Monday, November 5, 2007

Hooked On Delhi Phonics

Here's a quick end to the Delhi story. (I'm still in Amritsar, btw -- will write about it soon.)

On my last day in Delhi I met up with a friend whom I had originally met back in August. (He's the one who gave me palmology.)

I wish I had been able to meet up with him earlier. He had a car, and used it to take me to the nice parts of Delhi; National School of Drama, the Parliament buildings, etc.

We stopped at Bengali Market for lunch and I had a delicious chole bature (yes, Niranjana, it was everything you said it would be). Afterwards my friend left me at the National Museum because he had to get to rehearsal.

At the National Museum -- well, I didn't have enough time by half, but I managed to see several of the rooms and wished I could have spent much more time poring over the miniatures. But the most interesting discovery was the room filled with charts of Indian phonetics; that is, charts of how the various Indian alphabets have evolved over the past 2000-odd years.

And as I was staring at the Telugu alphabets, I noticed something fascinating. The original lettering appeared to be an attempt to draw the shape of the mouth while the sound was spoken. In profile. It wasn't a 1-1 correlation, but for the majority of the phonemes, it was pretty darn close.

Why didn't we leave the alphabet like that, do you think? Probably something to do with manuscripts and people adding curlicues and things, and then the flourishes taking over until the original shape of the letter was obscured. At least, that's my guess. ^__^

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