Knowledgebase.htm> Bengali Script
The Bengali script is an Abugida system of writing belonging to the Brahmic family of scripts. Bangla Script grew out of Kutila, which was a reformed version of Brahmi. Although the Brahmi script is believed to have evolved in the ancient past, its earliest specimens are two inscriptions, dating from the 5th century BC, discovered at Pipraba and Bali. From 350-100 BC the Brahmi script, now known as Ashoka or Maurya script, underwent certain transformations. Asoka script or Maurya script can be divided into two stages: ancient and modern. Ancient Maurya script had two forms: uttari and daksini. Modern script evolved through seven stages. The second stage in the evolution of the Brahmi script is into the Kushan script, named after the Kushan royal dynasty and in use upto 100-300 AD. The third stage of its evolution was into the Gupta script, named after the Gupta royal dynasty, and current between the 4th and 5th centuries AD. During this period, some letters of the Gupta script took the shape of modern Bangla letters. For instance, in Maharaja Jayanatha's grant, B and M are similar to the Bangla letters today.
Click here to view the evolving Bengali script at different stages of history.
While it looks similar to Devanagari, it is less blocky and presents a more sinuous shaping. The modern script was formalized in 1778 when it was first typeset.
Clusters of consonants are represented by different and sometimes quite irregular characters; thus, learning to read the script is complicated by the sheer size of the full set of characters and character combinations, numbering about 500.
The script presently has a total of 11 vowel letters, used to represent the seven main vowel sounds of Bengali, along with a number of vowel diphthongs. 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 Bengali . For example, the Bengali 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 "i", and a short "u" and a long "u". These letters are preserved in the Bengali script with their traditional names of hrôshsho i (lit. 'short i') and dirgho 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, a hôshonto (্) may be written underneath the consonant.
A selection of conjunct consonants
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