FYI (fwd from the Linguist list)... DZO

Date: 10-Mar-2005
From: Madhukar N. Gogate <mngogate@...>
Subject: Writing Systems: Marathi Roman Script

Madhukar N Gogate (Pune, India), Moderator, initiated a discussion
considering use of Roman script and Devanagari script for the Marathi
language. The discussion ran from 1 Feb 2005 to 28 Feb 2005, and can
be viewed at the URL below, see M11-M12- E03-E04 in website:

All messages are available to members as archives. Main points of
discussion are noted here.

For more information, email mngogate @
Comments invited.

1. Marathi uses Devanagari (DN) script. It has many merits. It should
prosper. Emails in DN are possible but often there are font problems.
Roman script is linear and easy for typing and word-indexing. English
language has global importance. In future, there will be huge
development of electronic things, using the Roman script (lipi). DN-
based products may not be viable. So take optional Roman lipi for

2. Language and script are separate entities. Kids, blind persons and
illiterates speak a language though unable to read. Some languages
are multi-script. We use Marathi, but also use English when needed.
Similarly, use Roman when needed.

3. Roman script has only 26 symbols, which are not sufficient to
denote various Marathi sounds. There are 4 methods to tackle the
deficiency (- 1 -) Use digraphs, that is 2-letter combinations such
as aa, ae. Strictly speaking aa is not a + a, and ae is not a + e.
But imagine they are single symbols (- 2 -) Use apo = apostrophe
mark. Example - (dagad') = stone. (d, d') have slightly varying
sounds. (d) has sound of th-they in English. (d' ) has sound of d-dog
in English (- 3 -) Roman script is a twin script. English treats
smalls and capitals with equal phonetic values. But Marathi may carry
different values. Examples -- a (u-up English) A (rAjA = king) d (d
in dagad') D (d' in dagad'). But intermittent capitals within words
are eyesores. (- 4 -) Give up symbols of defunct sounds. Example -
(r'sh'i) may be written as (rushi) or (rishi).

4. Generally, words should be spelled as per standard Marathi
symbols. English words such as police, icecream may be easily
respelled in Marathi as polis, aaiskrim. But people may object to
respelled names for reasons of documents and sentiment. Respelling of
technical words may hurt for science. Such words and names may be
started with capitals for cautioning. Example -- Sodium Chloride. Its
sound (sod'iyam kloraaid') may be explained. Similarly, use capitals
for starting all words in English quotations and when one is not
sure. Example -- respell as (pepar) or write (Paper).

5. Usual practice of a capital at start and a dot at end of a
sentence, deserves review. First word (with capital) of a sentence
would give a wrong signal that it is technical. There may be some
unrespelled words, with capitals, at various locations in a
paragraph. A single dot is not visible. A triple dot (...) will
easily denote the end of a sentence. Leave a blank space after it,
before starting the next sentence. Use single dots after initials of
names. Sentence-ending (! and ?) need two extra dots.

6. A change in script gives an opportunity to drop some anomalies.
For example, when English words are expressed in DN, we drop the
second ( l ) in (sell) and the silent (h) in (honest). We may change
DN forms (sarakaara, uchcha, r'sh'i, madhye, duh'kha) to Roman words
(sarkaar, utcha, rushi, madhe, dukkha). We may omit DN duality ( i -
ee, u - V oo) but take new duality (ch - ch', j - j') We may take
(aa) or (a') = (a - arm) to distinguish from (a) = (both a -
american). We may take (sat + tya = sattya = truth) (pun'+ n'ya =
pun'n'ya =spiritual merit) to distinguish from (ty - tyaag ) (n'y -
pun'yaat = In Pune). Few anomalies might persist. DN word ghara
(=home) is usually uttered as ghar, but in some recitals as ghara
(Example -- he vishvachi maaj' he ghara). Roman word would be ghar
(with optional sound ghara).

7. People will accept Roman script if it is made reasonably phonetic,
if it has only an optional status, and if it can be adopted without
making any changes in English-typing machines available with people.
All machines may not be latest models. Also, all people are not
scholars. The script should be easy. Words teraa (= 13) tel (= oil)
have rhasva-dirgha pronunciation of (e) but its symbol is common in
DN. Similarly, it may be ok to cancel the duality of (i-ee), (u-oo)
in Roman. Names Hindi, Marathi are shown in DN with dirgha (ee) at
end, but we accept rhasva ending (i) in English.

8. Above points were partly discussed. Also following -- People use
(a) for both (a, aa) in Marathi names. (aa) unduly makes Roman words
long and tedious. Make no change. But (a, aa) are needed for phonetic
clarity. Use of (a') for (aa) might help. Symbol (u') may be reserved
for (su'lfu'r) etc. A suggestion was about using (w) in place of (v).
Not ruled out, but (w) is not popular due to squeezed shape (in
manual typewriters, equal space to every symbol), its complex symbol
name, and to avoid clash of dev (= God) with English word (dew). A
suggestion was about using the stroke \ (like a maatraa symbol in DN)
and so on. It does not ensure the (a-z) link of Marathi to the great
electronic and information world. (a-z) is already used for phone
books. Spellings should also work vertically in puzzles. A suggestion
was about using diacritical marks such as a horizontal bar above (a)
to denote (aa). It was used in few scholarly Sanskrit books. It is
good but not practical, since it is absent in most PCs and machines.
Marathi has some diphthongs = vowel after vowel. Thus -- aai =
mother. Some training is required to read (aai) as (aa + i ) and not
as (a + ai).

9. Marathi M12 pdf (with few English hints) in:

gives demo of 8 Marathi proverbs. (triple dot, aa, apo, i = ee, u =
oo used. No name, no capital). Marathi does not have sounds of (a-
cat) (aw-law) except for few English words. Show them as (ae) (ao).
Any proposal of optional Roman lipi for Marathi will progress for
emails, websites etc if symbol sound relations are standardized. At
present, people use arbitrary Roman symbols for emails. Efforts are
needed to propagate a practical standard, using Marathi language, for
Marathi people. This note in English may help others too. A script
should look nice. Irregular English spellings can affect Marathi in
the Roman arena. Respell them, or take them with the capital
symbol "guards".

This article neat 2 page 40 kB attachment is available on request
mngogate @

Linguistic Field(s): Writing Systems