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Palaeolinguistic Profile of Brahmi Script

Palaeolinguistic Profile of Brahmi Script
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Item Code: NAY661
Author: Dilip Rajgor
Publisher: Pratibha Prakashan
Language: English
Edition: 2000
Pages: 154 (Throughout Color and B/w Illustrations)
Other Details: 10.00 X 7.50 inch
weight of the book: 0.61 kg
About the Book
Brahm] is considered to be the earliest known script of historic. India. It is reported throughout Indian subcontinent dating back to as early as 400 BC. It is a diacritically modified consonant syllabic script. This characteristically Indian script type is remarkably stable.

and nearly all the later Indic and extra-Indi c scripts derived from it follow essentially the same system.

The monograph Palaeolinguistic Profile of Brahmi Script revolves around the palaeolinguistic analysis of Mauryan and Ksatrapa Brahmi scripts. The former is the earliest known form of the script dating back to at least 250 BC whereas the latter is a derivative of the former in western India in the first four centuries of the Christian era. The book deals with the linguistic and topographic organization of Brahm] script. Furthermore. dependency phonology is an important component of this work. This modern linguistic phenomenon is corroborated by the ancient Brahm] script.

On the basis of dependency phonology and the analysis of basic and derived letters. evolution of Brahm] script has been forwarded.

Accordingly. it is argued that the evolution of Brahm) was in four stages preceded by Harappan script. via .,

i) Harappan script (c 2500 - 1700 BC). ii) Proto-Brahm] script (c 1700 600 BC). iii) Pre-Mauryan Brahm] (c 600 350 BC). iv) Mauryan Brahm] (c 350 150 BC). and v) Po t-Mauryan Brahm] (c 150 BC - AD 600).

In the end. it is concluded that the linguistic design of Brahm] was a product of the phonetic-phonological-grammatical work done by Indian scholars over a period of a few centuries.

About the Author
Dr. Dilip RAJGOR received his Master's degree in Indian history, culture and archaeology with a Post-Graduate Diploma in linguistics from the M.S. University of Baroda (1997). He holds doctorate in Indian culture from the University of Bombay (1995).

He has edited two bi-monthly bulletins, viz., Khab arnama and ICS Newsletter from 1987-94. His published works include Standard Catalogue of Sultanate Coins of India (1991); Studies in the Coinage of the Western Ksatrapas (with Amiteshwar Jha, in 1994), and History of the Traikut akas (1998). His forthcoming titles include Numismatic Chronology of Early Historic Gujarat, History of Gujarat, and Janapada Punch-marked Coins. He is currently completing a book on the Currency and Fiscal of Kachchh State.

He has participated in various international and national seminars and conferences and has contributed fifty research papers to various journals and books. He has been awarded the Lowick Memorial Grant of the Royal Numismatic Society, U.K. in 1991; and the Indological Research Fellowship of the Asiatic Society of Bombay in 1994-1995. He is also a recipient of the Prof H.D. Sankalia Young Archaeologist Award for the year 1997.

Because of my interest in the linguistic - topographic design of the Brahm! script and its descendants used in and around India today, I took Dilip Rajgor as a godsend for me when I first met him in January 1997. As soon as I saw him transcribe my name in Brahm! and explain to me how the Sanskrit phonology of my first name could be encoded into Brahm! ekseres (orthographic units), I suggested that he should use his background in the archaeology of ancient India and his mastery of the structure and functioning of Brahmi and do a thesis on the topic for his postgraduate diploma in linguistics. Palaeolinguistic Profile of Brahmi Script is an. updated version of that contribution which may be considered the beginning of a new domain of study, namely, 'Palaeolinguistics' .

What is new in Rajgor's monograph? The linguistic - topographic evolution of Ks atrap a Brahm] from the earlier Mauryan Brahm], the relevance of Brahm] seekers to current phonological theory, and a well-founded hypothesis regarding the development of Brahm! as a script in ancient India are sure to attract the attention of the students of Brahm]. I am sure that Rajgor (2000) will be cited for these and other issues in Indian palaeolinguistics. The monograph will also be looked up for the appendices; and beautiful plates illustrating the development of Brahm! script; inscriptions and coins.

I expect Palaeolinguistic Profile of Brehm] Script to be a modestly influential monograph. Rajgor's quick grasp of Pandey's suggestion about the link between the basic - derived ensure to dependent phonology cannot escape the attention of present-day linguists. Rajgor highlights the value and relevance of the two primary contributions on Brahm], namely, Upasak (1960) and Verma (1971). The hypothesis about the earlier forms of Mauryan Brahm! will also be explored. Given Dilip Rajgor's ability, skills and work habits, I would not be surprised if he is invited to join a major research team working on the decipherment of the Indus Script.


The roots of Indian palaeography can be traced back to the fourteenth century. During this period Firoz Shah Tughlaq unsuccessfully tried to decipher the Asokan pillar edicts. The final deciphering. however. took around five hundred years when Prince eucceeatutty decoded the Mauryan Brahmi in 1837. In the last one hundred and fifty- odd years. Indian palaeography has reached a stage of maturity. In these one and a half centuries, paleographers have studied ancient Indian scripts from various angles.

However, in the present decade, a new group of scholars is taking interest in Indian palaeography. They are from the discipline of linguistics.

This inter-disciplinary approach to study Indian palaeography has a promising future. These palaeolinguists study the problem of linguistic and cognitive aspects of the morality-literacy complex in ancient India. In their study the linguistic analysis of Brahm! script - the earliest known script of India - is an important tool. To facilitate these new palaeolinguists in their research, the present work Palaeolinguistic Profile of Brahmi Script is forwarded.

The enterprise begins with Introduction, presenting thereby the various writing systems, and about the antiquity of Brahm]. Development, regional variations, Ksatrapa Brahm! script and a review of literature are other important components of this chapter.

Chapter 2 deals with linguistic features of Ksatrapa Brahm]. Numerous tables classify the vowels and consonants of the Ks atrapa Brahm] script. Sanskrit rules of sandhi (conjunction) are corroborated by modern linguistic research which is dealt with in the Chapter 3 on Dependency Phonology. A study of original forms of Brahm] results in the classification of basic and derived letters which forms a separate section.

Chapter 4 highlights the topographic organization of the Brahm! script. This chapter includes sections on initial vowels, consonants, medial vowel-signs, and formation of conjuncts. Furthermore, the system of writing and physical length of letters are also discussed which are followed by general observations.

Language differentiated man from other animals and the art of writing made him superior not only to the rest of the animals but even within the broad group of human beings. Thus it can be said that humankind is defined by language but civilization is defined by writing (Daniels 1996).

In the evolutionary process of man, right from signs and symbols to the computer languages, man has passed through a number of milestones. In the Neolithic era human communities and languages began to multiply in Europe, the Near East and Africa. In Africa alone some six hundred different tongues were spoken by various tribes and clans at least seven thousand years ago (Norman 1975). However, most of these languages have disappeared with their speakers. The development of- writing is considered as the most revolutionary invention in human history. This skill of writing made possible for man to convey his ideas across space and time. By the help of writing he could not only communicate effectively with his fellow beings but also passed on his thoughts, views, ideas and discoveries from generation to generation. Archaeologicafy, the earliest evidence of such writing can be traced back to some 135,000 years ago. This evidence is a rib excavated from an early ice age from the region of Dordogne in France.

Upon the rib a prehistoric man had engraved a series of curious signs - arcs, branches, angular symbols and parallel lines. The microscopic investigation of the engravings revealed that the incisions on the bone were made over an extended period of time with various tools (Norman 1975). These engravings are the earliest form of writing known as pictographs.

1.1 Types of Writing Systems

There are three syllables for writing which are erroneously treated as synonyms. These are Writing System, Script and Orthography. A writing system is characterized by the linguistic units they represent. For example, Chines logography takes the morpheme as a representational unit, while Japanese Hiragana adopts the syllable as a linguistic unit. A script is a visual design which represents the linguistic units; orthography, on the other hand, is the rules of the standard spelling system. In fact, there is an evolution process visible among the three. Writing system was the first to be evolved which was followed by script, and then by orthography. However, a general belief is that writing system developed from pictographs.

Book's Contents and Sample Pages

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