Monday, January 27, 2003

UTF-8 Sampler

Frank da Cruz
The Kermit Project - Columbia University
New York City
Last update: Thu Jan 23 09:42:59 2003

Wednesday, January 15, 2003

A very good multimedia beginner's guide to learn Hindi.
developed by Afroz Taj of North Carolina State University

About Hindi-Urdu
Excerpted from the Introduction to Afroz Taj's book Urdu Through Hindi: Nastaliq With the Help of Devanagari (New Delhi: Rangmahal Press, 1997)

What then defines a language? What makes a language unique? Its writing system? Its vocabulary? Or its grammatical structure? We should not make the mistake of confusing a language with its writing system. Often, unrelated languages share a common writing system, while any language can be transcribed into a new writing system without affecting its basic sounds and structure. Indeed most of the world's languages borrowed their writing systems from somebody else. For example, English, French, and Spanish borrowed their writing systems from Latin. The Latin alphabet was in turn derived from the Greek alphabet. Japanese adopted the Chinese word-characters. Both Indonesian and Turkish switched from the Arabic to the Roman writing system early in the Twentieth Century without being otherwise changed significantly. English can be written in Morse Code, Braille, binary computer code, or even in the Hindi writing system and it still remains English.

Vocabulary is likewise not characteristic of a language. Words are readily borrowed between languages like dry leaves blown about in the wind. No language can claim a pure, fixed and unchanging vocabulary. Indeed, it is often impossible to express oneself in English without using words borrowed from French, Latin, or even Hindi.

Thus it is only grammatical structure that can be said to characterize a language. No matter which writing system is used, no matter which vocabulary words are used, a language's grammar will follow regular and characteristic rules. These rules, which govern verb conjugation, noun declension, plural formation, syntax, etc., are largely consistent within a language but differ between languages. Thus a comparative study of these rules allows us to distinguish one language from another.

Therefore Hindi and Urdu, which share a common, identical grammatical structure, must be considered a single language: Hindi-Urdu.

How did Hindi-Urdu develop, and why does it have two names? Let's look at the linguistic condition of India about one thousand years ago. The Indo-Aryan language family, brought to South Asia by the Aryans in prehistoric times, had become firmly established in a belt running from the Persian Caucasus in the West to the Bay of Bengal in the East. The descendent languages of Sanskrit, including several dialects of early Hindi, Medieval Panjabi, Gujarati, Marathi, and Bengali, as well as their cousin tongue Persian were emerging in their respective regions. The Indian languages had adopted the ancient Sanskrit writing system, Devanagari, in various forms, while Persian had borrowed the Arabic writing system from its neighbors to the West. Hindi, in various dialects including Khariboli, Braj Bhasha and Awadhi, was spoken throughout North Central India.

Then, about seven centuries ago, the dialects of Hindi spoken in the region of Delhi began to undergo a linguistic change. In the villages, these dialects continued to be spoken much as they had been for centuries. But around Delhi and other urban areas, under the influence of the Persian-speaking Sultans and their military administration, a new dialect began to emerge which would be called Urdu. While Urdu retained the fundamental grammar and basic vocabulary of its Hindi parent dialects, it adopted the Persian writing system, "Nastaliq" and many additional Persian vocabulary words. Indeed, the great poet Amir Khusro (1253-1325) contributed to the early development of Urdu by writing poems with alternating lines of Persian and Hindi dialect written in Persian script.

What began humbly as a hodge-podge language spoken by the Indian recruits in the camps of the Sultan's army, by the Eighteenth Century had developed into a sophisticated, poetic language.

Languages of South Asia
by Anjani Kumar Sinha
Because of the fact that most major languages of India have a rich oral tradition and literature, they have survived in spite of the official patronage given to foreign languages such as Persian and English. However, almost all South Asian languages have enriched themselves by borrowing from these languages lexical items and, to a small extent, some sounds such as (f, v, z, x, k, and g) and syntactic features such as embedded relative clauses and reported speech. The contact with Europeans did not lead to the evolution of pidgins (a language that usually arises as methods of communication between groups with a greatly reduced vocabulary and a simplified grammar) and creoles (pidgin language that has become established as the native language of a speech community) the way it did in Africa and Southeast Asia. However, the contact of various tribes speaking Tibeto-Burman and Austro-Asiatic languages in the northeast India with speakers of Assamese, Bengali, Hindi and English, has led to the evolution of Nagamese, an Assamese-based pidgin which is now being creolized. The fact that Nagamese is structurally closer to English, and even to Hindi, than to Assamese is a significant linguistic point.

The South Asia language scene is thus fascinating not only because of the varieties of languages and dialects, but also because of the way they have enriched one another and survived even under the most adverse cicumstances. Behind the apparent linguistic conflicts and controversies, there is tolerance for the other person�s language and adaptability, which has led to bilingualism on such a large scale.

Thursday, January 09, 2003

Web resources for learning Hindi

(A project for EdPsych387class at UIUC)
by Avatans Kumar

The aim of this project is to create a web-based resource site forlearning Hindi in a Foreign Language environment. This project involvescreating a learner oriented World Wide Web resource page for learning Hindi.It also includes socio-cultural-historical information relevant for learning Hindi.

The Devanagari Script
from IITM site

This prelude begins with an introduction to the Sanskrit letters. The writing system used for Sanskrit is known as Devanagari. Indian languages are phonetic in nature and hence the letters represent unique sounds. In Sanskrit as well as in other Indian languages, proper pronounciation of the words is quite important. Hence it is necessary to learn the sounds associated with the letters of the language.

Devanagari alphabet

The Nagari (lit. 'of the city') or Devanagari ('divine Nagari') alphabet descended from the Brahmi script sometime around the 11th century AD. It was originally developed to write Sanksrit but was later adapted to write many other languages.