Draft transliteration scheme on the Web

Sudalaimuthu Palaniappan Palaniappa at AOL.COM
Sat Jun 13 14:49:10 UTC 1998

In a message dated 98-06-13 04:29:00 EDT, stone_catend at COMPUSERVE.COM writes:

<< Among the many transliterations of this letter, scholars now seem to use
 three in particular: l_macr-b, r_dia-b, z_dot-b.   As well as the fricative
 aspect, the Malayalam and Tamil pronunciations sound something like 'r' and
 'l', respectively.    Hence z_dot-b has three advantages:   (1) dot-b
 matching retroflexes, (2) z suggesting a fricative, (3) no problem about
 the r/l aspect. >>

As a person who has to constantly deal with the pronunciation of this letter,
I can say the following. My name in the Tamil version has this letter. It is
transliterated in my name with "l" which is a very common practice. In my
business card, to elicit a pronunciation as close to the original as possible
from Americans, I use a nickname using "r". In my postings on Indology, I use
the scheme set up by someone as "z". Personally, I do not see any difference
between the correct pronunciation of this letter by Tamils and Malayalis.
(There are many Tamils who mispronounce it as retroflex L. However, I think we
should go by the pronunciation considered correct by the Tamils.)  Many
Malayalis and Tamils do transliterate this with "zh" which I consider to be an
arbitrary scheme.

My preference would be to stick with the transliteration scheme of the Tamil
Lexicon (which uses l_macr-b) for the following reasons.

1. There is a considerable amount of scholarly work related to Tamil where
they have used it. Even many Dravidian Linguistic Association publications
(eg. The History of the Grammatical Theories in Malayalam) use it.

2. Having two sub dots with r may lead to confusion between this letter and
the r_macr-b used in Tamil and Malayalam. In many books printed in India when
the printing is not very good the two dots merge into a macron. I have
encountered this many times.

3. Using "z" seems to be very arbitrary.

So, my vote is for l_macr-b.


S. Palaniappan

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