Monday, April 22, 2013

Language Profile: Oriya

This week's language profile is on Oriya, an Indo-Aryan language with over 32 million native speakers. Oriya is an official regional language in the southeastern Indian state of Odisha, where it is spoken by over 75% of the population.

The Rajarani Temple in Bhubaneswar, the capital of Odisha.
It is known as the "love temple" due to its erotic carvings.
Recently, the government of Odisha has decided to officially change the name of the language to "Odia". However, it seems that most everyone else seems to have continued to use the name Oriya instead.

Unlike other Indian languages, Oriya has had little influence from Persian and Arabic. It also has several regional dialects which mainly exist due to lexical differences.

Written samples of Oriya have been found from as far back as the 7th century, including inscriptions in temples and on copper plates as well as manuscripts written on palm leaves. The language was first printed in the early 1800s when Christian missionaries helped the people to develop movable type for use with a printing press. This allowed for a literary revolution to take place. While handwritten Oriya at the time more closely resembled Bengali script, the type that was created had more in common with the Tamil and Telugu scripts.

Oriya is written using Oriya script, an abugida with 28 consonants and 6 vowels. Each consonant has an inherent vowel sound which can be changed using diacritics. The script has mostly rounded letters instead of the straight lines found in the closely related Devanagari script which is used to write Hindi.