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  • Writer's pictureSpeak Your Roots

Musings on Thomas Jones Day by Naomi C. Nonglait, Ph.D.

I remember my father told me once that he used to write in the Bengali Script. I never understood why he had to write in a script of another language. By then I was learning to read and write in my own Khasi language. It was only years later that I understood this change.

Rev. William Carey and Alexander Lish had used the Bengali Script for the Khasi Language. It was one of the most challenging and colossal task of their time. However, Thomas Jones felt the need to change the Bengali Script to the Roman Script. It was with much thought that he realised that most of the Khasis could not understand even a paragraph of translation. Since this was the case, he started with the Roman script to create the sounds of the Khasi language which was much less complex as compared to the Bengali Script.

We have to be reminded here that what Thomas Jones had done in the past did not go without harsh criticism. He was criticised from many quarters especially from the officer-in-charge of the East India Company. The Khasis were also apprehensive and not happy with the change since they were used to the Bengali Script. It can also be understood that the Khasis had a lot of trading with the Bengalis, so maybe knowing the Bengali language and script was advantageous to them. However, this did not deter Thomas Jones to give up on his dream. There were others such as Dr. Duff, Jacob Tomlin and William Lewin (Majaw 38) who wholeheartedly supported him. This brought up many questions to my mind. One of them being how much support would we give to change? If it was not because of Thomas Jones' vision, the spoken word would not have gained the permanence given by ink and paper. Not that I am undermining the oral tradition, but because of the lack of storytellers and the dying art of storytelling, I realize that without the alphabet, I would not have been able to go back, to remember again those stories that intrigued me as a child.


  • U Thomas Jones Bad Ka Pyrthei Saitsobpen by S. S. Majaw (2011)

Suggested Reading:

  • Anne Jones (1812-1845) Ka Missionary Kynthei Kaba Nyngkong Ha Ri Khasi Jaintia by Dr. B. Ps. Toi

  • Welsh Missionaries and British Imperialism: The Empire of Clouds in North-East India by Andrew J. May (2012)

Khublei Shibun @carey_lynzba phi la phah ïa ki jingpuson bad ki jingpule sani jong phi shaphang ka histori jong ki dak thoh Khasi kiba la pynmih da u Rev. Thomas Jones. 😄🙏
Thank you @carey_lynz for sending your thoughts and research on the history of the Khasi alphabet established by Rev. Thomas Jones. 😄🙏

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