MIT scholar Kishori Mohan Konwar speaking at the event.

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) scientist Kishori Mohan Konwar said that it was irrelevant whether the Unicode Consortium had put the letters of the alphabet under the heading of Bengali or Assamese.

Delivering a talk on Unicode and the future of Assamese language at Jorhat Press Club on Thursday, Konwar attempted to allay the fear over the Bengali tag given to letters of the alphabet which represent both the Assamese and the Bengali languages.

He said that what was required was more Assamese content and visibility of the Assamese language and literature on the internet instead of quibbling over what was in his opinion a non-issue.

The Unicode Consortium has recently entitled the said script as Bengali/Assamese after receiving several representations from individuals of Assam, the Asam Sahitya Sabha and the state government.

“The demand for a separate slot for Assamese is based on emotions and does not make any difference how it is named.  Several languages all over the world use the letters of the English alphabet but no one is quibbling over wanting different slots.  All of them have been bunched under the Roman alphabet,” he said.

The Unicode Consortium, an international non government body set up in 1991 has standardised a universal character set for encoding the different languages in the computer systems universally.

Konwar said that as a result Unicode points had been assigned to the glyphs or characters in the loose sense used in most Indian languages.

“The Consortium has not assigned the Assamese script under the Universal Character script but has considered the Assamese alphabets as part of the Bengali alphabets through inclusion of a few Assamese characters such as ra and wa ba, which are different, ” he said.

Konwar who is a PhD in computer science from the University of Connecticut has created the Luitpad which is a standalone fully Unicode compliant software designed for rapid typing of Assamese words and characters and is compatible with Windows,  Max and Linux.

Luitpad which can be downloaded from www.luitpad.in has two typing options, one which is based on approximate sounds of words and the other on the sound of characters.

Konwar stressed on more content generation in Assamese like uploading of novels, stories, debates, chats, viewpoints, like those found in English and Chinese.

He suggested that an Assamese dictionary of words, thesaurus, spell-check should be uploaded and enabling emails.

The talk was organised by the Mass Communication department of Assam Women’s University and the   Assamese Society for International Cooperation.

Smita Bhattacharyya

Smita Bhattacharyya is Northeast Now Correspondent in Jorhat. She can be reached at: triptyaddy@gmail.com

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