Common Script For All Indian Languages

by Krishnaswamy Kasturi - Apr 2, 2015 01:49 PM
Common Script For All Indian Languages

Devising a script based on the common auditory pool of all Indian languages

Everyone is aware of the advantages of having a common script to represent all Indian languages. The problem is finding one. There have been feeble attempts in this regard. The efforts, however, have been perfunctory and were based on the utilization of one or the other of the Indian scripts with alterations. These attempts, however, have been conceived as a visual problem themselves. The scripts of Indian languages being totally dissimilar to one another, the task seemed beyond possibility.

To obviate this difficulty we studied the phonetics of the letters of Indian languages from the aural angle. It was found that the Indian languages, though visually unique, have a strong phonetic link. When we break down any word to its basic sound-symbols, which become the building blocks of words, we find an interesting factor. When the thousand and odd letters of the alphabets of the languages were mounted on a grid we find that there are only sixty building blocks for all the twelve major Indian languages. Different sequences and permutations of these “sound-symbols’’ make up the thousands of words in Indian languages.

Now the problem was to find a common symbol for each of them. The Roman script is most convenient from all points of view but its alphabet has only 26 letters. To make up for the difference, we used diacritics built into Unicode. Readers may refer to www.enverb.com/indianinroman for detailed explanation of the methodology and mapping of each of these Indian language sounds.

Interestingly, Indian scripts do not have capital letters; this gives an added advantage because the shift keys of any computer could be used to accommodate all the 60 characters. As for computer compatibility, we have already made a “Microsoft keyboard layout” which is available on the aforementioned website, which Windows Users can install and access directly from their desktop.

Common Script For All Indian Languages

(Illustration of how to access the Indian in Roman Microsoft keyboard layout)

We give below the list of the sixty characters of the “Indian-in-Roman” font.

a ā  i  ī  u ū  e  ē  ü  ÿ o  ō  ö

k  kh  g  gh  q  ĝ  ng   c  ch  j  jh  ĵ  ny

ŧ   ŧh  đ  đh  ñ

t  th  d  dh  n

p ph  b  bh  f  m

y  r  ŕ  r̋  r̊  l  ľ  v    ś  s̋  s  z   x  ẋ  ẍ  z  z̃  h

A majority of the characters are common to all the languages. Wherever languages have their own peculiar sound-syllables, they are given separate characters.

As mentioned, the characters are easily accommodated in a computer keyboard. The keyboard layout we have suggested is as shown below:

Common Script For All Indian Languages

To demonstrate the feasibility of the scheme we give below a list of words from different languages typed out in this “Indian-in-Roman” font, through the devised keyboard layout.

Large Table Click to Expand.

LanguageWordMeaning in EnglishLanguageWordMeaning inEnglish
AssamesechāgolīgoatMalayalamnyānI
tormūjwatermeloneviđewhere
ẋonibārSaturdaykaññüeye
pūbeastśarkarajaggery
bhoriLegvāyamouth
bogāwhitecuñđülip
cokūeyepuz̃ariver
cāri ẋofour hundredpādiramidnight
kolbananamur̊iroom
rongaredaccanfather
TamilvīđühouseOdissiobhyāshabit
paz̃amfruitrombhāplantain
pañammoneyōŧhlip
araśiyalpoliticsgochtree
udađülipcokwheel
kōbamangergotkālīyesterday
vēlÿworkoŧŧāľikāmansion
vēŧŧidhotikos̋ŧotrouble
maramtreeghor̊leg
vanđivehiclepochbehind
PunjabisajjārightKannadauppinakāyipickle
khabbālefthaññufruit
ciŧŧāwhitemēgegoat
fazalyieldnusimosquito
ca(n)gāgoodmūranethird
aggafireviľambadelay
luŧērārobberkelesawork
kammaworkbadagicarpenter
talabsalarybiľiwhite
s ̋ahirtowncinnagold
BengalimonmindHindibīc mēIn the middle of
bayasagekhyālthought
āynāglasskhabarnews
dhēslāyimatchstickvisvāsbelief
dbārentrancema(n)zilfloor
tīks̋ñasharpbāvarcicook
sampratinowpisāyigrinding
ēsabaall thesekacrāwaste
ŧhākurmāgrandmotherpēŧstomach
gāchtreebālhair
TeluguavvagrandmotherSanskritsakrütonce
vighnamuobstaclepikahacuckoo
dōmamosquitokākahacrow
goduguumbrellavrüthāin vain
pampusendbiđālahacat
cēyihandpacaticooks
nadirēyimidnightcarañamfeet
vēsavisummerśarañamrefuge
vīdhistreetbhrātābrother
tūrpueastpötragrandson

When we pass a street sign in a town where we do not know the local language, we can ‘catch’ the name of the location by a quick glance at the Roman letters. We would have no difficulty reading names of persons or places whenever they are presented in media. Travellers and migrants across different parts of India could apply their existing knowledge of Roman alphabet to learning a new Indian language, having bypassed the roadblock of an unknown script.The advantages of representing all Indian languages in this Romanized script are numerous.

These are not conclusions, only suggestions. They can always be modified in light of trials and discussions.

 (A detailed and longer version of this article can be found here)

Krishnaswamy Kasturi is a retired State Director at the All-India Radio. After retirement, he took up studying the phonetics of letters of Indian languages.
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