Update: 2016-03-12 04:16 PM -0500


Indic scripts : Asokan and its derivatives


by U Kyaw Tun (UKT) M.S. (I.P.S.T., U.S.A.) Based on Unicode Consortium, Not for sale. No copyright. Free for everyone. Prepared for students and staff of TIL Research Station, Yangon, MYANMAR :  http://www.tuninst.net , www.romabama.blogspot.com

index.htm | Top

Contents of this page

1. Asokan Brahmi - the phonetic script - asok.htm - update?
   from CORPUS INSCRIPTIONUM INDICARUM, Vol 1, Inscriptions of Asoka
   - by A. Cunningham, 1877 .
2. The Edicts of King Asoka - Asoka-edicts.htm
    by Ven. S. Dhammika, The Wheel Publication No. 386/387, Buddhist Publication Society,

3. Devanagari, for comparison to Pal-Myan - deva.htm (link chk 160120)
4. Bengali, for comparison to Bur-Myan - bing.htm (link chk 160120)
5. Tamil, for comparison to Mon-Myan - tami.htm (link chk 160120)
6. Néwari, for comparison to Bur-Myan - newar.htm (link chk 160121)
- http://worldpubliclibrary.org/articles/newar_/_nepal_bhasa_language 160114



The pdf in TIL SD-Library
- Cunningham-Asoka-inscrip<Ô> / bkp<Ô> (link chk 160124)


UKT notes 
Doggie's Tale


Contents of this page

The Unicode Standard 4.0 8 Aug 03 217
Chapter 9 , South Asian (Indic) Scripts 9

UKT 140607: Though Bur-Myan (Burmese speech written in Myanmar akshara, is not an Indic script, because it is directly related to Asokan and because I know it so well, I will take many examples from it. I have struck-through many a word in the Unicode text and have inserted a more appropriate word in its place.

The following South Asian scripts are described in this chapter:
• Devanagari • Bengali • Gurmukhi
• Gujarati • Oriya • Tamil
• Telugu • Kannada • Malayalam
• Sinhala • Tibetan • Limbu

(p.217, pdf 2/47)
The scripts of South Asia share so many common features that a side-by-side comparison of a few will often reveal structural similarities even in the modern letterforms. With minor historical exceptions, they are written from left to right. They are all abugidas [aka aksharas basis of which is the syllable. ] in which most glyphs symbols stand for a consonant plus an inherent vowel (usually the sound /a/ [likened to the English short vowel <a> /æ/]. [UKT ¶]

UKT: Each akshara glyph is a syllable. e.g.

{ka.} is pronounceable: it has IPA pronunciation /ka/
{pa.} is pronounceable: it has IPA pronunciation /pa/

The reason why {ka.}, and {pa.} are chosen in inter-linguistic study is because in any human language, these two consonants are most contrastive phonologically. {ka.} is articulated as a velar deep in the interior of the mouth and {pa.} is pronounced as a labial, between the lips and the front teeth. Their articulations do not involve the tongue-tip which is the most versatile of the moveable components in the human mouth. In between them is {ta.} and its many variations some of which are not understood by many philologists.

From these syllables a word is formed, e.g. {pak} 'to throw water'. The word which is also a syllable has the canonical structure of CVÇ, where C is the onset consonant (described below as word-initial), V the nucleus or peak vowel, and Ç the coda consonant which has lost its inherent vowel. It is sometimes described as the word-final.

{pa.} + {ka.} + virama aka {a.þût} --> {pak} /pak/ or /pæk/

Notice the "flag" on coda, {k} showing the /a/ of {ka.} has been removed by the virama {a.þût} 'vowel-killer'

Word-initial vowels in many of these scripts have distinct symbols [when they are called vow-let (vowel letter)], and word-internal vowels are usually written by juxtaposing a vowel sign in the vicinity of the affected consonant. Absence of the inherent vowel, when that occurs, is frequently marked with a special sign. [UKT ¶]

UKT: When there is no initial consonant, i.e. C = 0, the structure of the word becomes, VÇ. In which case V is described as in the above para as "Word-initial vowel".

In the Unicode Standard, this sign is denoted by the Sanskrit word virāma. In some languages another designation is preferred. In Hindi, for example, the word hal refers to the character itself, and halant  refers to the consonant that has its inherent vowel killed suppressed ; in Tamil, the word puḷḷi is used. The virama sign nominally serves to kill suppress the inherent vowel of the consonant to which it is applied; it is a combining character, with its shape varying from script to script.

Most of the scripts of South Asia, from north of the Himalayas to Sri Lanka in the south, from Pakistan in the west to the easternmost islands of Indonesia, are derived from the ancient Asokan Brahmi script. The oldest lengthy inscriptions of India, the edicts of Ashoka from the third century BEC, were written in two scripts, Kharoshthi and Asokan Brahmi . [UKT ¶]

These are both ultimately of Semitic origin, probably deriving from Aramaic, which was an important
administrative language of the Middle East at that time. [UKT ¶]

UKT 140607: Though I have no comment on Kharoshthi, I strongly disagree on Asokan. Many scholars under the influence of the Western philologists are Eurocentric. Many of their theories were based on a time when the West was swallowing up India and Myanmarpré (then known as Burma). They, especially the English (not all British are English) were trying to justify their colonial policy as a "civilizing" influence to supplant the religions and languages of India and Myanmarpré. To them Myanmarpré has to be "liberated" from its rulers. I maintain that Indic languages were Tib-Bur (Tibeto-Burman), long before the Westerners (Brahmin-Poannas included) had tried to destroy our religions (including Buddhism) and our languages. Asokan was a product of Indian rishis or sages. Even the peoples are descended from Homo Erectus and not Homo Sapiens. Recent archeological evidence from the Pondaung-Ponya area on the border of India and Myanmarpré is pointing to our area as the original homeland of a least a part of the human race. See Prehistory -- prehist-indx.htm (link chk 140607)

Kharoshthi, written from right to left, was supplanted by Asokan Brahmi and its derivatives. The descendants of Asokan Brahmi spread with myriad changes throughout the [Indian} subcontinent, [South-east Asia] and outlying islands. There are said to be some 200 different scripts deriving from it. [UKT ¶]

By the eleventh century, the modern script (p217end-p218begin) known as Devanagari was in ascendancy in India proper as the major script of Sanskrit literature. This northern branch includes such modern scripts as Bengali, Gurmukhi, and Tibetan; the southern branch includes scripts such as Malayalam and Tamil. [UKT ¶]

UKT 140607, 160131: Unicode has failed to note the different linguistic groups to which the Indic scripts belong: Bengal and Tibetan are Tib-Bur (Tibeto-Burman), Hindi and Sanskrit are IE (Indo-European), and Tamil and Telugu are Aus-Asi (Austro-Asiatic). Their speeches are very different because their vowel systems are different. They seem to use different sets of vocal muscles (shown below) to articulate them. Some speeches are rhotic and some are non-rhotic, and some are hissing sibilant and some are non-hissing thibilant. Some have inflexions, tense and number, but some like Bur-Myan have no inflexion, no tense, and no number. Yet they can be related to each other because of their phonemic nature - a fact used by the Buddhist emperor Asoka of Magadha kingdom of the Magadha Mahajanapada 'the foot-hold of Magadha culture' to bring harmony among his many subjects speaking different speeches aka spoken languages. From it I have coined the motto: speech divides, script unite -- Asokan Brahmi script was the unifying script in the Indian subcontinent during the reign of the Buddhist emperor Asoka the Great. And its direct descendant the Myanmar script is the unifying script of various ethnics living in Myanmarpré.

The major official scripts of India proper, including Devanagari [according to Brahmin-Poannas it is the script used by the Deva-gods in their capital - what a tall claim!], are all encoded according to a common plan, so that comparable characters are in the same order and relative location. This structural arrangement, which facilitates transliteration to some degree, is based on the Indian national standard (ISCII) encoding for these scripts, and makes use of a virama {a.þût}. Sinhala has a virama-based model, but is not structurally mapped to ISCII. [UKT ¶]

UKT 160131: Pali is an artificial language formed from Old Magadhi-Asokan and Sihala to serve the Theravada Buddhists, by the Asokan Buddhist missionaries to the island from the Magadha Mahajanapada. The Buddhist missionaries were headed by the son and daughter of Asoka. The present day Pali spoken in Myanmarpré is the Old Magadhi brought over from Magadha Mahajanapada by King Abiraza who first formed the kingdom of Tagaung in northern Myanmarpré and who predates the Gautama Buddha by thousand of years, and by the blood-relatives of the Buddha fleeing the wrath of Prince (king) Viḍūḍabha who dethroned his father King Pasenadi of the kingdom of Kosala.

Tibetan stands apart, using a subjoined consonant model for conjoined consonants, reflecting its somewhat different structure and usage. The Limbu script makes use of an explicit encoding of syllable-final consonants. Many of the character names in this group of scripts represent the same sounds, and naming conventions are similar across the range.

Contents of this page

UKT notes

Doggie's Tale

-- UKT 130613

Mnemonic The Doggie Tale: 
Little doggie cringe in fear -- ŋ (velar),
  Seeing Ella's flapping ears -- ɲ (palatal)
  And, the Shepard's hanging rear -- ɳ (retroflex).
Doggie so sad he can't get it out
  What's that Kasha क्ष when there's a Kha ख ?
  And when there's Jana ज्ञ what I am to do with Jha झ?
On top of all there're hissers, Sha श /ʃ/ and Ssa ष /s/,
  when I am stuck with Theta स /θ/ !" 

Note to digitizer: you can copy and paste the following:
Ā ā Ē ē Ī ī Ō ō Ū ū
Ḍ ḍ Ḥ ḥ Ḷ ḷ Ḹ ḹ Ṁ ṁ Ṃ ṃ
Ṅ ṅ Ñ ñ Ṇ ṇ Ṛ ṛ Ṝ ṝ Ś ś Ṣ ṣ Ṭ ṭ ɕ ʂ
• Instead of Skt-Dev ः {wic~sa.} use "colon" :
• Avagraha ऽ use apostrophe
• Root sign √ ; approx ≅
• Dev: च «ca» छ «cha»  श ś [ɕ] /ʃ/ ; ष ṣ [ʂ] /s/; स s [s] /θ/ ; ऋ {iRi.} & ॠ {iRi},
  viram ् , rhotic ऋ ृ
• Skt-Dev special phonemes: Ksa
• Undertie in Dev transcription: ‿ U203F
• IPA-, Pali- & Sanskrit nasals: ŋ ṅ ṅ ,  ñ ñ , ɳ ṇ ṇ, n n n , m m m
  Pali- & Skt {þé:þé:ting}: aṁ , aṃ 
  BHS - Ṃ ṃ Ṇ ṇ
• IPA symbols: ɑ ɒ ə ɛ ɪ ɯ ʌ ʊ ʃ ʧ ʤ θ ŋ ɲ ɳ ɴ ɔ ɹ ʔ /kʰ/ /ː/
  <church> /ʧɜːʧ/ (DJPD16-097)
  <success> /sək'ses/ (DJPD16-515)
  <thin> /θɪn/ (DJPD16-535), <thorn> /θɔːn/ (DJPD16-535)
  circumflex-acute :
  ấ U+1EA5 , ế U+1EBF
  upsilon-vrachy  ῠ 
  small-u-breve  ῠ ŭ

Go back Dog-tale-note-b

Contents of this page

End of TIL file