Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Bangla Transliteration

Last year I was trying to search for a particlular detail about Devanagari on the web and was more or less told that there was no information on that topic to be found. It only took a few minutes, however, to find what I wanted. I simply searched for devanagari, devnagri, devnagari and so on.

So I was delighted to read this article on Bangla transliteration by Abu Jar M Akkas. The article is fascinating and full of history so I will return to it again.

Akkas provides this definition for transcription and transliteration.

"Transcription tries to depict the pronunciation of the source text using the sound system of the target language, without considering the original orthography. Transliteration represents the orthography of the source script, using one-to-one correspondence with the target script, without considering pronunciation."

Transcription makes it easier to pronounce a word properly if you don't know the language but it often does not enable one to retrieve the original spelling in the source language. So the two do not serve the same purpose. No wonder it is so hard to agree on a standard scheme.

The conclusion especially cheers me up since he shows how hard it is to avoid being labeled.

"Moreover, the state of being politically correct or incorrect naturally goes with either of the choices. Someone writing ?varna? for the Bangla word for ?letter? might be labelled as pedantic or pro-Sanskrit by someone, oblivious of the fact that although Bangla has a script of its own, it has borrowed the Sanskrit alphabet, or the Sanskrit alphabet has been imposed on Bangla, as some might prefer to say. Again if someone writes ?barna?, he might be accused of under-differentiating the two b-letters, as far as grammar is concerned. Inspired to keep to the pronunciation, someone else may write ?borno?, and thus he might leave the more linguistically attuned people wondering what are the vowels in the word ? o as in hot, which is written a, or o as in note, written o. He might by a larger section of the people be labelled as ?crazy?. So, pohela boishak or pahela baishakh? Choose what you may, but do not forget the labels you may be stamped with. "

From here I went on to read this discussion of Perso-Arabic/Indic interface.


Blogger CW said...

Ohh welcome back! :)

(Sorry I don't have a more considered response to leave here, I just noticed you were back when I checked my aggregator - will read properly later!)

1:39 AM  
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