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Urdu in Roman Script

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    Urdu in Roman Script

    Following is an article from Dawn newspaper//thought it might be of interest to you...

    Urdu in Roman script

    By Muhammad Ahsan Khan

    The first lively manifestation of a new born baby is to cry. This first cry conveys a message of the beginning of a new life and also sends a wave of joy and happiness to all those concerned. The declaration of the earthly life begins with a "sound". So, it is not surprising that the sound is the most important means of communication among human beings. This sound communication may be executed by a human voice, by drum beating or by any other instrument. A group of people fixes a number of sounds for every day communication. Putting a certain number of sounds together, people define the objects, the movements, the colours and the sentiments. This combination of sound makes a word. A few words put together make a sentence or a phrase and many sentences make a short or a long story. Thus a language is born. But as long as it remains in its oral form, it is designated as a tongue, and the moment it takes a written form, it attains the status of a language.

    In Urdu we have a single term Zaban for both. On the other hand, the moment a language ceases to exist in its vocal form, it becomes dead even if this language persists in its written form. It has been universally accepted that the first written language dates back to the third millennium of B.C. by Sumerians in Mesopotamia. Many carved inscriptions of this language on stones which still exist. But the language itself is dead because nobody speaks it any more. However, it should not be forgotten that at the same time, in the Indus Valley, there existed an advanced civilization around Mohenjodaro and Harapa. These people had their proper written language. Tourists from all over the world buy souvenirs at Mohenjodaro with beautiful inscriptions of this language. But nobody knows how this dead language was spoken. Every civilization tries to conserve a trace of the oral conversation and for that purpose the language is written on a stone, a hide, a leaf of a tree, a sheet of paper or a computer disk.

    One way of writing a language is to assign a symbol, a sign or a figure to each object, each colour and each movement. There are many methods for this purpose such as ideography (Chinese, Japanese), hieroglygraphy (Egyptian) and pictography (Inca, Aztec, etc.). The second form is to construct a number of signs (letters) for each vocal sound. The number of vocal sounds is limited to the requirement of each group of people according to its natural tendencies and capabilities. For a given object, or a movement or a function, a certain number of letters are associated and thus one obtains a word. The advantage of this system is that with a short number of letters a very high number of words can be formed.

    With only three letters one can form 27 words, limiting only to three-letter words. The possibility of constructing m-letter words with N letters in an alphabet is exactly (N)m. The progression is a power law behaviour. With only two letters (N=2), one can construct 8 three-letter words (m=3). Whereas, with four letters (N = 4) this possibility jumps to 64. It is clear that any written language will be rich in words according to the higher number of letters in its alphabet. Now, if we consider that each letter is voiced at least in three different ways (n can be na, ne or no), the possibility of constructing words increases manifold.

    All these languages using the alphabets can be divided into three categories according to the method of connecting the individual letters in a word. In the first category the necessary letters are simply put together and any person speaking that language knows how to pronounce it. Sometimes, to facilitate the task of the reader and to avoid any confusion, some super- or sub-scripts (accents, diacritical signs) are attached to some letters. But in general the letters are left bare without any indication. In this category we find Arabic, Persian, Hebrew and, of course, Urdu. In the second category the principal sound carrying letters (consonants) are connected through special letters called vowels. Almost all European languages fall in this category. In some of these languages some accents are put on vowels to give a different kind of tonality than the original one. In Latin, English and Greek liaison is obtained only with vowels. The third category accommodates the two by using vowels as well as diacritical signs (Sanskrit, Hindi).

    In Urdu all letters are consonants and its alphabet contains the highest number of letters. This fact lies in its origin. It started as a means of oral communication by a group of people coming from different tribes, different regions and different religions. Thus, Urdu is enriched by its multinational origin. Urdu contains the sounds coming from far-flung places and its alphabet is comprised 38 letters. Moreover, in Urdu there are two types of first letter (A) and two types of (n), so the total number may extend to 40. In the following the 38 Urdu letters in English script are given.

    A b p t T c j CH H KH d D Z r R z z' s SH S ZD TO ZO A' GH f q k g l m n w h hh a' y ey (I)

    Besides these, there are some special letters of Sanskrit origin such as bh where b and h are pronounced together as a single letter. They are:bh ph th Th jh CHh dh Dh Rh kh gh (II)

    This Roman alphabet for Urdu has been recently proposed in Dawn (The Magazine, Nov 17, 2002). Further detailed description of these letters can be found therein. As it has been already mentioned that while writing Urdu in Urdu script, the necessary consonants are simply put together without any diacritical sign, a verse of GHAlib in Roman script equivalent to Urdu script will be:

    Hjwm A'Am myn rKHsAr yAr key bwsey
    mry ngAh ney nZOryN bCHA bCHA key lyey (III)

    Any Urdu-speaking person will add proper diacritical signs when reading this verse. In Roman script instead of these signs, one uses vowels and the above verse phonetically becomes:

    HojWm-e-A'Am meyN ruKHsAr-e-yAr key bwsey
    mery nigAh ney naZOreyN baCHA baCHA key liyey (IV)

    When Urdu is written in Roman script as in (III), it is exactly the same as it is in Urdu script. One simply has to learn the Roman Urdu alphabet which should be uniquely established as it is done in Urdu script. In this way we will be writing exactly the same Urdu in two scripts. Certainly, Roman script will not be as beautiful as nastaA'lyq due to its superior calligraphy, but the beauty of the Roman script can be enhanced by using some other software form and font such as:

    Hjwm A'Am myn rKHsAr yAr key bwsey
    mry ngAh ney nZOryN bCHA bCHA key lyey


    Hjwm A'Am myn rKHsAr yAr key bwsey
    mry ngAh ney nZOryN bCHA bCHA key lyey .

    The superiority of Urdu language, basically, lays in its multinational nature where the civilization and culture of nations from Turkey to Bangladesh as well as from Britain and some others have been mixed. This multinational origin makes Urdu alphabet very comprehensive and appropriate for the possibility of new words' construction. This fact makes Urdu mathematically superior to any other language.So far the main effort in the Roman Urdu has been applied to write Urdu in English as an English-speaking person will do with a limited number of letters in English alphabet. In this effort 38 Urdu consonants have been compacted to 21 English consonants and sometimes an Urdu consonant is even replaced by some vowel which, basically, should be used in place of the diacritical signs. In this effort five z sounding Urdu letters are replaced by a single English z.; Urdu c, s and S are written as s in Roman and so on. In their effort to Romanize Urdu, the Roman Urdu enthusiasts are transforming it in Pidgin Urdu or Creole. The right direction of this should be just the opposite.

    The English alphabet should be expanded and redefined according to the requirement of Urdu sonority in the aim of writing Urdu correctly in the English script. Such an alphabet is given in (I) and (II). We should keep in mind that the present Arabic-Persian-Urdu alphabet is neither Arab nor Persian but is an adaptation of these with a number of new letters which represent the sounds coming from other places than Arabia or Persia.

    Once, an appropriate and equivalent Roman Urdu alphabet is defined (for example (I) and (II)), Urdu can be written in Roman script as it is written in Urdu script (III). The same can be written in correct phonetics (IV) by adding some vowels at appropriate places. This will help the Internet and e-mail communications to be conveyed in correct Urdu. Moreover, its non-phonetical form (III) will facilitate the task of computer experts to revert from Roman to nastaA'lyq or vice versa through an interface programme for this purpose.

    The supporters of nastaA'lyq Urdu should rest assured that nastA'lyq will always exist because of its beauty. The beauty does not lie only in the object but also in the eyes of the beholder. These admiring eyes belong to many millions of Urdu lovers. Urdu is such a vast and generous language that it can accommodate in its folds nastaA'lyq and Roman at the same time.

    Very interesting...
    Bless you.


      Well, thanks for reading because I never read the damn thing.


        Now u r left with replying to yr own thread fungs?

        I read it. Three times. Itnaaaaaaaaa interesting topic tha key kya bataon.

        btw, did I ever tell u I invented two things in life.. roman Urdu and the Umbrella...