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Oṛiā Saṅgīta-Sāhitya

Online Center for the Study of Odia Music and Literature


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About the Odia Language

Oriya? Odia? Oṛiā?
Like the name of the state (Orissa, Odisha), the romanized name of the language has undergone some spelling changes. Mostly this is because of the peculiarity of the Odia /ṛ/ (technically a retroflex flap) which, sounding somewhat “harder” than an English /r/, has no precise equivalent in the latter language. The spelling “Oriya” was used early on by the British and works well enough (and furthermore an alternative spelling in the Odia script, ଓଡି଼ୟା, would be transliterated “Oṛiyā” using the conventions outlined below). As of 1 November 2011, however, the romanization of the name was officially changed to “Odisha” and of the language to “Odia.” Neither spelling seems to me inherently better than the other on linguistic grounds. “Oriya,” of course, has the disadvantage of having colonial connotations for many; on the other hand, some see in the change to “Odia” sheer political maneuvering. Going with the majority flow in this instance, I have used “Odia” (and “Odisha”) on this site except when trasliterating more precisely. (For the record the Pūrṇṇacandra Oṛiā Bhāṣākośa, discussed below, uses “Orḍiā,” which I think has some merit in terms of pronunciation.)


CONVENTIONS OF TRANSLITERATION


For the benefit of English readers this site mostly uses Latin characters with diacritics to represent the characters of the Odia script. For the most part I follow ISO 15919 conventions as diplayed in the charts below (a few exceptions are noted). Certain words such as “Odia” and “Odissi” and some modern place and people names have come to have common Romanized spellings; these will usually be transliterated without diacritics.

Vowels
ଅ = a ଆ = ā
ଇ = i ଈ = ī
ଉ = u ଊ = ū
ଋ = r̥
ଏ = e ଐ = ai
ଓ = o ଔ = au
ଅଁ = ã ଅଂ = aṁ
ଅଃ = aḥ
Consonants
କ = k ଖ = kh ଗ = g ଘ = gh ଙ = ṅ
ଚ = c ଛ = ch ଜ = j ଝ = jh ଞ = ñ
ଟ = ṭ ଠ = ṭh ଡ = ḍ ଢ = ḍh ଣ = ṇ
ତ = t ଥ = th ଦ = d ଧ = dh ନ = n
ପ = p ଫ = ph ବ = b ଭ = bh ମ = m
ଯ = ẏ ୟ = y ର = r ଲ = l ଳ = ḷ
ଶ = ś ଷ = ṣ ସ = s ହ = h

ଡ଼ = ṛ ଢ଼ = ṛh


PRONUNCIATION

Odia phonology is a complex topic. Certain of the books cited below give detailed information on this, but for quick reference I give a few indications and approximations here:

Vowels

Consonants

LEARNING THE LANGUAGE

Odia is an Eastern Indo-Aryan language and shares characteristics (e.g., certain elements of grammar and vocabulary) with the Bengali, Assamese, Hindi, and Sanskrit languages among others. It is spoken by more than 30 million people, making it one of the smaller of India’s major languages. Thus you will find few learning materials (readers, primers, grammars, etc.) intended for the use of English readers/speakers. On the other hand, being familiar with other Indo-Aryan languages will make learning Odia much easier. The few substantial resources that I am familiar with are listed below. (Other resources can be found in German and Russian, but I am not competent to evaluate those.)

Useful speech-oriented resources include An Intensive Course in Oriya by Bijayalaxmi Mohanty (Manasagangotri, Mysore: Central Institute of Indian Languages, 1989) and Oriya in Small Bites by Niels Erik Wegge (Bhubaneswar: Modern Book Depot, 2000/2008). The latter can be bought at the Modern Book Depot in Bhubaneswar (Odisha), and both can be found occasionally in US libraries or for sale online.

Additionally, the first two parts of Dan Matson’s Oriya Language Textbook Series (East Lansing: Michigan State University Asian Studies Center, 1971), available at ERIC (the first volume is here), are useful for conversation and for learning the Odia script.

Two recent, fairly extensive grammars exist for English readers. These are Lukas Neukom and Manideepa Patnaik’s A Grammar of Oriya (Zürich: Universität Zürich, 2003) and Bijay Prasad Mahapatra’s A Synchronic Grammar of Oriya (Manasagangotri, Mysore: Central Institute of Indian Languages, 2007).

A good Odia-English dictionary is essential. My favorite that can fit in a small bag is Br̥hat Oṛiā Abhidhāna (compiled by Baba Baidyanath Padhi and  published by Friends’ Publishers, Cuttack). But the most thorough is the immense Pūrṇṇacandra Oṛiā Bhāṣākośa, compiled in the early 20th century by Gopal Chanda Praharaj (with several assistants) and very helpfully digitized by Srujanika (their website hosts a few other 19th and early 20th century dictionaries).

A number of books have been published for Odias learning to translate into English, which English readers may find helpful using “backwards.” These include the A New Way Translation series by Jagannath Misra and Bhaskar Ch Das (published by Friends’ Publishers, Cuttack) and New Age Model How to Translate (Oriya-English) by Sachidananda Mohapatra (Cuttack: New Age Publications, 2004).


OTHER USEFUL RESOURCES

Given the influence on the language by—and its interaction with—Sanskrit, Bengali, and Telugu, the following resources are also useful: