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reflections on Hindi vs Urdu spelling

To indicate the absence of a vowel, instead of Hindi's (too many consonants)-squared of ligatures, Urdu has a simple dot, which looks like the symbol for degrees, over one of the two letters ــْـ ...but it is used so rarely that it's not on the standard keyboard, and the most fluent Urdu speaker i know seemed unaware it was even part of Urdu [like the time i tried to use a ẞ, capital scharfes S / Eszett, in front of an Austrian] reading Urdu is a game of "guess the vowel! Is there even a vowel?" But as a native English speaker, this is comfortingly familiar.

Given the huge range of dialect variants on vowels in English, compare New York to New Zealand, the spellings are seemingly random.

Hindi seems like it tells you the vowel, BUT if the questions on here and Quora are anything to go by, the Devanagari spelling sometimes lies, it seems that sometimes the standard Hindi spelling, which is often still the same as the Sanskrit, does not match the way the word is currently usually said.

I guess this is common, but the first non-native language i learned was German, the spelling and pronunciation seem to match pretty closely for standard German (less so for Swiss i expect, given their spellings are mostly the same, but i have no idea what they are saying), so i kinda of thought just English was crazy. But apparently many languages have weird spelling.

[i say "standard" spelling because i disagree with the idea of there being "correct" language, i could never remember which y is an i in Lybya, but in turns out they are both ي in Arabic, so it's all a mess anyway, correct spelling is just elitism.]

January 12, 2020


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