Hindi is written in Devanagari alphabet and draws vocabulary from Sanskrit.
Devanagari is a form of alphabet called an abugida, as each consonant has an inherent vowel (a), that can be changed with the different vowel signs. Most consonants can be joined to one or two other consonants so that the inherent vowel is suppressed. The resulting form is called a ligature. Devanagari is written from left to right. Devanagari has no case distinction, i.e. no majuscule and minuscule letters.
Sanskrit spelling was phonetic, but the spelling of modern languages written in Devanagari may only be partly phonetic in the sense that a word written in it can only be pronounced in one way, but not all possible pronunciations can be written perfectly.
There is a distinction in pronunciation between aspirated and unaspirated consonants and between dental and alveoloar (or retroflex) consonants.
Hindi distinguishes between the retroflex “t” sound (ट) and the dental “t” sound (त). The retroflex “t” is pronounced with the tongue touching the roof of the mouth further back than the English “t” sound. The dental “t” is pronounced with the tongue touching the roof of the mouth further forward than for the English “t” sound; the tongue should touch the back of the teeth. Each of these also has an aspirated version.
Hindi likewise distinguishes between the retroflex “d” sound (ड) and the dental “d” sound (द), and each of these also has an aspirated version.
If we want to write two consonants lumped together without any intervening vowel, you can literally chop off the trailing part of the first consonant letter and attach what’s left to the second consonant. For example: क्या("what"). Half क is attached to the following य.
Another way of indicating a “half” or “schwa-less” consonant is the “halant” sign, as shown here under the letter, for example स्. The halant sign is used mostly in words borrowed from Sanskrit.
In English the pronunciation of unstressed vowels is changed to an "uh" sound. This is called reducing a vowel sound. In Hindi, English-speakers must constantly be careful not to reduce these vowels, especially not to reduce the final "ah" sounds to "uh." This can lead to misunderstandings about grammar and gender.
Every consonant letter by itself automatically includes a short "a" vowel sound unless otherwise specified. This short "a" sound is like the "a" in English "about" or "career." In linguistics, this sound has a special name: "schwa".
Each vowel letter has two forms:
The dependent form (matra) is used to indicate that a vowel (other than schwa) is attached to a consonant.
The independent form is used when the vowel occurs alone, at the beginning of a word, or after another vowel. In other words, the independent form is used whenever there is no consonant for the vowel to attach to.
The table gives the independent and dependent forms of each vowel. The dependent vowel matras are shown attached to the letter "sa" = स.
Hindi vowels can be nasalized, that is a nasal quality is added to the vowel sound. The sign for nasalization is a small dot placed above the “clothesline.” For example: मैं (“I”). Is pronounced like the French word “main” (“hand”).
In some words containing long vowels (e.g. आ and ऊ ) the nasalization dot is accompanied by a small moon. This sign is called “chandra bindi”. For example: हूँ (“am”). Is pronounced like "hoo" with the vowel nasalized.
To input some characters of the Hindi alphabet, which are not present on the LingvoSoft Virtual Keyboard, you have to enter a sequence of several Hindi symbols. These symbols, entered from the LingvoSoft Virtual Keyboard, will then be combined together to constitute the requisite character.
Use the following chart to input Hindi correctly: