Devanagari script: additional signs

Discussion in 'Indo-Iranian Languages' started by marrish, May 21, 2012.

  1. marrish

    marrish Senior Member

    اُردو Urdu
    In a recent thread, member hindiurdu mentioned a Nagari sign which I was unfamiliar with:

    Leaving aside the perceived closeness of /θ/ to the aspirated voiceless dental in Urdu/Hindi or its lack - we all know what is meant here, could we please discuss other additional signs which, like थ़, are devised to represent new sounds? The other one is a tiny ''chandra'' without the ''bindu'' placed in a superscript position above ''a'' and ''aa''. Which sound represents this symbol? Are there other special symbols used in this script - not necessarily limited to Hindi language conventions?
  2. flyinfishjoe Senior Member

    American English
    I believe the short o and short e (found in languages such as Kannada) are represented by ऒ and ऎ respectively. ष़ (retroflex sha with a nuqta underneath it) is used to represent the zha sound found in Malayalam and Tamil. One of the functions of these special symbols is to accurately transcribe South Indian place names into Devanagari. For example, if you go to Alappuzha (Aleppey) train station, you'll see Alappuzha written as आलप्पुष़ा in Hindi. There are many other special symbols whose sounds I cannot remember off the top of my head. I think that अ with a subscript nuqta is sometimes used to represent a glottal stop--not sure of this however.

    अ this means the vowel sound in "man." Above आ it represents the "o" sound in "modern." However, the former is more common in Marathi than in Hindi. In Hindi, you will usually see ऐ used instead.
  3. hindiurdu Senior Member

    Hindi-Urdu, Punjabi, Kashmiri
    flyinfishjoe, these letters actually make different sounds in Marathi and Hindi-Urdu. Marathi preserves the diphthongal character of औ and ऐ whereas HU makes them /ɔ/ (as in 'caught') and /æ/ (as in 'man'). So, where Marathi uses ऍ for /æ/ (as in 'man'), HU uses it for a completely different sound /ɛ/ (as in 'men'). Similarly, Marathi uses ऑ for /ɔ/ (as in 'caught') while HU uses it for /ɒ/ (as in 'ball' and, you are right, modern ). So, in Hindi usage of Nagri, 'beck and call' would strictly speaking be 'बॅक ऐन्ड कॉल​'. Of course, Eastern Hindi is different also and retains diphthongality. I do not know of any character like अॅ and am unaware if it stands for anything in Hindi. I have never seen such a thing. There are other differences between Hindi and Marathi usage of Nagari too, e.g. झ (sometimes?) represents /z/ for Marathi but is only 'jh' in Hindi (ज़​ needs to be used for z).

    There are some other special characters, I am sure. One that comes to mind is झ़ which is 'zh'.
  4. marrish

    marrish Senior Member

    اُردو Urdu
    Thanks both of you for an extensive coverage; are there other sounds which are depicted with a dot? There was a mentioning of ''ra'' with a dot in a previous thread.
  5. tonyspeed Senior Member

    English & Creole - Jamaica
    झ़ (/ ʒ /) टेलेवीझ़न घोषः तालव्यः संघर्षी Voiced palatal fricative ज (/ dʒ /)
    थ़ (/ θ /) अथ़्रू अघोषः दन्त्यः संघर्षी Voiceless dental fricative थ (/ t̪h /)

    थ़ is the English "th" and is used in the Dogri language.
  6. flyinfishjoe Senior Member

    American English
    There are many others, but some are esoteric and not well known by average people. They are usually only used in things like transcribing South Indian languages. I know the dotted ra does exist, but I'm not sure exactly what sound it represents. There is also a dotted la sound too, I believe. Maybe someone more knowledgeable can fill us in.

    @hindiurdu - Thanks for the clarification.
  7. marrish

    marrish Senior Member

    اُردو Urdu
    Maybe member hindiurdu can say more about it.
  8. souminwé Senior Member

    Vancouver, Canada
    North American English, Hindi
    च़ and छ़ are sometimes used for ts and tsh, usually for regional languages or proposed alphabets. अ़ is a transcription of ʕayin in Devanagari Urdu texts or Islamic Hindi texts. And of course, the alphabet for Sindhi has the following for the implosives ग॒, ज॒, ड॒ and ब॒.
  9. tonyspeed Senior Member

    English & Creole - Jamaica
    While we are asking, can I ask what sound does represent? I have read "short-a" but that really tells me nothing of the actual sound.
  10. hindiurdu Senior Member

    Hindi-Urdu, Punjabi, Kashmiri
    I have a funny story about this. There was someone I knew with whom I would talk in Punjabi. This person (then middle age man, now gone to the Almighty) was a native Dogri speaker. I didn't realize it but he did this t̪h θ thing. One time another Punjabi-speaking guy from my family and I were talking to him. My relative was carrying something that this gentleman thought was painful to carry and kept insisting he put it down. He said something like 'hatth thak jaangey' (in heavy Pahari accent). It came out as 'haθ θak jaange' which at speed seemed like he was saying 'haθakk jaange'. To my relative it sounded like 'haffak jaange'. So he asked this guy what 'haffak' meant because he thought that guy was using a Dogri term for some place. I was very confused as I was somehow able to understand what he was saying to begin with and didn't understand what 'haffak' my relative was talking about. Neither did this gentleman. Took some clarifying.

    Anyway, there you have it. थ़. I think it is basically allophonic with थ in some regions.
  11. Ironicus Senior Member

    English & Swahili - East Africa
    It's impossible to impose on one alphabet the duty of representing every sound a human can make, and that is as true of Nagari as of the Roman alphabet.
    Take the matter of transliterating Tamil. This 'zh' sound is actually a variety of 'l' for some speakers at least. (It occurs in the very word 'Tamil'). The Tamil language has 3 varieties of 't', two of 'r', 2 or 3 of 'l'.... Add in all the other languages of India, and you soon break the back of Nagari.
    What's the solution? I think everyone should learn to read Telugu, which can represent all the sounds of the Dravidian and of Sanskrit.... Then what happens to the sounds peculiar to Urdu and other languages borrowing heavily from Arabic and Persian? Well, for that problem everyone can learn to read Urdu. Then all the railway signs can be bilingual - Urdu and Telugu - which is just as silly as assigning endless new sounds to Nagari symbols, but at least it will be more effective!
  12. tonyspeed Senior Member

    English & Creole - Jamaica
    At least it's better than what happens in English: really bad Englishisms of foreign sounds which leads English speakers to beleive they can actually pronounce foreign languages when they can't.

    And because of the limitations of English, when using the Roman alphabet to represent foreign sounds, people are forced to go to rediculous lengths to create a truly phonetic system.

    In my own native language, they end up combining letters to make up new vowel sounds: ie, uo, ou, ai - leading to a script that no one seems to like and is non-intuitive.

    Devanagari is phonetic, and people who use Devanagari tend to take this phonetic history seriously. Or maybe it is that it is the multi-cultural nature of India that leads them to have more respect for surrounding languages than the English diaspora which would just say "oh थ़ and थ - it's all the same th!"
  13. Ironicus Senior Member

    English & Swahili - East Africa
    English has a hard enough time using the Roman alphabet to represent the sounds of English, let alone of other languages! And I am sure that you like me find modern American pronunciation of what they call English is full of surprises, mostly unpleasant. This is not the fault of the Roman alphabet, which after all gave birth to the IPA.
    For sure Nagari is phonetic, but bear this in mind: it represents the phonemes of Sanskrit, which have to a great extent been preserved in most North Indian languages. It doesn't represent the phonemes of other language groups, and since there are many such phonemes, it can hardly be expected to.
    All Indian alphabets are almost completely phonetic, and therefore easy to learn. If you want to know how to pronounce words in Kannada, learning the alphabet is the way to go.
    If it were up to me, in representing a non-Nagari sound in Nagari, I would simply write down the nearest equivalents, and perhaps mark them with a symbol (such as a dot) that says only 'this is as close as we can get' rather than 'this is how you say this sound'. Problem solved.
  14. marrish

    marrish Senior Member

    اُردو Urdu
    Thank you for your posts. I tend to agree with what you say.

    However the purpose of this thread is to discuss the additional signs or marks that are already in existence.
  15. hindiurdu Senior Member

    Hindi-Urdu, Punjabi, Kashmiri
    The core of the problem is that alphabets are used for languages they weren't designed for. Historically, this drove the process of evolution. For example, Kashmiri developed it's own Perso-Arabic based symbols distinct from Urdu and Persian. For that matter, Urdu developed symbols for D, T, R (the r in larka/boy and sarak/road). This R sound doesn't exist in Sanskrit either, so a new letter for created for it in Nagari too. Uzbek developed a symbol inside Cyrillic to represent ghain. But sustaining an alphabet has historically been expensive in terms of teaching, printing and network-effects, so there's a clear incentive for languages to reuse what exists. Every language won't have its own lettering system. On network-effects, the more the people that can read some lettering, the more valuable it becomes. This establishes a dynamic in which some letterings receive momentum and most of them die. The ones that gain momentum branch out with extensions. This is all that has happened in Nagari, Perso-Arabic, Cyrillic, Roman (diacritics) or, in a way, even Chinese ideograms.

Share This Page