Bengali alphabet

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Bengali alphabet
Bangla alphabet
Bangla Lipi.svg
Type
Languages Bengali
Time period
11th Century to the present[1]
Parent systems
Child systems
Tirhuta script
Sister systems
Assamese script, Tibetan script
ISO 15924 Beng, 325
Direction Left-to-right
Unicode alias
Bengali
U+0980–U+09FF

The Bengali alphabet or the Bangla alphabet (Bengali: বাংলা হরফ Bangla hôrôf, Bengali: বাংলা লিপি Bangla lipi) is the writing system for the Bengali language (Bangla) and is the 6th most widely used writing system in the world. The script with minor variations is shared by Assamese and is the basis for the other languages like Meitei and Bishnupriya Manipuri. Historically, the script has also been used to write the Sanskrit language in the region of Bengal. From a classificatory point of view, the Bengali script is an abugida, i.e. its vowel graphemes are mainly realized not as independent letters, but as diacritics attached to its consonant letters. It is written from left to right and lacks distinct letter cases. It is recognizable by a distinctive horizontal line running along the tops of the letters that links them together which is known as মাত্রা matra. The Bengali script is however less blocky and presents a more sinuous shape.

History[edit]

The Bengali script evolved from the Siddhông script, which belongs to the Brahmic family of scripts. In addition to differences in how the letters are pronounced in the different languages, there are some typographical differences between the version of the script used for Assamese language and that used for Bengali language.

Illustration:

  • is represented as in Bengali, and as in Assamese.
  • Assamese script has an additional character sounding represented as , which is absent in the Bengali script.

The version of the script used for Manipuri language is also a different variation in that it uses the which is represented as in Bengali script without the different representation as in Assamese script, but also uses the Assamese script character sounding represented as , which is absent in the Bengali script.

The Bengali script was originally not associated with any particular language, but was often used in the eastern regions of Medieval India and then in Pala Empire and later continued to be specifically used in the Bengal region. It was later standardized into the modern Bengali script by Ishwar Chandra under the reign of the British East India Company. Today the script holds official script status in Bangladesh and India, and is associated with the daily life of the Bengali people.

Description and Characteristics of the Bengali script[edit]

The Bengali script can be divided into vowel diacritics, consonant and vowel letters (including consonant conjuncts), modifiers, digits, and punctuation marks.

Vowels[edit]

The consonant () along with the diacritic form of the vowels অ, আ, ই, ঈ, উ, ঊ, ঋ, এ, ঐ, ও and ঔ.

The Bengali script has a total of 11 vowel graphemes, each of which is called a স্বরবর্ণ sbôrôbôrnô "vowel letter". These sbôrôbôrnôs represent six of the seven main vowel sounds of Bengali, along with two vowel diphthongs. All of these are used in both Bengali and Assamese, the two main languages using the script.

  • "" ô /ɔ/ sounds as the default Inherent vowel for the entire Bengali script.
  • Even though the near-open front unrounded vowel [æ] is one of the seven main vowel sounds in the standard Bengali language, no distinct vowel symbol has been allotted for it in the script, since there is no [æ] sound in Sanskrit, the primary written language when the script was conceived. As a result, this sound is orthographically realized by multiple means in modern Bengali orthography, usually using some combination of এ, অ, আ and the jôfôla (diacritic form of the consonant grapheme য ).
  • Two Vowel symbols for the vowel sound [i] and two symbols for the vowel sound [u]. This redundancy stems from the time when this script was used to write Sanskrit, a language that had a short ই [i] and a long ঈ [iː], and a short উ [u] and a long ঊ [uː]. These letters are preserved in the Bengali script with their traditional names, despite the fact that they are no longer pronounced differently in ordinary speech. These graphemes do serve an etymological function, however, in preserving the original Sanskrit spelling in tôtsômô Bengali words (i.e., words that were borrowed from Sanskrit).
  • The grapheme called ri does not really represent a vowel phoneme in Bengali, rather the consonant-vowel combination রি /ri/. Nevertheless, it is included in the vowel section of the inventory of the Bengali script. This inconsistency is also a remnant from Sanskrit, where the grapheme represents a retroflex approximant, a sound considered a vowel in Sanskrit.
  • When a vowel sound occurs at the beginning of a syllable or when it follows another vowel, it is written using a distinct letter. But when a vowel sound follows a consonant (or a consonant cluster), it is written with a diacritic which, depending on the vowel, can appear above, below, before or after the consonant. The diacritic cannot appear without a consonant. A diacritic form is named by adding a "-kar" to the end of the name of the corresponding vowel letter (see table below).
  • An exception to the above system is the vowel /ɔ/. This has no diacritic form, but is considered inherent in every consonant letter. To specifically denote the absence of this inherent vowel [ɔ] following a consonant, a diacritic called the হসন্ত hôsôntô (্) may be written underneath the consonant.
  • Although there are only two diphthongs in the inventory of the script, the Bengali sound system has in fact many diphthongs.[2] Most of these diphthongs are represented by juxtaposing the graphemes of their forming vowels, as in কেউ keu /keu/.

The table below shows the vowels present in the modern (i.e., since late nineteenth century) inventory of the Bengali alphabet, which has abandoned three historical vowels, rri, li, and lli, traditionally placed between ri and e.

Bengali vowels (স্বরবর্ণ sbôrôbôrnô)
Full
form
Name of
full form
Diacritic
form
Name of
diacritic form
Romanization IPA
transcription
স্বর অ
sbôrô ô
- - ô and o /ɔ/ and /o/[3]
স্বর আ
sbôrô a
আ কার
a kar
a /a/
হ্রস্ব ই
hrôsbô i
ি হ্রস্ব ই কার
hrôsbô i kar
i /i/
দীর্ঘ ই
dirghô i
দীর্ঘ ই কার
dirghô i kar
i and ee /i/
হ্রস্ব উ
hrôsbô u
হ্রস্ব উ কার
hrôsbô u kar
u /u/
দীর্ঘ উ
dirghô u
দীর্ঘ উ কার
dirghô u kar
u and oo /u/
হ্রস্ব ঋ
hrôsbô ri
হ্রস্ব ঋ কার
hrôsbô ri kar
ri /ṛi/
দীর্ঘ ঋ
dirghô ri
দীর্ঘ ঋ কার
dirghô ri kar
rii /ṛii/
হ্রস্ব ঌ
hrôsbô li
হ্রস্ব ঌ কার
hrôsbô li kar
li /ḷi/
দীর্ঘ ঌ
dirghô li
দীর্ঘ ঌ কার
dirghô li kar
lii /ḷii/
স্বর এ
sbôrô e
এ কার
e kar
e and ê /e/ and /æ/[4]
স্বর ঐ
sbôrô ôi
ঐ কার
ôi kar
ôi and oi /ɔi/ and /oi/
স্বর ও
sbôrô u/o
ও কার
u/o kar
u and o /ʊ/[5] and /o/
স্বর ঔ
sbôrô ôu
ঔ কার
ôu kar
ôu and ou /ɔu/ and /ou/

Consonants[edit]

Consonant letters are called ব্যঞ্জনবর্ণ bênjônbôrnô "consonant letter" in Bengali. The names of these letters are typically just the consonant sound plus the inherent vowel ô. Since the inherent vowel is assumed and not written, most letters' names look identical to the letter itself (e.g. the name of the letter is itself ghô, not gh).

  • Some letters that have lost their distinctive pronunciation in Modern Bengali are called by a more elaborate name. For example, since the consonant phoneme /nɔ/ can be written ন, ণ, or (depending on the spelling of the particular word), these letters are not simply called ; instead, they are called দন্ত্য ন dôntyô nô ("dental n"), মূর্ধন্য ণ murdhônyô nô ("cerebral n"), and ঞীয়/ইঙ niiyô/ingô. What was once pronounced and written as a retroflex nasal ণ [ɳɔ] is now pronounced as an alveolar [nɔ] (unless conjoined with another retroflex consonant such as ট, ঠ, ড and ঢ), although the spelling does not reflect this change.
  • The phoneme voiceless palato-alveolar fricative /ʃɔ/ can be written , (তালব্য শ talôbyô shô, "palatal sh"), (মূর্ধন্য ষ murdhônyô shô, "cerebral sh"), or (দন্ত্য স dôntyô sô, "dental s" voiceless alveolar fricative), depending on the word.
  • Since the consonant ngô /ŋɔ/ cannot occur at the beginning of a word in Bengali, its name is not ngô but উঙ ungô (pronounced by some as উম umô or উঁঅ ũô).
  • Similarly, since semivowels cannot occur at the beginning of a Bengali word, the name for "semi-vowel " য় is not অন্তঃস্থ য় ôntôsthô yô but অন্তঃস্থ অ ôntôsthô ô.
  • Consonants like ড় (known as ডএ শূন্য ড় dôe shunyô rô) and ঢ় rhô (known as ঢএ শূন্য ঢ় dhôe shunyô rhô) are known to be the least used and almost obsolete consonants.
  • The consonant (named অন্তঃস্থ য ôntôsthô zô) differs in sound from the consonant (named বর্গীয় জ bôrgiyô jô), but may sometime sound the same, like voiced postalveolar affricate /dʒɔ~dzɔ/.
Bengali consonants
(ব্যঞ্জনবর্ণ bênjônbôrnô)
Consonant Romanization IPA
transcription
/kɔ/
khô /khɔ/
/gɔ/
ghô /gɦɔ/
ngô /ŋɔ/
chô/sô /tʃɔ/ and /sɔ/
chhô/ssô /tʃhɔ/ and /ssɔ/
/dʒɔ/
jhô /dʒɦɔ/
/ɲɔ/
ṭô /ʈɔ/
ṭhô hɔ/
ḍô /ɖɔ/
ḍhô ɦɔ/
ṇô /nɔ/
/t̪ɔ/
thô hɔ/
/d̪ɔ/
dhô /d̪ɦɔ/
/nɔ/
/pɔ/
/ɸɔ/
/bɔ/
bhô /bɦɔ/
/mɔ/
/dzɔ/
/ɾɔ/
/lɔ/
shô /ʃɔ/
shô /ʃɔ/
/sɔ/
/hɔ/
ক্ষ kkhô /kkɦɔ/
জ্ঞ ggô /ggɔ/
য় /e̯ɔ/
ড় /ɽɔ/
ঢ় rhô /ɽɔ/

Consonant conjuncts[edit]

The consonant ligature ndrô (ন্দ্র) : ন () in gray, দ () in blue and র () in red.

Up to four consecutive consonants not separated by vowels can be orthographically represented as a ligature called a "consonant conjunct" (Bengali: যুক্তাক্ষর juktakkhôr or যুক্তবর্ণ juktôbôrnô). Typically, the first consonant in the conjunct is shown above and/or to the left of the following consonants. Many consonants appear in an abbreviated or compressed form when serving as part of a conjunct. Others simply take exceptional forms in conjuncts, bearing little or no resemblance to the base character.

Often, consonant conjuncts are not actually pronounced as would be implied by the pronunciation of the individual components. For example, adding underneath shô in Bengali creates the conjunct শ্ল, which is not pronounced shlô but slô in Bengali. Many conjuncts represent Sanskrit sounds that were lost centuries before modern Bengali was ever spoken, as in জ্ঞ, which is a combination of and , but is not pronounced jnô, Instead, it is pronounced ggô in modern Bengali. Thus, as conjuncts often represent (combinations of) sounds that cannot be easily understood from the components, the following descriptions are concerned only with the construction of the conjunct, and not the resulting pronunciation.

Fused forms[edit]

Some consonants fuse in such a way that one stroke of the first consonant also serves as a stroke of the next.

  • The consonants can be placed on top of one another, sharing their vertical line: ক্ক kkô গ্ন gnô গ্ল glô ন্ন nnô প্ন pnô প্প ppô ল্ল llô etc.
  • As the last member of a conjunct, ব bô can hang on the vertical line under the preceding consonants, taking the shape of ব bô (here referred to as বফলা bôfôla): গ্ব gbô ণ্ব nbô দ্ব dbô ল্ব lbô শ্ব shbô.
  • The consonants can also be placed side-by-side, sharing their vertical line: দ্দ ddô ন্দ ndô ব্দ bdô ব্জ bjô প্ট pṭô শ্চ shchô শ্ছ shchhô etc.

Approximated forms[edit]

Some consonants are simply written closer to one another to indicate that they are in a conjunct together.

  • As the last member of a conjunct, গ gô can appear unaltered, with the preceding consonant simply written closer to it: দ্গ dgô.
  • As the last member of a conjunct, ব bô can appear immediately to the right of the preceding consonant, taking the shape of ব bô (here referred to as বফলা bôfôla): ধ্ব dhbô ব্ব bbô হ্ব hbô.

Compressed forms[edit]

Some consonants are compressed (and often simplified) when appearing as the first member of a conjunct.

  • As the first member of a conjunct, the consonants ঙ ngô চ chô ড dô and ব bô are often compressed and placed at the top-left of the following consonant, with little or no change to the basic shape: ঙ্ক্ষ ngkkhô ঙ্খ ngkhô ঙ্ঘ ngghô ঙ্ম ngmô চ্চ chchô চ্ছ chchhô চ্ঞ chnô ড্ড ddô ব্ব bbô.
  • As the first member of a conjunct, ত tô is compressed and placed above the following consonant, with little or no change to the basic shape: ত্ন tnô ত্ম tmô ত্ব tbô.
  • As the first member of a conjunct, ম mô is compressed and simplified to a curved shape. It is placed above or to the top-left of the following consonant: ম্ন mnô ম্প mpô ম্ফ mfô ম্ব mbô ম্ভ mbhô ম্ম mmô ম্ল mlô.
  • As the first member of a conjunct, ষ shô is compressed and simplified to an oval shape with a diagonal stroke through it. It is placed to the top-left of the following consonants: ষ্ক shkô ষ্ট shtô ষ্ঠ shthô ষ্প shpô ষ্ফ shfô ষ্ম shmô.
  • As the first member of a conjunct, স sô is compressed and simplified to a ribbon shape. It is placed above or to the top-left of the following consonant: স্ক skô স্খ skhô স্ট stô স্ত stô স্থ sthô স্ন snô স্প spô স্ফ sfô স্ব sbô স্ম smô স্ল slô.

Abbreviated forms[edit]

Some consonants are abbreviated when appearing in conjuncts, losing part of their basic shape.

  • As the first member of a conjunct, জ jô can lose its final downstroke: জ্জ jjô জ্ঞ ggô জ্ব jbô.
  • As the first member of a conjunct, ঞ nô can lose its bottom half: ঞ্চ nchô ঞ্ছ nchhô ঞ্জ njô ঞ্ঝ njhô.
  • As the last member of a conjunct, ঞ nô can lose its left half (the এ part): জ্ঞ ggô.
  • As the first member of a conjunct, ণ nô and প pô can lose their downstroke: ণ্ঠ nthô ণ্ড ndô প্ত ptô প্স psô.
  • As the first member of a conjunct, ত tô and ভ bhô can lose their final upward tail: ত্ত ttô ত্থ tthô ত্র trô ভ্র bhrô.
  • As the last member of a conjunct, থ thô can lose its final upstroke, taking the form of হ hô instead (this form is called খণ্ড-থ khôndô thô or "broken thô") : ন্থ nthô স্থ sthô. An exception is ম্থ mthô (see on the compressed forms part)
  • As the last member of a conjunct, ম mô can lose its initial downstroke: ক্ম kmô গ্ম gmô ঙ্ম ngmô ট্ম tmô ণ্ম nmô ত্ম tmô দ্ম dmô ন্ম nmô ম্ম mmô শ্ম shmô ষ্ম shmô স্ম smô.
  • As the last member of a conjunct, স sô can lose its top half: ক্স ksô.
  • As the last member of a conjuct ট tô, ড dô and ঢ dhô can lose their matra: প্ট ptô ণ্ড ndô ণ্ট ntô ণ্ঢ ndhô.
  • As the last member of a conjuct ড dô can change its shape: ণ্ড ndô

Variant forms[edit]

Some consonants have forms that are used regularly, but only within conjuncts.

  • As the first member of a conjunct, ঙ ngô can appear as a loop and curl: ঙ্ক ngkô ঙ্গ nggô.
  • As the last member of a conjunct, the curled top of ধ dhô is replaced by a straight downstroke to the right, taking the form of ঝ jhô instead: গ্ধ gdhô দ্ধ ddhô ন্ধ ndhô ব্ধ bdhô.
  • As the first member of a conjunct, র rô appears as a diagonal stroke (called রেফ ref) above the following member: র্ক rkô র্খ rkhô র্গ rgô র্ঘ rghô etc.
  • As the last member of a conjunct, র rô appears as a wavy horizontal line (called রফলা rôfôla) under the previous member: খ্র khrô গ্র grô ঘ্র ghrô ব্র brô etc.
    • In some fonts, certain conjuncts with রফলা rôfôla appear using the compressed (and often simplified) form of the previous consonant: জ্র jrô ট্র trô ঠ্র thrô ড্র drô ম্র mrô স্র srô.
    • In some fonts, certain conjuncts with রফলা rôfôla appear using the abbreviated form of the previous consonant: ক্র krô ত্র trô ভ্র bhrô.
  • As the last member of a conjunct, য zô appears as a wavy vertical line (called যফলা jôfôla) to the right of the previous member: ক্য kyô খ্য khyô গ্য gyô ঘ্য ghyô etc.
    • In some fonts, certain conjuncts with যফলা jôfôla appear using special fused forms: দ্য dyô ন্য nyô শ্য shyô ষ্য shyô স্য syô হ্য hyô.

Exceptions[edit]

  • When followed by র rô or ত tô, ক kô takes on the same form as ত tô would with the addition of a curl to the right: ক্র krô, ক্ত ktô.
  • When preceded by the abbreviated form of ঞ nô, চ chô takes the shape of ব bô: ঞ্চ nchô
  • When preceded by another ট tô, ট tô is reduced to a leftward curl: ট্ট ttô.
  • When preceded by ষ shô, ণ nô appears as two loops to the right: ষ্ণ shnô.
  • As the first member of a conjunct, or when word-final and followed by no vowel, ত tô can appear as ৎ (called খণ্ড-ত khôndô tô or "broken "): ৎস tsô ৎপ tpô ৎক tkô etc.
  • When preceded by হ hô, ন nô appears as a curl to the right: হ্ন hnô.
  • Certain combinations simply must be memorized: ক্ষ kkhô হ্ম hmô.

Exceptional consonant-vowel combinations[edit]

When serving as a vowel sign, উ u, ঊ u, and ঋ ri take on many exceptional forms.

  • উ u
    • When following গ gô or শ shô, it takes on a variant form resembling the final tail of ও o: গু gu শু shu.
    • When following a ত tô that is already part of a conjunct with প pô, ন nô or স sô, it is fused with the ত tô to resemble ও o: ন্তু ntu স্তু stu প্তু ptu.
    • When following র rô, and in many fonts also following the variant রফলা rôfôla, it appears as an upward curl to the right of the preceding consonant as opposed to a downward loop below: রু ru গ্রু gru ত্রু tru থ্রু thru দ্রু dru ধ্রু dhru ব্রু bru ভ্রু bhru শ্রু shru.
    • When following হ hô, it appears as an extra curl: হু hu.
  • ঊ u
    • When following র rô, and in many fonts also following the variant রফলা rôfôla, it appears as a downstroke to the right of the preceding consonant as opposed to a downward hook below: রূ ru গ্রূ gru থ্রূ thru দ্রূ dru ধ্রূ dhru ভ্রূ bhru শ্রূ shru.
  • ঋ ri
    • When following হ hô, it takes the variant shape of ঊ u: হৃ hri.
  • Conjuncts of three consonants also exist, and follow the same rules as above. Examples include স sô + ত tô +র rô = স্ত্র strô, ম mô + প pô + র rô = ম্প্র mprô, জ jô + জ jô + ব bô = জ্জ্ব jjbô, ক্ষ kkhô + ম mô = ক্ষ্ম kkhmô.
  • Theoretically, four-consonant conjuncts can also be created, as in র rô + স sô + ট tô + র rô = র্স্ট্র rstrô, but these are not found in real words.

Modifiers and others[edit]

Modifier and other graphemes in Bengali
Symbol/
Graphemes
Name Function Romanization IPA
transcription
হসন্ত
hôsôntô
Suppresses the inherent vowel [ɔ] (ô) - -
খণ্ড-ত
khôndô tô
Final un-aspirated dental [t̪] t /t̪/
অনুস্বার
ônusbar
Final velar nasal (ng sound) ng /ŋ/
বিসর্গ
bisôrgô
1. Doubles the next consonant sound without the vowel (spelling feature) in দুঃখ dukkhô, the k of khô was repeated before the whole khô
2. "h" sound at end, examples: এঃ eh!, উঃ uh!
3. Silent in spellings like অন্তঃনগর ôntônôgôr meaning "Inter-city"
4. Also used as abbreviation like কিঃমিঃ kimi, it is shortening the word কিলোমিটার "kilometer" as কিঃমিঃ kimi which is similar to "k.m." in English., another example can be ডঃ dôh stands for ডক্টর dôktôr "doctor"
h /ḥ/
চন্দ্রবিন্দু
chôndrôbindu
Vowel nasalization ñ /ñ/
‍্য যফলা
jôfôla
It is used to derive two types of pronunciation in modern Bengali, like: in spellings like এ্যাকাডেমী êkademi it is pronounced /ækademi/, but in spelling like লক্ষ্য lôkkhyô it is pronounced as /lɔkkhe̯ɔ/
It is sometimes used as a diacritic to indicate non-Bengali vowels of various kinds in transliterated foreign words. For example, the schwa is indicated by a jôfôla, the French u and the German umlaut ü as উ্য uyô, the German umlaut ö as ও্য oyô or এ্য eyô, etc.
ê / yô /æ/ or /e̯ɔ/
‍্ব বফলা
bôfôla
It is always silent in modern Bengali. It is used in spellings only which were adopted from Sanskrit, and are still preserved, and remains silent in pronunciation.
Example 1: স্ব sbô is pronounced /ʃɔ/ rather than /sbɔ/ (omitting the b).
Example 2: ত্ব tbô is pronounced /tɔ/ rather than /tbɔ/ (omitting the b)
and with any other consonant the "‌্ব" is silent, always omitting the b sound.
- -
অবগ্রহ
ôbôgrôhô
used for prolonging vowel sounds
Example1: শুনঽঽঽ shunôôôô meaning "listennnn..." (listen), this is where the default inherited vowel sound ô in is prolonged.
Example2: কিঽঽঽ? kiiii? meaning "Whatttt...?" (What?), this is where the vowel sound i which is attached with the consonant is prolonged.
- -
ইশ্বার
isshar
represents the name of a deity or also written before the name of a deceased person - -
আঞ্জী / সিদ্ধিরস্তু
anji /siddhirôstu
used at the beginning of texts as an invocation - -

-h and -ng are also often used as abbreviation marks in Bengali, with -ng used when the next sound following the abbreviation would be a nasal sound, and -h otherwise. For example ডঃ dôh stands for ডক্টর dôktôr "doctor" and নং nông stands for নম্বর nômbôr "number". Some abbreviations have no marking at all, as in ঢাবি dhabi for ঢাকা বিশ্ববিদ্যালয় Dhaka Bishbôbidyalôy "Dhaka University". The full stop can also be used when writing out English letters as initials, such as ই.ইউ. i.iu "E.U.".

The apostrophe, known in Bengali as ঊর্ধ্বকমা urdhbôkôma "upper comma", is sometimes used to distinguish between homographs, as in পাটা pata "plank" and পা'টা pa'ta "the leg". Sometimes a hyphen is used for the same purpose (as in পা-টা, an alternative of পা'টা).

ৎ (called খণ্ড-ত khôndô tô "broken ") is always used syllable-finally and always pronounced as /t̪/. It is predominantly found in loan words from Sanskrit such as ভবিষ্যৎ bhôbishyôt "future", সত্যজিৎ sôtyôjit (a proper name), etc. It is also found in some onomatopoeic words (such as থপাৎ thôpat "sound of something heavy that fell", মড়াৎ môrat "sound of something breaking", etc.), as the first member of some consonant conjuncts (such as ৎস tsô, ৎপ tpô, ৎক tkô, etc.), and in some foreign loanwords (e.g. নাৎসি natsi "Nazi", জুজুৎসু jujutsu "Jujutsu", ৎসুনামি tsunami "Tsunami", etc.) which contain the same conjuncts. This is an over-production inconsistency, where the sound /t̪/ is realized by both ত and ৎ. This creates confusion among inexperienced writers of Bengali. There is no simple way of telling which symbol should be used. Usually, the contexts where ৎ is used need to be memorized, as these are less frequent. In the native Bengali words, syllable-final ত /t̪ɔ/ is pronounced /t̪/, as in নাতনি /nat̪ni/ "grand daughter", করাত /kɔrat̪/ "saw", etc.

Digits and numerals[edit]

Main article: Bengali numerals

The Bengali script has ten Numerical digits (graphemes or symbols indicating the numbers from 0 to 9). Bengali numerals have no horizontal headstroke or মাত্রা "matra".

Bengali numerals
Arabic numerals 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9
Bengali numerals

Numbers larger than 9 are written in Bengali using a positional base 10 numeral system (the decimal system). A period or dot is used to denote the decimal separator, which separates the integral and the fractional parts of a decimal number. When writing large numbers with many digits, commas are used as delimiters to group digits, indicating the thousand (হাজার hajar), the hundred thousand or lakh (লাখ lakh or লক্ষ lôkkhô), and the ten million or hundred lakh or crore (কোটি kuti) units. In other words, going leftwards from the decimal separator, the first grouping consists of three digits, and the subsequent groupings always consist of 2 digits.

For example, the English number 17,557,345 will be written in traditional Bengali as ১,৭৫,৫৭,৩৪৫.

Punctuation marks[edit]

Bengali punctuation marks, apart from the downstroke দাড়ি dari (|), the Bengali equivalent of a full stop, have been adopted from western scripts and their usage is similar. Commas, semicolons, colons, quotation marks, etc. are the same as in English. The concept of using capital letters is absent in the Bengali script, hence proper names are unmarked.

Characteristics of the Bengali text[edit]

An example of handwritten Bengali script. Part of a poem written by Nobel Laureate Rabindranath Tagore in 1926 in Hungary.

Bengali text is written and read horizontally, from left to right. The consonant graphemes and the full form of vowel graphemes fit into an imaginary rectangle of uniform size (i.e. uniform width and height). The size of a consonant conjunct, regardless of its complexity, is deliberately maintained the same as that of a single consonant grapheme, so that diacritic vowel forms can be attached to it without any distortion. In a typical Bengali text, orthographic words, i.e., words as they are written, can be seen as being separated from each other by an even spacing. Graphemes within a word are also evenly spaced, but this spacing is much narrower than the spacing between words.

Unlike in western scripts (Latin, Cyrillic, etc.) where the letter-forms stand on an invisible baseline, the Bengali letter-forms instead hang from a visible horizontal left-to-right headstroke called মাত্রা matra. The presence and absence of this matra can be important. For example, the letter ত and the numeral ৩ "3" are distinguishable only by the presence or absence of the matra, as is the case between the consonant cluster ত্র trô and the independent vowel এ e. The letter-forms also employ the concepts of letter-width and letter-height (the vertical space between the visible matra and an invisible baseline).

Grapheme Percentage
11.32
8.96
7.01
6.63
4.44
4.15
4.14
3.83
2.78

According to Bengali linguist Munier Chowdhury, there are about 9 graphemes that are the most frequent in Bengali texts, shown with its percentage of appearance in the table in right.[6]

Standardization[edit]

In the Bengali script, clusters of consonants are represented by different and sometimes quite irregular forms; thus, learning to read is complicated by the sheer size of the full set of letters and letter combinations, numbering about 350. While efforts at standardizing the alphabet for the Bengali language continue in such notable centres as the Bangla Academy at Dhaka (Bangladesh) and the Pôshchimbônggô Bangla Akademi at Kolkata (West Bengal, India), it is still not quite uniform as yet, as many people continue to use various archaic forms of letters, resulting in concurrent forms for the same sounds. Among the various regional variations within this script, only the Assamese and Bengali variations exist today in the formalized system.

It seems likely that the standardization of the alphabet will be greatly influenced by the need to typeset it on computers. The large alphabet can be represented, with a great deal of ingenuity, within the ASCII character set, omitting certain irregular conjuncts. Work has been underway since around 2001 to develop Unicode fonts, and it seems likely that it will split into two variants, traditional and modern. In this and other articles on Wikipedia dealing with the Bengali language, a Romanization scheme used by linguists specializing in Bengali phonology is included along with IPA transcription. A recent effort by the Government of West Bengal focused on simplifying Bengali orthography in primary school texts.

There is yet to be a uniform standard collating sequence (sorting order of graphemes to be used in dictionaries, indices, computer sorting programs, etc.) of Bengali graphemes. Experts in both Bangladesh and India are currently working towards a common solution for this problem.

Romanization[edit]

The Romanization of Bengali is the representation of the Bengali language in the Latin script. There are various ways of Romanization systems of Bengali created in recent years which have failed to represent the true Bengali phonetic sound. While different standards for romanization have been proposed for Bengali, these have not been adopted with the degree of uniformity seen in languages such as Japanese or Sanskrit.[7] The Bengali script has often been included with the group of Indic scripts for romanization where the true phonetic value of Bengali is never represented. Some of them are the "International Alphabet of Sanskrit Transliteration" or IAST system (based on diacritics),[8] "Indian languages Transliteration" or ITRANS (uses upper case alphabets suited for ASCII keyboards),[9] and the National Library at Calcutta romanization.[10]

Sample texts[edit]

Article 1 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights[edit]


Bengali in Bengali alphabet

ধারা ১: সমস্ত মানুষ স্বাধীনভাবে সমান মর্যাদা এবং অধিকার নিয়ে জন্মগ্রহণ করে। তাঁদের বিবেক এবং বুদ্ধি আছে; সুতরাং সকলেরই একে অপরের প্রতি ভ্রাতৃত্বসুলভ মনোভাব নিয়ে আচরণ করা উচিৎ।

Bengali in phonetic Romanization

Dhara êk: Sômôstô manush sbadhinbhabe sôman môrzada ebông ôdhikar niye jônmôgrôhôn kôre. Tãder bibek ebông buddhi achhe; sutôrang sôkôleri êke ôpôrer prôti bhratritbôsulôbh mônobhab niye achôrôn kôra uchit.

Bengali in IPA

d̪ʱara æk ʃɔmɔst̪ɔ manuʃ ʃad̪ʱinbʱabe ʃɔman mɔrdʒad̪a ebɔŋ ɔd̪ʱikar nie̯e dʒɔnmɔɡrɔhɔn kɔre. t̪ãd̪er bibek ebɔŋ budd̪ʱːi atʃʰe; sut̪ɔraŋ sɔkɔleri æke ɔpɔrer prɔt̪i bʱrat̪rit̪ːɔsulɔbʱ mɔnobʱab nie̯e atʃɔrɔn kɔra utʃit̪.

Gloss

Clause 1: All human free-manner-in equal dignity and right taken birth-take do. Their reason and intelligence exist; therefore everyone-indeed one another's towards brotherhood-ly attitude taken conduct do should.

Translation

Article 1: All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience. Therefore, they should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.

Unicode[edit]

Bengali script was added to the Unicode Standard in October, 1991 with the release of version 1.0.

The Unicode block for Bengali is U+0980–U+09FF:

Bengali[1][2]
Official Unicode Consortium code chart (PDF)
  0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 A B C D E F
U+098x
U+099x
U+09Ax
U+09Bx ি
U+09Cx
U+09Dx
U+09Ex
U+09Fx
Notes
1.^ As of Unicode version 7.0
2.^ Grey areas indicate non-assigned code points

See also[edit]

Footnotes and references[edit]

  1. ^ Ancient Scripts
  2. ^ Different Bengali linguists give different numbers of Bengali diphthongs in their works depending on methodology, e.g. 25 (Chatterji 1939: 40), 31 (Hai 1964), 45 (Ashraf and Ashraf 1966: 49), 28 (Kostic and Das 1972:6-7) and 17 (Sarkar 1987).
  3. ^ The natural pronunciation of the grapheme অ, whether in its independent (visible) form or in its "inherent" (invisible) form in a consonant grapheme, is /ɔ/. But its pronunciation changes to /o/ in the following contexts:
    • অ is in the first syllable and there is a ই /i/ or উ /u/ in the next syllable, as in অতি ôti "much" /ɔt̪i/, বলছি bôlchhi "(I am) speaking" /ˈboltʃʰi/
    • if the অ is the inherent vowel in a word-initial consonant cluster ending in rôfôla "rô ending" /r/, as in প্রথম prôthôm "first" /prɔt̪ʰɔm/
    • if the next consonant cluster contains a jôfôla "jô ending", as in অন্য ônyô "other" /onːo/, জন্য jônyô "for" /dʒɔnːɔ/
  4. ^ Even though the near-open front unrounded vowel [æ] is one of the seven main vowel sounds in the standard Bengali language, no distinct vowel symbol has been allotted for it in the script, thought is used.
  5. ^ /ʊ/ is the original pronunciation of the vowel , thought a secondary pronunciation /o/ entered the Bengali phonology due to Sanskrit influence. In modern Bengali both the ancient and adopted pronunciation of can be heard in spoken. Example: The word নোংরা (meaning "foul") is pronounced as /nʊŋra/ and /noŋra/ (Romanized as both nungra and nongra), both.
  6. ^ See Chowdhury 1963
  7. ^ In Japanese there exists some debate as to whether to accent certain distinctions, such as Tōhoku vs Tohoku. Sanskrit is well standardized, because the speaking community is relatively small, and sound change is not a large concern
  8. ^ "Learning International Alphabet of Sanskrit Transliteration". Sanskrit 3 - Learning transliteration. Gabriel Pradiipaka & Andrés Muni. Archived from the original on 12 February 2007. Retrieved 2006-11-20. 
  9. ^ "ITRANS — Indian Language Transliteration Package". Avinash Chopde. Retrieved 2006-11-20. 
  10. ^ "Annex-F: Roman Script Transliteration" (PDF). Indian Standard: Indian Script Code for Information Interchange — ISCII. Bureau of Indian Standards. 1 April 1999. p. 32. Retrieved 2006-11-20. 

Bibliography[edit]

  • Ashraf, Syed Ali; Ashraf, Asia (1966), "Bengali Diphthongs", in Dil A. S., Shahidullah Presentation Volume, Lahore: Linguistic Research Group of Pakistan, pp. 47–52 
  • Chatterji, Suniti Kumar (1939), Vasha-prakash Bangala Vyakaran (A Grammar of the Bengali Language), Calcutta: University of Calcutta 
  • Chowdhury, Munier (1963), Shahitto, shônkhatôtto o bhashatôtto (Literature, statistics and linguistics), Bangla Academy Potrika (Dhaka) 6 (4): 65–76 
  • Kostic, Djordje; Das, Rhea S. (1972), A Short Outline of Bengali Phonetics, Calcutta: Statistical Publishing Company 
  • Hai, Muhammad Abdul (1964), Dhvani Vijnan O Bangla Dhvani-tattwa (Phonetics and Bengali Phonology), Dhaka: Bangla Academy 
  • Jones, William (1801), Orthography of Asiatick Words in Roman Letters, Asiatick Researches (Calcutta: Asiatick Society) 
  • Sarkar, Pabitra (1987), Bangla Dishôrodhoni (Bengali Diphthongs), Bhasha (Calcutta) 4–5: 10–12 

External links[edit]

digital encoding and rendering