Shwa for Bengali
বাংলী জণ্য শুা

Like many languages with venerable literary traditions, the Bengali script has not kept pace with changes in the language over the last millennium. For example,

In addition, like many languages with lots of speakers, there is considerable dialectical variation. When writing Bengali in Shwa, as with all writing, we write to a standard, even though all of us speak slightly different idiolects. But Shwa can write several different standards of Bengali, for example West Bengali (e.g. Nadia or Choltibhasha), Bangal (Dhaka), Chittagong or even Shadhubhasha. If stops are pronounced as fricatives, or if murmured voice is pronounced as a tone, then Shwa can and should write it. The presentation here is based on the Standard Colloquial Bengali of Calcutta/Kolkata.

Shwa writes Bengali in the Syllabary gait, in which vowels are written attached to the previous consonant. Independent vowels and consonants with no following vowel - the first consonant of a cluster or a final consonant - are simply written alone. Bengali is often written in a topline font, but that's not a feature of the Bengali language, the Syllabary gait or Shwa itself.


Here are the consonants of Bengali, with IPA and Shwa transcriptions.

k k ʧ ch ʈ tr ত ৎ t p p
kx ʧʰ chx ʈʰ trx t̪ʰ tx px
g g জ য ʤ dj ɖ dr d b b
gx ʤʰ djx ɖʰ drx d̪ʰ dx bx
ঙ ং ŋ ng ~ -hm ন ণ n m m
হ ঃɦ h শ ষ স ʃ sh শ স s s f f
জ য z z v v
l l ড় ঢ় ɽ rh ɾ r w w

The letters on a blue background spell alternative readings of the indicated Bengali letters.


Bengali has seven vowels:

ই ঈ i i উ ঊ u u
e ee o oh
অ্যা ɛ e ɔ o
a a

Nasalized vowels use the Nasal suffix , while diphthongs use -i , -e, -o and -u as offglides.

অঁ  ã a~ অয়ি  ay ay অয়ে  ae̯ ahy অয়ো  ao̯ ahw অয়ু  aw aw

Three Bengali letters correspond to a pair of Shwa letters:

ri ri oy oy ow ow

As with other Indo-Aryan languages, Shwa writes the stressed syllables with a high vowel.


Now that you know the letters, why not try to read some Bengali written in Shwa?

রবীন্দ্রনাথ ঠাকুর

© 2002-2017 Shwa 17may17