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BOOKS FOR YOU TO READ AND DOWNLOAD
- COMMUNICATION VIA EYE AND FACE in Indian Contexts by
M. S. Thirumalai, Ph.D.
VIA GESTURE: A
STUDY OF INDIAN CONTEXTS by M. S. Thirumalai, Ph.D.
- CIEFL Occasional
Papers in Linguistics,
- Language, Thought
and Disorder - Some Classic Positions by
M. S. Thirumalai, Ph.D.
- English in India:
Loyalty and Attitudes
by Annika Hohenthal
- Language In Science
by M. S. Thirumalai, Ph.D.
- Vocabulary Education
by B. Mallikarjun, Ph.D.
- A CONTRASTIVE ANALYSIS OF HINDI
by V. Geethakumary, Ph.D.
- LANGUAGE OF ADVERTISEMENTS
by Sandhya Nayak, Ph.D.
- An Introduction to TESOL:
Methods of Teaching English
to Speakers of Other Languages
by M. S. Thirumalai, Ph.D.
- Transformation of
into Indexing Language:
Kannada - A Case Study
by B. A. Sharada, Ph.D.
- How to Learn
by M.S.Thirumalai, Ph.D.
- Verbal Communication
with CP Children
by Shyamala Chengappa, Ph.D.
and M.S.Thirumalai, Ph.D.
- Bringing Order
to Linguistic Diversity
- Language Planning in
the British Raj by
Ranjit Singh Rangila,
M. S. Thirumalai,
and B. Mallikarjun
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Copyright © 2004
M. S. Thirumalai
A COMMON SCRIPT FOR ALL INDIAN LANGUAGES
K. Kasturi and G. Kasturi
Although Indian languages belong to different linguistic families, the script systems used by the major Indian languages appear to have originated from a common source. How did this happen? Industrious and insightful men like Messrs. K. Kasturi and G. Kasturi ought to have experimented and helped evolve a script system that was adopted in the emerging Indian languages.
Over the centuries script systems become the "soul" or identity marker for many languages. Yet, there have always been attempts made everywhere to set right the available systems and to make these more efficient. As students of linguistics, most of us are very reluctant to get involved in the debates relating to script reform, but we are willing and ready to devise or adopt script systems for the unwritten languages! I can understand why we studiously engage ourselves in this dichotomy. But, at the same, we should listen to individuals and groups who spend a lot of their knowledge, time, and resources at their command to study existing systems and suggest modifications, etc.
Pursuit of a common script for all Indian languages is a fascination that will continue forever. Under right social and political circumstances, this may even become a reality. Meanwhile, efforts of illustrious persons like G. Kasturi, former editor of The Hindu and doyen of Indian journalists, and K. Kasturi, a highly acclaimed senior official in the country, will generate further interest in the subject. -- Thirumalai, Editor.
1. THE GOAL - GREATER INTEGRATION OF INDIA
The integration of India has many obstacles, one among them being the diversity in languages and their scripts.
We have devised a script, called Bharathi, that could be used as common script for all 12 principal Indian languages. Our idea is presented in our website BHARATHI LIPI. Ours is an attempt to suggest a thorough and viable solution.
At present, learning a language other than one's mother tongue involves mastering the alphabet of the new language. Considerable time is wasted on this effort.
Once a script which is common to all Indian languages is available, this hassle can be forever done away with.
2. THE METHODOLOGY
The letters of Indian languages may be a calligraphist's delight but it is difficult to merge them into a single string of symbols, whatever modifications we choose to effect on the characters. None of the existing scripts lends itself to reform for possible adoption as a national script. However this does not imply that a script common to all principal languages is impossible to achieve. So far, all the attempts that were undertaken were approaches from existing perspective; trying to utilize either the Devanagari or English letters, or some known scripts. If we must succeed, we have to break free from this impasse of considering the problem as one of modifying shapes. What then is the solution?
For our study, we take the scripts of 12 languages of India. They are Sanskrit, Hindi, Marathi, Gujarati, Punjabi, Oriya, Assamese, Bengali, Telugu, Kannada, Tamil and Malayalam. They represent almost the entire linguistic regions of India.
3. BEWILDERING DISSIMILARITY!
Visually the letters making up the entire alphabet seem bewilderingly dissimilar, but let us not concern our selves with the written characters, but only with the "sound-syllables" they represent. As an instance, if we close our eyes and listen to the sound "ka", to which language does it belong? It could belong to any Indian language. There are other syllabic sounds like this one. So, we arrive at the conclusion that there is a phonetic link running through all Indian languages. The solution to our problem lies in exploiting this phonetic link. In our website, BHARATHI LIPI, the Annexure I gives the Bharathi font devised through this method.
4. IDENTIFYING THE PHONETIC LINK THAT UNDERLIES MAJOR INDIAN LANGUAGES
In Annexure I - we give the complete lists of letters of the 12 Indian languages. Their total number is 571. 90 Sanskrit letters are repeated in Hindi and Marathi. The actual number of letters representing syllabic sound is 571-90= 481. The 481 letters are the basic "sounds". These letter symbols represent the basic sounds of the languages. The interesting fact is that the 481 letter symbols do not represent 481 different "sounds". Together they represent only 57 syllabic sounds. This is because many of the letter symbols have a common phonetic value. For instance the syllable "ma" occurs in all the languages. It means that twelve different visual symbols have a common syllabic sound. Another instances the short "O" (as in "molest", "possess") occurs in the four South Indian languages only. Thus the 481 symbols together represent 57 syllabic sounds. The break up of this figure is given in Annexure II. This then is the phonetic link we referred to above.
5. DEVISING VISUAL SYMBOLS FOR SYLLABIC SOUNDS
If we can devise a visual symbol to each of these 57 sounds we shall almost achieve our aim; almost because there are yet a few steps to take. These 57 syllabic sounds represent vowels and consonants. But vowels do not always occur by themselves; they combine with consonants to give the different nuances of the consonant (e.g. ta, too, tee etc.). In such cases we generally add a vowel sign to the consonant. These vowel signs are 14 in number. Then there are the auxiliary signs like full stop, question mark etc. These again are 7 in number. So we have a total of 57+14+7=78 symbols to be devised which denote all the syllabic sounds of the 12 languages. On these visual symbols rest all the words of the 12 languages.
These 78 symbols form the letters of our new Bharathi Lipi.
6. CONJUNCT CONSONANTS
Sometimes two or more consonants combine without an intervening vowel. These are the conjunct consonants (e.g. kri, sma, shta etc.). In the present dispensation either of the consonants is mutilated and the other written in full. Sometimes both are replaced by a new letter symbol. Moreover, conjunct consonants involve learning more letters for the beginner. Each language has its own stock of conjunct consonants with their uniquely written letter symbols. If we add up these letters the aggregate runs to over 500 - a huge number to learn. To avoid this we will do away with fresh symbols for conjunct consonants. The conjunct sound can be written in full the first consonant with the mute sign and the succeeding one written in full. In fact Tamil has no letter for any conjunct consonant. The same is the case in the Punjabi language (Except a few symbols involving "ya", "ra", "va"). In the new script, because the number of strokes is reduced writing the letters in full does not involve any extra time.
7. WRITTEN SYMBOLS ONLY FOR 78 SYLLABIC SOUNDS NEEDED
In consequence, this step leaves us with the need to find written symbols only for 78 syllabic sounds and auxiliary signs. While doing this we have to keep in mind the following factors.
- The characters are easy to write.
- They come under a cogent pattern.
- A learner should be able to memorise the whole set of letters through mnemonics.
- The alphabet should be able graphically represented. ( See it in Annexure III in our website.)
- The characters should be compatible to computerization. (Annexure VI gives the keyboard lay out)
8. MEETING THESE CONDITIONS
Let us see how we can meet each condition.
Condition No. 1 is met by using only lines (straight or curved) and loops (Annexure IV) Curves are used whenever two straight lines meet at right angles. The number of strokes per letter in the Devanagiri script is 3.22. A stroke is an uninterrupted movement of the pen in one direction. This figure is arrived at by dividing the total number of strokes contained in all the visual characters by the number of characters. The figure for the new script is only 1.62. A lot of time is saved thus.
Condition No. 2. The letters are grouped into phonetic clusters. The first letter of each group is the basic form. The other letters of the cluster are formed by adding straight/curved lines or loop to it.
Condition No. 3. The letters of the cluster are either lateral or vertical inversions of one another. This is where mnemonics comes in.
Condition No. 4. The characters are embodied in a graphic diagram. The diagram (Annexure III) consists of 12 straight lines and 9 loops. Each letter is a combination of some of the segments of the diagram. (See it in Annexure IV in our website.)
Condition No. 5. Since the letters are graphically represented a font set is easily made possible.
9. DEALING WITH THE CATEGORIES OF LETTERS
Let us now go into the details of the scheme. In this process we go by categories of letters. They are vowels, vowel signs, consonants, semivowels, sibilants, and aspirates.
Vowels are the sounds produced when air is forced out through the vocal cords. The contrived shape of the mouth determines the nature of the sound.
2. Vowel Signs
At present vowel signs (matras) are replaced either to the left of the consonant, or to the right of it, or above it or under it. In the revised script all vowel signs are placed to the right of the consonants. These signs are only half the size of the letters and are written along side the top half of the letters, which precede.
Consonants are of five types - the guttural, palatal, lingual, dental and the labial. Consonants cannot be pronounced unless followed by a vowel. The consonants detailed below are presumed to be followed by vowel "a".
Guttural Consonants are sounds produced when the base of the tongue makes contact with the roof of the throat while air is thrown out. "ka" is the simple guttural consonant When "ka" is uttered along with ha at the same time we get the aspirated "kha". The soft guttural "ga" results when the base of the tongue touches the roof of the throat, at the same time stiffening the throat muscles.
When "ga" combines with ha we get the aspirated "gha". With the same positioning of the tongue if air is thrown out through the nose we get the nasal "nga".
Palatals are sounds produced when the thick part of the tongue touches the palate while air is thrown out; "ca" is the simple consonant "chha" is the aspirated one and "ja" is the sound made while the throat muscles are stiffened. Then comes "jha" the aspirated "ja". Its nasal is "nya".
Lingual involves the tongue touching the roof of the mouth, e.g "ta" as in tub. Its aspirate is t as in "attack". The soft sound is "da" (dump) and its aspirated sound is "d" as in "goddam". Its nasal is "nna" as in money.
Dentals refer to tip of the tongue touching the upper teeth. Its variations are "th" as in "thud". The soft consonant is the as in thus and the aspirate sound is "dh" as in "dharma". The nasal is "na" as in "nut".
Labials are voiced when only the lips are used. E.g "pa". Its aspirate is "pha"; the soft one is "ba" and its aspirate is "bha". The nasal is "ma".
4. Semi Vowels
a) These are also semi-consonants. These sounds can be voiced continuously unlike consonants. Yet the positioning of the tongue vis-a-vis the palate is important. Take "ya" for example: if we notice carefully the placing of the tongue is like in the palatals but there is a tiny gap between tongue and palate through which air into thrown out continuously. Other semi vowels are "ra", "va", "la" etc.
b) Here we come across a sound peculiar to Tamil and Malayalam only. At present it is incorrectly represented by the letters "zh" as in "Tamizh". Actually it is the sound, which results when we try to make the sound "sha" without the tongue almost but not actually touching the palate.
The different hissing sounds depending upon the placing of the tongue "s" as in "shakti" is a palatal "sh" is a lingual, "s" as in "supper" is a dental. Then we have the "z" sound as in "zameen". The tongue is placed on the lower teeth.
"Ha" sound without the aid of the any part of the mouth.
7. Miscellaneous Signs
Except the full stop sign (two parallel vertical lines) other signs are only half the size of a letter. The mute sign is a small loop or a solid dot placed to the right of the letter and at the same height as top of the letter.
Annexure V illustrates sentences in different languages written in the new script.
Annexure VI gives the keyboard mapping for the Bharathi script.
If you would like to initiate a discussion on Bharathi Lipi or related subjects, you may email the creators of Bharathi Script, Shri. K. Kasturi & Shri. G. Kasturi at email@example.com.
CLICK HERE FOR PRINTER-FRIENDLY VERSION.
APABHRAMSHA - AN INTRODUCTION | LITERATURE, MEDIA, AND SOCIAL TRANSFORMATION - Andhra Experience | BHARATHI - A COMMON SCRIPT FOR ALL INDIAN LANGUAGES | PHONOLOGICAL AND MORPHOLOGICAL PROBLEMS OF ORIYA SPEAKERS LEARNING KANNADA | A REVIEW OF AN ELEMENTARY SCHOOL TEXTBOOK TO TEACH ENGLISH IN INDIAN SCHOOLS - FROM THE PERSPECTIVE OF A NATIVE SPEAKER OF ENGLISH | A LEARNER'S INTRODUCTION TO MANDARIN CHINESE | COMMUNICATION VIA EYE AND FACE IN INDIAN CONTEXTS | STRATEGIES IN THE FORMATION OF COMPOUND NOUNS IN TAMIL | HOME PAGE | CONTACT EDITOR
Messrs. K. Kasturi and G. Kasturi
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