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An abugida, or syllabics, is a writing system composed of base letters denoting consonants with an inherent following vowel, which are consistently modified to indicate other vowels, or the lack of a vowel. Such a consonant with either an inherent or marked vowel is called an akshara.

The diacritics may appear above, below, to the left, or to the right of the consonantal character, they may surround it, or be indicated by turning it in in either of four directions, depending both on the script and the individual diacritic. Some scripts have agglomerate consonants, and place diacritics at their beginning or end, rather than attaching them to the actually modified syllable.