The need for a simple and accurate system of orthography capable of representing the various sound units in the different languages of the world has been felt to long by those interested in intercommunication, and many an attempt has been made o solve the problem of language barriers. In 1788 Sir William Jones published his essay 'On the Orthography of Asiatic Words in Roman Letters' (Asiatic Researches, Vol. I. pp. 1-56), advocating the Sanskrit alphabetical system and the Roman script with necessary diacritical marks. An attempt to revise and revive this oriental system of transliteration was made at Madras in 1859 by Sri Charles Trevelyan in his book On the Substitution of the Roman for the Indian Character. it has often been pointed out that the uniform division of the syllables into vowels and consonants makes the Raman script more convenient than the syllabic scripts used in most of the Asiatic languages. A standard alphabet intended for all languages of was used by many Christian missionaries. With the great development of the science of Linguistics and owing to the patient labours of phoneticians like Sir Daniel Jones, the description and classification of articulate sounds have now become definite and clear, and the systems of transliteration adopted by the International Phonetic Association and World Orthography are capable of handling accurately all linguistic material. The Oriental system of Sir William Jones, with minor changes, adopted by the international Congress of Orientalists, is also widely used by scholars.
In all these modern scientific systems of orthography, however, it is generally taken for granted that the introduction of diacritical marks or new symbols is inevitable in any system of transliteration. Hence such systems, though used universally by linguists and scholars, have not permeated the consciousness of the general public. A practical types, has yet to be evolved and generally accepted. The present work gives a satisfactory solution to the problem.
The system of transliteration adopted here may be considered as a development of the one adumbrated by Dr. Suniti Kumar Chatterji in his paper A Roman Alphabet for India' (Journal of the Department of Letters, Calcutta University, 1935), advocating the use of punctuation marks as diacriticals. The use of double letters for long vowels suggested by Prof. J. R. Firth (Arden's Tamil Grammar, 1934 ed. Appendix, p. 328) and used by some linguists needs no apology. The marks used herein, in addition to the colon (:) are the four quotation marks, the degree sign, the asterisk and rarely the double dagger and these serve to indicate distinctly the well over a hundred sounds to be found in the languages of the Indian sub-continent, including English and French. The normal punctuation marks like the comma, full stop, question mark and the curved and square brackets are left undisturbed; italics are also not resorted to as diacriticals but are left for their natural use.
One of the features of the unique transliteration system developed herein is that there are 'Tools' - each of which has one definite purpose. Just as the colon has long been used internationally as a lengthener, so it is used here also; but in addition another symbol is used to render a sound faint or even inaudible or an influence sound only. The degree sign is a graphic symbol of a vowel said with curved lips and helps the uninitiated to say those puzzling sounds like the French u's and eu's. it also blends consonants together. Another special feature is the placing of all diacritical marks before rather than after the sound modified, thus showing in advance what the sound is to be. This is in keeping with the modern tendency place the accent sign before rather than after the syllable affected. Details will be found in the pronunciation chart and the explanations preceding it given hereinafter.
I have been following the development of this system of transliteration since the first scheme proposed by the Author in Language : Barrer or Bridge (Adyar Library Pamphlet Series No. 25, 1950) using various types of diacriticals, each with a purpose; then the use of italics and the apostrophe only in Giitaa-A Sanskrit English Bridge (Adyar Library, 1952), giving the Sanskrit text of Gita both in Devanagari script and in transliteration, together with an exact-order tones. All of these could be printed in an ordinary press without the use of special types. The present system giving the transliteration of fifteen languages of India and her neighbours, keyed to English and French as written and spoken, can be set on the monotype or linotype, thus showing a way whereby languages can be represented in the nicest shades of phonetic distinction, expeditiously and inexpensively.
It may, however be pointed out here that this system is intended only as a supplement where World Orthography etc., and is not meant to replace them. Nor is it given as a rival to the existing scripts which have been doing heir work quite satisfactorily for hundreds or years, and which will continue to have an honoured place in the regional languages. Though the value of the contents of a book does not depend on the system of transliteration used, still the present system can be widely adopted as a practical and accurate one, especially for comparative studies.
Here is an Indian language highway for all, breaking the usual linguistic barriers of strange scripts by means of a uniform, simple and accurate system of transliteration. A basic vocabulary of words and phrases and simple sentences are translated into sixteen languages other than English in a way that makes each language easily comparable with every other. The detailed pronunciation hints, and the grammatical index add to its usefulness and value. Anybody with a knowledge of any one of the languages given herein can easily read and try to understand any of the other sixteen; thus we have here in a nutshell 16 X 17 or 272 different bilingual self instructors it covers language are given in transliteration and in their normal spelling, and even African clicks and tonal chantings are discussed, it is clear that a much broader field is involved.
The second part of the book is a linguistic supplement describing completely and system atically the grammatical structures of Hindi and Tamil, through English. The general scheme, the method of approach, and material are the author's own' but the matter has been thoroughly checked and rechecked by scholars like Dr. Ganesan and Prof. Visvanathan. Special help was given by Sri Pran Nath and several other Delhi teachers who shared in the checking for modern Hindi usage. This supplement can therefore be used as a trilingual comprehensive grammar and self-instructor, as well as a bridge connecting those three languages.
The basic modifiers and basic verb lists, keyed to Hindi, with their many Tamil and English equivalents, fully indexed, make in themselves a trilingual glossary. One feature of these lists is that small caps show the Tamil and English words most frequently used for the idea given in the Hindi key word (s). The Hindi verb list includes passive, active, and causative forms, when irregular, and both lists give many cross references of comparison and contrast.
The Author, Smt. Siitaa Devii, first came to India in 1935 as literary secretary and shorthand reporter for Dr. George S. Arundale, the then President of the Theosophical Society. From that time onwards she became keenly interested in the language problems of India and wanted to evolve an adequate system of shorthand for writing Indian Languages. As a first step in this direction she spent several years in forming a basic vocabulary of ideas needed to ascertain the phonetic basis of common speech in India. This was then translated by speakers who had a fundamental knowledge of their respective languages. I have had something to do with the drafting of the Malayalam section. Checking and rechecking, both by scholars and by laymen, went on again and again for years. What was originally intended as a book of exercises to the shorthand manual has outgrown it purpose and become an Indian Language Highway for All and is now published before the book on the shorthand system, which is in manuscript and will follow soon.
Every effort has been made to achieve accuracy and authenticity for the material used. In April 1965 the Author, and her colleague, Dr. Dorothy Rod, visited Poona, the Panjab, Bengal Assam, and many other places for a final check up of the languages in the areas where they are spoken; and for discussions with various linguists on moot questions.
The author speaks of her utter inadequacy to have produced this linguistic synthesis without the help of the many scholars and laymen who helped in translating, checking and rechecking for over two decades; but she had the vision and the dream of harmony among the languages of India and her neighbours, and this work surely shows the possibility of realizing such a dream. Another dream yet to be fulfilled is an All-India dictionary for which she and her colleagues have already gathered much material. Let us hope that all such beautiful dreams come true.
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