Bengali vs. Kamrupi?

by Michael S. Kaplan, published on 2011/08/08 07:01 -04:00, original URI:

As recent email would tend to indicate that I need to try and attract less email:


It is sad to know that the Assamese script comes under Bengali in Unicode, thinking it as a sub-class of Bengali. It also states that Bengali script is used in writing Assamese and a number of minority languages.  It reminds us the repetition of 1836 when the British rulers imposed Bengali in Assam thinking that it was a patois, a colloqial language or sub-language of Bengali. It took about 37 years to convince the British administration that Assamese was a distinct language and independent of Bengali. The srtuggle to reinstate Assamese was spearheaded by Miles Bronson, an American Baptist missionary, and it was finally won in 1873.  

The origin of the idea of Assamese script can be traced back to as early as to 300 B.C. found in stone inscriptions during the reign of Ashoka the Great. This is known to be the Brahmi script. In Assam, it developed through the ages and came to be known as Kamrupi. There are documentary evidences to show that Kamrupi script was written in 7 century A.D. or even before. The ancient name of Assam was Kamrup and for a considerable period its territory was extended to Mithila, Orissa and Bengal. The people of those areas came under socio-cultural influence of Kamrup. Moreover, it had cordial relations with the neighbouring kingdoms. The people of those areas either used Kamrupi or borrowed the idea from this script. That is why there is close affinity of Assamese with Bengali, Maithili and Oriya (phonetically). It is also to be observed that Assamese script has more resemblance with Tibetan than Devanagari script.
Therefore,Sir, it is our sincere prayer that a separate slot may be given to Assamese, or rename it as Kamrupi, or AMBM for Assamese, Maithili, Bengali and Manipuri, basing on chronological use of this script in the ancient times. Moreover, the move by a section of intellectuals for renaming the Assamese writing system as Eastern or Pub-Nagari will be more erroneous.
Hope you will look into the matter and consider our humble prayer.
Yours sincerely
Aziz-ul Haque
Guwahati Baptist Church
Panbazar, Guwahati 781001,Assam, India

There are actually two other emails in my inbox, not including another one forwarded directly to Unicode.

An alarming number of historical problems can be at least in part pinned on the irresponsible behavior the British in years past, though the more recent sins could be attributed to Daniels and Bright.

And Unicode, of course.

Unfortunately, not much can really be done.

Just as with earlier claims about the script being Bangla rather than Bengali described in Even in India, the language is actually known as Bangla (not Bengali), there is very little if anything that can be done.

Are the claims true?

Maybe. This is out of my area.

But can any of the character names or the script name change?

Well I don't speak for Unicode, but as with other situations (e.g. Oriya vs. Odia?), beyond a Mea culpa/sumimasen, there seems to be little else that can be done....

Van on 8 Aug 2011 9:54 AM:

I can see your not wanting to take a stance in regards to the validity of the claim, but can you not muscle up a defense of the Unicode stability policy on character names? I happen to think the Unicode stability policies are quite possibly the most important parts of the standard, even if they do mean we sometimes have to put up with the Bangla brigade and the "Unicode is racist because it won't include African letters with diacritics" contingent.

Michael S. Kaplan on 8 Aug 2011 10:29 AM:

Well, it is really more for them to defend than I, though FWIW I agree with you....

Doug Ewell on 11 Aug 2011 2:01 PM:

Names of characters and scripts are just names. They are identifiers that let people talk about a thing consistently. They are not value judgments or statements of any sort of racial, ethnic, or socioeconomic supremacy. I wish this message would get out more.

Satyakam on 15 Aug 2011 1:41 PM:

I support each and every word of the letter which you have pasted here, by Mr Haque. I too request you to kindly address the problem. Please suggest how a solution can be achieved. The Bengali Script should be renamed to something generic. Assamese script is older than Bengali, and in fact Bengali borrowed the script from the Assamese. Some letters which used to exist in Old Bengali script do not exist in current script, but these letters are still there in Assamese. If not 'Kamrupi' but some thing like AMBM or ABM should be the renamed range for the scripts. And definitely NOT Bengali.

Michael S. Kaplan on 15 Aug 2011 1:58 PM:

The "problem" cannot be addressed.

Satyakam on 18 Aug 2011 11:09 AM:

Can you please elaborate on why?

Michael S. Kaplan on 18 Aug 2011 11:31 AM:

Because the stability guarantees in Unicode do not allow the names to be changed.

Alex Cohn on 2 Mar 2012 1:02 PM:

The character names must be stable, but names of subranges in, e.g. charmap.exe aren't sacred. Is there a technical prohibition for BENGALI LETTER A to be part of Kamrupi subrange?

referenced by

2012/03/02 The evolving Story of Locale Support, part 20: Yes, it's Bangla. Not Bengali!

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