Brāhmī is the modern name given to the oldest members of the Brahmic family of scripts. The best known inscriptions in Brāhmī are the rock-cut edicts of Ashoka in north-central India, dated to the 3rd century BCE. These are traditionally considered the earliest known examples of Brāhmī writing, though recent discoveries suggest that it may be somewhat older. The script was deciphered in 1837 by James Prinsep, an archaeologist, philologist, and official of the British East India Company. Like its contemporary in what is now Afghanistan and Pakistan, Kharoṣṭhī, Brāhmī was an abugida. It was innovative in its presentation, with the alphabet arranged in a grid (varga) according to phonetic principles.

Brāhmī was ancestral to most of the scripts of South Asia, Southeast Asia, some Central Asian scripts like Tibetan and Khotanese, and possibly influenced Korean Hangul (which was developed in 1444 CE). The alphabetic order Brāhmī was adopted as the modern order of Japanese kana, though the letters themselves are unrelated.


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