The Devanagari Script

Lamjung Yolmo is written with an alphabet known as Devanagari, which is also used to write languages like Hindi, Sanskrit, and Nepali. There are some features of Devanagari that are used differently for Lamjung Yolmo than for other languages. We will talk more about this later.

Compared to English, Yolmo is much easier to read. In English, the words ‘cat’ and ‘city’, these both start with the letter ‘c’, but they start with different sounds. Cat starts with a ‘k’ sound and city and ‘s’ sound. In Yolmo every letters always has the same pronunciation.

There are no capital letters in Devanagari - which makes our life a lot easier. We use something called a transliteration to help us read the Yolmo words, what does this mean? Well for example here’s a Yolmo word: कारपु it means ‘white’ in Yolmo. A transliteration tells us how to pronounce this word by writing it in English letters, so for this word we’d write karpu - that’s approximately how the word is pronounced.

Vowels in Lamjung Yolmo

One big difference between Yolmo and English is that Yolmo vowels have two forms, one form for when they stand alone and another for when the vowel joins to a consonant.

a aa e ee i ii o oo u uu

Let’s start with a. It is pronounced like the sound at the start of the English words ‘alive’ and ‘alert’. It makes a very short sound. Now we can learn a word start with अ a. The Yolmo word अमा áma means mother in English; it starts with a अ. Now when we want to add a vowel अ a sound to a consonant we add this symbol, at the end of the consonant. Remember the letter कारपु (white) kárpu? When we all ा to क we can get an का ka sound.

a is a very special sound in Devanagari because it doesn’t change the consonant at all. Whenever you see a consonant with no modification at all then it should have an inherent a sound. In the word अमा (mother) áma and कारपु (white) kárpu we saw the letters म ma and क ka in between. The letter म ma and क ka, have no modifications so it is pronounced with an अ a.

Let’s move on to the next vowel आ aa. It’s very similar to अ spanut aa has an extra vertical line on the right hand side. We pronounce आ as a long ‘a’ sound; this is like the ‘a’ in ‘far’. At the moment we don’t have any words in the dictionary starting with आ, but there might be some that are added in the future. To make a long a sound with a k we use का॒.

Above we learn two vowels अ a and आ aa now, let’s move to next i. i is pronounced like the i in the English word ‘pit’ or ‘hit’, like अ a, इ also makes a short sound. There is only a few words in Yolmo we know starting with इ, now let’s see an example: इहनार ìnar means a large well in English, can you see the letter इ at the start of the word?

When you want to add the vowel इ to a consonant we use the symbol ि. This can be quite confusing because it goes on the left hand side of the consonant, even though you make the vowel sound after. The word तिल tíl means ‘sesame’, we can see that the ि symbol inside the word and

त + ि = ति

For pronuciation:

ta + i = ti

After the short sound let’s have a look at the long sound. ii is pronounced just like the ‘ii’ in the words ‘feet’ or ‘see’. It’s a long vowel sound. There is currently no word starting with ई in the dictionary.

When we want to add ई to a consonant we use this symbol: . For example, the word मी mii means ‘eye’. We can see the symbol ी at the end of the word:

म + ी = मी

For pronuciation:

ma + ii = mii

Next we come to letter e, it sounds like the ‘e’ in the English word ‘bed’. When we want to add the letter ए to a consonant we use this symbol . It’s just a little flick at the top. Like in Yolmo मॆहमॆ mème means ‘grandfather’ in English there is a symbol ॆ with म ma to get an मॆ me sound.

The letter ee is pronounced like a longer version of the short e above. Now when we want to add ऐ ee after a consonant we use the symbol . When you want to call someone to attract their attention, you can say ऐ ée in Yolmo, standing for ‘hey’ in English.

The letter o is pronounced like the ‘o’ in the English word ‘domain’. When we want to add the vowel ओ o to a consonant we use the symbol . In Yolmo word सॊहरा sòra stands for a sickle, used to cut grass in Yolmo area. The letter स sa combines the symbol ॊ to get the सॊ so sound in the word.

Next vowel is oo. It sounds like a longer version of the o above. There are currently no words starting with ओ in the Lamjung Yolmo dictionary.

When we want to add the vowel ओ oo to a consonant we simply use the symbol . For example the word for skin kóoba is written कोबा.

Now we move on to the last two vowels.

The letter u is a short sound like ‘u’ in ‘put’. The Yolmo word उपा úpa means ‘owl’ and we can see here the word start with उ u.

When we want to add the vowel उ u to a consonant we use this symbol underneath the consonant: . In the previous part, in the Yolmo word कारपु (white) kárpu, in the end there is a पु pu which is the combination of a symbol ु and letter प pa.

Finally comes to the last vowel, the letter uu. It sounds like ‘uu’ in the word ‘food’ or ‘spoon’. It is the long vowel sound compared to the short vowel sound of उ u. There are currently no words in the dictionary starting with this sound.

When we want to add the vowel to a consonant we add the symbol underneath. In Yolmo, word कूदॊङ kúudoŋ means ‘to wait’. In the begining, कू kuu is the combination of letter क ka and symbol ू.

There are one or two examples of rare words with vowels that are uncommon in Lamjung Yolmo in the dictionary. For example मैह रागो mai rago means buffalo in English, there is a ै symbol with the letter म ma at the begining of the words to make the word मै mai. The Yolmo word कौली kauli, is borrowed from Nepali, and uses the symbol ौ combined with letter क ka to get a कौ kau.

That’s all for the vowels in Lamjung Yolmo. Now we can move to consonants.

Consonants in Lamjung Yolmo

There are 36 consonants used in Lamjung Yolmo and they can be sorted into different groups, depending where in the mouth they are articulated.

The first group is made with the tongue against the velum near the back of the mouth:

ka kha ga ŋa

The letter ka sounds more like an English g than a k. In the vowels part above we have seen several words with letter क ka like कारपु (white) kárpu and कौली (cauliflower) káuli.

The letter kha is pronounced more like an English k, but with some extra breathiness because it is aspirated, perhaps something like you would sayd the ‘k..h’ as in ‘look here’. In Yolmo, the word ख khá means mouth in English; खालमा khálma means kidney.

The letter ga sounds like ‘g’ in ‘get’ and ‘again’. For example, खयॊगा khyòga means husband and माहगि màgi means corn. Can you see the letter near the end?

The letter ŋa is pronounced like the ‘ng’ in ‘sing’ and ‘tang’. निङ níŋ means heart and ङा ŋá means number five in English

The next group is the palatals, made by pressing the tongue to the roof of the mouth. In this Lamjung Yolmo dictionary, where a sound does not exist generally a digraph has been crated from two symbols. For example, the sound ‘kya’ has been represented with क्य, which is a combination of symbol क and य. There are quite a few sounds here as some are fricatives and others are stops:

क्य ख्य ग्य ङ्य च्य छ्य ज्य
kya khya gya ɲa tɕa tɕha dʑa

The letter क्य kya is composed with two symbols: क and य. It is used in words like क्याबु kyáabu ‘cold wether’

The letter ख्य khya is the aspirated version of kya क्य. It can be seen in words like ख्या khyá ‘you’ and ख्यॊगा khyópiʑa ‘husband’

The letter ग्य gha is the combination of two symbols: ग and य. In Lamjung Yolmo it is used in words like ग्याह gyàa means ‘place’

The letter ङ्य ɲa is pronounced like the ‘n’ in onion. It is used in words like ङ्याह ɲà ‘fish’.

The symbol च and य give the letter च्य tɕa. The word कुरच्यि kúrtɕi, which has the letter in the end, means chair in English.

The letter छ्य tɕha is the aspirated version of tɕa च्य. It can be seen in the words like नुङछ्या núŋtɕa means ‘idea’.

The last letter in this group is ज्य ʑa, a combination of symbol ज and य. One example is that the letter is put at the end of the word युज्यि tɕúdʑi, meaning ‘eleven’ in English.

Now let’s move on to next group called alveolar affricates, as they are made with the tongue against the ridge behind your teeth, which is the ‘alveolar’:

tsa tsha dza

The letter tsa is pronounced like the ‘ts’ like in cuts or hurts. We can see some example words with letter च tsa like मारचि mártsi means chili and चॆम tsém meaning ‘sew’.

The letter tsha, its pronounciation is the aspirated version of च ca. We can pronounce it like च tsa with a lot of span class="devanagari"reath. In Yolmo, the word छॆ tshé means colour and छा tshá means salt in English.

The letter dza sounds like the English “ds” in words like addsor dads. For example, अजि ádzi means elder sister and मॊजा módza means sock.

The next group is called retroflex, as the tongue curls around and the underside of the tongue taps the top of the mouth:

ʈa ʈha ɖa

The letter ʈa sounds similar to the English ‘t’ in ‘train’, having a big fat ‘t’ sound. We can see some example words with letter ट ʈa like टाह ʈà means enemy and टाङा ʈáŋa means money.

The letter ʈha, its pronounciation is the aspirated version of ट ʈa. We can pronounce it like ट ʈa with a lot of breath. In Yolmo, the word ठावा ʈháwa means kite and ठा॒ ʈháa means blood.

The letter ɖa sounds like the English “d” in words like “date”, having a big fat ‘d’ sound. For example, बॊहडा bòɖa means kidney bean and डाहमबा ɖàmba means cheek.

Now we move to group known as dentals, which are made with the tongue near the teeth:

ta tha da na

The letter ta is pronounced like the ‘t’ in at. We can see some example words with letter त ta like कारता kárta means knife and किताब kítab means book.

The letter tha, its pronounciation is the aspirated version of त ta. We can pronounce it like त ta with a lot of breath. In Yolmo, the word नाम था nám thá means thunder and थाकपा tháakpa means rope.

The letter da sounds like the English d in words like breadth. For example, अदा áda means elder brother and बॆहनद bènda means elephant.

The letter na is like a normal English ‘n’ sound, like in nap or net. For example, दॊहगान dògan means shop and गुहनदरि gùndri means a straw mat.

Next group is known as labials, they are made by bringing the lips together:

pa pha ba ma

The letter pa is pronounced like the ‘p’ in ‘spin’ and ‘spit’. We can see some example words with letter प pa like कॊहकपा kòkpa means garlic and खाप kháp means needle.

The letter pha, its pronounciation is the aspirated version of प pa. We can pronounce it like प pa with a lot of breath. In Yolmo, the word फा phá means pig and फालफुल phálphul means fruit.

The letter ba sounds like the English “b” in words like ‘bin’ and ‘bat’. For example, साङबि sáŋbi means next year and तॆाबा téba means ladder.

The letter ma is like a normal English ‘m’ sound, like in ‘man’ or ‘mouse’. For example, अमा áma means mother and माहरमु màrmu means red.

Moving on to the next group called semivowels, these are a a variety of sounds:

रह ल्ह
ya ra la wa rh lh

The letter ya is pronounced like an English “y” in ‘yes’ but slightly lighter. We can see some example words with letter य ya like तॊहरियाङ tòriyaŋ means cucumber and यिबि yíbi means grandmother.

The letter ra sounds like the English r in words like ‘serene’. For example, खुरा khúra means bread and राह means goat.

The letter la is like an English ‘l’ sound, like in ‘like’ or ‘library’. For example, तिल tíl means sesame and लुह means sheep.

The letter wa sounds like an English “w”, like in “west”. For example, ठावा tháwa means kite and दाहवा dàwa means month.

The combination रह rh is used for the voiceless rhotic, made like a breathy version of English r. It is used in the word रहॆलमु rhélmu ‘round’.

The combination ल्ह lh is used for the voiceless lateral, made like a breathy version of English l. It is used in the word ल्हाबा lhába ‘wind’.

Now come to the last consonant group; the first two sounds of this group are called the sibilants and the final letter is an aspirate

ɕa sa ha

The letter ɕa is pronounced like the “sh” in English words like “sheep” or “ship”. For example, खॆशा khéɕa means deer.

The letter sa is pronounced like the “s” in English words like “seat” or “sing”. For example, सॊहरा sòra means sickle and कारपु (white) kárpu as we see before.

The letter ha sounds like the English “h”, like in “hand” or “help”. For example, हे hée means potato and हाहङसा hàŋsa means duck.

There are some letters that you may recognise from Devanagari in other languages that are not used for Lamjung Yolmo. This includes घ gha, झ jha, ध dha, ढ dha, ण ṇa, भ bha, and ष sha. This is because Lamjung Yolmo either does not have that sound, or uses another form to represent it.

That’s all for the vowels and consonants in Lamjung Yolmo.

Tone in Lamjung Yolmo

You may notice that the Roman spelling of Lamjung Yolmo includes little acute and grave accents over the first vowel sound. This is because the language has tone. Unlike languages like Mandarin and Thai which have many tones, Lamjung Yolmo only has two tones – high and low.

For example kée with high tone means ‘voice’ while kèe with low tone means ‘to split’. When we write these in Devanagari we do not use the same marks, instead we leave the high tone unmarked and use a after the first vowel to indicate low tone. So के is ‘voice’ with the high tone and केह is ‘to split’ with the low tone marked with the ह. The sound ‘h’ only occurs at the start of a word, so if you see it anywhere else you know it is marking tone.

It’s good practice to try and use the correct tone, although people can usually understand you if you do not use it correctly.

How to Type in Devanagari

For this website, we’ve implemented a virtual keyboard for users who need to input Nepali or Lamjung Yolmo and do not have a pre-installed Devanagari input method. The keyboard we have implemented is the Devanagari-QWERTY keyboard, which is designed to ease the process of typing Devanagari script for those familiar with the Roman QWERTY layout. Wherever possible, Devanagari letters are mapped to similar Roman-alphabet keys. There are a few exceptions, which will be mentioned later.


Figure 1. Basic keyboard layout

Figure 1 displays the basic Devanagari QWERTY Keyboar layout. It’s clear that most keystrokes type a single full syllable, for example, for consonant:

k = क , m = म , g = ग, t = त, d =द

Vowel keys typically represent post-consonantal forms, which can be combined with consonants to form a word, for example:

  • k + a = क + ा = का ka
  • m + i = म + ि = मि mi
  • p + u = प + ु = पु pu

Please notice that there are two exceptions in the written script of Lamjung Yolmo, compared to general Devanagari script.

In Lamjung Yolmo,

  1. letter e is represented by ऎ instead of ऐ (therefore it is typed by hitting the key `), ऐ represents ee
  2. letter o is represented by ऒ instead of ओ (therefore it is typed by hitting the key \), ओ represents oo

For example:

  • t + ` = त + ॆ = तॆ te
  • b + \ = ब + ॊ = बॊ bo


Figure 2. Keyboard layout when Shift-key is on

Figure 2 shows the layout ot the keyboard when Shift-key is on. The Shift-key usually indicates aspiration for consonants:

shift + k = ख, shift + t = थ, shift + s = श, shift + p = फ

For vowels, the Shift-key allows access to long sound forms, for example:

  • t + i (shift + i) = त + ी = ती tii
  • s + u(shift + u) = स + ू = सू suu

The long sound form for letter e and o are still exceptions.

In the written script for Lamjung Yolmo, the long ee is represented by ऐ whereas the long oo is represented by ओ. On the contrary, in general Devangari script, the two long sounds are represented differently.

For example, in Lamjung Yolmo script:

  • k + e (key e) = क + े = के kee
  • n + o (key o) = न + ो = नो noo


Figure 3. Keyboard layout when Alt-key is on

The Alt-key (Option in Mac OS, Ctrl+Alt or Right-Alt in Windows) allows access to Retroflex consonants, as well as additional nasal/sibilants.

alt + t = ट, alt + n = ञ, alt + d = ड

For vowels, The AltGr-key (Option in Mac OS, Ctrl+Alt or Right-Alt in Windows) allows access to full vowel forms:

  • alt + a = अ
  • shift + alt + a = आ aa (long sound)
  • alt + i = इ
  • shift + alt + i = ई ii
  • alt + u = उ
  • shift + alt + u = ऊ uu

Letter e and o remain exceptional, with their full vowel forms typed by shift + ` and shift + \:

  • shift + ` = ऎ e
  • shift + alt + e = ऐ ee (long sound)
  • shift + \ = ऒ o
  • alt + o =ओ oo (long sound)

There are some combined consonants in Lamjung Yolmo are crated from two symbols. In such cases, the key f could be keyed in between to connect the two symbols.

For example:

  • k + f + y = क + ् + य = क्य kya
  • l + f + h = ल + ् + ह = ल्ह lh
  • c + f + y = च + ् + य = च्य tɕa

If you are interested in how the vowels and consonants are used in Lamjung Yolmo words, please click to start the game and see more information.