|Languages||Assamese, Bengali, Bishnupriya Manipuri, Meitei, Sylheti, Santali, Kokborok, Garo, Hajong, Chakma, Chittagonian, Maithili, Angika, Kamtapuri and others.|
|Assamese, Bengali, Anga Lipi|
|ISO 15924||Beng (325), Bengali (Bangla)|
writing systems in India
Writing systems of India
Languages of India
|The Brahmic script and its descendants|
The Bengali–Assamese script (or Eastern Nagari script), is a modern eastern Indic script that emerged from the Brahmi script. Gaudi script is considered the ancestor of the script. It is known as Bengali script among Bengali speakers, as Assamese script among Assamese speakers, and Eastern Nagari is used in academic discourses.
Besides Bengali and Assamese it is used to write Bishnupriya Manipuri, Chakma, Meitei (Manipuri), Santali and other languages—historically, it was used for old and middle Indo-Aryan and it is still used for Sanskrit. Other languages, such as Angika, Bodo, Karbi, Maithili and Mising were once written in this script. The two major alphabets in this script – Assamese and Bengali – are virtually identical, except for two characters, with Assamese differing from Bengali in one letter for the /r/ sound, and an extra letter for the /w/ or /v/ sound.
The Bengali—Assamese script was originally not associated with any particular regional language, but was prevalent as the main script in the eastern regions of Medieval India for Old- and Middle-Indo-Aryan including Sanskrit. All of these eastern Magadhan scripts are based on a system of characters historically related to, but distinct from, Devanagari. Brahmi, an ancient Indian syllabary, is the source of most native Indian scripts including the South Indian languages and Devanagari, the script associated with classical Sanskrit and other Indo-Aryan languages.
The modern eastern scripts (Bengali-Assamese, Odia, and Maithili) became clearly differentiated around the 14th and 15th centuries from the predecessor Gaudi. While the scripts in Bengal, Assam and Mithila remained similar to each other the Odia script developed a curved top in the 13th-14th century and became increasingly different. Old Maithili also used a script similar to the Bengali–Assamese script, and Maithili scholars (particularly of the older generation) still write Sanskrit in that script.
Modern Bengali–Assamese script saw further standardisations following the introduction of printing.
Though there were early attempts to cut Bengali types it was the East India Company's interest in propagating the Bengali language that ultimately prevailed. It first commissioned Willem Bolt, a Dutch adventurer, to create a grammar for Bengali, but he had to leave India after he ran into trouble with the company. The first significant book with Bengali typography was Halhed's 1778 "A Grammar of the Bengal Language" which he compiled from a meagre set of six Bengali manuscripts. When Halhed turned to Warren Hastings for publishing, he was referred to Charles Wilkins, the type-founder at the Company press at Hoogly. Learned in Sanskrit and Persian, Wilkins singlehandedly cut the most complete set. He was assisted by the Bengali blacksmith, Panchanan Karmakar, who is often erroneously credited as the father of the Bengali type.
In this and other articles on Wikipedia dealing with the Assamese and Bengali languages, a Romanization scheme used by linguists specialising in Bengali phonology and a separate Assamese transliteration table used by linguists specialising in Assamese phonology are included along with IPA transcription.
There are three major modern alphabets in this script: Bengali, Assamese, and Tirhuta. Modern Assamese is very similar to modern Bengali. Assamese has at least one extra letter, ৱ, that Bengali does not. It also uses a separate letter for the sound 'ro' ৰ different from the letter used for that sound in Bengali র and the letter ক্ষ is not a conjunct as in Bengali, but a letter by itself. The alphabetical orders of the two alphabets also differ, in the position of the letter ক্ষ, for example. Languages like Meitei and Bishnupriya Manipuri use a hybrid of the two alphabets, with the Bengali র and the Assamese ৱ. Tirhuta is more different and carries forward some forms used in medieval Assamese.
Vowels and diacritics
The script presently has a total of 11 vowel letters, used to represent the seven vowel sounds of Bengali and eight vowel sounds of Assamese, along with a number of vowel diphthongs. All of these vowel letters are used in both Assamese and Bengali. Some of the vowel letters have different sounds depending on the word, and a number of vowel distinctions preserved in the writing system are not pronounced as such in modern spoken Bengali or Assamese. For example, the script has two 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 [i] and a long [iː], and a short [u] and a long [uː]. These letters are preserved in the script with their traditional names of "short i" and "long i", etc., despite the fact that they are no longer pronounced differently in ordinary speech.
Some language specific usages
In the Bengali alphabet অ্যা is used when the intended pronunciation would otherwise be ambiguous. Some other languages use a vowel অৗ to denote /ɯ/ which is not found in either Bengali or Assamese; and though the vowel diacritic (matra, ৗ) is found in Tirhuta the vowel letter itself is absent. Assamese alphabet uses an additional "matra" (ʼ) that is used to represent the phonemes অʼ and এʼ.
Vowel signs can be used in conjunction with consonants to modify the pronunciation of the consonant (here exemplified by ক, kô). When no vowel Diacritic symbol is written, then the vowel "অ" (ô) is the default inherited vowel for the consonant. To specifically denote the absence of a vowel, a hôsôntô (্) may be written underneath the consonant.
The names of the consonant letters in Eastern Nagari are typically just the consonant's main pronunciation plus the inherent vowel "অ" 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 "ঘ" is itself ঘ ghô, not gh). Some letters that have lost their distinctive pronunciation in Modern Assamese and Bengali are called by a more elaborate name. For example, since the consonant phoneme /n/ can be written ন, ণ, or ঞ (depending on the spelling of the particular word), these letters are not simply called nô; instead, they are called "dental nô", "cerebral nô" and niô. Similarly, the phoneme /ʃ/ in Bengali and /x/ in Assamese can be written as "palatal shô/xhô" শ, "cerebral shô/xhô" ষ, or "dental sô/xô" স, depending on the word.
There are two Unicode blocks for Bengali–Assamese script, called Bengali and Tirhuta. The Bengali block is U+0980–U+09FF:
Official Unicode Consortium code chart (PDF)
The Tirhuta block is U+11480–U+114DF:
Official Unicode Consortium code chart (PDF)
- 'The theory of a Semitic origin for Brahmi, [as opposed to Indus origin], does have a strong, if not entirely conclusive, body of concrete evidence in its favor.' and 'For even many of the supporters of the Semitic hypothesis concede that, in Dani's words, "[T]he Brahmi letters are not literally 'derived' from the Semitic letters as is commonly understood, but are only based on them" (DIP 29).' (Salomon 1998:29)
- 'The terminology for the various premodern Brahmi-derived scripts is, however, largely unstandardized and typically made up ad hoc, due mainly to the lack of attested indigenous terms for many of them (2.1.1). D. C. Sircar broadly categorizes the stages of development into "Early," "Middle," and "Late Brahmi" periods, corresponding (in northern India) to the third through first centuries B.C., the first century B.C. through third century A.D., and the fourth through sixth centuries A.D., respectively (HEP 113), though others refer to his "Late Brahmi" as "Gupta script".' (Salomon 1998:19)
- "Around the late sixth century, the so-called Gupta script of northern India evolved into a distinct new script for which the preferred name is Siddhamatrka." (Salomon 1998:39)
- "In the northeast, the local derivative of Siddhamatrka was the script known as Proto-Bengali or Gaudi, which was current from the tenth to the fourteenth centuries." (Salomon 1998:41)
- "This, in turn, gave rise to the modern eastern scripts, namely, Bengali-Assamese, Oriya, and Maithili, which became clearly differentiated around the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries." (Salomon 1998:41)
- "The Eastern Nagri script was first created to write Sanskrit and later adopted by regional languages like Bengali and Assamese. The Bengali Unicode block of characters is created from the Eastern Nagri script and contains character variants, like for the ‘r’, that is different in Bengali and Assamese." (Simard, Dopierala & Thaut 2020:5f)
- See "Parent Systems" on the right, and the citations therein.
- (Salomon 1998:41)
- " Bengalis will refer to the script as the 'Bengali script'.." (Brandt 2014:24)
- "Assamese has, like Bengali, a long literary tradition in this script which Assamese speakers naturally refer to as the 'Assamese script'." (Brandt 2014:25)
- "In fact, the term 'Eastern Nagari' seems to be the only designation which does not favour one or the other language. However, it is only applied in academic discourses, whereas the name 'Bengali script' dominates the global public sphere." (Brandt 2014:25)
- "Already the fact that most Bengalis will refer to the script of their language exclusively as the 'Bengali script', though it is used for many other languages as well, e.g. Assamese, Bishnupriya, Chakma, Meitei, Santali, etc. gives a glimpse of the dominant role of the Bengali language in the eastern part of South Asia (Brandt 2014:25–26)
- Bijan Kumar Roy, Subal Chandra Biswas and Parthasarathi Mukhopadhyay, Designing Unicode‐compliant Indic‐script based Institutional Digital Repository with special reference to Bengali, page 55, International Journal of Knowledge Content Development & Technology Vol.8, No.3, 53-67 (September, 2018)
- "(T)he script used today for Assamese and Bengali was, by origin, linked to the region and not any one specific modern language. Historically, it was in fact used for Old and Middle Indo-Aryan. Today it is used not only for other modern languages (e.g. Bishnupriya) but also still for Sanskrit." (Brandt & Sohoni 2018:7)
- Prabhakara, M S Scripting a solution[Usurped!], The Hindu, 19 May 2005.
- Ramesh Chandra Majumdar, The History and Culture of the Indian People: British paramountcy and Indian renaissance (Part 2), page 219, Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, 1951
- Bernard Comrie, The World's Major Languages, page 419, Routledge, 2009, ISBN 9781134261567
- B. P. Mahapatra, Constitutional languages, page 39, Presses Université Laval, 1989, ISBN 9782763771861
- "[T]he phase when the curved tops - so prominent now in many of the Oriya letters - were just appearing, initiating the parting of ways from the proto-[Bengali-Assamese-Maithili] phase. The beginning and progress of this trend can be noticed in many of the Orissa [inscriptions] of the 13th-14th centuries A.D." (Bhattacharya 1969:56f)
- Atindra Mojumder, Bengali Language: Historical Grammar (Part 1), page 22, Firma K. L. Mukhopadhyay, 1972
- (Khan 1962:55)
- "By 1772, the Company had skillfully employed the sword, diplomacy, and intrigue to take over the rule of Bengal from her people, factious nobles, and weak Nawab. Subsequently, to consolidate its hold on the province, the Company promoted the Bengali language. This did not represent an intrinsic love for Bengali speech and literature. Instead it was aimed at destroying traditional patterns of authority through supplanting the Persian language which had been the official tongue since the days of the great Moguls." (Khan 1962:53)
- "[T]he East India Company had commissioned Bolts to prepare a grammar of the Bengali language. But although Bolts, who was a man of great enterprise and ingenuity, had represented himself as a great Orientalist, he ran into difficulties with the Company from 1766 to 1768 which culminated in his deportation from India." (Khan 1962:55–56)
- " The first significant stride in Bengali typography, printing, and publication was made in 1778 with the appearance of A Grammar of the Bengal Language by Halhed." (Khan 1962:56)
- "Halhed, when compiling his monumental Grammar of the Bengali Language, complained that despite his familiarity with the works of Bengali authors he could trace only six extant books in 1778. These included the great religious epics, the Ramayana and the Mahabharata. All six, of course, were in manuscript." (Khan 1962:53)
- (Khan 1962:57–58)
- Banerji, R D (1919). The Origin of the Bengali Script. University of Calcutta.
- Bhattacharya, Sureshchandra (1969). The Evolution of Script in Northeastern India from CAD 400 to 1200 with Sepcial Reference to Bengal (PhD). University of London.
- Bora, Mahendra (1981). The Evolution of Assamese Script. Jorhat, Assam: Assam Sahitya Sabha.
- Brandt, Carmen (2014). "The identity politics of language and script in South Asia" (PDF). Depart. Vol. 17. pp. 24–31. Archived from the original (PDF) on 16 May 2017.
- Brandt, Carmen; Sohoni, Pushkar (2018). "Script and identity – the politics of writing in South Asia: an introduction". South Asian History and Culture. 9: 1–15. doi:10.1080/19472498.2017.1411048. S2CID 148802248.
- Khan, M. Siddiq (1962). "The Early History of Bengali Printing". The Library Quarterly: Information, Community, Policy. The University of Chicago Press. 32 (1): 51–61. doi:10.1086/618956. JSTOR 4305188. S2CID 148408211.
- Salomon, Richard (1998). Indian Epigraphy: A Guide to the Study of Inscriptions in Sanskrit, Prakrit, and the Other Indo-Aryan Languages. New York: Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-535666-3.
- Simard, Candide; Dopierala, Sarah M; Thaut, E Marie (2020). "Introducing the Sylheti language and its speakers, and the SOAS Sylheti project" (PDF). Language Documentation and Description. 18: 1–22. Retrieved 16 October 2020.
- Verma, Thakur Prasad (1976). Development of Script in Ancient Kamrupa. Asam Sahitya Sabha.