پریم And Gurmukhi Punjabi ਪਰੇਮ have no issue with this...


Thank you for this in-depth explanation.

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