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Anusvara (Dev: अनुस्वार anusvāra) is the diacritic used to mark a type of nasalization used in a number of Indic languages. Depending on the location of the anusvara in the word and the language within which it is used, its exact pronunciation can vary greatly.

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Devanagari script

In the Devanagari script, anusvara is represented with a dot above the letter (मं). In IAST, it is written below the character (). Some transcriptions render notation of phonetic variants used in some Vedic shakhas with variant transcription ().

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Sanskrit

In Sanskrit, nasalization of a preceding vowel is an allophone of /m/n/ before a following consonant (either word-internally or across a word boundary); /m/ is pronounced as [m] only before vowels or in pausa. In the Devanagari script, this nasalization is expressed by the anusvara diacritic dot above the preceding letter, called bindu ("dot"). The nasalization can be realized either as a nasal stop homorganic (i.e. sharing the same place of articulation) to the following consonant (e.g. [ɳ] before retroflex sounds, [ŋ] before velar sounds, etc.), or as [m] when word-final.

Hindi

In Hindi, it is pronounced as a nasal stop homorganic to the following consonant or as a nasalization of the preceding vowel when no consonant follows. It has merged in pronunciation with the chandrabindu diacritic in Hindi, the two being used in complementary distribution depending on the character over which they are placed.

Nepali

In Nepali, chandrabindu and anusvara have the same pronunciation similarly to Hindi. However, as Nepali spelling usage is largely unstandardised, there is a great deal of variation regarding which occurs in any given position. So many words containing anusvara have alternative spellings with chandrabindu instead of anusvara and vice versa.

Other Indic script languages

Anusvara is used in other languages using Indic scripts as well, usually to represent suprasegmental phones (such as phonation type or nasalization), or for other nasal sounds.

Bengali

In the Bengali script, the anusvara diacritic (অনুস্বার onushshar in Bengali) is written as a circle above a slanted line (), and represents the voiced velar nasal /ŋ/. It is used in the name of the Bengali language বাংলা [baŋla]. It has merged in pronunciation with the letter ungô in Bengali. Although the anusvara is a consonant in Bengali phonology, it is nevertheless treated in the written system as a diacritic in that it is always directly adjacent to the preceding consonant, even when spacing consonants apart in titles or banners (e.g. বাং-লা-দে-শ bang-la-de-sh, not বা-ং-লা-দে-শ ba-ng-la-de-sh for বাংলাদেশ Bangladesh), it is never pronounced with the inherent vowel "ô", and it cannot take a vowel sign (instead, the consonant ungô is used pre-vocalically).

Burmese

In the Burmese script, the anusvara is represented as a dot underneath a nasalised final to indicate a creaky tone (with a shortened vowel).

Sinhala

In the Sinhala script, the anusvara is not a diacritic but an independent grapheme. It has circular shape (ං) and resembles a Latin <o> or a <0>, which is why it is called binduva in Sinhala, which means ´ zero´. The anusvara represents the voiced velar nasal /ŋ/ at the end of a syllable. It is used in the name of the Sinhala language සිංහල. It has merged in pronunciation with the letter ඞ ṅa in Sinhala.

Anunaasika

Anunaasika (anunāsika) is a form of vowel nasalization, often represented by an anusvara. It is a form of open mouthed nasalization akin to the nasalization of vowels followed by "n" or "m" in Parisian French. When "n" or "m" follow a vowel, the "n" or "m" becomes silent and causes the preceding vowel to become nasal (i.e. pronounced with the soft palate extended downward so as to allow part or all of the air to leave through the nostrils). Anunaasika is sometimes called a subdot because of its IAST representation.

In Sanskrit and related orthographies it is represented as an anusvara, a dot on top of the breve above the letter (example: मँ ). When transliterated using IAST, it is represented by a consonant (usually "m") with a dot below (examples: ṃ ṇ) even though only the preceding vowel may be voiced.

In Burmese, the anunaasika () creates a nasalised final, when attached as a dot above a letter. The anunaasika primarily occurs in loan words.

See also


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