Tamil Sound and Writing

Jacob Baltuch jacob.baltuch at EURONET.BE
Sat Mar 7 04:15:57 UTC 1998

R. Shanmugalingam wrote:

>Tamil is a language which illustrates particularly well the grouping of
>several quite distinct sounds into single phonemes. It is noteworthy that
>Tamil orthography does not show any difference between all these sounds. Those
>who originally invented this orthography must have had a clear conception of
>the phoneme idea, though the theory had never been formulated.

Nothing extraordinary. Subphonemic distinctions are not recorded in writing
in most languages. Most native speakers are not even aware of them. On the
contrary, it is recording such distinctions which would seem to indicate
a linguistic tradition with an unusual degree of phonetic awareness and

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