Virama (Sanskrit: विराम/हलन्त, romanized: virāma/halanta ्) is a Sanskrit phonological concept to suppress the inherent vowel that otherwise occurs with every consonant letter, commonly used as a generic term for a codepoint in Unicode, representing either
Unicode schemes of scripts writing Mainland Southeast Asia languages, such as that of Burmese script and of Tibetan script, generally don't group the two functions together.
The name is Sanskrit for "cessation, termination, end". As a Sanskrit word, it is used in place of several language-specific terms, such as:
|Name in English books||Language||In native language||Form||Notes|
|Assamese||হসন্ত, hoxonto / হছন্ত, hosonto||্|
|Sylheti||ꠢꠡꠘ꠆ꠔꠧ, ośonto||◌ ꠆|
|chandrakkala||Malayalam||ചന്ദ്രക്കല, candrakkala / വിരാമം, viraamam||്|
|hal kirima||Sinhalese||හල් කිරිම, hal kirīma||්|
|a that||Burmese||အသတ်, a.sat, IPA: [ʔa̰θaʔ]||်||lit. "nonexistence"|
|karan, thanthakhat||Thai||การันต์, kārạnt / ทัณฑฆาต, thanthakhat||◌์||While thanthakhat is the name of symbol and karan is the character that was marked. In modern day it being used interchangeably. It was being used to mark a silent character that was pronounced in original language but become silenced in Thai pronunciation (mostly from Sanskrit and old Khmer). Modern usage also used as a marked for final consonant blend in European language (ex: want as วอนท์)|
|pinthu||พินทุ, pinthu||◌ฺ||pinthu is akin to Sanskrit bindu, and means "point" or "dot". Use to mark a closed syllable only when writing pali/sanskrit script in Thai|
|nikkhahit||นฤคหิต / นิคหิต||◌ํ||nikkhahit is originally anusvāra in Sanskrit. Also only used to write pali/sanskrit script in Thai. To mark an end of last or single syllable with nasal closed consonant|
|rahaam||Northern Thai (Lanna)||ᩁᩉ᩶ᩣ᩠ᨾ, rahaam||◌᩺|
|Balinese||ᬧᬂᬓᭀᬦ᭄, pangkon||◌᭄||Also called adeg-adeg|
|sukun||Dhivehi||Dhivehi: ސުކުން, sukun||ް◌||Derives from Arabic "sukun"|
|Srog med||Tibetan||Srog med||྄||Only used when transcribing Sanskrit|
In Devanagari and many other Indic scripts, a virama is used to cancel the inherent vowel of a consonant letter and represent a consonant without a vowel, a "dead" consonant. For example, in Devanagari,
If this k क् is further followed by another consonant letter, for example, ṣa ष, the result might look like क्ष, which represents kṣa as ka + (visible) virāma + ṣa. In this case, two elements k क् and ṣa ष are simply placed one by one, side by side. Alternatively, kṣa can be also written as a ligature क्ष, which is actually the preferred form. Generally, when a dead consonant letter C1 and another consonant letter C2 are conjoined, the result may be:
If the result is fully or half-conjoined, the (conceptual) virama which made C1 dead becomes invisible, logically existing only in a character encoding scheme such as ISCII or Unicode. If the result is not ligated, a virama is visible, attached to C1, actually written.
Basically, those differences are only glyph variants, and three forms are semantically identical. Although there may be a preferred form for a given consonant cluster in each language and some scripts do not have some kind of ligatures or half forms at all, it is generally acceptable to use a nonligature form instead of a ligature form even when the latter is preferred if the font does not have a glyph for the ligature. In some other cases, whether to use a ligature or not is just a matter of taste.
The virāma in the sequence C1 + virāma + C2 may thus work as an invisible control character to ligate C1 and C2 in Unicode. For example,
is a fully conjoined ligature. It is also possible that the virāma does not ligate C1 and C2, leaving the full forms of C1 and C2 as they are:
is an example of such a non-ligated form.
The sequences ङ्क ङ्ख ङ्ग ङ्घ [ṅka ṅkha ṅɡa ṅɡha], in common Sanskrit orthography, should be written as conjuncts (the virāma and the top cross line of the second letter disappear, and what is left of the second letter is written under the ङ and joined to it).
The inherent vowel is not always pronounced, in particular at the end of a word (schwa deletion). No virāma is used for vowel suppression in such cases. Instead, the orthography is based on Sanskrit where all inherent vowels are pronounced, and leaves to the reader of modern languages to delete the schwa when appropriate.
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