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Pet Sins January 2009

The Indian-derived writing systems of Southeast Asia, Bhutan and Tibet

The influence of India on non-Indic civilizations can be seen in the alphabets of the non-Indic peoples that came under Indian influence (writing systems are independant of a language's linguistic family). For example, Tibetan, which belongs to the Sino-Tibetan language family, uses a script derived from the Northern Brahmic script family of India.1 The Tibetan script is also used by the Bhutanese language, Dzongkha, another member of the Sino-Tibetan family.2 (Chinese, yet another member of the Sino-Tibetan family, uses an unrelated script.)

Burmese, Thai, Laotian and Khmer (Cambodian) scripts in use today are all derived from the Pallava branch of the Southern Brahmic family of Indian scripts.3

The Indonesian languages Javanese, Balinese, Bataknese, Rejang, Buginese, and the Filipino languages Buhid, Tagalog, Hanunoo, and Tagbanwa, all tongues belonging to the Austronesian family, also used Indic-derived alphabets of the Pallava branch prior to European colonization.4

Ancient India's international influence can be seen from the fact that Indian writing systems were adopted by peoples from a wide range of ethnicities and linguistic families.

The relationship of Southeast Asian scripts to Indian scripts is touched upon in some of the books listed in the sidebar.


  1. Wikipedia entry on Tibetan script
    Wikipedia entry on the Tibetan language
  2. Wikipedia entry on the Dzongkha language
  3. Wikipedia entry on Khmer script
    Wikipedia entry on Burmese script
  4. Wikipedia entry on Tagbanwa script
    Wikipedia entry on Rejang script
    Wikipedia entry on Javanese
    Wikipedia entry on Tagalog