|8th century to the present|
|Languages||Assamese, Sanskrit, Rabha, Deori, Mishing, Bodo (formerly) and others.|
|Bengali alphabet and Tirhuta|
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|Officially used writing systems in India|
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The Assamese alphabet (Assamese: অসমীয়া বৰ্ণমালা, romanized: Ôxômiya Bôrnômala) is a writing system of the Assamese language and is a part of the Bengali-Assamese script. This script was also used in Assam and nearby regions for Sanskrit as well as other languages such as Bodo (now Devanagari), Khasi (now Roman), Mising (now Roman), Jaintia (now Roman) etc. It evolved from Kamarupi script. The current form of the script has seen continuous development from the 5th-century Umachal/Nagajari-Khanikargaon rock inscriptions written in an eastern variety of the Gupta script, adopting significant traits from the Siddhaṃ script in the 7th century. By the 17th century three styles of Assamese alphabets could be identified (baminiya, kaitheli and garhgaya) that converged to the standard script following typesetting required for printing. The present standard is identical to the Bengali alphabet except for two letters, ৰ (ro) and ৱ (vo); and the letter ক্ষ (khya) has evolved into an individual consonant by itself with its own phonetic quality whereas in the Bengali alphabet it is a conjunct of two letters.
The Buranjis were written during the Ahom dynasty in the Assamese language using the Assamese alphabet. In the 14th century Madhava Kandali used Assamese alphabets to compose the famous Saptakanda Ramayana, which is the Assamese translation of Valmiki's Sanskrit Ramayana. Later, Sankardev used it in the 15th and 16th centuries to compose his oeuvre in Assamese and Brajavali dialect, the literary language of the bhakti poems (borgeets) and dramas.
The Ahom king Supangmung (1663–1670) was the first ruler who started issuing Assamese coins for his kingdom. Some similar scripts with minor differences are used to write Maithili, Bengali, Meithei and Sylheti.
The Umachal rock inscription of the 5th century evidences the first use of a script in the region. The script was very similar to the one used in Samudragupta's Allahabad Pillar inscription. Rock and copper plate inscriptions from then onwards, and Xaansi bark manuscripts right up to the 18th–19th centuries show a steady development of the Assamese alphabet. The script could be said to develop proto-Assamese shapes by the 13th century. In the 18th and 19th century, the Assamese script could be divided into three varieties: Kaitheli (also called Lakhari in Kamrup region, used by non-Brahmins), Bamuniya (used by Brahmins, for Sanskrit) and Garhgaya (used by state officials of the Ahom kingdom)—among which the Kaitheli style was the most popular, with medieval books (like the Hastir-vidyrnava) and sattras using this style. In the early part of the 19th century, Atmaram Sarmah designed the first Assamese script for printing in Serampore, and the Bengali and Assamese lithography converged to the present standard that is used today.
The script presently has a total of 11 vowel letters, used to represent the eight main vowel sounds of Assamese, along with a number of vowel diphthongs. All of these are used in both Assamese and Bengali, the two main languages using the script. In addition to the vowel system in the Bengali alphabet the Assamese alphabet has an additional "matra" (ʼ) that is used to represent the phonemes অʼ and এʼ. Some of the vowel letters have different sounds depending on the word, and a number of vowel distinctions preserved in the writing system are not pronounced as such in modern spoken Assamese or Bengali. For example, the Assamese script has two symbols for the vowel sound [i] and two symbols for the vowel sound [u]. This redundancy stems from the time when this script was used to write Sanskrit, a language that had a short [i] and a long [iː], and a short [u] and a long [uː]. These letters are preserved in the Assamese script with their traditional names of hôrswô i (lit. 'short i') and dirghô i (lit. 'long i'), etc., despite the fact that they are no longer pronounced differently in ordinary speech.
Vowel signs can be used in conjunction with consonants to modify the pronunciation of the consonant (here exemplified by ক, kô). When no vowel is written, the vowel অ (ô or o) is often assumed. To specifically denote the absence of a vowel, (্) may be written underneath the consonant.
|Letter||Name of letter||Vowel sign with [kɔ] (ক)||Name of vowel sign||Transliteration||IPA|
|অ or অʼ||ó||ক (none) or কʼ||urdho-comma||kó||kɔː|
|এ||e||কে||ekar||kê and ke||kɛ and ke|
The names of the consonant letters in Assamese are typically just the consonant's main pronunciation plus the inherent vowel ô. Since the inherent vowel is assumed and not written, most letters' names look identical to the letter itself (e.g. the name of the letter ঘ is itself ঘ ghô). Some letters that have lost their distinctive pronunciation in Modern Assamese are called by a more elaborate name. For example, since the consonant phoneme /n/ can be written ন, ণ, or ঞ (depending on the spelling of the particular word), these letters are not simply called no; instead, they are called ন dontyo no ("dental n"), ণ murdhoinnyo no ("retroflex n"), and ঞ inyo. Similarly, the phoneme /x/ can be written as শ taloibbyo xo ("palatal x"), ষ murdhoinnyo xo ("retroflex x"), or স dontyo xo ("dental x"), the phoneme /s/ can be written using চ prothom sô ("first s") or ছ dwitio so ("second s"), and the phoneme /z/ can be written using জ borgio zo ("row z" = "the z included in the five rows of stop consonants") or য ontohstho zo ("z situated between" = "the z that comes between the five rows of stop consonants and the row of sibilants"), depending on the standard spelling of the particular word.
|Letter||Name of Letter||Transliteration||IPA|
|ফ||pho||ph and f||pʰ~ɸ|
|ভ||bho||bh and vh||bʱ~β|
|শ||taloibyo xo||x and s||x~s|
|ষ||murdhoinyo xo||x and s||x~s|
|স||dontyo xo||x and s||x~s|
The first twenty-five consonants letters are called sporxo borno. These sporxo bornos are again divided into five borgos. Therefore, these twenty-five letters are also called borgio borno.
The Assamese consonants are typically just the consonant's main pronunciation plus the inherent vowel o. The inherent vowel is assumed and not written, thus, names of most letters look identical to the letter itself (e.g. the name of the letter ঘ is itself ঘ gho).
Some letters have lost their distinctive pronunciation in modern Assamese are called by a more elaborate name. For example, since the consonant phoneme /n/ can be written ন, ণ, or ঞ (depending on the spelling of the particular word), these letters are not simply called no; instead, they are called ন dointo no ("dental n"), ণ murdhoinyo no ("cerebral n"), and ঞ nio.
Similarly, the phoneme /x/ can be written as শ taloibyo xo ("palatal x"), ষ murdh9inno xo ("cerebral x"), or স dointo xo ("dental x"), the phoneme /s/ can be written using চ prothom so ("first s") or ছ dwitio so ("second s"), and the phoneme /z/ can be written using জ borgio zo ("row z" = "the z included in the five rows of stop consonants") or য ontohstho zo ("z situated between" = "the z that comes between the five rows of stop consonants and the row of sibilants"), depending on the standard spelling of the particular word.
The consonants can be arranged in following groups:
Group: 1 – Gutturals
Group: 2 – Palatals
Group: 4 – Dentals
Group: 5 – Labials
Group: 6 – Semivowels
Group: 7 – Sibilants
Group: 8 – Aspirate
Group: 9 – Anuxāra
Group: 9 – Bixarga
Group: 10 – Chandrabindu (anunāsika)
|ঁ||n̐, m̐ candrabindu|
- The letters শ (talôibyo xô), ষ (murdhôinyo xô), স (dôntyo xô) and হ (hô) are called usma barna
- The letters য (za), ৰ (ra), ল (la) and ৱ (wa) are called ôntôhsthô barna
- The letters ড় (daré ṛa) and ঢ় (dharé ṛha) are phonetically similar to /ra/
- The letter য (ôntôhsthô zô) is articulated like 'ôntôhsthô yô' in the word medial and final position. To denote the ôntôhsthô ẏô, the letter য় (ôntôhsthô ẏô) is used in Assamese
- ৎ (khanda ṯ or hôsôntô t) means the consonant letter Tö (dôntyo ta) without the inherent vowel
To write a consonant without the inherent vowel the halant sign is used below the base glyph. In Assamese this sign is called hôsôntô or tôlôr réf (meaning bottom réf). (্)
In Assamese, the combination of three consonants is possible without their intervening vowels. There are about 122 conjunct letters. A few conjunct letters are given below:
Anuxôr ( ং ) indicates a nasal consonant sound (velar). When an anuxar comes before a consonant belonging to any of the 5 bargas, it represents the nasal consonant belonging to that barga.
Chandrabindu ( ঁ ) denotes nasalization of the vowel that is attached to it .
Bixargô ( ঃ ) represents a sound similar to /h /.
Consonant clusters according to Goswami
According to G. C. Goswami, the number of two-phoneme clusters is 143 symbolised by 174 conjunct letters. Three phoneme clusters are 21 in number, which are written by 27 conjunct clusters. A few of them are given hereafter as examples:
|Conjunct letters||Transliteration||[Phoneme clusters (with phonetics)|
|ক + ক||(kô + kô)||ক্ক kkô|
|ঙ + ক||(ŋô + kô)||ঙ্ক ŋkô|
|ল + ক||(lô + kô)||ল্ক lkô|
|স + ক||(xô + kô)||স্ক skô|
|স + ফ||(xô + phô)||স্ফ sphô|
|ঙ + খ||(ŋô + khô)||ঙ্খ ŋkhô|
|স + খ||(xô + khô)||স্খ skhô|
|ঙ + গ||(ŋô + gô)||ঙ্গ ŋgô|
|ঙ + ঘ||(ŋô + ghô)||ঙ্ঘ ŋghô|
|দ + ঘ||(dô + ghô)||দ্ঘ dghô|
|শ + চ||(xô + sô)||শ্চ ssô|
|চ + ছ||(sô + shô)||চ্ছ sshô|
|ঞ + ছ||(ñô + shô)||ঞ্ছ ñshô|
|ঞ + জ||(ñô + zô)||ঞ্জ ñzô|
|জ + ঞ||(zô + ñô)||জ্ঞ zñô|
|ল + ট||(lô + ṭô)||ল্ট lṭô|
|ণ + ঠ||(ṇô + ṭhô)||ণ্ঠ ṇṭhô|
|ষ + ঠ||(xô + ṭhô)||ষ্ঠ ṣṭhô|
|ণ + ড||(ṇô + ḍô)||ণ্ড ṇḍô|
|ষ + ণ||(xô + ṇô)||ষ্ণ ṣṇô|
|হ + ন||(hô + nô)||হ hnô|
|ক + ষ||(kô + xô)||ক্ষ ksô|
|প + ত||(pô + tô)||প্ত ptô|
|স + ত||(xô + tô)||স্ত stô|
|ক + ত||(kô + tô)||ক্ত ktô|
|গ + ন||(gô + nô)||গ্ন gnô|
|ম + ন||(mô + nô)||ম্ন mnô|
|শ + ন||(xô + nô)||শ্ন snô|
|স + ন||(xô + nô)||স্ন snô|
|হ + ন||(hô + nô)||হ্ন hnô|
|ত + থ||(tô + thô)||ত্থ tthô|
|ন + থ||(nô + thô)||ন্থ nthô|
|ষ + থ||(xô + thô)||ষ্থ sthô|
|ন + দ||(nô + dô)||ন্দ ndô|
|ব + দ||(bô + dô)||ব্দ bdô|
|ম + প||(mô + pô)||ম্প mpô|
|ল + প||(lô + pô)||ল্প lpô|
|ষ + প||(xô + pô)||ষ্প spô|
|স + প||(xô + pô)||স্প spô|
|ম + ফ||(mô + phô)||ম্ফ mphô|
|ষ + ফ||(xô + phô)||স্ফ sphô|
|দ + ব||(dô + bô)||দ্ব dbô|
|ম + ব||(mô + bô)||ম্ব mbô|
|হ + ব||(hô + bô)||হ্ব hbô|
|দ + ভ||(dô + bhô)||দ্ভ dbhô|
|ম + ভ||(mô + bhô)||ম্ভ mbhô|
|ক + ম||(kô + mô)||ক্ম kmô|
|দ + ম||(dô + mô)||দ্ম dmô|
|হ + ম||(hô + mô)||হ্ম hmô|
|ম + ম||(mô + mô)||ম্ম mmô|
|Assamese names||xuinno||ek||dui||tini||sari||pas||soy||xat||ath||no (no')||doh|
Three distinct variations of Assamese script from the Bengali
|Letter||Name of letter||Transliteration||IPA||Bengali|
|ৰ||rô||r||ɹ||– bôesunnô rô|
|ৱ||wô||w||w||– (antasthya a)|
Though ক্ষ is used in Bengali as a conjunct letter. Cha or Chha too has different pronunciation.
Assamese keyboard layout
- Inscript keyboard layout:
- Phonetic keyboard layout:
- The unique letter identifiers:
The keyboard locations of three characters unique to the Assamese script are depicted below:
- ITRANS characterisation:
The following is a sample text in Assamese of Article 1 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights:
Assamese in Assamese alphabet
- ১ম অনুচ্ছেদ: জন্মগতভাৱে সকলো মানুহ মৰ্য্যদা আৰু অধিকাৰত সমান আৰু স্বতন্ত্ৰ। তেওঁলোকৰ বিবেক আছে, বুদ্ধি আছে। তেওঁলোকে প্ৰত্যেকে প্ৰেত্যেকক ভ্ৰাতৃভাৱে ব্যৱহাৰ কৰা উচিত।
Assamese in Romanisation 1
- Prôthôm ônussêd: Zônmôgôtôbhawê xôkôlû manuh moirjyôda aru odhikarôt xôman aru sôtôntrô. Têû̃lûkôr bibêk asê, buddhi asê. Têû̃lûkê proittêkê proittêkôk bhratribhawê byôwôhar kôra usit.
Assamese in Romanisation 2
- Prothom onussed: Jonmogotobhabe xokolü manuh moirjjoda aru odhikarot xoman aru sotontro. Teü̃lükor bibek ase, buddhi ase. Teü̃lüke proitteke proittekok bhratribhawe bebohar kora usit.
Assamese in Romanisation 3
- Prothom onussed: Jonmogotovawe xokolu' manuh morjjoda aru odhikarot xoman aru sotontro. Teulu’kor bibek ase, buddhi ase. Teulu’ke proitteke proittekok vratrivawe bewohar kora usit.
Assamese in common chatting romanisation
- Prothom onussed: Jonmogotobhawe xokolu manuh morjyoda aru odhikarot xoman aru sotontro. Teulukor bibek ase, buddhi ase. Teuluke proitteke proittekok bhratribhawe byowohar kora usit.
Assamese in IAST Romanisation
- Prathama anucchēda: Janmagatabhāve sakalo mānuha maryadā āru adhikārata samāna āru svatantra. Tēõlokara bibēka āchē, buddhi āchē. Tēõlokē pratyēkē pratyēkaka bhrātribhāvē byavahāra karā ucita.
Assamese in the International Phonetic Alphabet
- /pɹɔtʰɔm ɔnusːɛd | zɔnmɔɡɔtɔbʰawɛ xɔkɔlʊ manuʱ moizːɔda aɹu odʰikaɹɔt xɔman aɹu s(w)ɔtɔntɹɔ || tɛʊ̃lʊkɔɹ bibɛk asɛ budːʰi asɛ || tɛʊ̃lʊkɛ pɹoitːɛkɛ pɹoitːɛkɔk bʰɹatɹibʰabɛ bɛβɔɦaɹ kɔɹa usit/
- 1st Article: Congenitally all human dignity and right-in equal and free. their conscience exists, intellect exists. They everyone everyone-to brotherly behaviour to-do should.
- Article 1: All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience. Therefore, they should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.
The Unicode block for Assamese and Bengali is U+0980–U+09FF:
Official Unicode Consortium code chart (PDF)
- "In the northeast, the local derivative of Siddhamatrka was the script known as Proto-Bengali or Gaudi, which was current from the tenth to the fourteenth centuries." (Salomon 1998:41)
- "In fact, the term 'Eastern Nagari' seems to be the only designation which does not favour one or the other language. However, it is only applied in academic discourses, whereas the name 'Bengali script' dominates the global public sphere." (Brandt 2014:25)
- The name ăcãmăkṣara first appears in Ahom coins and copperplates where the name denoted the Ahom script (Bora 1981:11–12)
- (Bora 1981:53)
- (Neog 1980, p. 308)
- "Universal Declaration of Human Rights – Assamese" (PDF). United Nations. Archived (PDF) from the original on 10 July 2021.
- Bora, Mahendra (1981). The Evolution of Assamese Script. Jorhat, Assam: Assam Sahitya Sabha.
- Brandt, Carmen (2014). "The identity politics of language and script in South Asia" (PDF). Depart. Vol. 17. pp. 24–31. Archived from the original (PDF) on 16 May 2017.
- Goswami, Upendranath (1983). "The Assamese Script". Journal of the Assam Research Society. Kamarupa Anusandhan Samiti. 27.
- Neog, Maheshwar (1980). Early History of the Vaishnava Faith and Movement in Assam. Delhi: Motilal Banarasidass.
- Salomon, Richard (1998). Indian Epigraphy: A Guide to the Study of Inscriptions in Sanskrit, Prakrit, and the Other Indo-Aryan Languages. New York: Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-535666-3.
- "Assamese literature – An overview and historical perspective Linking into broader Indian canvas". Archived from the original on 4 February 2012. Retrieved 4 January 2012.
- "Assamese writing System". Archived from the original on 11 December 2007. Retrieved 17 December 2007.
- "Antiques reveal script link – Inscriptions on 3 copper plates open new line of research". The Telegraph. Kolkata. 25 January 2006. Archived from the original on 4 July 2011. Retrieved 17 December 2007.