August 21, 2010 | Hindi

Alphabet Error!

The Hindi alphabet is bigger than previously reported (by me).

I registered today that I made a major error back on August 1 when I first wrote about the Hindi writing system. I said there were 42 symbols.

Wrong! There are 42 consonant symbols.

I must admit, I have been wondering about this. I have been feeling as though there were a lot more than 42 symbols floating around as I worked my way through my writing lessons. Now I understand why. The total is in fact significantly higher.

To be fair, this mistake was not entirely my fault. The book I was using was a little confusing in its presentation. But no matter what, I am afraid mistakes are inevitable when I am writing about languages as I learn them.

I remember back in graduate school (I studied comparative literature at UCLA), one of my professors once noted in a class the close etymological relationship between “author” and “authority.” That made a big impression on me at the time, and when I worked as a freelance reporter, I often noticed how difficult it was to write about a subject I didn’t know well.

Practice Does Not Always Make Perfect

Practice Does Not Always Make Perfect

Hindi definitely qualifies as a subject I don’t know well.

In any case: my apologies for all the mistakes I have made previously (in all languages), and for all the mistakes I am certain to make in the future. I do like and appreciate being corrected, by the way, and many thanks to those who have pointed out errors.

Enough with the excuses, though. Let’s try this again. Here is a quote from the book My First 100 Words in Hindi: “The modern Hindi alphabet has 42 consonant symbols, four vowel bearer symbols, ten vowel symbols and two nasal symbols—making a total of 58 letters and symbols (including one invisible symbol).” Despite several tries, I can’t get my total on the page included here to the left to equal 58, which I know sounds weird, but the categories are kind of messy.

Also, I realize the idea of an invisible symbol may be a bit mysterious, but I think it’s best to leave that alone for the moment. It’s a little complicated, and probably not worth getting into. But isn’t the idea cute? I am picturing a chubby, mischievous little vowel roaming the linguistic land, wreaking havoc on consonants and other vowels from behind a cloak of invisibility.

To conclude: compared to our alphabet, Hindi has in the neighborhood of 123% more symbols. No wonder I remain illiterate in it.

Post a Comment