Re: [indic] Halant - can it be called a "Linguistic Zero" (Panini)?

From: alka irani (
Date: Thu Apr 29 2010 - 00:16:56 CDT

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    Dear All,

    To understand the concept of linguistic zero, one has to understand the
    uniqueness and advantages of Indic scripts. This can be understood by
    establishing equivalence of Indic characters to other scripts at phonetic

    What is known as halant ka क् is the most elementary character of Indic
    script and it corresponds to character 'k' in English.

    For example when we write kamalaa , it is k + a + m + a + l + aa.
                                                                    क् + अ + म्
    + अ + ल् + आ
                                                                    क म ला

    Indian languages have an additional layer of composition using which they
    are written as sequences of 'symbols'.
    A 'symbol' is a stand-alone unit , it is not broken across lines and it a
    unit of display as well as speech. Most of the times it is formed by
    combining a vowel (in matra form) with one or more conjuncts. In the
    example above, the name क म ला consists of 3 symbols, क, म and ला.
    Since the script is a sequence of continuous symbols, once you know how to
    read symbols, you can pronounce any word without much difficulty. Unlike,
    other languages in other scripts, you don't have to learn the pronunciation
    'by heart'.

    The elementary characters are divided into two main groups vowels ('svara')
    and consonants ( 'vyanjanas'). A symbol is formed by adding a vowel
    ('svara') to one ( or sometime 2,3 or 4) consonant ('vyanjana') .

    Thus k ( ka halant) with various vowels becomes,

    k k+a k+aa k+i k+ii k+u k+uu k+e k+ai k+o k+au

    When combined with the 'vyanjana' the 'svara' takes the form of a 'matra'

    so in the final 'symbolic' form various combinations are written as shown in
    C) and not as shown in B)

    A) k k+a k+aa k+i k+ii k+u k+uu k+e k+ai k+o k+au

    B) क् क् अ क् आ क् इ क् ई क् उ क ऊ क् ए क् ऐ क् ओ क्

    C) क् क का कि की कु कू के कै को

        0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9

    Basic form:
    For display purpose, there is a concept of basic form of the characters.
    Basic form is the form for the character without any matra. Thus basic form
    for original 'muula' k is क.

    Basic form:
    In the lexicon of the language, there are very few words with 'muula'
    characters as a 'symbols' and most of the times, the 'muula' character is
    combined with one of the 'svaras'. For display purpose, k+a is a default
    which means when the basic form क is shown it should be interpretated as
    'k + a' .

    Halant matra:
    Unicode as well as ISCII have given character codes for this default form क
    which has interpretation 'k + a'. Since the default form is k with
    'a-matra' , we should have a mechanism to show the original 'muula'
    character just 'k'. Thus halant matra is introduced , which corresponds to
    'zero matra' for the original character 'k' or can be called 'linguistic
    zero' matra.

    I hope this has brought some clarity to the issue.

    अलका ईरानी

    .. Alka Irani

    On Wed, Apr 28, 2010 at 11:07 PM, N. Ganesan <> wrote:

    > On Wed, Apr 28, 2010 at 12:31 PM, JAGANADH G <> wrote:
    >> On Wed, Apr 28, 2010 at 10:50 PM, N. Ganesan <>wrote:
    >>> A question for linguists. In Indian scripts,
    >>> there is a sign called halanta
    >>> which is used to delete an
    >>> inherent vowel /a/ in an Indic syllable.
    >>> For example, in any Indic script,
    >>> A syllable with /a/ + Halant = A "pure" consonant (with /a/ "killed")
    >>> i.e.,
    >>> [ka] + Halant = [k]
    >> It is wrong.
    >> [ka] - [a] = [k] not [ka] + [Halant] = [k]
    >> like wise
    >> [ka] - [a] + [i] = [ki]
    > yes. [halant] = - [a].
    > My question is: the Zeroing element (call it halant or -/a/)
    > a linguistic zero?
    > N. Ganesan
    >>> Usually, in early Brahmi, the halant "vowel-killer" sign is like a
    >>> macron
    >>> above any consonant syllable. In Tamil, halant is a dot (bindu) above
    >>> of on the side a syllable, which is same as bindu for zero
    >>> in Khmer inscriptions.
    >>> My question: Can we call Indic Halanta (the "killer" of vowel,/a/)
    >>> a form/kind of "Linguistic Zero" of PaaNini?
    >>> What is ment by "Linguistic Zero"?
    >> --
    >> **********************************

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