2011 Nepali Language Conference provides guidelines on orthography

By NLRC Staff, January 12, 2011, Category: Language

On Jan 10-12, 2011, Nepal Academy organized a three-day conference, the 2011 Nepali Language Conference, in Kathmandu in which many in the Nepali language community participated, including Nepali language experts and lexicographers from Nepal and India. Various papers were presented at the conference for discussion. At the end of the conference, a team consisting of notable Nepali language experts presented a set of decisions agreed upon at the conference.

The goal of the conference was to sort out many conflicting arguments and opinions on Nepali orthography, and to try to come up with common guidelines agreeable to all sides. The decisions of the conference, which includes such common guidelines, will be adopted by the Academy.

We congratulate Nepal Academy for taking the initiative to organize the conference, which, we believe, will help to minimize the confusion on the Nepali language usage, especially over orthography. We hope that similar efforts to improve various aspects of the Nepali language will continue to take place in the future.

The conference outlined various decisions, mostly on orthography. The decisions are of two types. The first category of the decisions includes decisions that were accepted by all sides. The second category includes decisions that were made but to which some experts expressed different or opposing views.

NLRC will adhere to all decisions that were accepted by all sides in its future publications or products. In a parallel effort, NLRC will also start updating the publications or products that already existed prior to these new guidelines from the conference.

We thank Nepal Academy for providing guidance on the Nepali language to which we can adhere to and make our resources more accurate and useful to our user community.

The list below outlines the major decisions that were made by the conference. It includes only the decisions that were agreed by all sides, and does not include decisions where different views were presented.
Category: Loanwords
  • Letters that are used only in Sanskrit loanwords shall not be used to write other words, i.e., Nepali words or non-Sanskrit loanwords. Words denoting last name, religion, language shall be excluded from this rule.
  • Words formed by an addition of a Nepali suffix to a Sanskrit loanword shall be written according to Nepali writing rules. The middle and first part of such words shall be written in Raswa. In such a scenario where a Sanskrit loanword is modified, even though the Sanskrit loanword, when it stands on its own, is written the Sanskrit way, the resultant word is written the Nepali way.
  • In figuring out the order of consonants in Nepali, conjuncts that are commonly regarded as consonants in popular and traditional teachings shall be written either at the end of the regular non-conjunct consonants or after the consonant that makes the first part of the conjunct.
  • While writing half consonants in Sanskrit loanwords, either the Shirbindu or the corresponding nasal consonant shall be used. However, for other words, i.e., Nepali words or non-Sanskrit loanwords, only the nasal consonant shall be used.

Category: Raswa Dirgha
  • The vowel in the middle of an optative shall be written in Raswa.
  • Words that originally came from Sanskrit but that went through various modifications before it came to Nepali shall be written according to Nepali writing rules.
  • When two or more words retain their orthographic form while combining to form a compound word, the Dirgha vowel in the middle shall continue to be Dirgha.
  • When two or more words combine, and the words do not provide a complete meaning on their own, the vowel in the middle shall be written in Raswa.

Category: Padyog and Padbiyog
In Nepali, words in a phrasal category may be written separately or together under one horizontal bar. Padyog refers to the process or the occurrence when they are written together, and Padbiyog to the process or occurrence when they are written separately.
  • When two words combine to convey a meaning, they shall be written separately if both words are the same, e.g., "Ko ko." However, when they are different words and either one does not provide a complete meaning on its own, they are written together, e.g., "Jhai-jhadada."
  • Middle name and first name shall be written together.

The following decisions were identified as having different views.
  • The first and middle vowels of numbers shall be written in Raswa.
  • When a compound verb is written with its verbs separated, the last vowel in each verb shall be Dirgha.
  • All verbs in a compound verb shall be written separately.
  • Postpositions that also serve as case endings shall be written together with the noun phrase, while other postpositions shall be written separately.



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