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Sabha effort to save Assamese
- Five-day meet to determine right syntax and semantics

Jorhat, June 21: More than a hundred years after Anundaram Dhekial Phukan and others established Assamese as a language different from Bengali despite a similar script, the Asam Sahitya Sabha has taken over the mantle of trying to prevent bastardisation of the language and bring uniformity in spelling and pronunciation.

In order to do this, the premier literary body in the state is organising a five-day workshop-cum-seminar where around 50 experts of the Assamese language from four universities of the state will determine on syntax and semantics — on what stays and what does not.

Debojit Bora, the assistant general secretary of the Sabha, said there were innumerable Assamese dictionaries carrying different spellings and pronunciations thereby confusing a reader.

Citing an example, Bora pointed out that kelenkari (scam) was sometimes written with a hraswa e (short e) and sometimes with a dirgha ee (long e).

Parmananda Rajbongshi, the secretary of the Sabha, told The Telegraph over the phone from Guwahati that it had become of utmost necessity to take up a standardisation process as this would bring in homogeneity and thus do away with confusion and errors. He said the Assamese language would survive with an identity instead of turning into a pidgin language.

“Most of the confusions arise over the u and ee kars (long and short u (oo) and e vowel signs) as well as the juktakhyars (amalgamated consonants) in different dictionaries — there are as many as 12 extant now — compounding the situation by writing words differently and each one thinking that he is right. Once the spellings are corrected, pronunciation automatically becomes correct,” Rajbongshi said.

The workshop will also try to maintain the purity of the language while at the same time allow its growth by incorporating words which have become common now.

“Many words have been borrowed from English like mobile and computer as these do not occur in Assamese. The experts will attempt to list all such words which allow for the growth of the language without its degradation,” Bora said.

“The earliest Assamese dictionary, Hem Kox, which was published in 1900 had about 50,000-odd words. Today a four-volume dictionary, Jatiya Abhidan, two volumes of which have been published, will contain more than 2 lakh words, many of which have been borrowed from English and other languages,” he said.

Regarding words like jao (go) and nejano (don’t know) which are now pronounced by many — mostly by TV journalists and movie people — nasally as zao and nezano will also come in for correction as will the usage of terms such as gos eta or gos ejopa. Both eta and ejopa are numerical indicators denoting singular but the appropriateness has to be defined as to which word is appropriate with gos (tree).

After the linguists reach a consensus on what should be the correct spelling, all the dictionaries will be bound to follow this.

“There maybe disagreements among the writers of various dictionaries and some might not accept the opinion of the experts but if they differ these will not be considered correct,” Bora said.

Regarding the publishing of the material fixed upon in the workshop to be held from June 24 to 28 at JB College auditorium, Bora said it would appear in the Sahitya Sabha magazine and also as an independent book, copies of which would be given to all the newspaper houses. Research scholars in the language have been invited to present papers and put forth their views in the workshop.

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