Urdu, Hindi: Transliteration Conflict

Discussion in 'Indo-Iranian Languages' started by Qureshpor, Mar 31, 2013.

  1. Qureshpor Senior Member

    Punjabi, Urdu پنجابی، اردو
    The purpose of this thread is to set the record straight once and for all so that it is clear as daylight to all and sundry why a number of Urdu speakers point out the errors in transliteration of Urdu words in threads which include Urdu as one of the languages under discussion. The following quotes are the most recent in this regard and I hope to cover all the points raised within them. It is my hope and desire that after clearing the air, so to speak, there is no need to raise the same issues by the same people over and over again. There is obviously some grave misunderstanding at play here and the sooner this is removed the better it will be. I invite comments from all friends concerning what is being alleged in the quotes and my responses.
    Firstly, I would like to begin my piece by making a couple of points whilst focusing on English, Hindi and Urdu.

    1) When someone writes in this forum, does n’t that person write in Standard English, Standard Hindi or Standard Urdu? (Or at least is n't he supposed to, according to the rules of the forum?)

    I would suggest that unless specified otherwise, one writes in what is known as the standard language. I am aware that in English the concept of what is considered right or wrong according to the accepted standard language, has a fairly long history manifested in works like Fowler's Modern English Usage 1911 and Eric Partridge’s Usage and Abusage (First published in 1942). Practitioners of good Urdu try to follow the “isnaad” (authority) of the best prose and verse authors who have stood the test of time. Despite the fact that Hindi does not have this clear concept, still any Hindi writer worth his salt would know that all the ph words are not f words and therefore would not write them as such unless he/she was employing dialogue to demonstrate actual speech of characters. If the initiator of a thread has purely colloquial or slang in mind, then it should be made clear from the start.

    2) Does the written language truly reflect the way one speaks? I would say no and this applies even to Hindi. We need not go into English as we all know cough is not cuf, station is not steshan, is is not iz and so on and so forth. In Hindi which unlike Urdu always incorporates short vowels a/i/u, still there are some vowels/consonants which are written but not pronounced as they ought to be, e.g the r, sh and NR in कृष्ण. सिंह is written siNh but pronounced siNgh. The alphabet in question for all the three languages is left to do the job in the best way it can and is not changed on a yearly or decade by decade basis to incorporate the “ground realities”. There may come a time when the speakers of all three languages might look for its respective alphabet to be “revamped”. But until that happens or the languages adopt the International Phonetic Alphabet, we are stuck with the current alphabets.

    Now that the basics have been laid out, a word or two about Urdu.

    a) Urdu is written in the Urdu alphabet which in most cases chooses not to include the short vowels a/i/u included in it. These are shown in children’s books and where necessary to give the exact pronunciation of a word. In this forum, if I had my way I would write in Urdu only especially in Urdu only posts. But, as the purpose of all these threads is to impart correct information to everyone, for the benefit of those who cannot read the Urdu alphabet, one is left with no choice but to adopt the Roman/Latin alphabet.

    b) A number of Urdu speakers try as best as they can to mirror the Urdu system of writing into the Roman/Latin system as closely as possible. Faylasoof SaaHib goes much further in his transliteration which practically mirrors Urdu 100%. Of course we add the short vowels too because within the Urdu system, we become accustomed to reading words as whole units by their appearance. Writing “mshkl” for “mushkil” would serve no purpose for beginners in Urdu or those who don't have command over Urdu script.

    c) When we have Urdu in mind, then it is not unreasonable to say that in Urdu the word is written ba3d vs baad, shi3r vs sher, phuul vs fuul, roz vs roj, darvaazah vs darvaazaa, shukriyah vs shukriyaa, ziyaadah vs jyaadaa, saHiiH vs sahii, shuruu3 vs shuruu and so on. You will see that in some cases in Hindi mode of depiction, whole consonants are missing! We hope that through this any Urdu learner will be able to relate to the written language much more easily. There is no hypocrisy at play here. Even though the –ah words are not pronounced as –aa, we are talking about the written word. Learners of the language will not be in any state of confusion once they are informed that in such words the h is silent. All our communication in this Forum is through the written word. So, the emphasis is on the written format. This is neither nitpicking nor snobbery. On the contrary it is information being provided to bring awareness to people who are new to Urdu. Why leave people in the dark?

    d) No one is dictating to Hindi speakers to follow this way of writing. Please write as you wish. The whole idea is to communicate. As long as the reader can follow your system and understand the words, that’s all that matters. But if any of the English/Russian/Hindi/ Chinese speakers have an ounce of interest in Urdu or anybody who follows the forum in a passive way, then they clearly stand to benefit from these snippets of information.

    I hope this post clarifies the following questions too.
    Regarding the first question, no. There are not too many -h ending words in Urdu which actually result in -h pronunciation. One exception is "baarah" where the "-ah" ending exists in both Urdu and Hindi and the h is pronounced.

    Have I been successful in removing the misunderstandings concerning the above matters?
    Last edited: Mar 31, 2013
  2. marrish

    marrish Senior Member

    اُردو Urdu
    I welcome your clear worded constructive work which is going to contribute to the mutual understanding of the various peculiarities that differentiate both languages. It is a pleasure to comment on it.

    I agree with these points. Many a time other friends - including me - used to indicate the phonetic transcription, along with the original script/transliteration, if and when applicable. The part in bold in your post finds its reflection in the forum rules, if my memory serves me right.

    I believe the most important participants and public of this and other forums are those who wish to benefit from them, counting on accurate and precise information and guidance on language matters so I fully agree with this stance. Among those, starters in Urdu or starters to be, deserve more attention than the old-timers. It is the goal of spending forum-hours on both ends of exchange to have proper information. Since it was me who told a learner recently about the Urdu spelling of the word for ''thanks'', let me accentuate that in my opinion the mistake correction and additional information is in the interest of everyone. Of course, I wouldn't do it if Urdu was not the topic of discussion.

    Regarding the Transliteration Chart which I prepared a couple of weeks ago, it is by no means to be taken as a prescription but as a guide in the prevailing transliteration methods which have existed in the forum long before I became an active member. Its purpose is to assist all users of the forum, especially newcomers in deciphering our proceedings.
    Last edited: Mar 31, 2013
  3. greatbear Banned

    India - Hindi & English
    Could you point out that Wordreference page for the pleasure of other foreros where such rules as you claim to exist are written?

    Also, which standard English? Queen's? Australian? Canadian? Indian? South African? New Zealander? American? Which standard Hindi? You seem to be contradicting yourself again: you also said "Despite the fact that Hindi does not have this clear concept". So, then, which standard? Pardon me, sire, Urdu would be in its dying throes if all people were to heed the likes of you, but, thankfully, English and Hindi don't have universal standards.

    Actually, you are wrong: it is very much pronounced "siNh". "siNgh" is pronounced only in surnames, which are written also in a different manner in Nagari. Also, we are not talking of Urdu or Hindi scripts: we are talking of transliteration.

    If you are able to show me those rules and get this "siNh" business right, they are laid out. But if you are not able to, they are not, I guess. So most of us other foreros are waiting ... I know usually you vanish when you are in a fix, or marrish will respond for you, but we are still waiting.

    No one is asking Urdu speakers to mirror or not mirror whatever they want to, they can write howsoever they want to: but certain Urdu speakers are dictating other speakers (and they need not be Hindi speakers; they can be speakers of any language of the world, including Urdu speakers) how to transliterate. You can forward your own transliteration ideas, you can suggest, you can advise when asked to, you can do whatever in your own posts: but certainly you cannot dictate others to transliterate only in the fashion you like. That is something unacceptable and indeed contrary to the spirit of this forum (since you claim to be so versed with the rules of the forum...).

    So, you realised it finally? Yes, "shukriyaa", as written, is understood by all Urdu-knowing people, even though it does not have the "-ah" at the end. At least, marrish understood it when correcting: without understanding it, how did he correct?
  4. greatbear Banned

    India - Hindi & English
    ^ Here's the sentence from the rules which you seem to be milking, QP: "You may ask politely for context if it is needed for a suitable reply, and you may kindly and politely correct a fellow member's deviations from standard language in a post that otherwise addresses the thread topic."

    The concerned post (no. 13 here) though does not "otherwise address the thread topic," so it still falls foul of the rule; in addition, in the zeal to correct/dictate, it also asks the user to avoid a perfectly fine construction for a far more suspect construction (ke liye/kaa). (See for that discussion here.)
  5. greatbear Banned

    India - Hindi & English
    In fact, Urdu is not the topic, and yet you did it! The thread is clearly and uniquely titled "Hindi": the user ("learner" according to you, though jakubisek has never declared his intentions to be such as far as I know) only asked for certain words - how they are spelt in Urdu (which anyway he should have been doing in a separate thread, since a separate question). That does not mean that everything he answers there onwards becomes the domain of Urdu: or if it does, then "fast" and "reply" must surely be Urdu words.
  6. tonyspeed Senior Member

    English & Creole - Jamaica
    Bottom line is Hindi is mostly phonetic (exception being words like kahanaa and words where the inherent is dropped like sam(a)jhaa - SH and NR may not be pronounced by all, but it is technically the 'correct' way) and Urdu is not phonetic, neither does it attempt to be. Two different philosophies on script.

    And GB-saahib is correct. The animal is siNh/siNha, never siNgh.
  7. marrish

    marrish Senior Member

    اُردو Urdu
    If a person asks a direct question about Urdu, albeit in a Hindi thread, it would be rude to ignore him. Good manners is a good quality to have.


    This is not what a native speaker of Hindi has in mind.
    Last edited: Apr 2, 2013
  8. greatbear Banned

    India - Hindi & English
    ^ Kahe patthar se apnaa sir fodnaa!
  9. marrish

    marrish Senior Member

    اُردو Urdu
    I hope this discussion won't focus on siNh which is hardly ever used for the animal and to the contrary, used over and over again as a name and pronounced siNg(h)!

    So here is another one: ज्ञान. How is this word pronounced and how should it be transliterated?
  10. tonyspeed Senior Member

    English & Creole - Jamaica
    In aam Hindi this is prononced gyaan. Some may pronounce it ganaan.
    But it is really jNaan, where N is ञ.
  11. greatbear Banned

    India - Hindi & English
    In Hindi, gyaan, and in Gujarati, gnyaan/gnaan (gives a clue about the original pronunciation, which is why I included it).

    Meanwhile, "siNh" is very much used; and as I said earlier, the surname siNgh is also written differently.
  12. Qureshpor Senior Member

    Punjabi, Urdu پنجابی، اردو
    No! Alas, my sincere efforts have gone to waste!
    It appears the author was desperate to find a flaw. Fortunately he managed to discover for himself the basis for my assertion and has consequently answered his own premature query. Other quotes from Forum's rules can be provided but there is no need at this stage.
    Moving on to what is meant by “standard” language.
    One only need type in youtube “x TV News” where x is name of the country in question. Forum friends will see that the language is one and the same, namely “Standard English” whichever English speaking country it might be. As for Standard Hindi, it would be that language where the speaker/writer uses the correct grammar and has correct enunciation of the vowels and consonants. The following (ab)usage will most certainly not come under the category of “Standard Hindi”. I can quote numerous examples but the following should be sufficient to make my point.

    “chaar vyakti bazaar jaa raheN haiN.”

    “Main usse/usko jyaada/adhik pyaar karta hoon jitna ki tumse.” (This is supposedly a translation for “I love her more than I love you!)

    "Jaise hi paadshah ne awaam ki fariiyaadeiN sunii, bawandar aa jayegaa"
    I shall leave it to those Hindi speakers who know their language to recognize the errors in the above quotations. Here are just a few examples of misuse of consonants: azeeb, maazraa, fal, fuuT, roj, jyaada. Further to above, a speaker who knows Standard Hindi would not display an embarrassing lack of understanding when translating the following sentence taken from Hindi literature.

    महादेव प्रसाद सेठ साहूकार वंश में उत्पन्न हो व्यापारी गाधी पर बैठने पर भी फलों से लदे रसिक रसाल-जैसे थे अपने फल लुटाकर द्विजगण का कलरव श्रवण करना ही रुचता था।
    Hindi aside, it seems difficulties are being encountered even in the comprehension of straight forward plain English. The point which I was making was in answer to this question in section 2) of my post “Does the written language truly reflect the way one speaks?” Whether “सिंह” is pronounced correctly when it refers to a “lion” is neither here nor there. It is pronounced “siNgh” for a person’s name. The number of incidents one comes across the name as compared with the animal is going to be much greater. This “ground reality” has not been incorporated into the script because a script is not changed on a regular basis to adjust to the way some people speak. In Devanagri script a subscript dot is not placed under फ even though (allegedly) majority of Hindi speakers do not distinguish between फ and फ़. This was the point being made.
    A somewhat naive question. He understood it perfectly well because his knowledge of Hindi is better than most on the Forum. And that includes one or two of the so called “native” speakers. Forum members might wish to consult this thread with regard to this matter.

    द्विजगण का कलरव श्रवण करना http://forum.wordreference.com/showt...=Thread+closed

    Enough said! No “majak” ir indeed “mazakh” intended.

    “And before casting aspersions on other people's dharohar even in parihaas (I am generous today, so I am giving you the Shuddh Hindi word for which you only knew the Arabic word), learn to speak proper Hindi: it's mazakh, not majak. If you speak raat, that's fine, but speaking z as j is horrible.”


    If the issue of “context” is in question yet again, please click on the appropriate part of the quote to get to the full context.
    Last edited: Apr 5, 2013
  13. Wolverine9 Senior Member

    American English
    What's wrong with the first quote (in bold)?
  14. Qureshpor Senior Member

    Punjabi, Urdu پنجابی، اردو
    Would you care to open a new thread with this sentence in mind?
  15. tonyspeed Senior Member

    English & Creole - Jamaica
    Whoa! This comment shows ignorance of the reality of English. Standard American English is vastly different from standard British English in both words, pronunciation and, occasionally, grammer as well. And we won't begin to speak about Indian English which many Americans can't even understand...
    Last edited: Apr 5, 2013
  16. tonyspeed Senior Member

    English & Creole - Jamaica
    A native speaker, while not always prescriptively correct is a sea of vast knowledge that comes from experience and innate understanding of a language (as spoken by his/her family/peer group).
    One can learn rules of Hindi in books, but one cannot learn nuances and feelings from them.

    In fact, even a native's "mistakes" can be enlightening about the said ground realities not found in books, whereas a book-learners mistakes are not enlightening at all.

    Arguing sinha vs singh with a native Hindi speaker comes across a bit presumptuous to me, as if people can't tell the difference between a name and an animal.
  17. Qureshpor Senior Member

    Punjabi, Urdu پنجابی، اردو
    Although this thread's focus is not on what is deemed to be Standard English but I shall reply to your post nevertheless. It would indeed be height of ignorance to expect no differences in pronunciation, minor differences in grammar and even small differences in vocabulary. If you were to read two Nobel prize winners William Golding (UK) and John Steinbeck (US) , you will see that both the writers are writing standard English.
  18. Qureshpor Senior Member

    Punjabi, Urdu پنجابی، اردو
    I suggest that you read my posts once again so that you become aware of the reason for my bringing up this topic in the first place. It has nothing to do with native and non-native speech.
  19. greatbear Banned

    India - Hindi & English
    Really? Is Faulkner writing the same English as Burns? And then, going to non-writers: is Rahul Dravid talking in the same English as Shane Warne? Is Alec Guinness talking in the same English as Will Smith? Height of ignorance parading itself!
  20. Qureshpor Senior Member

    Punjabi, Urdu پنجابی، اردو
    Let us see if the above is a genuine belief or whether it is just a transitory thought.
    We should n't of course discard the possibility that the scholar/book writer could also be a "native" speaker of the language!

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