Sylheti is an eastern Indo-Aryan language spoken mainly in the Sylhet ( ꠍꠤꠟꠐ / সিলেট) region of Bangladesh, and the neighbouring Barak Valley in the Indian state of Assam. There are also speakers of Sylheti in the Indian states of Meghalaya, Tripura and Manipur, as well as in the USA and UK. In 2007 there were about 11 million speakers.
The Syloti-Nagri alphabet is related to the Kaithi alphabet of Bihar. The exact origins of the alphabet are unknown and the earliest surviving manuscripts dates from either 1549 or 1774 (the date is given within the manuscript though the text is not clear at that point).
The traditionally story of the origin of the Syloti-Nagri alphabet is that it was developed around the beginning of the 14th century by Saint Shahjalal and his 360 saintly companions, most of whom were Arabic speakers. Other scripts used at the time were deemed unsuitable for the Sylheti language.
In the late 17th century, Persian became the official language of the Delhi Sultanate and the Perso-Arabic script was used in all official documents. The Sylheti language and alphabet continued to be used by the ordinary people for everyday matters.
In the 1860s, a Sylheti by the name of Moulvi Abdul Karim spent several years in Europe and learnt the printing trade. After returning home, he designed a woodblock type for the Syloti-Nagri alphabet and founded the Islamia Press in Sylhet Town in about 1870. Other Sylheti presses were established in Sunamgonj, Shillong and Calcutta. These presses fell out of use during the early 1970s. Since then the Syloti-Nagri alphabet has been used mainly by linguists and academics.
শব মাইনশর আজাদি জনম ওএ ইজ্জত আর হক লৈআ। তারার হুশ আর আকল-বুদ্ধি আছে আর তারা একজন আরকজনর লগে রুহানি ভাইট্টা বেবহার থাকত।
Shob mainshor azadi zonmo oe izzot ar hox loia. Tarar hush ar axol-buddi ase ar tara exzon aroxzonor loge ruhani baitta bebohar taxto.
All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They
are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another
in a spirit of brotherhood.
(Article 1 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights)
Information about the Sylheti scripts and pronunciation compiled or corrected by Wolfram Siegel. Sample texts provided by Abu Saleh Mohammad Sultan.
Information about Syloti-Nagri alphabet and the Sylheti language
Sylheti Translation and Research - a London-based research organisation dedicated to studying the folk literature of the Sylhet region of Bangladesh: http://www.sylheti.org.uk
Sylhet Nagri Texts Documentation Archive
Bengali and Sylheti Language Services
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Page last modified: 01.06.21
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