Recent Adaptions of the Devanagari Script for the Tibeto-Burman Languages of Nepal

Noonan, Michael

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Abstract

In this paper, the author is concerned primarily with two problems, specifically with respect to the 100+ Tibeto-Burman languages of Nepal and the attempts to write these languages with the Devanagari script. It is not attempt to survey all these languages; rather, he reports on six which have only recently come to be written with the Devanagari script: Chantyal, Gurung, Limbu, Sherpa, Tamang, and Thangmi. These languages constitute a rough-and-ready sample of the Tibeto-Burman languages of Nepal without a tradition of writing in the Devanagari script: some are locally prominent languages with large numbers of speakers, others more obscure; some have traditions of writing in scripts other than Devanagari, others do not. For none of these languages is there a fully standardized orthography, and none of these languages has been written in the Devanagari script in any serious way until quite recently. The goal of this paper is to examine the ways in which the Devanagari script has, and has not, been adapted to the phonologies of the six languages. The author first discusses the orthographic histories of each language, then the characteristics of the Devanagari script and the phonological system it is designed to accommodate. Later he presents brief sketches of the phonological inventories of the six languages, following by a discussion of how the script has — and has not — been adapted to accommodate these sound systems. The last section discusses the issue of ‘superfluous graph-emes’, and finish up with some concluding remarks on how Devanagari has been — and could be — adapted for these languages.

Document type: Article
Date: 2005
Version: Primary publication
Date Deposited: 8 December 2008
DDC-classification: Other languages
Controlled Subjects: Tibetobirmanische Sprachen, Nepal, Devanagari, Schrift
Uncontrolled Keywords: Devanagari-Schrift , Tibetobirmanische Sprachfamilie, Tibeto-Burman Languages , Nepal , Devanagari Script
Subject (classification): Linguistics
Countries/Regions: Nepal
Series: People > Electronic Publications by Michael Noonan
Volume: 13