[Journal of the Simplified Spelling Society, 1989/2 pp18-20 later designated J11]
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Roman Lipi Parishad.

Roman Lipi Parishad (RLP), based in Bombay, aims to encourage the adoption of Roman script (lipi) as a common alphabet for the many languages of India. RLP chairman, Madhukar N Gogate (see below), keeps us informed of progress: we first published a report in the Simplified Spelling Society Newsletter of J2 Spring 1986, again in J3 Summer 1986, and in our Journal J6 1987/3; Journal J7 1988/1 included an Indian view of English spelling reform. We here first present extracts from the proceedings of RLP's third conference, held in December 1988, which explain some of the thinking behind the Roman lipi proposed, and follow this with most of the text of an RLP leaflet, which states the proposals in some detail.

Roman script and picture of Madhukar Gogate

From the Proceedings of the Third Roman Lipi Sammelan.

The Chairman's remarks included the following:

... Average man ... does not bother with subtle phonetic differences. We have given outline sound-symbol relations. Let every language modify them, if they wish. After all, we have no enforcing power. We do not recommend use of diacritical marks (bars, dots above/below letters) since they are not available on all machines, and so we have adopted colon symbol, to distinguish a few sounds. We prefer small letters, reserving capital at beginning of a name...

Cinema people should be persuaded, but generally they consult astrologers for 'lucky' number of letters in titles, and accordingly they use spellings GITA, GITAA, GEETAA and so on. A script has no religion. Hindu scriptures are propagated abroad in English (Roman script). Marathi Christians in Vasai (north of Bombay) use Devanagari for Bible, and Bangladesh Muslims use Bengali script for their prayers. Please do not confuse Roman script as a part of Christian religion ... Please note that the existing scripts are not to be discarded. They are helpful to transmit knowledge. Roman script would be only an alternative. If this is made clear, 90% resistance melts down. Roman letter sequence can be altered bringing lip consonants together, for instance <p, ph, b, bh, m), but we prefer popular sequence <abcd ... xyz> for phone books, dictionaries, etc...

Hindi/Marathi use common Devanagari script for differing words, but we manage. Similarly we have to manage using cement in English, siment in Hindi and so on...

... Fixing sound-symbol relations is only 1% of the job, 99% is how to popularize Roman lipi, how to produce writers and readers for that script. Do not spend time further on sound-symbol relations. No scheme would satisfy everyone. Scientists have chosen C for carbon, Ca for calcium. Why not Ca for carbon and C for calcium? One does not argue about it One accepts standard symbols, closing debate.

Why Roman Lipi?

1. India is a multi-language, multi-script vast country. Various scripts are in use for a long time at different levels. They are vehicles of knowledge and literature. They must be used and studied. But Roman lipi (script) should be encouraged as an optional script. Roman lipi consists of 26 letter <abcd ... xyz>. It would benefit us in a number of ways.

2. Main industries in India have accepted English as business language. "Send this share certificate in Bengali script to a Bengali investor. Send this scooter with Tamil label to a Tamil customer" - such problems are not wanted by industries. So all correspondence, invoices, share certificates, dividend warrants, engineering drawings, legal contracts, audited accounts etc are in English. Most office equipments such as typewriters, teleprinters, computers serve English language and print Roman script. Industrial goods such as soaps, toothpastes, radio sets, fans, even village bricks display Roman alphabets. People are familiar with them.

3. Only 3% Indians know English, but since the literacy level is 36%, it means that 8% literates know English. They are spread throughout the country. Their number is fast growing, as English is taught as a second language in all high schools. English newspapers account for 20% total newspaper circulation. Professional bodies of doctors, engineers etc insist on English medium for higher education, to keep abreast with latest knowledge and to exchange views at seminars.

4. Though we use English our hearts are with mothertongues. We can understand and express thoughts much better in our languages than in English. For an average Indian, it is difficult to acquire mastery in English. Our mothertongues should prosper, so that knowledge is transmitted to all strata of society. Newspapers and books are printed in our scripts, but as regards office equipment, people look to economy. It costs money, afterall, to buy and maintain 2 typewriters for 2 scripts or a multi-script expensive electronic machine. General trend is to buy machines only for English, and use a mere pen to write our languages. This lowers prestige of our languages. Today it is electronic machines, tomorrow it may be some other machines. If we accept Roman lipi, our languages will be immediately linked to the world's latest machines.

5. All English printing machines in India are made by our efforts. Foreigners are not imposing Roman script on us. So we should not mind using these machines for development of our languages. Roman script can be adjusted to indicate various vowels and consonants.

6. Each script has separate numeral symbols. But we have accepted global numerals 0123456789 for phone dials, calculators etc. All of us have benefitted thereby. Tamil and Malayalam languages have accepted global numerals for all books and newspapers. Devanagari numeral one looks like global numeral nine, causing confusion. So Marathi textbooks and science magazines have accepted global numerals.

7. Indian scripts are multi-tier with symbols attached to each other at different levels. Word murti ('idol') is written in Devanagari equivalent to muitr,with <u> below <in> and <r> above <t>.

8. Love for our scripts is understandable. But an overloyalty is dangerous to unity and progress. Demands are being whipped up (and already partly fulfilled) to print phone books and vehicle number plates in local scripts. When this change is completed, the police would be unable to identify vehicles coming from other states. Obviously, crime will thrive. A doctor cannot be called if a phone book is unreadable. Recognition to Roman lipi will curb this harmful fragmentation. In cities some signboards are in English and local language. But mostly everywhere they are in local script baffling unfamiliar visitors. It is desirable to replaint them in local language, both in current script and Roman lipi. Today Hindi-Tamil, Marathi-Kannada etc dictionaries are very difficult to make or use. A Marathi person does not know symbols or their dictionary sequence in Kannada script, and vice versa. They do not read each other's literature, though hundreds of words are common. They do not come closer by minds, though they are geographical neighbours. Hindi is a fine language, but it could not be cultivated as our national language. Watching a Hindi film is good entertainment but using Hindi as official language is a serious business. It requires extensive machine support, dictionary support at all levels. Until Hindi takes Roman lipi, its literature writers may be only Varma and Sharma, but no Barua, Banerjee, Reddy, Aiyar or Patel. Roman alphabets, by themselves, are mere diagrams. But their acceptance would signify the birth of machine-consciousness and mutual considerateness, vitally necessary for progress.


9. During last 2 years, RLP had concentrated on Marathi language, and arranged several talks, articles in newspapers, discussions at annual literary conference, and so on. Bombay Doordarshan took note of our campaign, and invited RLP for a half hour program. It was telecast on Maharashtra-Goa network in April 1988. Several editors, authors, scientists, thinkers, even common people favour Roman lipi. Of course there is opposition too, but that is natural in a democracy. In 19th century, Marathi switched over from Modi script to Devanagari. Bombay-Pune is a highly industrialized belt and that changes people's outlook towards script. People read stock-exchange quotations in a-b-c-d sequence. People see English keyboards everywhere. These factors have helped in advancing Roman lipi among Marathi people. Role of RLP is to stimulate and coordinate efforts. Later on media, universities etc. would popularize Roman lipi. Government would take interest when public opinion is aroused.

Simplified Marathi.

10. RLP intends to publish a Marathi-English guide book of about 500 words, typical 100 sentences, and basic grammar rules. As a prelude to that book, we here present 5 Marathi sentences, about 25 Marathi words with English translations. Roman lipi is quite capable of writing according to standard grammar (Set A). In fact it may improve on present orthography. Madhe, garam are written unphonetically in Devanagari, equivalent to madhye, garama.

11. Several non-Marathi persons in Bombay desire a practical, quick-to-learn guidebook for Marathi, relaxing some rules of grammar. They do not seek high proficiency. A few mistakes here and there, but they would like to talk to Marathi people and understand their TV programs. They have no time to go to classes. They are repelled by complex grammar. To build bridges of goodwill and communication between various language speakers, some grammar simplification seems desirable. It is true that every language has evolved a grammar after years of usage and research. It should be followed for standardization. But for a beginner, an unknown language should be made attractive and easy. If he develops keen interest he will lateron learn standard grammar, current script and so on. On a trial basis, we present Set B with simplified grammar. Therein we have omitted the colon symbol. Postpositions are separated from main words. Hyphen (dash) is introduced before endings. This is meant for dictionary convenience. Actually there is no pause at the hyphen. Set C is word-to-word translation of Set B. Proper translation is given in Set D.

12. Marathi grammar contains gender, inflections etc. Verb aahe can be used with I, he, she. On same logic, jaail, jaain verb variety is reduced to jaail. Adjective laal ('red') is invariable. On same line, hirvaa, hirvi, hirve, hirvyaa (a variable adjective according to gender, number, case) are reduced to a common form hirve ('green'). Nouns desh ('country'), bhaashaa ('language') have common form in singular and plural. Similarly, pustak ('book') need not have a separate plural form pustake. Marathi counting 1 to 100 should be simplified like English cyclic counting. There are many other endings, as in jaa-taanaa ('while going'), which have not appeared in these examples. There are few special words, such as gele ('went') which need not be replaced by an artificial word jaa-le. It will be seen that the grammar simplification is marginal and not drastic. With the aid of dictionary, one can quickly learn a simplified language. Of course, idioms cannot be literally translated.

13. We request non-Marathi readers to comment whether they found the translation process easy enough. Please give Set A, Set B, Set C sentences in your language, in Roman lipi, to give end translation as in Set D. Underline words in your language. Give dictionary of' relevant words. Explain areas of grammar simplification, Let us compare notes. Explain special symbols if required.

Sound-symbol Relations.

14. Sound-symbol relations for Roman lipi can be best explained to people with their script symbols. Here they are based on English words. Symbols are so chosen that the English printing machines can be immediately used, without any change, for our languages. The script has be-en made reasonably phonetic. But minor sound variations are ignored. Afterall, current scripts too are not perfectly phonetic. The script should be compact and easy for writing, reading and printing. A colon symbol is used to distinguish shades of sound.

15. Vowels are as follows: <a> (u in up), <aa> (a in army), <ae> (a in apple), <aw> (aw in law), <e> (egg), <i> (it), o (open), <u> (u in put). Note that <ai, au> are read as <a> followed by <i, u>, and not as in English words main, author. Long vowels are <e:> (ay in may), <i:> (ce in meet), <o:> (oa in road), <u:> (oo in cool).

16. Consonants are as follows: <b> (boy), <ch> (church), <d> (th in they), <g> (girl), <h> (he), <j> (jam), <k> (king), <l> (lamp), <m> (man), <n> (no), <p> (pin), <r> (run), <s> (sit), <sh> (she), <t> (soft t, not in English), <v> (w in woman), <y> (yes), <z> (zebra). Note that <ch, sh> contain non-phonetic <h>. But <h> is phonetically added in <bh, chh, dh, gh> etc. English uses sounds of <jh> (s in measure), <ph> (ph in phone), <th> (thin), <vh> (v in victory). For hard sounds add colon: <d:> (d in dog), <1:> (hard l), <n:> (hard n), <t:> (t in toy).

17. Minor variations may be made to suit particular languages. Thus Hindi, Gujarati require vowel nasalizer <m:> as in Hindi kyum: ('why'). Marathi does not need <e:, i:, o:, u:>. Tamil, Malayalam use peculiar sound <zh>. Urdu uses <f, q> and so on.

18. Names will be respelled as gaandhi, jawn in place of Gandhi, John. If this is not possible due to reasons of documents, retain old spelling, with first letter capital. Note that Marathi words van ('forest'), sun ('daughter in law') are read like English words won, soon.

SET A (Marathi).
mumbaipaasun dillilaa i vimaanaane jaain. pinjryaamadhe ek hirvaa popat: aahe. kaal khup paaus pad:laa. chauryaahattar nambarchaa peshant:laa dawkt:ar aushaddh detaat. tyaalaa garam kawphi aavad:te.

SET B (Simplified Grammar).
mumbai paasun dilli-laa mi vimaan-ne jaa-il. pinjraa madhe ek hirve popat aahe. kaal khup paaus pad-le. sattar chaar nambar-che peshant-laa dawktar aushadh de-to. te-laa garam kawphi aavad-to.

SET C (Word-to-word translation of Set B).
Bombay-from to-Delhi I by-plane will-go. Cage-within one green parrot is. Yesterday much rain fell. Seventy four number's to-patient doctor medicine gives. To-that hot coffee likes.

SET D (Normal English).
I shall fly from Bombay to Delhi. There is a green parrot in cage. It rained heavily yesterday. Doctor gives medicine to patient number seventy-four. He likes hot coffee.

aahe is aavad 'like' (verb), 'liking' (noun). aushadh 'medicine'. chaar 'four'. dawktar 'doctor'. de 'give'. dilli 'Delhi'. ek 'one'. garam 'hot'. hirve 'green'. jaa 'go'. kaal 'time, yesterday'. kawphi 'coffee'. khup 'much'. twdhe 'within'. mi '1'. mumbai 'Bombay'. nambar 'number'. paasun 'from'. paaus 'rain'. pad 'fall'. peshant 'patient'. pinjraa 'cage'. popat 'parrot'. sattar 'seventy'. te 'that, he, she'. vitwan 'aeroplane'.

-che (after noun): possessive sense. -il (after verb): future tense. -laa (after noun): 'to'. -le (after verb): past tense. -ne (after noun): 'by'. -to (after verb): present tense.

a) Verb is placed at end of sentence. b) Marathi uses postpositions and not prepositions. Thus mumbai paasun 'from Bombay'. c) Nouns have same form in singular, plural.

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