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Bengali transliteration into Roman charactars

There had been no scheme for transliteration of Bengali into Roman characters until about 2001 when the International Standardisation Organisation adopted the ISO 15919 Transliteration of Devanagari and related Indic scripts into Latin characters. But Bengali had come to be translierated till then using a scheme that has been in use for Sanskrit transliteration since 1894.

C1C2C3C4C5C6
Plosive
/k//kɔt̪ʰɑ/কথাkathāwordsvoiceless velar
/ɡ//ɡɑn/গানgānaSongvoiced velar
/t//t̪in/তিনtinathreevoiceless apico-dental
/d//d̪ɑn/দানdānadonationvoiced apico-dental
/ʈ//ʈaka/টাকাṭākāmoneyvoiceless retroflex
/ɖ//ɖɑk/ডাকḍākacall (n), postvoiced retroflex
/p//pɑt̪ɑ/পাতাpātāleafvoiceless bilabial
/b//boi/বইba:ibookvoiced bilabial
Affricate
/cʃ//cʃɑkɑ/চাকাcākāwheelvoiceless palato-alveolar
/ɟʒ//dʒibɔn/জীবনjībanalifevoiced palato-alveolar
Flap
/ɽ//bɑɽi/বাড়িbāṛihousevoiced retroflex
Fricative
/s//prosno/প্রশ্নpraśnaquestionvoiceless apico-alveolar
/ʃ//ʃit̪/শীতśītacold (n), wintervoiceless palato-alveolar
/ɦ//ɦɑt̪/হাতhātahandvoiced glottal
Nasal
/m//mɑt̪ʰɑ/মাথাmāthāheadvoiced bilabial
/n//nɑʈok/নাটকnāṭakadrama, playvoiced alveolar
/ŋ//roŋin/রঙিনraṅinacolouredvoiced velar
Roll
/r//rɑt̪/রাতrātanightvoiced alveolar
Lateral
/l//lɑʈʰi/লাঠিlāṭhistickvoiced alveolar
Aspirate
/kʰ//kʰɑt̪ɑ/খাতাkhātāexercise bookvoiceless velar
/ɡʱ//ɡʱɑʃ/ঘাসɡhāsagrassvoiced velar
/t̪ʰ//t̪ʰeke/থেকেthekefromvoiceless dental
/d̪ʱ//d̪ʱɑn/ধানdhānarice, paddyvoiced dental
/ʈʰ//ʈʰikɑnɑ/ঠিকানাṭhikānāaddressvoiceless retroflex
/ɖʱ//ɖʱɑkɑ/ঢাকাḍhākācover, coveringvoiced retroflex
/pʰ//pʰɔl/ফলphalafruitvoiceless bilabial
/bʱ//bʱɑt̪/ভাতbhātaboiled ricevoiced bilabial
/cʃʰ//cʃʰɑt̪ɑ/ছাতাchātāumbrellavoiceless palato-alveolar
/ɟʒʱ//dʒʱɔɽ/ঝড়jhaṛastormvoiced palato-alveolar
/ɽʱ//ɑʃɑɽ(ʱ/ʰ)/আষাঢ়āṣāṛha Bengali monthvoiced retroflex
Oral vowel
/i//d̪in/দিনdinadayfront, close, lax
/e//d̪eʃ/দেশdeśacountryfront, half-close
/æ//mælɑ/মেলাmelāfairfront, half-open
/ɑ//ɖɑk/ডাকḍākacallcentral, open
/ɔ//mɔt̪/মতmataopinionback, half-open
/o//roɡ/রোগrogadiseaseback, half-close
/u//mukʰ/মুখmukhamouthback, close
Nasal vowel
/ɪ̃//ĩd̪ɑrɑ/ইঁদারাĩdārāwell (n)front, close, lax
/ẽ//pẽpe/পেঁপেpẽpepapayafront, half-close
/æ̃//pæ̃cʃɑ/পেঁচাpẽcāowlfront, half-open
/ɑ̃//cʃɑ̃d̪ɑ/চাঁদাcā̃dāsubscription moneycentral, open
/ɔ̃//ɡɔ̃d̪/গঁদɡãdaback, half-open
/õ//kʰõdʒ/খোঁজkhõjasearch (n)back, half-close
/ũ//ũcʃu/উঁচুũcuhighback, close
Approximant
/ĕ//mɑĕɑ/মায়াmāẏāillusionpalatal
/ŏ//d̪ɑ̃ɽiŏɑlɑ/দাঁড়িওয়ালাdā̃ṛioẏālābeardedbilabial
Non-essential
/f//ɔfis/ অফিসaphisaofficevoiceless bilabial fricative
/v//iunivɑrsiʈi/ইউনিভার্সিটিiunibhārsitiuniversityvoiced bilabial fricative
/ɸ//ɸul/ফুলphulaflowervoiceless bilabial approximant
/β//βul/ভুলbhulamistakevoiced bilabial approximant
/z//zɑkɑt̪/জাকাতjākātamarketvoiced dental sibilant

 

Legend

Col 1 - IPA symbol
Col 2 - IPA transcription
Col 3 - gloss
Col 4 - transliteration
Col 5 - meaning
Col 6 - description

There is a controversy over the number of phonemes in Bengali, ranging between 35 to 47. There are some areas where such controversies exist; and they are:

Suniti Kumar Chatterji's scheme has 35 essential phonemes plus five non-essential ones. According to him, /s/ should be considered a separate phoneme while aspirated ones are better considered "consonant phoneme clusters". Thus Chatterji has 10 plosives, 3 nasals, 2 liquids, 3 sibilants, 1 flap, 2 approximants, 7 oral vowels and 7 nasal vowels in the essential category.

Rameswar Shaw's scheme has 44 phonemes. Shaw holds brief for /s/ to be in complementary distribution with /ʃ/, which is the principal phoneme, limiting Chatterji's sibilants to 2.

Charles A. Ferguson and Munier Chowdhury, in The Phonemes of Bengali listed 46 phonemes. The Ferguson and Chowdhury scheme has 2 more semivowels in addition to the Shaw's, pushing the number of the phonemes to 46.

Rafiqul Islam's scheme has 47 phonemes. Islam considered /s/ a separate phoneme and has 4 semivowels in his list.

Suniti Kumar Chatterji and Charles A. Ferguson both holds brief for another marginal vowel, as yet counted out of the standard vowel sound system. This is a very low variety of /o/ or a little high variety of /ɔ/. I have found Rameswar Shaw's scheme to perfectly fit in with the current situation, but made the repertoire one-phoneme heavier with the inclusion of /s/, which needs, it seems justifiable, to be considered a separate phoneme in view of so many loanwords, already naturalised, in the language.

 

Revised: 5 April 2011