Monday, September 2, 2013

Language Profile: Assamese

It has been several weeks since we've come across an Indian language in our language profiles, so it's only fitting that we take a look at one today. One of the fifteen official languages of India belonging to the Indo-Aryan language family, Assamese is primarily spoken in the northeastern states of Assam and Arunachal Pradesh. There are also a small number of Assamese speakers residing in Bangladesh.

Kareng Ghar, a palace in the Indian state of Assam.
Assamese is closely related to several other languages of India, including Bengali, Oriya, and Maithili. It has also been influenced by members of the Sino-Tibetan and Austro-Asiatic language families that are spoken in northeastern India.

The language is written using Assamese script, an abugida that was at one time used to write Sanskrit. In fact, many standard spellings in Assamese are based on the Sanskrit language. Assamese boasts a long literary tradition, and has developed over the years from its original use in religious texts written on tree bark.

By the 17th century, there were three different writing styles in use, but eventually the script was standardized in order to facilitate printing. Assamese script currently has 8 vowels, 10 diphthongs, and 21 consonants. It is nearly identical to Bengali script, except for its inclusion of three letters that can be transliterated as r, w, and khy