Thoughts on Sanskritization

Vidyasankar Sundaresan vidya at
Sat May 10 01:25:38 UTC 1997

On Fri, 9 May 1997 GANESANS at wrote:

> Tamil always has 12 vowels and 18 consonants
> called as soul(uyir) and mey(body). All the phonemes
> arising from consonant-vowel combinations are called 
> uyirmey or living letters.
> ******************************************************************
> Uyir: 
> (12 vowels)              a aa i ii u uu e ee ai o oo au
> mey:
> (18 consonants)    k ng c nj T N t n^ p m y r l v z L R n
> *******************************************************************
> Tamil has imported only s, sh, j and h from grantha letters.
> That too sparingly used in writing. eg. mainly for  spelling
> Sanskrit words (Tyagaraja's Telugu kritis in tamil script or 
> Sanskrit sloka books from Ramakrishna Math). It does not have 
> the varga letters for k (kh, g, gh),

Shouldn't we be distinguishing between the script used for writing a
language from the language as a spoken entity? Does anyone *pronounce*
gan(g)gaikoNDacOzhan as kan(g)kaikoNTacOzhan? Surely, Tamil speakers
distinguish between k and g in speech, although not in writing. Similarly,
the sounds s and S frequently occur in speech, although the script allows
strictly only for c (e.g. sol/Sol as variants of col). 

Another question - do the old vaTTezhuttu and the older brAhmI used in
southern Indian inscriptions distinguish within a given varga? If yes, at
what period did this change? In other words, did Tamil script drop already
existing signs within a varga, or did Malayalam import additional signs to
extend an existing set? 

> c, T, t, p. Tamil resistance to include
> these additional characters is because it would lead to excessive use
> of Sanskrit words and native Tamil/Dravidian words will face extinction,

This seems to be putting the cart before the horse. It is the old
resistance to excessive use of Sanskrit words that leads to the modern
resistance to include additional letters in the script, not the other way
round. Note that I am not making any value judgments here. It is the Tamil
resistance to excessive use of Sanskrit that has helped it to maintain its
identity to date. Varying degrees of accommodation of and resistance to
words of Sanskrit origin are seen among all south Indian languages. 


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