Tamil alphabets

C.R. Selvakumar selvakum at VALLUVAR.UWATERLOO.CA
Mon Oct 18 22:48:09 UTC 1999

*As an ignoramus in such matters, I am wondering why it is assumed (it seems
*from recent exchanges by N. Ganesan, et al.) that alphabets are constructed
*logically or will evolve logically over eons of varied use?

   In Tamil it is arranged logically. While it may be argued, the
   Alphabet system of Sanskrit is quite possibly derived from the
   Tamil system.
*        I am aware that the so-called Roman alphabet uses the letter "c" (in
*various languages) to stand for a variety of sounds which have not been
*distinguished elsewhere in the alphabet, despite the confusion over how to
*read-and-sound that letter.  Is the Brohmi-Devanagari alphabet entirely
*logical?  So why should the Tamil be?   Did the equivalent of the Tamil
*Academy arrange it perfectly at an early period so as to take care of all
*(then used) sounds separately?

    Yes, surprisingly.

*    Since I approach this question without any knowledge of the history of
*the Tamil language, but also, as I am here suggesting, without any
*assumptions about it, I may be answered simply about the assumption of
*logicality-- or else off-channel.  ATB  JOP

    In Tamil there are definite rules as to what letters in its
    alphabet can come at the beginning of  words, ends of words etc.
    Even about rules as to what letters are allowed to come after what etc.
    They are all formed based on some simple natural principles.
    For example since the tongue has to bend so much before articulating
    retroflex T,N,L, and the liquid 'zh', and other 'iTaiyin2am' r,l etc.
    they are not allowed to come as the first letter of a word.
    (if a todler is asked to say RAmA, s/he will more often say
     AmA since it is hard to pronounce the first 'r')
    The idea is in order to bend the tongue to pronounce these letters
    the mouth has to open a bit and in that process a vowel is said
    (though subtlely). Such opening of the mouth is called 'aGkAttal'
    in Tamil. Tamil system is based on a subtle system of economy.
    Tamil language is not just a mode of mundane communication,
    it is in itself a form of philosophy, culture, and art!
    It may look like an hyperbole, but it is not.


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