Roman Lipi Parishad


Article E04


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  1. Roman Lipi Parishad (RLP) was formed in Mumbai (Bombay), India at a public meeting on 26 January 1984 It was registered as a cultural society no. 349/84/GBBSD dated 1 June 1984 and Public Trust F-9594 Bombay dated 19 July 1984. It held 4 Roman Lipi Sammelans in Mumbai in 1984, 1986, 1988, 1991. Sanskrit words Lipi ( = script) Parishad ( = association) Sammelan ( = gathering) are used in several Indian languages. English language was used for most records and publications.
  2. Objects (Mission) of the Parishad were as follows.
    1. To popularise Roman script, as an optional script, for Indian languages.
    2. To standardize spellings of words and names in various languages.
    3. To study and publicize benefits of Romanization.
    4. To conduct any activity, concerning all scripts, particularly Roman script.
  3. Mr Madhukar N. Gogate was main founder and main director of the Parishad, which had its office in his personal office at Tardeo Airconditioned Market, Bombay. A board of directors was constituted from time to time. Number of members did not exceed 70, despite membership appeals. Members were widespread, in different parts of India, and few of them outside India. Despite low membership, RLP got good publicity in press. Its programs were open to general public. Free copies of publications and the pre-conference papers and proceedings of Sammelans were sent to many thinkers, academics etc .
President of India, Sri R Venkatraman in 1987 with M N Gogate
M N Gogate (left) in discussion with R. Venkataraman.
  1. Mr R. Venkataraman, then President of India took interest and received a delegation of RLP on 30 December 1987 at Raj Bhavan, Mumbai. Doordarshan (Television) in Mumbai took a note of RLP activity by inviting Mr Gogate and some others for a live telecast in Marathi on Roman Lipi ( 6 April 1988). RLP held a competition of Marathi poems in Roman script, and there was a fair response. It was found that most of the poets did not use symbol-sound relations properly. A book on “diamonds” was edited by Mr Gogate in February 1993. It carries sample sentences concerning diamonds, in English and 8 Indian languages in Roman lipi. A booklet on Marathi stanzas (of 6 poets) in Roman lipi was written by Mr Gogate in March 1991.
  2. For benefit of posterity, above and all other publications, sammelan details, etc. were compiled by Mr Gogate in a 122 page volume called Roman Lipi Parishad Retrospective (dated 10 March 1995) and deposited in year 1995 at (with prior consent thereof) libraries of 44 institutions in India, such as University of Mumbai; University of Pune; Marathi Vidnyan Parishad in Mumbai; Jawaharlal Nehru University in New Delhi; Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan in Mumbai and some other centres; Central Institute of Indian languages in Mysore etc Copies were also deposited with 9 libraries abroad, such as Aston University, (Dept of Languages) Birmingham England; Monash University (Dept of Education) Australia; University of Pennsylvania (Dept of Oriental Studies) Philadelphia, USA.. A list of all these 53 supporting institutions is given at end of the volume. One copy of Retrospective and all 3 minutes books have been deposited, as archives, at library of Bhandarkar Oriental Research Institute, Pune 411004 in November 2002. Mr Gogate moved from Mumbai to Pune in 1997, and holds a copy of Retrospective.
  3. Simplified Spelling Society in UK took a note of RLP activity in its journal number of times. Prof David Crystal, in his "The Cambridge Encyclopedia of Language", has noted some work of Roman Lipi Parishad in section on Language Planning.
  4. Roman script with some diacritical marks, was used by various authors, with varying symbols for Sanskrit classical literature, British Raj army Hindustani language instructions, Indian language introductory books for Europeans etc. RLP made an organised effort to evolve and popularize a script without diacritical marks, to harness English language machines without a change, for Indian languages. Two suffix marks ( ' ) = apo = apostrophe, and ( : ) = colon, were tried to distingish near-resembling sounds. Apo is easier to add, if earlier omitted in handwritten matter. Terms short-long vowels in Indian languages are based on breath duration. ( kin-keen, pull-pool, get-gate have short-long vowels respectively)
  5. Language and script can be sensitive issues. Bangla Desh separated from Pakistan on question of language. French-speaking people in Canada aspire for separation from English-speaking Canada. Scottish and Welsh language speakers in UK oppose domination of English language. Konkani language is written in Goa, generally Christians taking Roman script and Hindus taking Devanagari script (of Hindi-Marathi). British and American people do not unify their varying spellings in their common language English. It was appropriate, therefore, for Roman Lipi Parishad to try Roman script, only as an optional script. Whole set-up of schools, books, newspapers, documents, dictionaries, roadsigns etc is geared to a particular script, and it cannot be given up. It is difficult to forge unanimity among various languages. Thus, words (Vasant, Shri) in Hindi are spelled (Vasanth, Sri) in Tamil. About 90% common Roman lipi could be formulated. Roman script is not uniform for European languages as well. Indian use of (v) for English (w) might have come to keep words dev (= God) ved (= ancient scriptures) etc different from English words (dew, wed).
  6. Roman Lipi Parishad did not make much headway and ultimately was dissolved in 1995. Initially in 1984-90 there were hardly any softwares in Indian scripts. The initial interest about Roman option withered later on. People have sentimental attachment to their scripts, which have some merits of phonetic clarity and compactness. People are concerned about issues like spiralling prices and not worried about current grammar, spelling and script. Many thinkers agree that the Roman script is useful to teach working Indian languages to foreigners and for e-mails in situations when local scripts are not feasible. India is a multi-language and multi-script country. Adoption of local scripts for phone directories and vehicle plates would disturb national business and unity. Roman script (linear and hence better for typing and word-indexing) does have a role in India. Term “Indian” ocean does not signify ownership of India on that ocean. Similarly, term “ Roman” (used for European languages ) may be also used in context of Indian languages.
  7. There are several brands of fonts for Indian scripts. Problems occur. Several persons use Roman script for emails in Indian languages, but without any standard rules. Hindi film titles are displayed in Roman script, to attract non-Hindi viewers. Spellings are partly logical and partly based on beliefs about lucky number of letters. Hence one finds a variety of spellings such as Gita, Gitaa, Geeta, Geetaa. This variety is amplified if the film producer is a south Indian, and uses (th) for (t).
  8. Devanagari script is syllabic. For example, word (american) is written in Devanagari with five syllables (a)(me)(ri)(ca)(n). Marathi first and middle name may be condensed with initials. For example, name of Purushottam Laxman Deshpande (a famous Marathi author) will condense in Devanagari as Pu. La. Deshpande and not P L Deshpande.
  9. Roman lipi will be helpful for Hindi-Kannada, Kannada-Hindi dictionaries etc. All Indian languages have word-sequence (subject, object, verb) and (noun, postposition). On the other hand, English has sequence (subject, verb, object) and (preposition, noun). Here is an example of translation process from English to Hindi.
  10. Sentence (brother went to city) is rearranged as (brother city to went) Hindi translation is (bhaai shahar ko gayaa). An alphabetical English to Hindi dictionary would contain following words --- brother ( = bhaai) city (= shahar) to ( = ko) went ( = gayaa). Hindi meanings are given within brackets. Preposition (to) refers to (city). Postposition (ko) refers to (shahar). Gender and inflection of nouns ( in Indian languages) create some difficulties in translations.

A Case For Roman Lipi For Indian Languages
( Article by Madhukar N. Gogate in March 2003 issue

  1. Major languages in India are grouped here scriptwise. (1) Hindi and Marathi (2) Tamil and Malayalam (3) Kannada and Telugu (4) Gujarati (5) Punjabi (6) Urdu, Sindhi and Kashmiri (7) Oriya (8) Bengali and Assamese.
  2. A few minor differences exist. For example, the Devanagari script of Hindi is somewhat different from the Devanagari of Marathi. Sanskrit is studied mainly in Devanagari, but other scripts too are used for that purpose.
  3. In addition, India uses Roman script for English language. Roman script means two sets of symbols, small (abc… xyz) and capital (ABC… XYZ). In old printing technology, they were called lower case and upper case symbols.
  4. A question arises whether it is possible to use a single script for national unity and convenience. The idea looks attractive and sensible, but every script has certain features that distinguish one language from another and serve the users in specific ways. Thousands of books, newspapers, signboards, documents, maps, etc are published using specific scripts. Millions of people are habituated and sentimentally attached to their scripts. Schools and dictionaries are geared to them. So it is not practical to give up existing scripts.
  5. However, there are opportunities to use an optional Roman lipi (script) for various Indian languages, when special needs arise. This script may be, to a great extent, common for all languages, but there could be a few individual variations. Even European languages use the Roman script in differing ways. For example, symbols (sh, sch, ch, x) denote same sound, respectively in English, German, French, and Portuguese. Authorities in every language should determine appropriate symbol-sound relations. Unfortunately, many people who can influence public opinion are not interested in the proposal, and so symbol-sound relations are not uniform across languages.
  6. Western scholars had developed certain Roman symbols, with special diacritical marks, to write Sanskrit and other languages of India. Such special symbols are not available in everyday printing machines. Moreover, scholars used to transliterate the texts in the original script. As a result, the transliteration carries phonetic inconsistencies existing in the original script. Take for instance, Hindi word sarkaar = Government. With exact transliteration, it will be written sarakaara, with a silent a after each r. Here it is assumed that a sounds as both a in the word (American) and as aa like a in car. Actually, symbol a with a horizontal bar (diacritical mark) above it, was used by scholars in place of aa.
  7. A change in script is a golden opportunity to remove some inconsistencies in the original script. It is however, left to the scholars to decide whether to go for transliteration or for some simplification. This author recommends some simplification.
  8. Roman symbols are 26 in number, and hence inadequate to follow the principle -- unique symbol for unique sound. One may use a mix of small and capital symbols. For instance, some scholars use a in the word American and A for car. But intermittent capitals look jarring to the eye. Secondly, it would be preferable to reserve capitals for starting words that do not conform to the rules of Romanization. These capital letters give a signal that the particular words have not been recast. This is specially useful for names. For example, the name Mary will not be written as Meri. That would affect all certificates, documents, passports, phone book entries and so on.
  9. Since only lower case letters (abc…xyz) would be used, it is imperative to use some digraphs such as (aa), as discussed above. One may also use the apostrophe mark, as a suffix to be added to a symbol, to indicate some phonetic variation. For example, in the word Hindi, the symbol d is used with phonetic value of th in the English word they. Here d is a dental consonant, while d' with an apostrophe mark will stand for a retroflex-like consonant, like d in the English word dog. Since lower case letters are used, a triple dot may be used to show distinctly the end a sentence.
  10. Variations may occur from language to language, whether to use an apostrophe for dental consonants or retroflex consonants, whether digraphs to be used or not. People are habituated for decades to certain ways of spelling their names. For the same sound, spellings (Vasant, Shri) look good to a Hindi speaker. Spellings (Vasanth, Sri) look good to a Tamil speaker. None should be faulted.
  11. There was a time, when there was a single printing press and a single compositor in a town of 100,000 people. That person took care of all the oddities in the scripts. Now with the spread of literacy and English, and the use of computers, hundreds in the same town function as compositors. They find the linear Roman script very handy for typing and word-indexing. It is true that there are varieties of software to print texts in various Indian scripts. But often such software is not readily available. Moreover, for e-mails, Roman script is very useful. On-line question-answer debates are possible and it is very difficult to provide consistent Indian script fonts to all participants.
  12. Roman script is also useful to teach Indian languages to the second and third generation children of Indian families settled outside India. These children are often unable to read any text in Indian scripts. Since Indians settled abroad are an asset to the development and security of the Indian nation, their interest in Indian languages and culture should be ensured, if necessary using the the Roman script.
  13. In any case, Roman script (English) phone directories and vehicle number plates should be used throughout India for national convenience and unity. Technology has given tools to make them in various scripts. But we humans are not computers. We get fumbled to see queer scripts. Already a North Indian feels like a foreigner when he sees nameboards in unfamiliar scripts while visiting South India. Multilingual countries like Canada and Switzerland use Roman script and are not split by scripts. Scripts have the potential to alienate people who are not familiar with these "strange" scripts. Some wisdom should be shown in not overstretching the script loyalty.

    (Published article shows another website of author, and did not have numbering ) Link to above electronic magazine is given on Index page. This article has been added as a supplement to article on Roman Lipi Parishad, for convenience of readers.

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Updated on : $ January 1, 2015 $
Author : Madhukar N Gogate