Re: Tamil Text Messaging in Mobile Phones

From: Doug Ewell (
Date: Sun Jul 28 2002 - 17:43:19 EDT

Sinnathurai Srivas (by way of Michael Everson) <avarangal at hotmail dot
com> wrote:

> We are not planning to change the script to fit the computers.
> We are planning change the script to
> 1/ Increase the literary rate by manyfolds yes by many folds. (making
> it easier for Tamils, who does not have the means to spent extra
> resourses/hours during theire infant/junior ages to learn the
> Language.

Most other Indic scripts, and some non-Indic scripts as well, use
inherent and reordrant vowels. Is there any evidence that this feature
of Tamil is the cause of illiteracy in a way that is not true for other
Indic scripts? Is there any authoritative evidence (not just personal
perception) that doing away with inherent and reordrant vowels will
significantly improve literacy among Tamils?

Think about the sweeping changes Michael mentioned. If the new writing
system is to *replace* the existing one, then Tamils will no longer be
taught the old system. That means all street signs, shop signs, books,
newspapers, magazines, etc. will need to be changed over time. And as
for the great historic books that are no longer in print, it will not be
feasible to reprint every one, so they will become unreadable to all but
scholars of the "old" writing.

Script reforms sometimes are successful, but often are not. The
benefits must be seen to outweigh the costs by a *significant* margin,
and in most cases the proponents of reform do not adequately consider
the costs. It would be wise not to assume your proposal will be adopted
unless and until the governments of India and Sri Lanka and Singapore do

-Doug Ewell
 Fullerton, California

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