Native "h" in Tamil

Venkatraman Iyer venkatraman_iyer at HOTMAIL.COM
Fri Oct 15 11:43:56 UTC 1999

Mr. Nanda Chandran wrote:
>Unless ofcourse, the "ha" was never a part of Tamil vocabulary
>and was derived from Samskrutam. [...]
>But with the passage of time while the upper caste Tamils with
>their proximity to the brAhmanas would have picked up the "ha",
>the lower caste Tamils never did.

It is unlikely that Tamil got the "ha" sound/alphabet in the way
described above. As explained by Mr. Chandrasekar, Tamil has "ha"
in its letters as aaytam(h) even in Cankam texts.
Examples in Cankam Texts:ehku (spear, wrought iron), ahku (to shrink),
ahtai(a person's name), ihtu (this one), ahtu (that one),
kahtu (sediment of toddy), pahRi (pig), pahruLi (a river),
vehku(to desire), ..

V. S. Rajam, A reference grammar of classical Tamil poetry
(150 B.C.-pre-fifth/sixth century A.D.), Am. Phil. Soc., 1992, p. 44
"The Aytam, literally meaning 'instrument/weapon', is the
name of a Tamil speech sound represented in modern Tamil script
as []. In poetry, it is treated like a vowelless consonant.
As mentioned earlier, it is represented as .h in this study.
In modern Tamil, the pronunciation of this letter is similar
to the sound h in English, for example, in a word like "hen."
> From the modern pronunciation of the Aytam one can describe
it as a "voiceless velar fricative." "

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