Musa for Hindi·Urdu
हिन्दी के लिए मूसा·‫اردو ﮐﮯ لئے موسى‬

Devanāgarī, the abugida in which Hindi is now written, does a pretty good job of representing the sounds of Hindi·Urdu. But it's so complex! There are 14 letters for independent vowels, 33 letters for consonants and 19 diacritics for vowels, nasals and other stuff. And although they mostly fit into a well-organized scheme that dates back at least to Panini in 400BC, there is no regularity in the forms: each must be learned on its own. And then there are the 1296 conjuncts!

Musa writes Hindi in the Akshara gait, in which vowels are written attached below the previous consonant. Independent vowels are written with a Break. Consonants with no following vowel - the first consonant of a cluster or a final consonant - are written alone, or the font may feature conjuncts for initial clusters. Akshara fonts sometimes include a midline, the Musa analog to the topline of Devanagari. Midline fonts don't use dots between words.

Unlike Devanāgarī, Musa also writes the distinction between v and w, and since vowels are always written - there is no inherent vowel - it is clear when syncope deletes a schwa.

Devanāgarī is missing letters for a few Hindi·Urdu sounds, in addition to letters needed for loanwords and allophones. Numerous other languages are also written in Devanāgarī, and several of them have had to add diacritics or ligatures to handle sounds that didn't exist in Sanskrit. Musa has letters for them all, as seen on the chart below.

Urdu, the national language of Pakistan and a scheduled language of India, is written in the Arabic script. When both Hindi and Urdu are written in Musa, it's evident that they're different registers of the same language. But since Urdu uses many Perso-Arabic words, Musa has letters for f z ʒ x ɣ q and uses the Catch to translate Arabic ع ayn. And each Urdu sound has a unique Musa letter, which avoids many spelling errors.


Here are the consonants of Hindi·Urdu, with IPA, IAST and Musa transcriptions.

k k k ک ʧ c ch چ ʈ tr ٹ t t ت ط p p p پ
kh kx کھ ʧʰ ch chx چھ ʈʰ ṭh trx ٹھ t̪ʰ th tx تھ ph px پھ
g g g گ ʤ j dj ج ɖ dr ڈ d d د b b b ب
gh gx گھ ʤʰ jh djx جھ ɖʰ ḍh drx ڈھ d̪ʰ dh dx دھ bh bx بھ
ŋ ng ɲ ñ ny ɳ nr ڻ n n ن m m m م
ɦ h hh ح ٥ ʃ ś sh ش s s s ث س फ़ f f f ف
l l l ل w w w و
क़ q q kq ق ढ़ ɽʰ ṛh rhx ڑھ ड़ ɽ rh ڑ ɾ r r ر
ग़ ɣ gh غ j y y ى न्ह n̪ʰ nh nx نھ म्ह mh mx مھ
ख़ x x kh خ झ़ ʒ zh zh ژ ज़ z z z ذ ز ض ظ v v v و


Hindi·Urdu has ten vowels. The three central vowels (in red below) are considered short; the others are all considered long, even though the ɛ and ɔ are phonetically short - they derive from the sequences ai and au in Sanskrit, as shown by all their IAST transcriptions.

 
i ī i: ی ɪ i ih اِ ʊ u uh أ u ū u: ۏ
 
e ē e: ے ɛ ai eh ۓ ɐ a eah اَ ɔ au oh وَ o ō o: و
ɑ ā a: آ

When an h is surrounded by ə's, they front to ɛ's, and this is shown in Musa.

Musa also use the Nasal suffix to replace the candrabindu , and normal nasal letters to replace the anusvāra :

Nasal Suffix

Finally, Musa writes the stressed syllables with a high vowel. Even though stress isn't very audible in spoken Hindi·Urdu, it's crucial in determining schwa syncope (deletion) in unstressed syllables. Deleted schwas are not written in Musa.


Now that you know the letters, why not try to read some Hindi written in Musa?

Devanagari shares with Bengali and Gurmukhi (the script of Punjabi) the use of a topline to connect all the letters in a word, and there are Musa fonts which include a midline : we'll show you one here. But Urdu is normally not written in an Akshara font.

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