FO90030 FO90030%bitnet.DHHUNI4 at EDU.CUNY.CUNYVM
Tue Nov 26 23:10:14 UTC 1991

Re Nagari
In the discussion concerning the use of Devanagari by Western scholars I have
been surprised that no thought seems to have been given to the political aspects
of the matter. It must be well known that millions of Indians see the use of
Devanagari as supporting the cause of Hindi nationalism. Do we in the West
really want to take sides in the matter? Devanagari can be beautiful, but so too
can other Indian scripts.
Using Devanagari for writing Sanskrit is not like using Greek characters for
writing Greek since in the case of Greek only the one script is involved. In mos
cases editions of Sanskrit texts are based on the use of many manuscripts, only
some of which - if any - are written in Devanagari. Converting texts written for
example in Newari or Malayalam scripts into Devanagari seems to me to be a
political act and from a Western scholarly point of view a retrograde one at tha
since any transcription into Roman characters worthy of its salt incorporates an
important element of interpretation that is sacrificed by the use of Devanagari.
I am also puzzled by the suggestion that one is less likely to make typos by
using Devanagari. Certainly Indian editions contain plenty of typographical
errors. It is just as easy to forget to add vowel marks when writing Devanagari
as it is to forget to add diacritics when writing Roman script. Typesetters even
manage to confuse similar complex aksharas. Exactly what kinds of errors are
most likely in either script depends on the method of input. The accuracy of
input can be controlled quite adequately in both cases by making use of the
possibilities offered by computers.
Ronald E. Emmerick

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