News Detail

Indus Script & Computational Linguistics

Restoration of missing signs using a bigram model of Indus script

Restoration of missing signs using a bigram model of Indus script


Writing is an epitome of the intellectual creation of a civilisation. It involves comprehension as well as abstraction of symbols that signify specific achievement of human creativity and communication. Renfrew points out that "The practice of writing, and the development of a coherent system of signs, a script, is something which is seen only in complex societies... Writing, in other words, is a feature of civilisations". When a civilisation leaves behind some written records, they are invaluable not only to understand their civic society but also to understand the basic thinking processes that moulded the civilisation.

Decipherment of any script is a challenging task. At times it is aided by the discovery of a multilingual text where the same text is written in an undeciphered script as well as known script(s). Both Egyptian hieroglyphs and Mesopotamian cuneiform texts were deciphered with the help of multilingual texts. In some cases, continuing linguistic traditions provide significant clues and at times interlocking phonetic values are used as a proof of decipherment. In the absence of these, statistical studies can provide important insights into the structure of the script and can be used to define a syntactic framework for the script.

Indus script is a product of one of the largest Bronze Age civilisations often referred to as the Harappan civilisation. At its peak from 2500 BC to 1900 BC, the civilisation was spread over an area of more than a million square kilometres across most of the present day Pakistan, Afghanistan and north-western India. It was distinguished for its highly utilitarian and standardised life style, excellent water management system and architecture. The civilisation had flourishing trade links with West Asia and artefacts of the Harappan civilisation have been found several thousand kilometres away in West Asia.

A statistical approach for pattern search in Indus writing

Nisha Yadav, M N Vahia, Iravatham Mahadevan and H. Joglekar
International Journal of Dravidian Linguistics, 37, 39 - 52, January 2008

Segmentation of Indus text

Nisha Yadav, M N Vahia, Iravatham Mahadevan and H. Joglekar
International Journal of Dravidian Linguistics, 37, 53 - 72, January 2008

Statistical analysis of the Indus script using n-grams

Nisha Yadav, Hrishikesh Joglekar, Rajesh P.N. Rao, M. N. Vahia, Iravatham Mahadevan, R. Adhikari
PLoS ONE 5(3): e9506., doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0009506, March 2010

A probabilistic model for analyzing undeciphered scripts and its application to the 4500-year-old Indus script

Rajesh P. N. Rao, Nisha Yadav, Mayank N. Vahia, Hrishikesh Joglekar, R. Adhikari, Iravatham Mahadevan
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), Dec. 2009106:13685-13690; published online before print August 5, 2009,doi:10.1073/pnas.0906237106

Evidence for linguistic structure in the Indus script

Rajesh P. N. Rao, NishaYadav, Mayank N. Vahia, Hrishikesh Joglekar, R. Adhikari, Iravatham Mahadevan
Science, 324, 1165, 2009

Network analysis reveals structure indicative of syntax in the corpus of undeciphered Indus civilisation inscriptions

Sitabhra Sinha, Raj Kumar Pan, Nisha Yadav, Mayank Vahia and Iravatham Mahadevan 
Proceedings of the 2009 Workshop on Graph-based Methods for Natural Language Processing, ACL-IJCNLP 2009, pages 5�13, Suntec, Singapore

Entropy, the Indus script and language: A reply to R. Sproat

Rajesh Rao, Nisha Yadav, M N Vahia, H Jogalekar, R Adhikari and I Mahadevan 
Computational Linguistics 36(4), 2010

Harappan geometry and symmetry: A study of geometrical patterns on Indus objects

M N Vahia and Nisha Yadav 
Indian Journal of History of Science, 45, 343, 2010

Classification of patterns on Indus objects

Nisha Yadav and M. N. Vahia 
International Journal of Dravidian Linguistics, Vol. 40: No. 2, June 2011

Indus script: A study of its sign design

Nisha Yadav and M N Vahia
Scripta, Vol. 3, pp. 133-172, September 2011