Tamil Pronunciation

Thu Mar 5 04:03:35 UTC 1998

Let me try one more time. I did this about  a year ago.

N. Ganesan

Date: Mon, 12 May 1997
Subject: Re: Thoughts on Sanskritization

                       Re: Thoughts on Sanskritization

Dr. Vidyasankar Sundaresan wrote:

+ 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).

Sure. All Tamil speakers in villages, knowing no other
language,  tell my name as "kaNEsan" and not as "gaNEsan".
In Tamil, written  "ka+G+kai" is pronounced as "kaGgai".
So, it is "kaGgaikoNDacOzhan". River Ganga is pronounced
as "GaGgai", only if the speaker knows that in Sanskrit
or other Indic languages, it is so.

Tamil grammar starting from TolkAppiyam allows for distinguishing
between "k" and "g/h", "c" and "J/j", "T (.t)" and "D (.d)",
"t" and "d","p" and "b", etc., in speech, EVEN THOUGH
THEY ARE WRITTEN ONLY AS "k", "c", "T", "t", "p" respectively.
These letters are called 'hard' consonants - vallinam in tamil.
But kh, gh etc., sounds are alien to Tamil.

According to the rules,
a) when the hard consonants occur in the word in a
non-initial position and not surrounded by another hard
consonant, they are pronounced 'soft'.

b) For the doubling 'hard' consonants in a non-initial position,
they are pronounced as  written, (ie 'hard').

c) Hard consonants do not get pronounced
soft when they are the first letters of the word.

The rule is simple and always followed intuitively.

  Writing              Pronounced as
****************      ***************
ka + G +kai            kaGgai (Ganges) (k is pronounced as g)
a + G + ku             aGgu (there) (k pronounced as g)

taa + k + ka +m          taakkam (impact) (Note the "k""k")
taa + ka + m             taaham  (thirst) (Note there only one "k")(k->h)

pa + c +cai              paccai (green) (Note doubling c)
pa + J + cu (cotton)     paJju (cotton) (Note the only c)

paa + T + Tu             paaTTu (song) (Note doubling T)
paa + Tu                 paaDu (to sing) (Note the only T)

vi + tai                  vidai (seed) (one t)
vi + t + tai              vittai (vidyA) (Double t)

a + m + pu               ambu (arrow) (one p)
ka + m + pa + n          kamban, a great poet (one p)
a + p + pa + n           appan, dad or a dear person (double p)

and so on.

"k" as a non-first letter of a word and for single
occurence, has other sounds too, eg., pi + Ra + ku (piRaku = later)
is pronounced as "piRahu". North of Madurai, c is pronounced as s.

++ 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,

Sundaresan wrote:
+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.

I agree.

N. Ganesan

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