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As a Brahmic abugida, the fundamental principle of Devanagari is that each letter represents a consonant, which carries an inherent schwa

vowel. This is usually written in Latin as a, though it is [5] represented as [] in the International Phonetic Alphabet. The letter is read ka, the two letters are kana, the three are kanaya, etc. Other vowels, or the absence of vowels, require modification of these consonants or their own letters: A final consonant is marked with the diacritic , called the virma in Sanskrit, halant in Hindi, and occasionally a "killer stroke" in English. This cancels the inherent vowel, so that from knaya is derived knay. The halant is often used for consonant clusters when typesetting conjunct ligatures is not feasible. Consonant clusters are written with ligatures (sayuktkara "conjuncts"). For example, the three consonants , , and , (k , n, y), when written consecutively without virma form , as shown above. Alternatively, they may be joined as clusters to form knaya, kanya, or knya. This system was originally created for use with the Middle Indic languages, which have a very limited number of clusters (the only clusters allowed are geminate consonants and clusters involving homorganic nasal stops). When applied to Sanskrit, however, it added a great deal of complexity to the script, due to the large variety of clusters in this language (up to five consonants, e.g. rtsny). Much of this complexity is required at least on occasion in the modern Indo-Aryan languages, due to the large number of clusters allowed and especially due to borrowings from Sanskrit. Vowels other than the inherent a are written with diacritics (termed matras). For example, using ka, the following forms can be derived: ke, ku, k, k, etc. For vowels as an independent syllable (in writing, unattached to a preceding consonant), either at the beginning of a word or (in Hindi) after another vowel, there are full-letter forms. For example, while the vowel is written with the diacritic in k, it has its own letter in ka and (in Hindi but not Sanskrit) ka. Such a letter or ligature, with its diacritics, is called an akara "syllable". For example, kanaya is written with what are counted as three akshara, whereas knya and ku are each written with one. As far as handwriting is concerned, letters are usually written without the distinctive horizontal bar, [6] which is added only once the word is completed.