Zero consonant
A zero consonant, silent initial, or null-onset letter is a consonant-like letter
Letter (alphabet)
A letter is a grapheme in an alphabetic system of writing, such as the Greek alphabet and its descendants. Letters compose phonemes and each phoneme represents a phone in the spoken form of the language....

 that is not pronounced, but indicates that a word or syllable starts with a vowel (i.e. has a null onset). Some abjad
An abjad is a type of writing system in which each symbol always or usually stands for a consonant; the reader must supply the appropriate vowel....

s, abugida
An abugida , also called an alphasyllabary, is a segmental writing system in which consonant–vowel sequences are written as a unit: each unit is based on a consonant letter, and vowel notation is obligatory but secondary...

s, and alphabet
An alphabet is a standard set of letters—basic written symbols or graphemes—each of which represents a phoneme in a spoken language, either as it exists now or as it was in the past. There are other systems, such as logographies, in which each character represents a word, morpheme, or semantic...

s have zero consonants, generally because they have an orthographic rule that all syllables must begin with a consonant letter, whereas the language they transcribe allows syllables to start with a vowel. However, in a few cases, such as Pahawh Hmong below, the lack of a consonant letter represents a specific consonant sound, so the lack of a consonant sound requires a distinct letter to disambiguate.


  • The letter א aleph
    * Aleph or Alef is the first letter of the Semitic abjads descended from Proto-Canaanite, Arabic alphabet, Phoenician alphabet, Hebrew alphabet, Syriac alphabet-People:*Aleph , an Italo disco artist and alias of Dave Rodgers...

    is a zero consonant in Ashkenazi Hebrew
    Ashkenazi Hebrew
    Ashkenazi Hebrew , is the pronunciation system for Biblical and Mishnaic Hebrew favored for liturgical use by Ashkenazi Jewish practice. Its phonology was influenced by languages with which it came into contact, such as Yiddish, German, and various Slavic languages...

    . It was originally a glottal stop
    Glottal stop
    The glottal stop, or more fully, the voiceless glottal plosive, is a type of consonantal sound used in many spoken languages. In English, the feature is represented, for example, by the hyphen in uh-oh! and by the apostrophe or [[ʻokina]] in Hawaii among those using a preservative pronunciation of...

    , a value it retains in other Hebrew dialects.
  • In Arabic
    Arabic alphabet
    The Arabic alphabet or Arabic abjad is the Arabic script as it is codified for writing the Arabic language. It is written from right to left, in a cursive style, and includes 28 letters. Because letters usually stand for consonants, it is classified as an abjad.-Consonants:The Arabic alphabet has...

    , the related letter ا alif is often a placeholder for a vowel.
  • In Thaana
    Thaana, Taana or Tāna is the modern writing system of the Divehi language spoken in the Maldives. Taana has characteristics of both an abugida and a true alphabet , with consonants derived from indigenous and Arabic numerals, and vowels derived from the vowel diacritics of the Arabic abjad...

     of the Maldives, އ is a zero. It requires a diacritic to indicate the associated vowel: އި is i, އޮ o, etc. This is similar to an abjad, but the vowel mark is not optional.
  • The Lontara script
    Lontara script
    The Lontara script is some sort of moon speak traditionally used for the Bugis language, Makassarese language, and Mandar languages of Sulawesi in modern Indonesia. It is also known as the Buginese script. It was largely replaced by the Latin alphabet during the period of Dutch colonization...

     for Buginese, with zero ᨕ, is similar to Thaana, except that without a vowel diacritic ᨕ represents an initial vowel a. The Lepcha script
    Lepcha script
    The Lepcha script, or Róng script is an abugida used by the Lepcha people to write the Lepcha language. Unusually for an abugida, syllable-final consonants are written as diacritics.-History:...

     of Nepal is similar.
  • Burmese အ, Thai
    Thai alphabet
    Thai script , is used to write the Thai language and other, minority, languages in Thailand. It has forty-four consonants , fifteen vowel symbols that combine into at least twenty-eight vowel forms, and four tone marks ....

     อ, and Lao ອ are null-initial vowel-support letters. Thai อ่าง, for example, is ang "basin". (า is the vowel a and ง the consonant ng.) อ and ອ pull double duty as vowels in some positions.
  • In Cree and Inuit
    Canadian Aboriginal Syllabics
    Canadian Aboriginal syllabic writing, or simply syllabics, is a family of abugidas used to write a number of Aboriginal Canadian languages of the Algonquian, Inuit, and Athabaskan language families....

    , a triangle represents a vowel-initial syllable. The orientation of this triangle specifies the vowel: ᐁ e,i,o,a.
  • In hangul
    Hangul,Pronounced or ; Korean: 한글 Hangeul/Han'gŭl or 조선글 Chosŏn'gŭl/Joseongeul the Korean alphabet, is the native alphabet of the Korean language. It is a separate script from Hanja, the logographic Chinese characters which are also sometimes used to write Korean...

    , the zero consonant is ㅇ, and appears twice in 아음 a-eum "velar consonant". ㅇ also represents ng at the end of a syllable, but historically this was a distinct letter.
  • In the Romanized Popular Alphabet
    Romanized Popular Alphabet
    The Romanized Popular Alphabet or Hmong RPA , is a system of romanization for the various dialects of the Hmong language. Created in Laos between 1951 and 1953 by a group of missionaries and Hmong advisers, it has gone on to become the most widespread system for writing the Hmong language in the...

     used for Hmong
    Hmong language
    Hmong or Mong is the common name for a dialect continuum of the West Hmongic branch of the Hmong–Mien/Miao–Yao language family spoken by the Hmong people of Sichuan, Yunnan, Guizhou, Guangxi, northern Vietnam, Thailand, and Laos...

    , an apostrophe
    The apostrophe is a punctuation mark, and sometimes a diacritic mark, in languages that use the Latin alphabet or certain other alphabets...

     marks a vowel-initial syllable. The absence of any letter indicates that the syllable starts with a glottal stop, a far more common occurrence.
  • Pahawh Hmong
    Pahawh Hmong
    Pahawh Hmong is an indigenous semi-syllabic script, invented in 1959, to write the Hmong language.-Form:Pahawh is written left to right...

    , a semi-syllabary
    A semi-syllabary is a writing system that behaves partly as an alphabet and partly as a syllabary. The term has traditionally been extended to abugidas, but for the purposes of this article it will be restricted to scripts where some letters are alphabetic and others are syllabic.-Iberian...

    , also has a zero consonant, as well as a letter for glottal stop, with the lack of an initial consonant letter indicating that the syllable begins with a /k/.

See also

  • Virama
    Virama is a generic term for the diacritic in many Brahmic scripts, including Devanagari and East Nagari, that is used to suppress the inherent vowel that otherwise occurs with every consonant letter. The name is Sanskrit for "cessation, termination, end"...

    , a zero-vowel diacritic in many abugidas, such as Hindi devanagari
    Devanagari |deva]]" and "nāgarī" ), also called Nagari , is an abugida alphabet of India and Nepal...

    . The virama marks the absence of a vowel; the absence of a virama or vowel diacritic implies an inherent vowel such as schwa
    In linguistics, specifically phonetics and phonology, schwa can mean the following:*An unstressed and toneless neutral vowel sound in some languages, often but not necessarily a mid-central vowel...

  • Sukun, the optional zero-vowel diacritic of Arabic.
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