Everyone Is Jumping Off the Brooklyn Bridge

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Words to Your Mother: Abugida

An abugida is similar to an alphabet, but includes a vowel sound inherent to each letter.  To give a few examples (both stolen from  Wikipedia articles):

क = ka (Devanagari, the written language for Sanskrit and modern Hindi, among others)

ដ = (Khmer, sometimes referred to as Cambodian)

(If the above didn't display correctly, you may need to install Unicode support on your system.)

Both of the above letters are automatically pronounced with the vowel "a" attached to it unless it is nullified by a diacritical mark.

To give an odd approximation of this, I'll rewrite the first sentence of this article as if each letter inherently possessed an 'a' sound unless it is the end of a word or is followed by the following punctuation marks:

^ = a (at end of word)
' = e
| = i
* = o
` = u
, = (nullifies vowel entirely)
<> = (surrounds literal punctuation marks to set them apart)

    An ab`g|d^ is s|m|l,r t* an al,p,hb't<,> b`t incl`d's a v*w'l s*un,d in,h'r'n,t t* eac,h l't,t'r.

Not a great example, but if you imagine the punctuation (which is substituting for diacritical marks in this case) and consonants joined together as single letters, you have a rough idea. A better example (quoting directly from Wikipedia in this case):

[In Devanagari] the vowel may be changed by adding vowel marks (diacritics) to the basic character, producing other syllables beginning with k-, such as कि ki, कु ku, के ke, को ko. These diacritics are applied to other consonant characters for other syllables. For example, from ल la is formed लि li, लु lu, ले le, लो lo.

It would appear to me that abugidas are slightly more space efficient than true alphabets, but I could be mistaken.

technorati tags:, , , , ,

Blogged with Flock


Post a Comment

<< Home