Reading The Devanagari Script


Over the previous few lessons, we have gone through the script in thorough detail. Now that you know how to write the script, it is now important how to read it as well. After all, people do not write individual letters but rather words, so it is vital learning how to read the script fluently. 

Fortunately, Nepali is a very phonetic script. There are some exceptions pertaining to vowel sounds, but overall, you read what you see. One infamous rule is the Schwa deletion, where you randomly delete the last ‘a’ sound from the word, but we’ll discuss this topic here. For now, just omit the final a-sound unless specified.


कलम (pen)
It compromises of three characters, namely: क (ka), ल (la) and म (ma). Omitting the schwa in the end, we read this as kalam.

काम (work)
We now introduce diacritics. This is the ā diacritic attracted to क (ka), thus we read it as . Overall, the word is read as kām.

दूध (milk)
Similar to above, it uses the ū diacritic. It reads as dūdh.


हुन्छ (okay) 
Now we introduce ligatures and conjuncts. This is the ncha conjunct. It should be noted that the schwa of conjuncts are usually retained, thus this word reads as huncha.

गर्छ (does)
This is the rcha conjunct. We read it as garcha.

प्रेस (press)
This is the pre conjunct, made up of pr e. The word reads as pres.

मृग (deer)
The diacritic used belongs to the semi-vowel ‘ṛ(i)’, thus the word is read as ‘mṛ(i)ga’. The schwa here is not deleted for some reason.


संसार (world)
We now introduce nasalisers. This particular dot adds an ‘ṃ’ sound after the syllable, thus we read it as saṃsār. Note that IAST denotes this sound as ‘m’, although a closer real approximation is actually ‘n’.

बाँस (bamboo)
The second type of nasaliser, this one adds a nasal sound to the syllable itself than add it after the word ends. Thus, this reads as bām̐s. Note that the actual pronunciation is closer to ‘bās’ and the ‘’ only tells you to read ‘’ with a nasal voice.

श्रेष्ठ (good)
It contains the ligature śre and ṣṭha. The word overall reads as śreṣṭha.

श्रुतिसम्भिन्नार्थक (homonym)
Full of ligatures, it contains the following conjuncts: śrumbhinnārtha. With proper care, we can read this word as śrutisambhinnārthak.

ओर्ह्लिनु (to descend)
A rather complicated ligature. We can easily see that the main character here is ह्ल (hla), which is modified into ह्लि (hli). Since the sickle used above it is the r-diacritic (which precedes the word), the character is read as rhli. Overall, the word is orhlinu.



1. घरमा पानी पर्‍यो 
2. हामीलाई सञ्चो थिएन 
3. अहिले काठमाडौंमा शित्तल छ
4. अस्ति बाटोमा ओर्ह्लिरहेको मृगलाई देखेँ
5. आकाशको रङ्गसँगै तिमी उडिगयौ स्वप्नसरि, नहेरी नफर्की बाटै बाटो लाग्यौ 


ANSWERS (translations are approximate

A.1. ghar-mā pānī par‍yo
A.2. hāmī-lāī sañco thiena 
A.3. ahile kāṭhmāḍauṃ-mā śittal cha
A.4. asti bāṭo-mā orhliraheko mṛ(i)ga-lāī dekhem̐
A.5. ākāś-ko raṅg-sam̐gai timī uḍigayau swapna-sari, naherī napharkī bāṭai bāṭo lāgyau
B.(A.1.). Rain fell on (the) house
B.(A.2.). We were not (feeling) fine
B.(A.3.). (It) is cool in Kathmandu now
B.(A.4.). Day before yesterday on the road (I) saw a deer going downhill
B.(A.5.). You flew away with (the) colours of (the) sky like (a) dream, without looking (or) turning back (you) went (for the) road

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