Bengali alphabet

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Bengali abugida
Bangla abugida
Бенгал алфавит.PNG
Type
Languages Sanskrit, Bengali, Meithei, Bishnupriya Manipuri, Kokborok
Time period
11th century to the present[1]
Parent systems
Sister systems
Assamese, Tibetan, Tirhuta, Anga Lipi
Direction Left-to-right
ISO 15924 Beng, 325
Unicode alias
Bengali
U+0980–U+09FF

The Bengali alphabet or Bangla alphabet (Bengali: বাংলা বর্ণমালা, bangla bôrnômala) or Bengali script (Bengali: বাংলা লিপি, bangla lipi) is the writing system for the Bengali language and, together with the Assamese alphabet, is the fifth most widely used writing system in the world. The script is used for other languages like Meithei and Bishnupriya Manipuri, and has historically been used to write Sanskrit within Bengal.

From a classificatory point of view, the Bengali script is an abugida, i.e. its vowel graphemes are mainly realised 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 recognisable, as are other Brahmic scripts, 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.[clarification needed]

History[edit]

The Bengali script evolved from the Kamarupi 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:

  • is represented as in Bengali, and as in Assamese.
  • Assamese script has a character, , represented as ; in Bengali it was represented as , same as , and was called অন্তঃস্থ ব ôntôsthô bô, to differentiate it from the other bô called বর্গীয় ব bôrgiyô bô but it lost its distinctive sound over the course of time (and was pronounced just like বর্গীয় ব) and recently, it was merged with বর্গীয় ব (though difference is still found in form of বফলা bôfôla, which is the diacritic form of অন্তঃস্থ ব) especially due to both being represented by the same letter.

The version of the script used for Manipuri is also a different variation; it uses the , represented as in Bengali script without the different representation as in Assamese script. It also uses the Assamese script character sounding , represented as .

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

Characters[edit]

The Bengali script can be divided into vowels and vowel diacritics/marks, consonants and consonant conjuncts, diacritical and other symbols, digits, and punctuation marks.

Vowels[edit]

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

  • "" ô (স্বর অ shôrô ô, "vocalic ô") /ɔ/ sounds as the default Inherent vowel for the entire Bengali script.
  • Even though the open-mid front unrounded vowel /ɛ/ 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 /ɛ/ sound in Sanskrit, the primary written language when the script was conceived. As a result, the sound is orthographically realised by multiple means in modern Bengali orthography, usually using some combination of "" e (স্বর এ shôrô e, "vocalic e") /e/, "", "" a (স্বর আ shôrô a) /a/ and the যফলা jôfôla (diacritic form of the consonant grapheme য ).
  • There are two graphemes for the vowel sound [i] and two graphemes for the vowel sound [u]. The redundancy stems from the time when this script was used to write Sanskrit, a language that had short and long vowels: "" i (হ্রস্ব ই rôshshô i, "short i") /i/ and "" ī (দীর্ঘ ঈ dirghô ī, "long ī") /iː/, and "" u (হ্রস্ব উ rôshshô u) /u/ and "" ū (দীর্ঘ ঊ dirghô ū) /uː/. The 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 serve an etymological function, however, in preserving the original Sanskrit spelling in tôtsômô Bengali words (words borrowed from Sanskrit).
  • The grapheme called "" (or হ্রস্ব ঋ rôshshô ri, "short ri", as it used to be) does not really represent a vowel phoneme in Bengali but 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 the vocalic equivalent of a retroflex approximant (possibly an r-colored vowel). Another grapheme called "" (or হ্রস্ব ঌ rôshshô li as it used to be) representing the vocalic equivalent of a dental approximant in Sanskrit but actually representing the constant-vowel combination লি /li/ in Bengali instead of a vowel phoneme, was also included in the vowel section but unlike "", it was recently discarded from the inventory since its usage was extremely limited even in Sanskrit.
  • When a vowel sound occurs syllable-initially or when it follows another vowel, it is written using a distinct letter. 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. These vowel marks cannot appear without a consonant and are called কার kar.
  • An exception to the above system is the vowel /ɔ/, which has no vowel mark but is considered inherent in every consonant letter. To denote the absence of the 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: "" oi (স্বর ঐ shôrô oi, "vocalic oi") /oi/ and "" ou (স্বর ঔ shôrô ou) /ou/, the Bengali phonetic system has, in fact, many diphthongs.[nb 1] Most diphthongs are represented by juxtaposing the graphemes of their forming vowels, as in কেউ keu /keu/.
  • There also used to be two long vowels: "" (দীর্ঘ ৠ dirghô rri, "long rri") and "" (দীর্ঘ ৡ dirghô lli), which were removed from the inventory during the Vidyasagarian reform of the script due to peculiarity to Sanskrit.

The table below shows the vowels present in the modern (since the late nineteenth century) inventory of the Bengali alphabet:

Bengali vowels
(স্বরবর্ণ sbôrôbôrnô)
হ্রস্ব (short) দীর্ঘ (long)
স্বর
(vowel phoneme)
কার
(vowel mark)
স্বর
(vowel phoneme)
কার
(vowel mark)
কন্ঠ্য
(Guttural)
ô
/ɔ~o/[nc 1]
- a
/a/
তালব্য
(Palatal)
i
/i/
ি ī/ee
/i/
ওষ্ঠ্য
(Labial)
u
/u/
ū/oo
/u/
মূর্ধন্য
(Retroflex)
ṛ/ri
/ri/
ṝ/rri
দন্ত্য
(Dental)
ḷ/li
/li/
ḹ/lli
যুক্তস্বর (complex vowels)
কন্ঠ্যতালব্য
(Palatoguttural)
e
/e~ɛ/[nc 2]
oi
/oi/
কন্ঠৌষ্ঠ্য
(Labioguttural)
o
/o~ʊ/[nc 3]
ou
/ou/
The consonant () along with the diacritic form of the vowels অ, আ, ই, ঈ, উ, ঊ, ঋ, এ, ঐ, ও and ঔ.

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ 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/
  2. ^ Even though the open-mid front unrounded vowel /ɛ/ 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, though is used.
  3. ^ /ʊ/ is the original pronunciation of the vowel , though a secondary pronunciation /o/ entered the Bengali phonology by 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.

Consonants[edit]

Consonant letters are called ব্যঞ্জনবর্ণ bænjônbôrnô "consonant letter" in Bengali. The names of the 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 (the name of the letter is itself ghô, not gh).

  • Some letters that have lost their distinctive pronunciation in modern Bengali are called by more elaborate names. For example, since the consonant phoneme /n/ is written as both and , the letters are not called simply ; instead, they are called দন্ত্য ন dôntyô nô ("dental nô") and মূর্ধন্য ণ murdhônyô nô ("retroflex nô"). What was once pronounced and written as a retroflex nasal ণ [ɳ] is now pronounced as an alveolar [n] (unless conjoined with another retroflex consonant such as ট, ঠ, ড and ঢ) although the spelling does not reflect the change.
  • Although still named Murdhônyô when they are being taught, retroflex consonants do not exist in Bengali and are instead fronted to their postalveolar and alveolar equivalents.[2]
  • The voiceless palato-alveolar sibilant phoneme /ʃ/ can be written as , (তালব্য শ talôbyô shô, "palatal shô"), (মূর্ধন্য ষ murdhônyô shô, "retroflex shô"), or (দন্ত্য স dôntyô sô, "dental sô" voiceless alveolar fricative), depending on the word.
  • The voiced palato-alveolar affricate phoneme /dʒ/ can be written in two ways, as (অন্তঃস্থ য ôntôsthô jô) or (বর্গীয় জ bôrgiyô jô). In many varieties of Bengali, [z, dz] are not distinct from this phoneme, but speakers who distinguish them may use the letters and with contrast.
  • Since the nasals ñô /ẽɔ/ and ngô /ŋɔ/ cannot occur at the beginning of a word in Bengali, their names are not ñô and ngô respectively but উঙ ungô (pronounced by some as উম umô or উঁঅ ũô) and ইঞ iñô (pronounced by some as নীয় niyô or ইঙ ingô) respectively.
  • Similarly, since the semivowel য়/e̯ɔ/ cannot occur at the beginning of a Bengali word (unlike Sanskrit and other Indic languages, Bengali words cannot begin with any semi-vocalic phoneme), its name is not ôntôsthô yô but অন্তঃস্থ অ ôntôsthô ô.
  • There is a difference in the pronunciation of ড় ṛô (ড-এ শূন্য ড় ḍô-e shunyô ṛô, "ṛô (as) ḍô with a zero (the figure is used analogous to the ring below diacritic as the Bengali equivalent of the Devanagari nuqta, which is again analogous to the underdot)") and ঢ় ṛhô (ঢ-এ শূন্য ঢ় ḍhô-e shunyô ṛhô) with that of (sometimes called ব-এ শূন্য র bô-e shunyô rô for distinguishing purpose) - similar to other Indic languages. This is especially true in the parlance of western and southern part of Bengal but lesser on the dialects of the eastern side of the Padma River. ড় and ঢ় were introduced to the inventory during the Vidyasagarian reform to indicate the retroflex flap in the pronunciation of ḍô and ḍhô in the middle or end of a word. It is an allophonic development in some Indic languages not present in Sanskrit. Yet in ordinary speech these letters are pronounced the same as in modern Bengali.
Bengali consonants
(ব্যঞ্জনবর্ণ bænjônbôrnô)
স্পর্শ
(Stop)
অনুনাসিক
(Nasal)
অন্তঃস্থ
(Approximant)
ঊষ্ম
(Fricative)
বর্গীয় বর্ণ (Generic sounds)
Voicing অঘোষ (Voiceless) ঘোষ (Voiced) অঘোষ (Voiceless) ঘোষ (Voiced)
Aspiration অল্পপ্রাণ (Unaspirated) মহাপ্রাণ (Aspirated) অল্পপ্রাণ (Unaspirated) মহাপ্রাণ (Aspirated) অল্পপ্রাণ (Unaspirated) মহাপ্রাণ (Aspirated)
কন্ঠ্য
(Guttural)[nc 1]

/kɔ/
khô
/ɔ/

/gɔ/
ghô
/ɡʱɔ/
ngô
/ŋɔ/

/ɦɔ~hɔ/[nc 2]
তালব্য
(Palatal)[nc 3]
chô/sô
/ɔ~tsɔ~sɔ/
chhô/ssô
/tʃʰɔ~tsʰɔ~sɔ/
ǰô
/ɔ~dzɔ~zɔ/
ǰhô
/dʒʱɔ~dzʱɔ/
ñô
/nɔ~ɔ/[nc 4]

/ɔ~dzɔ~zɔ/[nc 5]
shô
/ʃɔ~ɕɔ/[nc 6]
মূর্ধন্য
(Retroflex)[nc 7]
ṭô
/ɔ/
ṭhô
/t̠ʰɔ/
ḍô
/ɔ/
ḍhô
/d̠ʱɔ/
ṇô
/nɔ/[nc 8]

/rɔ/
ṣô
/ɕɔ~ʃɔ/[nc 6]
দন্ত্য
(Dental)

/ɔ/
thô
/t̪ʰɔ/

/ɔ/
dhô
/d̪ʱɔ/

/nɔ/

/lɔ/
sô/shô
/sɔ~ɕɔ~ʃɔ/[nc 6]
ওষ্ঠ্য
(Labial)

/pɔ/
phô/fô
/ɔ~ɸɔ~fɔ/[nc 9]

/bɔ/
bhô
/ɔ/

/mɔ/
βô
/bɔ/
Post-reform letters ড় ṛô
/ɽɔ/
ঢ় ṛhô
/ɽʱɔ/
য়
/ɔ/

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Though in modern Bengali the letters ক, খ, গ, ঘ, ঙ are actually velar consonants and the letter হ is actually a glottal consonant, texts still use the Sanskrit name "কন্ঠ্য" ("guttural").
  2. ^ When used at the beginning or end of a word, হ is pronounced voiceless /hɔ/ but when used in the middle, it is sounded voiced as /ɦɔ/.
  3. ^ Palatal letters phonetically represent palato-alveolar sounds but in Eastern dialects they mostly are depalatalised or depalatalised and deaffricated.
  4. ^ Original sound for ঞ was /ɲɔ/ but in modern Bengali, it represents /ɔ/ and in consonant conjuncts is pronounced /nɔ/ same as ন.
  5. ^ In Sanskrit, য represented voiced palatal approximant /j/. In Bengali, it developed two allophones: voiced palato-alveolar affricate /ɔ/ same as জ when used at the beginning of a word and the palatal approximant in other cases. When reforming the script, Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar introduced য়, representing /ɔ/, to indicate the palatal approximant in the pronunciation of য in the middle or end of a word. In modern Bengali, য represents /ɔ/ and the open-mid front unrounded vowel /ɛ/ as the diacritic jôfôla. It falls into voiced alveolar sibilant affricate /dzɔ/ in Eastern dialects and is also used to represent voiced alveolar sibilant /zɔ/ for Perso-Arabic loanwords.
  6. ^ a b c In Bengali, there are three letters for sibilants: শ, ষ, স. Originally all three had distinctive sounds. In modern Bengali, the most common sibilant varies between /ʃ~ɕ/ – originally represented by শ, but today, স and ষ in words are often pronounced as /ɕ~ʃ/. The other sibilant in Bengali is /s/, originally represented by স, but today, শ and ষ, in words, can sometimes be pronounced as /s/. Another, now extinct, sibilant was /ʂ/, originally represented by ষ. ষ is mostly pronounced as /ɕ~ʃ/, but in conjunction with apical alveolar consonants, /ʂ/ sound can sometimes be found.
  7. ^ In modern text often the name দন্ত্যমূলীয় ("alveolar") or পশ্চাদ্দন্তমূলীয় ("postalveolar") is used to describe letters previously described as retroflex more precisely.
  8. ^ The original sound for ণ was /ɳɔ/ but in modern Bengali it is almost always pronounced /nɔ/ same as ন; except for in conjuncts with other retroflex letters, original sound for ণ can be occasionally found.
  9. ^ Although ফ represents the aspirated form of the voiceless bilabial stop /ɔ/ it is pronounced either voiceless labial fricative /ɸɔ/ (in Eastern dialects) or voiceless labiodental fricative /fɔ/ in ordinary speech.

Consonant conjuncts[edit]

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

Up to four consonant clusters can be orthographically represented as a typographic ligature called a consonant conjunct (Bengali: যুক্তাক্ষর/যুক্তবর্ণ juktakkhôr/juktôbôrnô or more specifically যুক্তব্যঞ্জন). 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. It is a combination of ǰô and ñô but it is not pronounced "ǰñô" or "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.

(Some graphemes may appear in a form other than the mentioned form due to the font used)

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 (includes বফলা bôfôla): গ্ব gbô ণ্ব "ṇbô" 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 bǰô প্ট pṭô শ্চ shchô শ্ছ shchhô, etc.

Approximated forms[edit]

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

  • The consonants can be placed side-by-side, appearing unaltered: দ্গ dgô দ্ঘ dghô ড্ড ḍḍô.
  • As the last member of a conjunct, bô can appear immediately to the right of the preceding consonant, taking the shape of bô (includes 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 ngô chô ḍô and bô are often compressed and placed at the top-left of the following consonant, with little or no change to the basic shape: ঙ্ক্ষ "ngkṣô" ঙ্খ ngkhô ঙ্ঘ ngghô ঙ্ম ngmô চ্চ chchô চ্ছ chchhô চ্ঞ "chnô" ড্ঢ ḍḍhô ব্‍ব bbô.
  • As the first member of a conjunct, 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, 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, ṣô 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 ṣkô ষ্ট ṣṭô ষ্ঠ ṣṭhô ষ্প ṣpô ষ্ফ ṣfô ষ্ম ṣmô.
  • As the first member of a conjunct, 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 sṭô 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 and lose part of their basic shape.

  • As the first member of a conjunct, ǰô can lose its final down-stroke: জ্জ ǰǰô জ্ঞ "ǰñô" জ্ব "jbô".
  • As the first member of a conjunct, ñô can lose its bottom half: ঞ্চ ñchô ঞ্ছ ñchhô ঞ্জ ñǰô ঞ্ঝ ñǰhô.
  • As the last member of a conjunct, ñô can lose its left half (the part): জ্ঞ "ǰñô".
  • As the first member of a conjunct, ṇô and pô can lose their down-stroke: ণ্ঠ ṇṭhô ণ্ড ṇḍô প্ত ptô প্স psô.
  • As the first member of a conjunct, tô and bhô can lose their final upward tail: ত্ত ttô ত্থ tthô ত্র trô ভ্র bhrô.
  • As the last member of a conjunct, thô can lose its final upstroke, taking the form of hô instead: ন্থ nthô স্থ sthô ম্থ mthô
  • As the last member of a conjunct, mô can lose its initial down-stroke: ক্ম "kmô" গ্ম "gmô" ঙ্ম ngmô ট্ম "ṭmô" ণ্ম "ṇmô" ত্ম "tmô" দ্ম "dmô" ন্ম nmô ম্ম mmô শ্ম "shmô" ষ্ম ṣmô স্ম "smô".
  • As the last member of a conjunct, sô can lose its top half: ক্স ksô.
  • As the last member of a conjunct ṭô, ḍô and ḍhô can lose their matra: প্ট pṭô ণ্ড ṇḍô ণ্ট ṇṭô ণ্ঢ ṇḍhô.
  • As the last member of a conjunct ḍô can change its shape: ণ্ড ṇḍô

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 ǰhô 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 ǰrô ট্র ṭrô ঠ্র ṭhrô ড্র ḍrô 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 jô 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 "ṣyô" 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 ñô, চ chô takes the shape of ব bô: ঞ্চ ñchô
  • When preceded by another ট ṭô, ট is reduced to a leftward curl: ট্ট ṭṭô.
  • When preceded by ষ ṣô, ঞ ñô appears as two loops to the right: ষ্ণ ṣñô.
  • As the first member of a conjunct, or when at the end of a word and followed by no vowel, ত tô can appear as : 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 must be memorised: ক্ষ "kṣô" হ্ম "hmô".

Certain compounds[edit]

When serving as a vowel mark, 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 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 rū গ্রূ grū থ্রূ thrū দ্রূ drū ধ্রূ dhrū ভ্রূ bhrū শ্রূ shrū.
  • 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: স sô + ত tô +র rô = স্ত্র strô, ম mô + প pô + র rô = ম্প্র mprô, জ ǰô + জ ǰô + ব bô = জ্জ্ব "ǰǰbô", ক্ষ "kṣô" + ম mô = ক্ষ্ম "kṣmô".
  • Theoretically, four-consonant conjuncts can also be created, as in র rô + স sô + ট ṭô + র rô = র্স্ট্র rsṭrô, but they are not found in native words.

Diacritics and other symbols[edit]

These are mainly the Brahmi-Sanskrit diacritics, phones and punctuation marks present in languages with Sanskrit influence or Brahmi-derived scripts.

সংশোধক বর্ণ sôngshodhôk bôrnô
Symbol/
Graphemes
Name Function Romanization IPA
transcription
[nc 1] খণ্ড ত
khôndô tô
Special character. Final unaspirated dental [t̪] t /t̪/
[nc 2] অনুস্বার
ônushshar
Diacritic. Final velar nasal [ŋ] ng /ŋ/
[nc 2] বিসর্গ
bishôrgô
Diacritic.
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, for the word কিলোমিটার "kilometer" (similar to "km" in English), another example can be ডাঃ for ডাক্তার dāktār "doctor"
h /ḥ/
‍ঁ চন্দ্রবিন্দু
chôndrôbindu
Diacritic. Vowel nasalization ñ /ñ/
‍্ হসন্ত
hôshôntô
Diacritic. Suppresses the inherent vowel [ɔ] (ô)
‍ঽ অবগ্রহ
ôbôgrôhô
Special character or sign. 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.
-
‍্য যফলা
jôfôla
Diacritic. Used with two types of pronunciation in modern Bengali depending on the location of the consonant it is used with within a syllable
Example 1 - When the consonant it is used with is syllable-initial, it acts as the vowel /ɛ/: ত্যাগ is pronounced /t̪ɛg/
Example 2 - When the consonant it is used with is syllable-final, it doubles the consonant: মুখ্য is pronounced /mukʰːɔ/
Notably used in transliterating English words with /ɛ/ sounding vowels, e.g. ব্ল্যাক "black" and sometimes as a diacritic to indicate non-Bengali vowels of various kinds in transliterated foreign words, e.g. the schwa 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
ê / yô /ɛ/ or /ː/
‍‍্র রফলা
rôfôla
Diacritic. [r] pronounced following a consonant phoneme. r /r/
‍‍ র্‍ রেফ
ref/reph
Diacritic. [r] pronounced preceding a consonant phoneme. r /r/
‍্ব বফলা
bôfôla
Diacritic. Used in spellings only if they were adopted from Sanskrit and has two different pronunciations depending on the location of the consonant it is used with
Example 1 - When the consonant it is used with is syllable-initial, it remains silent: স্বাধীন is pronounced as /ʃad̪ʱin/ rather than /ʃbad̪ʱin/
Example 2 - When the consonant it is used with is syllable-final, it doubles the consonant: বিদ্বান is pronounced /bid̪ːan/ and বিশ্ব is pronounced /biʃːɔ/
However, certain Sanskrit sandhis (phonetic fusions) such as 'ঋগ্বেদ', 'দিগ্বিজয়', 'উদ্বেগ', 'উদ্বৃত্ত' are pronounced /rigbed̪/, /d̪igbidʒɔe̯/, /ud̪beg/, /ud̪brittɔ/ respectively while usage with the consonant defies phonological rules: 'আহ্বান' and 'জিহ্বা' are properly pronounced /aobɦan/ and /dʒiobɦa/ rather than /aɦban/ and /dʒiɦba/, respectively.
Also used in transliterating Islam-related Arabic words
Note: Not all instances of bô used as the last member of a conjunct are bôfôla, for example, in the words অম্বর ômbôr, লম্বা lômba, তিব্বত tibbôt, বাল্ব balb, etc.
- /ː/
‍৺ ঈশ্বার
ishshar
Sign. Represents the name of a deity or also written before the name of a deceased person
আঞ্জী/সিদ্ধিরস্তু
anji /siddhirôstu
Sign. Used at the beginning of texts as an invocation

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ ৎ (khôndô tô "part-") 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. It is an overproduction inconsistency, as the sound /t̪/ is realised 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 memorised, as they 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.
  2. ^ a b -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 "University of Dhaka". The full stop can also be used when writing out English letters as initials, such as ই.ইউ. i.iu "EU".

Digits and numerals[edit]

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
Hindu-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 hazar), the hundred thousand or lakh (লাখ lakh or লক্ষ lôkkhô), and the ten million or hundred lakh or crore (কোটি koti) units. In other words, leftwards from the decimal separator, the first grouping consists of three digits, and the subsequent groupings always consist of two 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. Capital letters are absent in the Bengali script so proper names are unmarked.
An 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).

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 (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, 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 that spacing is much narrower than the spacing between words.

Unlike in western scripts (Latin, Cyrillic, etc.) for which 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 nine graphemes that are the most frequent in Bengali texts, shown with its percentage of appearance in the table on the right.[3]

Standardization[edit]

In the 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 standardising 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 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 formalised system.

It seems likely that standardisation 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 specialising in Bengali phonology is included along with IPA transcription. A recent effort by the Government of West Bengal focused on simplifying the 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 the problem.

Romanization[edit]

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 but failed to represent the true Bengali phonetic sound. While different standards for romanisation have been proposed for Bengali, they have not been adopted with the degree of uniformity seen in languages such as Japanese or Sanskrit.[nb 2] The Bengali alphabet has often been included with the group of Brahmic scripts for romanisation in which the true phonetic value of Bengali is never represented. Some of them are the International Alphabet of Sanskrit Transliteration or "IAST system"[4] "Indian languages Transliteration" or ITRANS (uses upper case alphabets suited for ASCII keyboards),[5] and the extension of IAST intended for non-Sanskrit languages of the Indian region called the National Library at Kolkata romanisation.[6]

Sample texts[edit]

Article 1 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights


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 æk: Šomosto manush šadhinbhabe šoman morjada æbong odhikar niye jonmogrohon kore. Tãder bibek æbong buddhi achhe; šutôrang sokoleri æke oporer proti bhratrittošulobh mono̊bhab niye achoron kora uchit.

Bengali in IPA

d̪ʱara ɛk ʃɔmost̪o manuʃ ʃad̪ʱinbʱabe ʃɔman mɔrdʒad̪a eboŋ od̪ʱikar nie̯e dʒɔnmoɡrohon kɔre. t̪ãd̪er bibek eboŋ budd̪ʱːi atʃʰe; sut̪oraŋ sɔkoleri ɛke ɔporer prot̪i bʱrat̪rit̪ːosulɔbʱ monobʱab nie̯e atʃoron 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 10.0
2.^ Grey areas indicate non-assigned code points

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ 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).
  2. ^ In Japanese, there is 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.

References[edit]

  1. ^ Ancient Scripts
  2. ^ Mazumdar, Bijaychandra (2000). The history of the Bengali language (Repr. [d. Ausg.] Calcutta, 1920. ed.). New Delhi: Asian Educational Services. p. 57. ISBN 8120614526. yet it is to be noted as a fact, that the cerebral letters are not so much cerebral as they are dental in our speech. If we carefully notice our pronunciation of the letters of the 'ট' class we will see that we articulate 'ট' and 'ড,' for example, almost like English T and D without turning up the tip of the tongue much away from the region of the teeth. 
  3. ^ See Chowdhury 1963
  4. ^ "Learning International Alphabet of Sanskrit Transliteration". Sanskrit 3 – Learning transliteration. Gabriel Pradiipaka & Andrés Muni. Archived from the original on 12 February 2007. Retrieved 20 November 2006. 
  5. ^ "ITRANS – Indian Language Transliteration Package". Avinash Chopde. Retrieved 20 November 2006. 
  6. ^ "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 20 November 2006. 

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" (PDF), Asiatick Researches, Calcutta: Asiatick Society [permanent dead link]
  • Sarkar, Pabitra (1987), "Bangla Dishôrodhoni (Bengali Diphthongs)", Bhasha, Calcutta, 4–5: 10–12