Orthography guide

Introduction

The Koch language has not had an established orthography. Various Koch writers have mainly used the Assamese script in their writings since, in the early days, the majority of Koch people attended schools using Assamese or Bengali as the medium of instruction. The Assamese script is associated with the Hindu religion. On the other hand, many other languages of North East India are written in the Roman script, usually associated with westernization and Christianity, e.g., Garo, Khasi and others.

The opinions within the Koch community itself vary. It is mainly the generation gap that has produced two trends: the older generation favouring the use of the Assamese script and the younger generation being inclined towards the Roman script. In fact, many youngsters are not at all familiar with the Assamese script; many find it difficult to read. There have been many discussions regarding the script issue. In 2007, the All Meghalaya Koch Association (AMKA) arrived at a decision to use the Assamese script for writing Koch. The main reason was the existence of a collection of Koch texts already written in the Assamese script. Nevertheless, some of the Koch writers admit the possibility of a script shift in the future generations.

At the Tezpur orthography development workshop (2009), we suggested that both the Assamese and Roman scripts be used in the Koch spelling guide. The main advantage of such an approach is that we will thus make the spelling guide available to a wider range of potential users: those with knowledge of only one of the scripts or both. Also, while the Assamese script can be used in official writing and education, the Roman script can be used informally and in modern media, such as e-mail and SMS. For this, knowledge of the correct transliteration is essential.

Vowels

In the following chart, the Koch vowel symbols are written as independent letters. Only those Assamese symbols that correspond with Koch native sounds are included here.

অৗ

O o

A a

à ã

I i

U u

E e

Õ õ

[ɔ]

[a]

[ə]

[i]

[u]

[e]

[o]

In a syllabic alphabet, consonants all have an inherent vowel which can be altered or muted by means of diacritics or a matra (specific vowel other than the inherent one) written above, below, before, after or on both sides of the consonant they are associate with. The first column has the inherent vowel.

কা

কৗ

কি

কু

কে

কো

ko

ka

ki

ku

ke

[kɔ]

[ka]

[kə]

[ki]

ku

[ke]

[ko]

Consonants

Only those Assamese symbols that correspond with the Koch native sounds are used here. The order of the letters is based on articulatory phonetics.

K k

Kh kh

G g

Gh gh

Ng ng

[k]

[kʰ]

[g]

[gʰ]

[ŋ]

-

Ch ch

S s

J j

Jh jh

-

[t͡ʃ]

[s]

[d͡ʒ]

[d͡ʒʰ]

-

T t

Th th

D d

Dh dh

N n

[t]

[tʰ]

[d]

[dʰ]

[n]

P p

Ph ph

B b

Bh bh

M m

[p]

[pʰ]

[b]

[bʰ]

[m]

য়

Y y

R r

L l

W w

H h

[j]

[ɾ]

[l]

[w]

[h]

 

Borrowed symbols

The use of these letters is retained in many Assamese loanwords, especially those whose pronunciation in Koch has not changed much or those that entered the Koch language recently.

I i

U u

Ri ri

Oi oi

Ou ou

[i]

[u]

[ɾi]

[ɔj]

[ow]

 

 

T t

Th th

D d

Dh dh

N n

Ñ ñ

J j/Z z

[t]

[tʰ]

[d]

[dʰ]

[n]

[ɲ]

[d͡ʒ/z]

ক্ষ

ড়

ঢ়

-

Kh kh

S s

S s

S s

R r

R r

-

[kʰ]

[s]

[s]

[s]

[ɾ]

[ɾ]

-

Other symbols

:

’/o

t

ng

h

-

-

.

[ʔ/ɔ]

[t̚]

[ŋ]

[h]

-

-

-

Diphthongs

Representing diphthongs /aj/ as ay, /əj/ as ai, /aw/ as , and /əw/ as au is favoured by Koch writers. Perhaps this is a general Indian trend (a similar representation of diphthongs is found in the Romanization of Tamil). However, there is a problem of over-representation here: the same sound /ə/ is represented both by অৗ (or ã-matra) and আ (or a-matra). The pronunciation of the latter is conditioned by whether it is followed by ই or য়.

অয়

আই

আয়

আউ

আও

উই

এই

oy

ai

ay

au

ui

ei

[ɔj]

[əj]

[aj]

[əw]

[aw]

[uj]

[ej]

However, it is not uncommon to come aross spellings, such as ãi অৗই and ãu অৗউ, especially in Wanang and Kocha varieties.

Conjuncts

When consonants occur in clusters, special conjunct forms are used.

খ্র

গ্র

ত্র

দ্র

ন্দ

ন্ত

প্প

khr

gr

tr

dr

nd

nt

pp

[kʰɾ]

[gɾ]

[tɾ]

[dɾ]

[nd]

[nt]

[pː]

প্র

ব্র

ব্ল

ম্ব

র্ত

ল্ল

-

pr

br

bl

mb

rt

ll

-

[pɾ]

[bɾ]

[bl]

[mb]

[ɾt]

[lː]

-

Numerals

এৰা

ছা

নিঙ

তাম

ব্রি(ঙ)

বোঙ

ক্রোপ

ছিন

গিন

গিছ

0

1

2

3

4

5

6

7

8

9

era

sa

ning

tam

bri(ng)

bõng

krõp

sin

gin

gis

[eɾa]

[sa]

[niŋ]

[tam]

[bɾi(ŋ)]

[boŋ]

[kɾop̚]

[sin]

[gin]

[gis]

Modifications and Spelling Rules

According to E. Berlanda, “It is very seldom that script adoption does not entail modification. Script modification is a tool to bridge gaps between one’s language and the newly adopted script. Sometimes loanwords and foreign language material might be present in a language which is not suitable for a script, which is therefore in need of some kind of reform to accommodate the language’s native and foreign elements in an adequate manner” (Berlanda 2006:50).

Certain modifications of the Assamese and Roman scripts as well as the spelling rules for writing Koch are listed below:

1. The Assamese letter   and its Roman counterpart a has been modified to অৗ and ã respectively in order to suit the Koch sound [ə] which does not have an equivalent in either Assamese or English as in:

 

চৗলপৗক chãlpãk ‘life’

2. The Assamese letter is represented by a Roman o with the tilde above, õ, as in:

 

তাও taõ ‘hot’
লিতো litõ ‘is going’

3. The glottal stop [ʔ] which typically occurs word-medially in Koch is represented by an apostrophe (); in the Assamese orthography, the apostrophe also occurs word-finally where it represents the final o which is otherwise not pronounced:

মা’ৱা ma’wa ‘boy’
বে’এ be’e ‘where’
কৰ’ koro ‘language’

4. The Assamese letter , representing a velar nasal [ŋ], is written both word-medially and word-finally thus discarding the otherwise unnecessary use of anuswar[1] as in:

পাঙান pangan ‘many’
ছঙ song ‘village’
ইঙকা ingka ‘like this’

 

However, this rule may need some adjustment, as many Koch writers are comfortable with anuswar, and so it is used in the present dictionary.

5. The letters and য় do not occur word-initially.

6. The letter   is selected to represent [s] instead of which is pronounced as [x] in modern Assamese. However, in many Koch-Rabha writings, the use of is retained.

ছকা soka ‘cloth’
সকোক sokõk ‘cloth’ (K)

7. The prohibitive particle ta plus the main verb are separated by a hyphen (-) as in:

তা-ৰেক ta-rek ‘don’t do (it)’
তা-আলায় ta-alay ‘don’t hang (it)’

8. Echo constructions are also separated by a hyphen (-) as in:

হেচা-পেচা hecha-pecha ‘ugly’
ধাম-ধাম dham-dham ‘quick’

[1] The Assamese anuswar is restricted to syllable codas only.