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ASSAMESE SCRIPT MISREPRESENTATIONS IN INTERNATIONAL STANDARDS

ASSAMESE SCRIPT MISREPRESENTATIONS IN INTERNATIONAL STANDARDS

The International Alphabet of Sanskrit Transliteration (IAST) is a transliteration scheme that allows a lossless romanization of Indic scripts as employed by the Sanskrit language. IAST is based on a standard established by the International Congress of Orientalists at Geneva in 1894. It allows a lossless transliteration of Devanāgarī (and other Indic scripts, such as Śāradā script).

The Indian Script Code for Information Interchange ISCII was first adopted in 1988. The ISCII has IAST as the basis of transliteration. An updated ISCII was adopted by the Bureau of Indian Standards after the draft finalised by the Computer Media Sectional Committee has been approved by the Electronics and Telecommunication Division Council in 1991.

In one of the beginning paragraphs of the ISCII document it states that :

There are 15 officially recognized languages in India: Hindi, Marathi, Sanskrit, Punjabi, Gujarati, Oriya, Bengali, Assamese, Telugu, Kannada, Malayalam, Tamil, Urdu, Sindhi and Kashmiri. Out of these, Urdu, Sindhi and Kashmiri are primarily written in Perso-Arabic scripts, but get written in Devanagari too (Sindhi is also written in the Gujarati script). Apart from Perso-Arabic scripts, all the other 10 scripts used for Indian languages have evolved from the ancient Brahmi script and have a common phonetic structure, making a common character set possible. The Northern scripts are Devanagari, Punjabi, Gujarati, Oriya, Bengali and Assamese, while the Southern script are Telugu, Kannada, Malayalam and Tamil.

The ISCII code table is a super-set of all the characters required in the ten Brahmi-based Indian scripts. For convenience, the alphabet of the official script Devanagari (with diacritic marks for non-Devanagari alphabets) has been used in the standard. For notational simplicity, elsewhere, the term Indian scripts implies Brahmi-based Indian scripts.”

ISCII retained most of the transliteration characteristics of the IAST. Assamese script which was represented in the ISCII standard was hence not properly represented since Assamese differs widely with Sanskrit in phonology. The IAST is not applicable for the Assamese script.

In 1991 encoding called the Unicode Standard prepared by the Unicode Consortium/Inc. was started and it’s Indic script encoding they say is based on ISCII . The Unicode encoding for the Indic scripts as mentioned in many documents is supposed to be a superset of the ISCII. This Unicode Standard is synchronised with the ISO 10646 maintained by the International Organisation for Standardization (ISO).

The Assamese alphabets were not separately encoded by the Unicode. Following their policy of Unification the Assamese script was eclipsed into Bengali in the Unicode Standard by Unicode Consortium/Inc. The uniqueness of the Assamese script was perhaps unknown to the mainly American experts of Unicode Consortium/Inc. Unicode compensated this by inclusion of two graphically dissimilar Assamese script characters into Unicode/ISO 10646 Bengali code chart by converting them into Bengali characters.

Assamese letter “” (Ra) is being described as Bengali letter ““(Ra) with middle diagonal

Assamese letter “” (Waba) described as Bengali letter ““(Ra) with lower diagonal.

ক্ষwas not represented as a letter but as a ligature i.e. a conjunct form of two letters :

+ “= “ক্ষtransliterating as “Khsya”,

whereas the Assamese letter transliterates as :

ক্ষ= “Khya”.

The fact that many of the Assamese letters although being similar in graphical forms to Bengali letters have an entirely different identity was not given due consideration by the Unicode Standard. The same was repeated in ISO-10646, as this Standard is synchronised with the Unicode Standard.

The Assamese script is in all total, misrepresented or absent in 4 international Standards :

A. ISO 15924

International Standard for Names of the Scripts

B. ISO 10646 = Unicode Standard

Universal Character Set (UCS)

C. ISO 15919

International Standard for Indic Scripts Transliteration

D. ALA-LC Romanization Table

Romanization charts maintained by US Library of Congress

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