RE: Devanagari

Date: Mon Apr 17 2000 - 05:49:07 EDT

Tex Texin wrote:
> Looks like I need to learn a little Devanagari, enough to
> recognize characters, encoding issues, sorting, comparing,
> parsing issues,... the kinds of things a programmer runs into,
> especially when not using Unicode.
> Can anyone recommend good basic texts that cover either programming
> for Devanagari, or the initial elements for learning the language?

If you are interested in knowing something about the script, out of the
technical context of computers and typography, you can head to a library or
bookshop and look for grammars of Sanskrit and/or modern languages written
in Devanagari (main ones being Hindi, Marathi and Nepali).

Most grammars normally start with a chapter about the alphabet. Moreover,
the first few lessons are normally devoted to creating reading skills, so
the attention is drawn more on the spelling than on introducing vocabulary
and grammar.

I personally love a series of small and inexpensive books, published by
Balaji Publications, Madras (Chennai), India. The publishing started in the
'70s, but still continues today. The books are all titled "Learn Sanskrit in
30 days - through English" (where "Sanskrit" and "English" may be
substituted by any of the modern languages of India, including English and

The booklets are very common in India, but also quite easily found in
Western bookshops, especially in the UK. Avoid asking the bookshop clerks:
they won't know. Look around and head directly to the darkest, dirtier and
narrower corner of the shop, possibly under a staircase or near the toilet.
That's where these little treasures are normally hidden :-)

The language learning method used in the books is naive and inefficient, to
say the least, but the part that deals with the alphabet is unique because
it normally:

- starts with a diagram showing the way letters should be traced with a pen
(order and direction of strokes), that is not always so obvious;

- contains a comprehensive table of all consonant conjuncts, showing all the
ligatures, half consonants, subscript consonants, etc.;

- exposes the terminology that is actually used in India, and this may be
invaluable to communicate with Indian customers, colleagues or bosses;

Moreover, the books are also interesting in themselves, as examples of
actual Indian typography and binding.

_ Marco

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